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The HSC in a nutshell

What must students do to gain the HSC?

To gain an HSC, students must have completed a minimum of 12 units of Preliminary courses and 10 units of HSC courses. All courses in the HSC have a unit value. Most courses are 2 units.

Students must satisfactorily complete the Preliminary course (usually studied during Year 11) before they are eligible to commence the corresponding HSC course (usually studied during Year 12). English is the only compulsory subject for the HSC. Year 10 students and others planning Year 11 and Year 12 studies will find more information about choosing HSC courses and how the HSC works on Students Online.

What courses do students study for their HSC?

There are two main types of courses - Board Developed and Board Endorsed.

Board Developed Courses

These are the large number of courses that are set and externally examined by the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards NSW including courses in the areas of English, Mathematics, Science, Technology, Creative Arts, Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE), Human Society and its Environment (HSIE), Languages and Vocational Education and Training (VET) Curriculum Frameworks. These courses may contribute to the calculation of an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR).

Read more about the subjects available and a description of each course.

Board Endorsed Courses

These include courses that may have been developed by schools, TAFE or universities. They contribute to the HSC but do not contribute to the calculation of the ATAR.

What are the different English and Mathematics courses?


The two main courses are English Advanced and English Standard.

English Advanced involves the study of English at a higher level. It includes the study of Shakespeare and other literary texts and is undertaken by students who may wish to study English at university. There are additional English Extension courses which can only be studied in conjunction with English Advanced. English Extension 1 gives students the opportunity to study in-depth options, and English Extension 2 provides students with the challenge of creating a major work which is assessed by examiners.

English Standard caters for a wide range of students. It is designed to develop and refine reading, writing, listening and speaking skills and to enhance a student’s personal, social and vocational opportunities.

Both English Advanced and English Standard are reported on a common scale. This means that results in these courses can be compared with each other.

English Studies Content Endorsed Course (CEC) is intended to address the needs of specific students for an English course to support their successful completion of the HSC while advancing their vocational interests and pathways. The course is intended to extend knowledge and understanding about, and skills in, accurate and appropriate use of language for current and future studies, careers and citizenship. The English Studies CEC is a non-examinable course that satisfies the Board's eligibility requirements for the award of the HSC.

English as a Second Language (ESL) has been developed for students who have been educated overseas (or in Australia for less than five years) where English has not been the language of instruction. Strict rules apply to the eligibility of students entering ESL. See the ACE manual.


The two main courses are Mathematics (‘2 unit’) and Mathematics General 2.

Mathematics (‘2 Unit’) is a Board Developed Course which involves the study of calculus. It is a co-requisite or prerequisite for the higher-level course Mathematics Extension 1. The highest-level course is Mathematics Extension 2 which is designed for students with a special-interest in mathematics who have shown a special aptitude for the subject.. Mathematics Extension 2 can be undertaken concurrently with, or following the study of, Mathematics Extension 1.

Mathematics General 2 is also a 2-unit Board Developed Course in Mathematics. It does not involve the study of calculus. It is designed for students who wish to enter occupations that require the use of a variety of mathematical and statistical techniques.

Understanding HSC results

The HSC Credentials section features samples and explanations of each document a student will receive for completing their HSC. This includes Vocational Education and Training (VET) certificates and statements of attainment.

The HSC documents issued by the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards NSW provide detailed information on a student's achievements at school; however, they do not include information on how punctual a student is or his/her attitude to work. Further information, including attendance details and attitude towards study, may be contained in the documents issued by the student's school. These usually include school reports, references and documents relating to work experience and community involvement.

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