1. Home
  2. Syllabuses
  3. Senior Years (11–12) Syllabuses
  4. Stage 6 English FAQs
Print this page Reduce font size Increase font size

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Stage 6 English



What are the requirements for the study of English in Stage 6?

As part of the mandatory pattern of study for the Higher School Certificate (HSC), students must satisfactorily complete two units in each of a Preliminary and an HSC English course. The courses that are available to meet this requirement are:

  • English (Standard)
  • English (Advanced)
  • English as a Second Language (eligibility criteria apply for enrolment – see below)
  • English Studies (non-ATAR)
  • English Life Skills (non-ATAR, for students with special education needs).

What are the differences between the English (Standard) and the English (Advanced) courses?

The English (Standard) and the English (Advanced) courses have a common Area of Study constituting 40% of each course, with the remaining 60% made up of modules unique to each course. The outcomes of the English (Advanced) course incorporate and extend beyond the English (Standard) course outcomes.

The English (Standard) course emphasises composing, reflecting on and responding to a wide range of texts for different audiences and purposes. The emphasis of the English (Advanced) course is on the analysis and evaluation of texts and the ways they are valued in their contexts. It provides students with the opportunity for composing and responding to more complex texts and to engage in sustained higher-order thinking and reflection.

How will a student’s choice of English course affect their Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR)?

The ATAR is calculated by the Universities Admissions Centre and must include at least two units of English. All HSC English courses except English Studies and English Life Skills can be included in the calculation of the ATAR.

Universities make decisions on the scaling of courses on a year-by-year basis in relation to the quality of the candidature. The performance of a particular cohort cannot be predetermined.

Students who undertake the English (Standard) course will have the opportunity to perform at the levels described in the higher performance bands, but they will be less likely to achieve in those bands than students undertaking the English (Advanced) course.

Further information about the calculation of the ATAR is available from the Universities Admissions Centre <www.uac.edu.au>.


What is the relationship between the English Stage 6 Syllabus and English Studies?

English Studies is a Content Endorsed Course developed by the Board for students seeking an alternative to the English (Standard) course.

Satisfactory completion of English Studies will fulfil English requirements for the Higher School Certificate. The course will count towards the six units of Board Developed Courses required for the award of the Higher School Certificate.

English Studies has no HSC examination, so students who complete the course are not eligible for the calculation of an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR).

In the English Studies course, students explore the ideas, values, language forms, features and structures of texts in a range of personal, social, cultural and workplace contexts. They respond to and compose texts to extend experience and understanding, access information and assess its reliability, and synthesise the knowledge gained from a range of sources for a variety of purposes.

Any secondary school may offer English Studies for their Preliminary and/or HSC candidatures.

The Board has issued detailed guidelines for schools wishing to offer English Studies in Official Notice BOS 25/13.


Who is eligible to study the English as a Second Language (ESL) course?

The English (ESL) course may be studied by any student who has been educated overseas or in an Australian educational institution with English as the language of instruction for five years or less prior to commencing the Preliminary course. This includes:

  • students whose learning has been interrupted by periods away from education in which English was the language of instruction
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from indigenous communities where standard English is not the common language of the local community.

An ESL Eligibility Declaration form must be completed for any student seeking entry to the course.

Full details are available in the Board’s Assessment, Certification and Examination (ACE) Manual at <http://ace.bos.nsw.edu.au/higher-school-certificate/eligibility/english-esl-languages>.


Who is eligible to study Stage 6 English Life Skills?

The Stage 6 English Life Skills course has been developed for the small percentage of students, particularly those with an intellectual disability, for whom adjustments to teaching, learning and assessment are not sufficient to access some or all of the regular Stage 6 English outcomes. The Stage 6 English Life Skills course is not an appropriate option for students performing below their cohort and for whom appropriate adjustments and support would assist in achieving regular Stage 6 English outcomes.

The decision for a student to undertake Stage 6 English Life Skills should be made through the collaborative curriculum planning process. Schools do not need to seek the Board’s permission to enrol students in Stage 6 English Life Skills.

Will a student undertaking Stage 6 English Life Skills be able to satisfy requirements for the Higher School Certificate?

The Stage 6 English Life Skills course has Board Developed status and satisfies the mandatory requirement for study of an English course for the Higher School Certificate (HSC).

The course contributes two units (120 hours) each towards a student’s Preliminary and HSC patterns of study. There is no HSC examination, and the course does not contribute towards an ATAR.

How is achievement in the Stage 6 English Life Skills course assessed?

Individual outcomes in Stage 6 Life Skills courses are assessed as either achieved, or achieved with support. This information is submitted to the Board at the time of collection of grades (Preliminary) and assessment marks (HSC). Schools are not required to submit a grade or assessment mark for Stage 6 Life Skills courses.

