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Higher School Certificate (HSC) Requirements for University

Published on
June 3, 2024

What Does HSC Stand for?

HSC Stands for the Higher School Certificate. Known more commonly by its abbreviation, it is the highest educational award presented to NSW students for completing their Year 11 and Year 12 of education. 

The HSC results are recognised internationally for providing a strong foundation of subject knowledge deemed important to pursue tertiary education, vocational training, as well as employment. 

Is HSC the Same as VCE?

The VCE and HSC are both important senior secondary school certifications awarded to recognise the efforts of students who have satisfactorily graduated from high school within the states of Victoria and New South Wales respectively. 

HSC, similar to the VCE program, is an official academic record of a student’s achievements that clearly attests to what they are capable of and how well they can perform across a breadth of selected subjects.

HSC School Course Eligibility Requirements

How Can I Get an HSC?

To be eligible for a HSC award, you are required to satisfy the following:

  1. Gain the Record of School Achievement (RoSA) or an equivalent recognised by the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA)* 
  2. Attend a government school, a recognised non-government school, a school outside NSW territory but recognised by NESA or a TAFE associated college
  3. Must have completed the HSC: All My Own Work or equivalent
  4. Demonstrate a minimum standard of literacy and numeracy*
  5. Satisfactory completion of courses chosen in Years 11 and 12 required by NESA
  6. Undertake and achieve competitive score in the requisite Higher School Certificate assessments.

What is RoSA?

The Record of School Achievement (RoSA) is a cumulative qualification meant to showcase your Year 10 grades as well as any grades completed during the course of Year 11. 

What does a Demonstration of HSC Minimum Standards mean?

In 2020, the HSC eligibility requirements were altered. To achieve an HSC award, students need to demonstrate a minimum standard of literacy and numeracy abilities defined by the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) Level 3. This ‘Level 3’ indicates the degree of functional literacy and numerical skills required to succeed in subsequent education and employment.

Each student must demonstrate a minimum standard of reading, numerical and writing skills from as early as in their Year 10 to the end of Year 12.

Are HSC Exam Marks Scaled?

The HSC standard of evaluation has become stronger in recent years to support and guide students in Years 11 and 12 to achieve their best in high school. This reform was put in place to reduce plagiarism and pre-thought responses during examinations.

Having said that, let us look into the three main reforms that were implemented to challenge and motivate students to secure a competitive score can be found below:

  1. Demonstrate a minimum literacy and numeracy standard 
  2. An updated course curriculum 
  3. Streamlined assessment process 

Before undertaking the HSC assessments, students are put through a range of school-based assessments designed and marked by school teachers. The HSC program has approximately four assessment tasks per student and your performance in each task will contribute to obtaining a total school assessment mark. 

The School-Based Assessment process has a series of steps to provide students with all the assessment relevant information, including:

  1. A description of each task and its criteria
  2. The weightage of each task
  3. The deadline for the task or when you need to sit the exam
  4. The marking process

After the completion of each task, students receive personalised, detailed feedback on their performance along with areas of improvement.

Once the assessment program comes to a conclusion, your school will accumulate the marks you received per task and add up the marks as well as apply any necessary weightings. This school assessment mark will be delivered and stored by NESA until the exams are fully marked.

Students do not receive any information from their school regarding the marks obtained in the assessments as these marks need to be moderated and aligned to match the standards of achievements. However, students do receive a report card showcasing their comparative rank in each course against students in the same school.

HSC guide in NSW

Determining Your HSC Results

For starters, your HSC results are not the same as the ATAR you present for tertiary education. Although they are both solid measures of your academic achievements, you cannot secure an ATAR without tracking your HSC performance for each completed course.

NESA determines the following marks for each student in order to simplify the ATAR calculation process for UAC. From NESA you obtain the following marks:

  • Raw examination mark
  • Raw moderated school assessment
  • Aligned examination mark
  • Aligned moderated school assessment; and finally,
  • Your HSC mark

Raw HSC marks are specifically used in the scaling process and these marks are not released to students, which restricts students from calculating their own ATAR from their HSC scores. However, here’s a simplified version of the format used to transform your HSC marks into your final ATAR.

