Subjects in the HSC

Understanding the requirements of the HSC


The Higher School Certificate courses will commence in Term 4 of Year 11 and be completed by the end of Term 3 of Year 12. Under NESA guidelines, the satisfactory completion of the Preliminary course is a prerequisite for entry into an HSC course. A student will be considered to have satisfactorily completed a course if there is sufficient evidence that the student has:
• Followed the course developed or endorsed by the NESA
• Applied themselves with diligence and sustained effort to the set tasks and experiences provided in the course by the school
• Achieved some or all of the course outcomes

Number of Units

In the HSC course, students may be able to take up the opportunity of studying a new Extension course should they be eligible. Alternatively, students can discontinue a course. However, students are advised to maintain more than 10 units until the end of Term 1 of the coming year. By this time, students will have some indication of their performance in the HSC courses, which often differs from the Preliminary courses. Taking more than 10 units allows a student to ‘fine tune’ his or her subject package closer to the HSC examinations, when further information on performance is known.

Students studying new HSC Extension units (Mathematics Extension 2, English Extension 2, History Extension, Science Extension, Music Extension or the Language Extensions) must take more than 10 units with which to start the HSC course. New extension subjects place significant demands on students and until their progress in these subjects is deemed satisfactory (usually at the end of Term 1 of the following year) they may not be permitted to drop to 10 units.

Please view the video below for a general introduction to the new HSC extension subjects.


Director of Curriculum Strategy: Philip Mundy

Year 12 Classes 

The timetable is a student-driven timetable. When the timetable is recast from one calendar year to the next the School cannot guarantee students will retain the same teachers for their subjects. The School aims to have students retain their 2 unit English and Mathematics teachers from one calendar year to the next. Students and parents must be aware that there will possibly be changes to classes in some other subjects. Due to the number of students in Year 12 and the complexity of the timetable, it is not possible to consider teacher requests.

Unless otherwise indicated, students will be automatically enrolled in the corresponding HSC courses continuing on from their Preliminary courses. Students cannot study an HSC course for which they have not satisfactorily completed the corresponding Preliminary course (i.e. students cannot pick up new HSC courses that they did not study in the Preliminary course, with the exception of the new HSC Extension subjects). However, Mathematics and English have some special cases:

• Students may take the Mathematics Standard HSC course having satisfactorily completed a higher level of Mathematics in the Preliminary course.
• Students may take the English Standard HSC course having satisfactorily completed a higher level of English in the Preliminary course.

Any changes to Mathematics Standard and English Standard must be put in motion by the end of Term 3 and finalised by the start of the HSC Course at the beginning of Term 4 at the latest. There are differences in content that require a student to complete significant catch-up work and this will need to be completed during the September/October holiday period.

New HSC Extension Courses

Extension courses build on the content of the 2 Unit course and carry an additional value of 1 unit. HSC extension courses are available in English, Mathematics, History, Science, Music and Languages. In the case of English and Mathematics, students must have studied the Preliminary Extension course in these subjects before proceeding to either of the two HSC extension courses (Extension 1 and Extension 2).

Acceptance into any Extension course in Year 12 will be determined by the Head of Department in liaison with their Head of House. The following factors will be taken into account:
• The student’s demonstrated commitment to, and interest in, the subject during Year 11 through the satisfactory completion of all set work with constructive participation in class
• The class teacher’s recommendation
• The final assessment mark achieved for the Preliminary course
• The overall pattern of course selection

Students are generally only permitted to study new Extension courses in a maximum of two different subjects, as picking up more new Extension subjects as the HSC year commences is not advisable. Exceptions to this may only be made if feasible in the timetable and pending a review of the suitability of the student’s pattern of study.

Extension classes will be primarily taught at 7.30am. Some courses may be placed in the timetable, but this is not guaranteed. On rare occasions, students taking multiple extension subjects may not fit in the timetable in Term 4. In these cases, the student may complete work by contract in Term 4 before the timetable is recast in the following calendar year.

NSW Education Standards Authority Regulations
To meet the following NESA regulations for the award of the Higher School Certificate, students must:
• Complete a minimum of 12 units in the Preliminary Course
• Complete a minimum of 10 units in the HSC course
• Complete the Preliminary course satisfactorily before they are eligible to commence the corresponding HSC Course

In both the Preliminary and HSC years, students must also:
• Complete at least 6 units from Board Developed Courses (all courses taught onsite at Barker are Board Developed Courses) including at least 2 units of a Board Developed Course in English
• Complete at least three courses of 2 units value or greater
• Complete at least four subjects (Extension subjects count as the same subject as the corresponding 2-unit course)
• No more than 6 units of Science in the Preliminary course
• No more than 7 units of Science in the HSC course

The Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) is based on a students' performance in 10 units of HSC courses, comprising:
• At least two units of English
• 8 more units chosen from the remaining courses

University Entry and Bonus Point Schemes

Many universities use flexible entry and bonus point schemes. Regional universities, for example, will offer students bonus points if they come from schools within their catchment area. However, that there is no consistency in how these schemes are applied from one university to the next. A particular university’s bonus point scheme should not be a factor when making decisions about subjects.

Information about those schemes can be found at the various university websites. If parents or students have any questions regarding Bonus Point Schemes, they should contact the Dean of Careers and External Programs.

Ultimately the responsibility rests with the student for understanding the conditions of bonus points for which they might qualify.

Year 12