During the collaborative planning process, individual outcomes from the Stage 6 English Life Skills course that will form the basis for the student’s program of study in English are selected. When developing teaching and learning programs for Stage 6 English Life Skills, it is important to provide opportunities for students to demonstrate achievement of the selected outcomes. Schools may decide the best contexts in which to assess student achievement, and the most appropriate way for achievement to be reported.

The Stage 6 English Life Skills outcomes reported to the Board as achieved will appear on the Profile of Student Achievement, which is issued with the student’s Record of School Achievement and/or Higher School Certificate credentials.

More information about studying Stage 6 English Life Skills can be found on the Board’s website at <www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/special_ed/life-skills.html>.


What is the Fundamentals of English course and how can it be delivered?

Students undertaking English (Standard) or English (ESL) may choose, in addition, to study the Fundamentals of English course, which will assist them to achieve English language outcomes.

The Fundamentals of English course is a 120-hour Preliminary course. It can be delivered over Years 11 and 12, but units will count towards the student’s Preliminary pattern of study only.

Can students be given credit for having completed 60 hours of the 120-hour Fundamentals of English course?

Students will be credentialled for 60 hours of Preliminary study in the Fundamentals of English course provided they have:

  • completed 24 hours of study in Module A
  • completed at least 18 hours of study in each of two other course modules, and
  • achieved some or all of the course outcomes as required by the Principal.


Who can study an English Extension course?

Students undertaking English (Advanced) may choose, in addition, to study:

  • the Preliminary English Extension course (1 unit)
  • the HSC English Extension 1 course (1 unit) – if they have completed the Preliminary Extension course
  • the HSC English Extension 2 course (1 unit) – if they are also studying the HSC Extension 1 course.

What are the Major Work requirements for the English Extension 2 course?

The English Extension 2 course is assessed and examined by a Major Work in one of the following categories: short stories, poems, critical responses, scripts, speeches, radio dramas, performance poetry, videos, or digital media.

Detailed information specific to English Extension 2, including Fact Sheets and Frequently Asked Questions, can be found on the Board’s website at <www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/syllabus_hsc/english-ext2.html>.


Can a student change their HSC English course?

The Assessment, Certification and Examination (ACE) Manual advises that decisions regarding changes of HSC courses are at the discretion of the principal, within guidelines provided by the Board.

However, each HSC English course has specific modules and text requirements and separate programs for internal assessment. These considerations may make it difficult to change English courses.


What is a prescribed text?

The document English Stage 6 Prescriptions: Area of Study, Electives and Texts lists the texts that may be studied for HSC English courses. The list remains current for a period of six years. (Note: the Area of Study is current for four years.) Schools select from this list in accordance with the text requirements for each course, and to meet student needs and interests. There are some 140 texts listed, and no text is compulsory. Teachers are advised to consider the ethos of the school and its local community, and the particular cohort of students undertaking a course when selecting specific texts for study.

The Prescriptions document lists specific editions of set texts. However, schools may use any suitable edition if the specified edition is unavailable. Where a text is quoted in an examination the quotation will be from the listed edition. From time to time republished editions may contain some changes to the text. When this comes to the Board’s attention schools will be notified through the Board Bulletin.

The 2015 – 2020 English Stage 6 Prescriptions: Area of Study, Electives and Texts can be found on the Board’s website at


What are the text requirements for each HSC English course?

In summary, the text requirements are as follows:

Area of Study – The Stage 6 English syllabus provides for an Area of Study to be prescribed which is common to the Standard, Advanced and ESL courses. The texts set for the Area of Study are common for the Standard and Advanced courses, with a variation for the ESL course. Standard and Advanced students study one text in the Area of Study while ESL students study two texts.

Electives – In addition to the Area of Study, students are required to undertake one of the prescribed electives from each module in the course they study.

Texts – Students study a total of four prescribed texts for the HSC in the Standard course, five in the Advanced course and three in the ESL course. Each text must be drawn from a different category (such as prose fiction, drama, poetry, nonfiction) with Advanced students required to include a Shakespearean drama. In the English Extension 1 course students study three texts from their particular elective, two of which must be print texts. All students also study related texts of their own choosing in various sections of the course.

Full details of text requirements are provided in the Prescriptions: Area of Study, Electives and Texts document.

Who ensures that schools study the specified types of texts?

Schools are responsible for having procedures in place to ensure that the correct texts and combinations of texts are taught. These procedures can be applied to monitoring the types of texts to be taught in each of the HSC courses.

What restrictions apply to the study of prescribed texts?

The study of texts prescribed in any course for the Higher School Certificate must not begin before the completion of the Preliminary course. This exclusion applies to study in all English Preliminary courses and to Preliminary courses in other subjects such as Drama. It also applies to the study of a prescribed text in another medium, such as the film version of a novel.

Does the Board prescribe texts for study in Year 11?

The Board does not prescribe texts for study in Years 7–11. Teachers develop learning experiences based on the requirements specified in the syllabus. Teachers are advised to consider the ethos of the school and its local community when selecting specific texts for study. The Board provides a list of Suggested Texts for the English K–10 Syllabus.

