Studying for the HSC

This is a brief summary of the NSW Board of Studies HSC rules. For full details on all of the Board’s rules you should look up the Assessment Credentialing and Examination (ACE) manual which is available through your school or on the Board of Studies website – a link is provided on the Wyndham College website.

Pattern of Study Requirements

Each course in the Senior School is comprised of two components - a Preliminary (Year 11) and a HSC (Year 12) course. Satisfactory completion of the Preliminary course is a prerequisite for entry into an HSC course.

Preliminary courses will be taught in Year 11, while HSC courses will be mostly taught in Year 12. The Preliminary course consists of Term 1, 2, & 3 of Year 11. The HSC course begins in Term 4 of Year 11. Candidates for the Higher School Certificate must undertake a program of study comprising at least:

  • 12 units of Preliminary course; and
  • 10 units of Higher School Certificate courses

Both the Preliminary course pattern and the HSC course pattern must include

  • at least six units of Board Developed Courses;
  • at least two units of a Board Developed Course in English;
  • at least three courses of two units value (or greater); and
  • at least four subjects.

Each Board Developed Course is worth 2 Units which is approximately 4 hours per week of study. All courses offered are 2 unit although English and Mathematics have a 1 unit extension course available for Year 11 study. Some Board Endorsed University Courses are offered as 1 Unit Courses.

No more than six units of courses in Science can contribute to Higher School Certificate eligibility. Senior Science cannot be combined with any other Science course.

The current two year program of study is the usual method of completing the HSC, however under Pathways, students have the flexibility to accumulate the HSC from between three to five years. Decisions about students who demonstrate the need to use this system of accumulation will be made by the Principal after negotiation with students and their family.


The following are issued by the Board of Studies upon completion of the Preliminary and/or HSC Course:

Records of Achievement
These will be issued for both Preliminary and HSC courses if all course work in a subject is complete.
HSC Testamur
All eligible students will also receive an HSC. To be eligible, students must follow the required pattern of study, attempt the HSC examinations, and have been assessed in the prescribed manner.

Course Report

A report will be issued for each course. The report will include:

  • an HSC mark located in one of the performance scale bands with a description of the knowledge, skills and understanding typically demonstrated by students in that band. This mark is derived from an average of the exam mark and school based assessment.
  • an assessment mark out of 100
  • an examination mark out of 100.

The Principal will be required to certify satisfactory completion of HSC courses, as evidenced by attendance, course participation and progress.

HSC/TAFE Credit Transfer

You can use your HSC and Assessment Marks to complete a TAFE course more quickly ie. gain Advanced standing. Advanced standing means that students completing some HSC courses at satisfactory level may count these towards a TAFE award. They will then not have to study certain subjects or modules in the TAFE course. It may allow you to gain your TAFE qualification faster. Depending on the types of subjects studied in the HSC, students may be granted up to 75% advanced standing.

Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR)

If you wish to go to University your study pattern must satisfy ATAR requirements. The ATAR is calculated by the Technical Committee on Scaling on behalf of universities in NSW and the ACT. A candidate’s ATAR is calculated from the scaled aggregate of the marks in the best ten units in Board Developed HSC courses, subject to the following restrictions:

  • at least two units of English must be included
  • at least three Board Developed courses of two units value or greater must be included
  • courses from at least four subjects must be included
  • at most, two units of category B courses may be included in the calculation of the ATAR.

The universities categorise Board Developed courses as Category A or Category B. Most Board Developed Courses are Category A and are unrestricted in their eligibility for inclusion in the calculation of the ATAR. Category B courses include all VET framework courses and Accounting. The universities allow no more than 2 units of these courses to be included in calculation of the ATAR. Content Endorsed Courses and locally designed Board Endorsed Courses, are excluded from contributing to the calculation of the ATAR. (For more detailed information on the ATAR and the Limited ATAR refer to current Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) publications.)

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