The Higher School Certificate (HSC) is the credential awarded to secondary school students who successfully complete senior high school level studies (Years 11 and 12 or equivalent) in New South Wales, Australia. It is currently developed and managed by the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA).
The majority of students undertake HSC-related courses over the final two years of high school, though it is possible to undertake different study patterns over different time periods or through different teaching organisations.
There are a great number of possible courses students can study, totalling over 100 (including languages), in a wide range of subject areas. However, most schools offer students a smaller selection from which they must choose.
Most courses offered comprise a preliminary (Year 11) component and an HSC (Year 12) component. As a general rule the preliminary component must be completed prior to the HSC component. Furthermore, each subject is designated as either one or two “units”. Each unit involves approximately two hours of formal tuition per week, and contributes a maximum mark of 50. The majority of courses are two unit courses, and thus students receive marks out of 100 in these courses. 10 units is the minimum number of units required, however students can attempt more should they choose. If they do, their final ATAR mark is calculated using their best 2 units of English and 8 best other units. Extension courses, each with a value of one unit, may be included in the study program, meaning that a certain subject area may have up to four units, e.g. English (Advanced) (two units) plus English Extension 1 and English Extension 2 (each worth one unit).
To be eligible for the award of the HSC a student must have satisfied the requirements in at least twelve preliminary level units, and at least ten HSC level units, with the additional requirements that:
- at least two must be English units;
- at least six units must be Board-developed courses;
- at least three courses are of two unit or greater value.
- at least four subjects have been completed.
- no more than seven units of science are studied. This was changed from six units in 2019 with the addition of the Science Extension subject.
Further restrictions may apply in certain subject areas.
Note that these requirements are for the award of the HSC. Further requirements regarding study patterns apply if the student wishes to apply for a separate Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) based on their HSC performance.
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