Advice for students sitting the HSC

20 October 2020
Good luck to all HSC students
University of Sydney experts offer advice to the class of 2020 sitting their HSC exams this year.

Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sydney.

“This has been no ordinary year for the class of 2020. From the summer bushfires to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our year 12 students begin their final HSC exams this week during some of the most extraordinary circumstances in living memory," Dr Spence said.

“It is understandable for students and parents to be apprehensive, but it is important to keep perspective."

These exams simply measure what you have learned over the last two years, they don’t measure all the wonderful things that make you who you are.
Vice-Chancellor and Principal at the University of Sydney, Dr Michael Spence

“Remember that you are not alone. The HSC experience is a shared one, with students past and present, and getting through the year is an enormous achievement, no matter your result.

“Most importantly, look after yourself. Take regular study breaks. Eat well. Sleep. Give yourself some time each day to regroup or exercise. Try to be positive as it will help you stay motivated. Even a little study is better than no study at all, so keep going and try as hard as you can.

“ATARs may help students get into their first choice of university course, but there are many pathways into university and your ATAR is just one route. If you don't do as well as you had hoped - and there are many reasons why people don't - it is not the end of your career hopes. There will be many opportunities and ways to get the education you want for a rewarding career.”  

Mental health support

Dr Lexine Stapinski is a senior research fellow and clinical psychologist at the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use.

“Going through the HSC is a challenging time for students. Schools and parents can support students by equipping them with coping strategies to help them manage the stress. For example, when we get stressed, we can experience a cascading chain of worries," Dr Stapinski said.

"Worry is different from productive thinking or problem-solving, because it is focussed on imagining the worst-case scenario: not a scenario that is likely, but that might happen. When we notice worries start to snowball like this, it is important to do something to deliberately interrupt that cascade of worry. It can help to change your environment, refocus on something completely different that’s really centred in the here and now, or talk the situation through with someone else to help put those worries into perspective."

Further mental health support resources can be found here:

Professor Ian Hickie is the Co-Director of the Brain and Mind Centre

“In the COVID-19 era, the HSC is just one part of a much longer journey. Transitions to higher education or other options next year are really important. We all understand that this has been a tough year and we are all here to support you,” Professor Hickie said.

Assessment advice

Professor James Tognolini is the Director of the Centre for Educational Measurement at the University of Sydney. 

“While there have been many trials and tribulations for students going into this year’s examinations, the time has come for students to forget everything else and focus on doing their very best; just the same as every other student has since public examinations began. Good luck!” Professor Tognolini said.

Dr Jim Coyle lectures in music education at Sydney Conservatorium of Music.  

"With music HSC listening exams, one thing that is very important is to read the question very carefully to make sure which of the musical concepts to write about. For example, if a question asks you about pitch, be sure to focus on pitch and associated ideas. Remember, time is very short in these exams, so keep your answers relevant to the question and write nothing unnecessary," Dr Coyle said.

Sitou Sally

Higher degree research student

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