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What you need to know about the HSC trial exams


The HSC trial exams are the last internal assessments to prepare students for the HSC. They serve as a ‘trial-run’ for students sitting the HSC.

What are the HSC trial exams?

Your child’s HSC trial exams are the last internal assessment conducted at school.

What does the HSC trials format look like?

Just like the HSC, your child will have a HSC trial paper for each assessment.

The HSC trial exams will usually have the same layout as the HSC. For example, if your child is doing Advanced English they will have to do a ‘Paper 1’ and ‘Paper 2’, just like they would in the HSC.

How much do the HSC trial exams weigh?

Since HSC trial exams are ‘internal’, the weighting of the assessment depends on the school.

Most schools will allocate a weighting of around 20-40% to the HSC trial exams, although they can be more or less.

The usual layout for the final HSC mark (or ATAR) allocation is:

To learn more about the HSC curriculum structure see here.

Are HSC trial exams harder than the HSC?

Schools will write their HSC trial papers however they wish. However, many students believe that HSC trial exams are considered harder than the HSC papers.

If your child’s school has ‘harder’ trials will they be disadvantaged?

Not at all.

All exam results are weighted. NESA has specific algorithms when calculating a final mark to produce fair results for all of the cohort.

How should my child study for HSC trials?

Encourage your child to do past papers

Doing past papers is the best way to study for the HSC trial exams.

Tip: Many schools in Australia recommend students use the CSSA HSC trial examination papers to study. This is also used by many Catholic Schools in NSW.

Treating the HSC trial exams as a trial run or another practice paper will take the pressure off your child.

Make a to-do list

Encourage your child to make a to-do list or scheduled list of content to study each day.

This will ensure your child completes what they need to before the trials with time to study. In addition, creating a list your child can ‘check-off’ can increase productivity and wellbeing.

Study in intervals

Encourage your child to conduct interval study that works for them.

Many students use the ‘Pomodoro Technique of study’.

hsc trial exams. boy sitting at desk.

This entails 25 minutes of focus followed by a short 5 minute break (with no electronics or distractions). Students also commonly study for 50 minutes followed by a short 10 minute break.

Cover everything that needs to be covered by the HSC

A guideline for what could be done before the HSC trial exams include:

Tips for the HSC trial exams

Make sure your child is prepared

Make sure your child has all the HSC trial exam dates noted down and written down somewhere.

They could even create a study plan counting down to the HSC trials. This may help as a practice run for the actual HSC and reduce nerves following the HSC trial exams.

For example, your child will learn how to make a study plan that works by making improvements from the trials or keeping it the same.

Make sure your child has a healthy study plan

Make sure your child has a study plan pinned down with lots of balance. This includes good nutrition, time for physical activity and time to socialise with friends.

Encourage your child to communicate with teachers

A great idea is to encourage your child to speak to their teacher. Teachers and schools are a big help around the HSC period and ultimately want all students to perform their best.

Many teachers have hidden tips such as predictions of what the main focus of a question might be.

Additionally, make sure your child has asked for as much feedback as possible before the end of school. Many students ask teachers to review their essays multiple times. However, using the feedback from internal assessments is usually enough to prepare children for the HSC and HSC trial exams.

What should I do if my child didn’t do well in the HSC trial exams?

If your child did not perform as well as they wished too, do not worry.

There are many ways to help your child in general.

Mainly, remember there is time to bounce back.

The HSC trial exams are only worth a portion of the internal assessment mark.

If your child does not do as well as they wished it is not time to give up. Doing well in the HSC will be worthwhile as it still makes up 50% of their final mark.

Put in effort to encourage your child to keep going and remind them that they’re almost at the finish mark! 

Mistakes in the HSC trial exams are also a great way to study for the HSC to make sure they have everything covered.

Choosing a school for your child can be difficult, if you wish to receive further information please see Choosing a School NSW 37 or Choosing a School VIC 34.

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