The Higher School Certificate (HSC) is the credential awarded to secondary school students who successfully complete senior high school level studies (Years 11 and 12 or equivalent) in New South Wales, Australia. It was first introduced in 1967,with the last major revision coming into effect in 2001. It is currently developed and managed by the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards (BOSTES) NSW.
The majority of students undertake HSC-related courses over the final two years of high school, though it is possible to undertake different study patterns over different time periods or through different teaching organisations.
There are a great number of possible courses students can study, totalling over 100 (including languages), in a wide range of subject areas. However, most schools offer students a smaller selection from which they must choose. The only compulsory subject area is English, with one of English Advanced, English Standard, English as a Second Language or English Life Skills required for the award of the HSC. (English Extension 1 and English Extension 2 are also available for English Advanced students). Individual schools may require their students to undertake certain courses, as is the case with Studies of Religion in many religious schools or Agriculture in agricultural schools. However, these are internal school requirements separate from HSC requirements. There are also three distance education distinction courses run through regional universities available to students who have finished 2 units ahead of their cohort.
Most courses offered comprise a preliminary (Year 11) component and an HSC (Year 12) component. As a general rule the preliminary component must be completed prior to the HSC component. Furthermore, each subject is designated as either one or two "units". Each unit involves approximately two hours of formal tuition per week, and contributes a maximum mark of 50. The majority of courses are two unit courses, and thus students receive marks out of 100 in these courses. 10 units is the minimum number of units required, however students can attempt more should they choose. If they do, their final ATAR mark is calculated using their best 2 units of English and 8 best other units. Extension courses, each with a value of one unit, may be included in the study program, meaning that a certain subject area may have up to four units, e.g. English (Advanced) (two units) plus English Extension 1 and English Extension 2 (each worth one unit).
To be eligible for the award of the HSC a student must have satisfied the requirements in at least twelve preliminary level units, and at least ten HSC level units, with the additional requirements that:
- at least two must be English units;
- at least six units must be Board of Studies-developed courses;
- at least three courses are of two unit or greater value.
- at least four subjects have been completed.
- no more than six units of science are studied.