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The HSC: What to expect

By Danielle Barakat on 21 October 2018NSWblogHSCExam advice

I’m going to try and make the HSC a little less intimidating for you. It’s a scary thought that in just a couple of week you’re going to be finished school forever and that the only thing standing in between you and freedom are a set of exams.

But here’s something you might not know: the HSC exams aren’t actually as scary as you may think. Here’s why:

#1. They’re not harder than trials

This may shock you, but the HSC exams aren’t actually any harder than the trial exams. Even in terms of the stress and pressure around them, you should be feeling a lot more relaxed and on top of everything than you did during trials.

The thing that makes these HSC exams easier than trials is that you stopped learning your content at least a month ago. Which means everything they could possibly ask you has been covered already. You’ve also already sat a set of exams that are scary and daunting so you know exactly what to expect. Look I’m not saying that these exams are going to be a walk in the park, but compared to trials they will be a lot less stressful, which means hopefully you won’t have any mental breakdowns in the next few weeks. 🎉 🎉 🎉

#2. These exams are run by NESA

The thing to remember about the HSC exams is that they’re not actually run by your school. Yes, you wear your school uniform and sit in your school hall to do the exams but other than that, everything about the HSC exams is run by NESA. And NESA means business. That means all the exam supervisors are hired and sent in (they won’t be your teachers) so they are going to hold you to things like putting your pen down when the time is up or supervising you if you have to leave the room… fun right? Look it’s not a massive deal but you just need to prepare yourself for full-on exam conditions.

This also means that these exams won’t be internally marked. They are sent out to a group of markers, so don’t worry if you’re afraid that your History teacher who you’ve had some issues with is automatically going to see your paper and give you a crappy mark. It doesn’t work like that.

#3. So does this mean I might get a question I’ve never seen before?

Unfortunately, yes. Every year NESA loves to throw in a question in one paper that makes the news because it was such a curveball for the entire year group. That might not happen but if it does it’s not the end of the world because remember, they can’t ask you anything that’s not from the syllabus. So if you know your syllabus, you’ll be able to answer every question in that exam.

No matter how weird the question looks, NESA is not out to screw everyone over so all they’re expecting you to do is use your knowledge about the syllabus and do your best to answer the question. Just make sure you write your answer in a way that specifically references the question and you should be fine!

#4. You’re not alone

Yes, this point is a little corny and cliché, but it’s very true. You are not the first or the last person to sit the HSC so believe your older sister when she says she understands what you’re going through and that it’s all going to be okay. Everyone feels your pain. There are at least 70 000 other students, right now that are going through the same thing as you, so talk to them if you’re struggling.

It doesn’t sound like much but knowing that the rest of the world really feels for you is kind of a sneaky win that you can take full advantage of whilst it lasts.


Your HSC exams are no different to any other exam that you’ve done. You’ve done trials and survived that, which means you know what to expect and you know that you will come out the other end alive and in one piece. So make sure you go back over the structure and layout of the trial exams and the past papers and be prepared for anything that could be thrown your way.

The countdown is on. You’ve got this


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