Can prescribed texts be used in earlier Stages?

There are no restrictions on the use of prescribed HSC texts in earlier Stages of schooling; this is a school-based decision. However, it is important for schools to consider the effects on students of possible repetition of texts that will be studied in the HSC year.

Why does the English Stage 6 Syllabus state that ‘Preliminary electives are not to duplicate the prescribed HSC modules, electives or texts’?

The English Stage 6 Syllabus uses modules as an organisational structure for delivery of the content of the HSC courses. Each of the modules establishes the parameters within which students can apply the synthesis of skills, knowledge and understanding developed through their Preliminary course. A detailed description of the scope of each module is given in the syllabus. While many of the required skills may be addressed in the Preliminary course, it is the scope of the module and elective that is not to be duplicated.

Preliminary electives and units of work are designed by teachers to meet the needs, interests and abilities of their particular students. Teachers need to address the objectives of the specific Stage 6 English course and assist their students to achieve the course outcomes.

What are related texts?

Some modules in Stage 6 English courses require students to study texts of their own choosing, in addition to their prescribed texts. The study of these ‘related’ texts provides students with the opportunity to explore a wider variety of texts related to the particular module. Students draw their chosen texts from a variety of sources, in a range of genres and media.

How should related texts be selected?

In Stage 6 English courses, it is expected that students will take responsibility for the selection and study of related texts. While teachers may provide advice and guidance, student skills in independent analysis and investigation and their growing independence as learners will be strengthened through their own selection and study of related texts.

Can a text from the HSC Prescribed Texts list be used as a related text?

Students will not be disadvantaged by using a text from the Prescribed Texts list, provided it is relevant to the module/elective concerned.


What assistance is available for designing school assessment programs?

For each HSC English course there is an Assessment and Reporting document that provides teachers with guidance about components and weightings for Preliminary course assessment and describes the mandatory components and weightings for HSC course assessment. Sample HSC assessment schedules are also provided.

Comprehensive advice on assessment is also available in the document HSC assessment in a standards-referenced framework – a guide to best practice.

Do schools submit separate internal assessment marks to the Board for English (Standard) and English (Advanced) courses?

Schools submit separate marks reflecting the rank order and relative differences in student achievement for the English (Standard) course and English (Advanced) course.

The Board places students’ achievement on the common performance scale for the Standard and Advanced courses once the moderated internal assessment mark is combined with the external examination mark. The performance of students from both courses is reported on this common performance scale.

There are separate performance scales for ESL, English Extension 1 and Extension 2 courses, and separate sets of internal assessment marks are submitted to the Board for students undertaking each of these courses.

What correlation should there be between the HSC external examination mark and the internal assessment mark?

There is no necessary degree of correlation expected between internal assessment marks and external examination marks. The internal assessment program should assess achievement of all outcomes of the course, some of which are not adequately measured by external examination processes. Maximising this correlation is not the goal of the school-based assessment.

In general, students will perform in a similar manner in the internal and external assessments, but schools should not expect a perfect correlation between these two measures. A very high correlation (close to 1) may mean that the internal assessment is too narrow and is simply replicating the examination. On the other hand, a very low correlation (close to 0) may mean that the internal assessment program is not adequately addressing those outcomes that are also measured by the examination.


What feedback is available about HSC marking?

The Notes from the Marking Centre documents provide feedback from the annual marking of HSC examinations. The Notes can be found on the Board’s website below the relevant syllabus. Past examination papers are in the same location.

What processes are used by the Board to place Standard and Advanced students on the common performance scale?

Students undertaking the English (Standard) and English (Advanced) courses sit for the same Paper 1 and then either Paper 2 (Standard) or Paper 2 (Advanced).

The distribution of marks awarded to students in Paper 2 (Standard) is adjusted to match the distribution of marks awarded to the Standard course students in Paper 1. For each student, their adjusted Paper 2 mark is added to their Paper 1 mark to give their total examination mark. The same approach is used to obtain the examination marks for the students in the Advanced course.

By using this approach of relating the marks awarded in the discrete papers to the common paper, the marks of the students are expressed in the same ‘currency’ or, more technically, are placed on the same scale.

Once this is done, the Board’s standard-setting procedure, involving teams of experienced markers using professional judgement informed by statistical data and student responses, is used to determine the band cut-off marks for the combined distribution so that a Band 6 awarded to a Standard course student is equivalent to a Band 6 awarded to an Advanced course student, and so on. During this process checks are conducted to ensure that if Standard and Advanced course students are awarded the same marks then their performances are of the same standard.

This does not mean that the same proportions of students in the Advanced and Standard courses will be placed in any band. Students undertaking the Standard and Advanced courses receive the band appropriate to the standard of achievement they demonstrate.


What support material does the Board provide to assist the implementation of the English Stage 6 Syllabus?

Useful support documents include:

Print this page Reduce font size Increase font size