The HSC scaling model observes a student’s developed ability in a HSC course along with the ‘strengths of the competition’ demonstrated by the entire cohort and their overall academic attainment. A scaling algorithm is applied to determine what a student’s raw HSC marks would amount to under the following circumstance:

  1. All courses were studied by all students
  2. All courses had the same distribution of marks

The formula to calculate the scaled scores is based on the standard deviation (SD) and the maximum marks secured in each course. For a high ATAR, you are required to complete at least one ATAR course in an academic year for it to be considered in the scaling process. The final scaled marks are deduced after applying relevant adjustment factors and these marks do not affect the relative position of a student against their peers. 

Bear in mind that your ATAR will be affected by your choice of subject selection, so choose subjects that are best suited to your personality and future goals in your final schooling years.

HSC Subjects and ATAR 

The universities in NSW and ACT are part of the largest tertiary admissions centre in Australia known as the UAC or Universities Admissions Centre. The UAC’s primary objective is to regulate the smooth functioning of the admission process for tertiary education whilst promoting equity of access for fresh school leavers.

UAC sets the benchmark for ATAR and its calculation process to help students transition into a tertiary education. Securing a high ATAR is often a necessary prerequisite for tertiary education as it demonstrates whether or not a student has maximised on the given high school course materials to be prepared for a vigorous and deadline-oriented university curriculum. 

To qualify for an ATAR in NSW, students must satisfactorily complete 10 units or more and include at least:

  • 8 units from Category A courses
  • 2 units of English
  • 3 Board Developed courses of 2 units each
  • 4 Subjects: a subject and specific area of study, i.e. Mathematics, within which there may be a number of course options to choose from – Mathematics Standard / Advanced / Extension 1 / Extension 2

The raw HSC marks that have been scaled will be used to derive your aggregate marks, which will rank you in order of your cohort’s aggregate marks (a summation of your scaled marks in your chosen ATAR courses; each unit is worth 50 points) and simultaneously provide you with a percentile score to calculate your ATAR. The percentile score helps in the process of distributing students in an even manner over a 100-point scale. 

For example, an ATAR of 80.0 implies that you are in the top 20% of your class, which again refers to your age group and not Year 12 class.

Finally, it is important to note that only ATAR-eligible students are given an ATAR, this cohort refers to students who clearly indicate on their HSC entry forms that they wish to be notified of their ATAR from UAC.

HSC Timetable 

Before we conclude this piece, here’s the HSC exam timetable for you to be aware of in order to build a study schedule in advance and stay ahead in your preparation game.

HSC Key Dates Event Description
Mid-January HSC Results Released
Mid-March HSC Written Examination Elective Surveys
End of April Personalised 2022 HSC written examination timetable released via Students Online and Schools Online
Mid-week of September

Assignment submissions due via Schools Online:

  1. Deadline to submit ‘Work samples for English Studies, Mathematics Standard 1 and Numeracy’
  2. HSC school assessment marks
  3. HSC Life Skills outcomes
  4. Estimated examination marks for students doing optional exams
  5. Assessment grades for English Studies, Mathematics Standard 1 and Numeracy due
Mid October

HSC Written Exams Begin

Mid-late October

Year 11 grades and Life Skills Outcome to be submitted via Schools Online

Early week of November

Written Exam will Conclude

Mid-week of November

Year 10 grades and Life Skills Outcomes to be submitted through Schools Online portal

Mid-week of December

HSC results released for the next academic cycle

We hope this guide provides you with the relevant information on HSC subjects, score calculation and the importance of ATAR for your tertiary education. If you need a neat rundown of the ATAR requirements for medical school, be certain to read our article on the topic. Besides, our staff are always ready to have a friendly chat with you to address any queries you have regarding the medicine entry process. It goes without saying that guidance like this is free of cost and will provide all you need to know about the application process.