Achieving HSC success: tips for students and parents

The Higher School Certificate (HSC) examinations will soon be here for thousands of local students, their teachers and family members. As a teacher of HSC students for many years and having my own two children take on the challenge, I know first-hand that the next two months will be a trying time for all involved. The HSC exams begin on 16 October with students receiving their results on 14 December.

I like to think of the HSC as one of life’s big lessons rather than as an academic test. It is a lesson in resilience, drive, perseverance, time management, self-reliance, determination − the big learnings that are so crucial to success in life. It is often the first of life’s real challenges for our children. It rewards hard work and, like most things, you get out of it what you put into it. However, the fact of the matter is that students do have to sit myriad exams to be awarded the credential, and between now and 16 October there are many practical steps a student can take to maximise success in the HSC, and many ways parents can support their children.

The key to success in the HSC is to be organised and work consistently throughout the year. The HSC is akin to a long distance race and the old adage, ‘slow and steady wins the race’, rings true. Students who have been working consistently all year can certainly look to the HSC examinations with confidence.

By the time you read this there will be about six weeks until the start of the HSC.  With assessment tasks completed and individual student HSC assessment marks and ranks forwarded to the NSW Education Standards Authority, this remaining time is crucial. Used productively it can lead to improved examination performance. Parental support − providing encouragement, guidance and a calming influence − is key.

Following is advice for students − which parents can reinforce − in order to maximise their HSC results.

In terms of classwork, attendance is crucial. The course is not over just because the trial exams or final assessment tasks have been completed. There may only be two or three weeks of the term left but teachers will be working hard to finish the course and provide crucial revision. Your teachers are your greatest resource and you need to work with them right to the end. As well, you should be finalising the compilation of well-organised study notes, completed for every subject by the end of Term 3.

Completing all homework is essential. Homework is very much the ‘icing on the cake’. At this stage it will generally mirror HSC-style questions, thus helping to develop further and consolidate effective examination technique. The aim now is to focus on doing well in the HSC exam and completion of homework tasks is one way to assist this. During the remainder of the term, establish and commit to a robust but reasonable homework routine, remembering to maintain a healthy life balance. This may also be a time to evaluate the balance between paid work and homework.

As I have stated, the focus should now be on improving your performance in the HSC exams. The HSC mark equals the average of the exam mark and the moderated assessment mark. The exam mark is used to determine how the school assessment mark will be adjusted to determine the moderated assessment mark. Therefore, students and their cohort need to do well in the exam to ensure the moderated assessment mark is an improvement on the school assessment mark. If you have been disappointed with your performance in assessment tasks, take heart that doing well in the HSC exam can negate this. I have repeatedly witnessed students having their assessment mark increased (some substantially) by simply making the decision to focus on their study at this time and consequently doing better than expected in the exam.  Adopting a solid study program over the next few weeks can really pay dividends.

Exam preparation is crucial to success in the HSC.  At this stage the HSC is a team effort and success relies on all students doing their best.  It is time to start ‘sprinting to the finish line’ by consolidating your learning. Establish a realistic study plan geared to the HSC timetable and follow it all the way to your last exam. This is also where parents can provide some gentle persuasion and practical support. Over the term 3 holidays (‘stuvac’) continue to consolidate your learning by completing past exam papers, essay plans and factual paragraphs; attending tutorials; participating in productive study groups and making use of online resources such as (University of Newcastle).

Ultimately, the HSC exams are designed to give students the opportunity to showcase what they know and understand. Whatever the outcome, be proud of your accomplishment and know that you have now developed essential skills to meet many more of life’s challenges.  

Christine Chapple is Education Officer (Secondary Curriculum) at the Catholic Schools Office and an experienced teacher of senior students.

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Christine Chapple

Christine Chapple is Education Officer (Secondary Curriculum) at the Catholic Schools Office
and an experienced teacher of senior students.

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