NSW Higher School Certificate

NSW Higher School Certificate (HSC) (Year 11 and Year 12)


The Higher School Certificate (HSC) is the highest educational award to be gained in New South Wales schools. It is an internationally recognised credential that provides a strong foundation for the future, whether students wish to pursue tertiary qualifications, vocational training or employment.

The standards-based Higher School Certificate offers syllabuses that set clear expectations of what students must learn and measures performance against set standards. Marks in each course are reported against descriptive performance bands that show what students know, understand and can do.

To be eligible for the award of the Higher School Certificate a student must satisfactorily complete at least 12 units in the Preliminary study pattern and at least 10 units in the HSC study pattern.

Purpose of the Higher School Certificate Study Program

The purpose of the Higher School Certificate program of study is to:

  • provide a curriculum structure that encourages students to complete secondary education;
  • foster the intellectual, social and moral development of students, in particular developing their:
    • knowledge, skills, understanding and attitudes in the fields of study they choose;
    • capacity to manage their own learning;
    • desire to continue learning in formal or informal settings after school;
    • capacity to work together with others;
    • respect for the cultural diversity of Australian society;
  • provide a flexible structure within which students can prepare for further education and training, employment and full and active participation as citizens;
  • provide formal assessment and certification of students’ achievements;
  • provide a context within which schools also have the opportunity to foster students’ physical and emotional development.

Preliminary Course

The Preliminary course is taught in Terms 1, 2, and 3 in Year 11, or until outcomes are achieved. The Higher School Certificate course is taught from Term 4 in Year 11 to the end of Term 3 in Year 12. The Higher School Certificate examinations are typically held yearly from mid-October to mid-November.


(Note: not all courses are offered each year and actual offerings are dependent on student preferences and minimum course enrolment numbers)

  • English Standard
  • English Advanced
  • Preliminary English Extension
  • HSC English Extension 1
  • HSC English Extension 2
  • English (ESL)
  • Fundamentals of English
  • Mathematics General
  • Mathematics
  • Maths Extension 1
  • Maths Extension 2
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Sport, Lifestyle and Recreational Studies
  • Modern History
  • HSC History Extension
  • Business Studies
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • Legal Studies
  • Information Processes and Technology
  • Drama
  • Visual Arts
  • Music 1
  • Music 2
  • Chinese and French Beginners
  • Chinese Continuers
  • Chinese Background Speakers
  • HSC Chinese Extension
  • Heritage Chinese
  • French Continuers
  • Design and Technology
  • Visual Design
  • Photographic and Digital Media
  • Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE)