The exam papers

What to expect in the exam paper

Question types 

The nature of some questions in an exam may vary from year to year. Don't assume you can prepare for an exam solely on the basis of past papers. The nature, format or emphasis of questions may vary and while HSC examiners will never set out to ‘trick' students, they will also avoid creating an overly predictable exam. 

Questions with stimulus material 

Stimulus material - such as artwork, quotations or maps - may be included with a question for a number of reasons. For example, a map, drawing or quotation might provide a focus for analysis or interpretation. The appearance or absence of stimulus material with questions in any given year does not necessarily indicate that stimulus material will or will not be used in the same section in subsequent years' exams. 

Multiple-choice questions 

Multiple-choice questions provide you with a range of possible alternative answers from which you choose. Sometimes an alternative would be correct in a different set of circumstances and is not the best overall answer. Or an alternative might be partially right with some element of incorrect information. Test yourself online with the multiple-choice question quizzes, a useful way to practise these questions. 

Examination rubrics

Some sections of the exam papers contain examination rubrics that show the general criteria used for assessing responses. The rubrics indicate to you the basis on which your performance in that section will be assessed. You can find rubrics with each HSC syllabus

Managing difficult questions 

HSC exams are intended to be rigorous and to challenge students of all abilities. If you have difficulty understanding a question you should look for key words and identify the aspect of the course to which these relate. You are then in a position to formulate your answer from relevant knowledge, understanding and skills. 

Pre-prepared responses

HSC questions are not designed to support answers prepared in advance. It is important that you are prepared to answer the questions in the exam rather than anticipating a particular type of question and memorising an answer to suit. You must also understand that partially modifying an otherwise irrelevant memorised response will not lead to high marks. Markers are looking to reward answers that are relevant and answer the specific question.

How much should you write in your responses to short-answer questions?

Short-answer questions often have an answer space in which to write a response. The mark value of the question gives you an indication of the amount of time to spend answering the question, and the size of the space provides guidance for the expected length of the response. There is also advice regarding the length of time to allow for completing each section on the cover of the HSC exam papers.

How much should you write for extended exam responses?

The expected length for extended exam responses (except for English (Standard and Advanced) and ESL) is now included as a guide in the HSC examination specifications that you can find in the Assessment and Reporting documents for each course.

This length is presented as the approximate number of exam writing booklet pages based on average-sized handwriting, and/or an approximate number of words. The expected length for extended exam responses does not appear on the HSC exam paper.

Will HSC markers read all of your extended response if it is longer than the expected length?

Yes. The expected length for extended responses is included as a guide. You will not be penalised for responses of excess length: you may write less than or more than what is expected, and your responses will be marked on their merits. Your responses should be carefully planned rather than contain everything you know about a topic.