NOTE: This article is based on the experiences of one past HSC student. Experiences may differ from student to student.
Prior to the HSC exams, I found myself being more concerned about what the exam room will be like more than my ability to recall content. There tends to be a lot of confusion with the writing booklets and forms you have to complete and is often not addressed, which is why I hope this guide can help you understand what’s going on inside the exam room.
On the first day of exams, it took me a while to find my seat. My teacher didn’t clarify with us whether we were sitting based on what English subject we took so naturally, I assumed I would be closer to the door (since I’m usually last on the list). It turns out we sat based on our Student Number. There should be a seating plan outside the examination Centre but it’s a bit useless if you don’t remember your Student Number.
Instead, the seating order is based on what English subject (Advanced or Standard) you took. Once you’re divided by subject, the order of the Student Number should be similar to alphabetical order – if you’re a new student, you’re usually placed towards the end of the list.
Nope. No need to. Once you’ve found your desk, there will be a number of booklets and a sheet of coloured paper on your desk. That coloured sheet of paper will have your school photo and Student Number. Your writing booklet will also have your Student Number, full name and Centre Number.
Once you’re seated, the Exam Supervisor will ask if you still have notes or any mobile phones on you – if you hand it in, you won’t be deducted any marks. Once they read the Malpractice Code, that’s when you may get a zero in that subject. The Malpractice Code will be read before every single exam to remind students to not cheat and the consequences for cheating (by mid-HSC period, it’s almost become a meme because everyone is sick of hearing it numerous times).
Afterwards, the HSC supervisor will explain the different booklets on your desk and read out the question and page numbers to ensure that there aren’t any errors in your question booklet.
The writing booklets are probably one of the most confusing pieces of paperwork in the exam room. The booklet will be divided into sections. For English, it was divided into three sections since we had three sections for Paper 1 and 2. Each section will have approximately eight pages (in History Extension, we had around twelve pages) – if you run out of room, do not go into the next section. If you do, you shouldn’t stress because the HSC markers should be able to figure it out. Don’t be afraid to ask for another booklet. Your new booklet won’t be personalised, but you shouldn’t worry about filling in the details until you’re finished (it would be recommendable to at least write down which section you’re answering or what text/elective you studied to avoid any confusion if you use more than one extra booklet).
Math was slightly different than English and the other Humanities subjects. You’re given a question booklet and a multiple choice answer sheet, but you’re also given a separate booklet for each question (i.e. Question 11, 12 etc.). These booklets have approximately three pages so it would be wise to ask for more booklets. Make sure to at least write the question number because when you fill out the paperwork at the end, the booklet may get confusing.
Once the exam starts, the supervisors will just walk around with extra booklets/tissues – it shouldn’t be any different to the other exams you took. As for going to the bathroom, you will not allowed to use the bathroom during the first and last 30 minutes of the exam. The HSC supervisor will let you know before the exam.
Technically, you shouldn’t be putting your pens away when time’s up. You need to fill out some paperwork. If you used extra booklets, don’t forget to write your full name, Centre Number, Student Number and what question you’re answering. It will also ask you the booklet number out of how many extra booklets you used. For example, in Paper 2, I used an extra booklet for each section. On the extra booklet, I wrote down 1 out of 1 (one extra booklet out of the one extra booklet I used for that one section – excluding your personalised writing booklet). This was slightly different with Society & Culture. I used two extra booklets, one for each question. On the extra booklet for Question 12, I wrote 2 out of 3 and on the extra booklet for Question 13 I wrote 3 out of 3 (personalised writing booklet plus my two extra writing booklets). If you get confused, ask the supervisors but you should be able to get the hang of it towards the end.
This is where the coloured sheet comes in. The coloured sheet should have a table; the first column is the different sections of the exam, the second column is for how many booklets you used altogether and the third column is to indicate what questions you used an extra booklet for. If there is a multiple choice section, you should just write one (i.e. 1 sheet was used for that section).
The other sections is when it can get confusing. If you only used your personalised booklet, just write 1 booklet. If you used for than one write how many booklets including the personalised booklet. So for Paper 2, because I used three extra booklets, I wrote down 4. In Modern History, I used two extra booklets: one in Section 1 and one in Section 4. So in Section 1, I wrote 2 booklets in the second column and wrote down ‘question 8’ in the third column (since that’s the question I needed an extra booklet). Then under Section 4, I wrote 2 booklets (personalised and extra booklet) and wrote down ‘question 20’ in the third column.
Afterwards, you’re required to write down your full name, birthdate and sign the paperwork to prove you sat the exam. Before the supervisor comes and signs off that form, make sure the extra booklets are slipped into the correct sections. If you used an extra booklet in Section 1, make sure the extra booklet is slipped into the last page of the Section 1 writing booklet. The supervisor will check that all the paperwork is done correctly and the extra booklets are placed in the right places. Once they’ve signed the form, you’re free to go!