ON Monday morning as the 73,397 students around the state sat at their examination desks and opened their English papers, they were given the first indication of whether they were well enough prepared.
For the first time the opening exam was held after lunch with the aim of giving the students time to get plenty of sleep and the opportunity for all students to experience the start to the HSC written examinations at the same time.
With this year’s Higher School Certificate exams running for 19 days until the November 8 when the Design and Technology, Latin Extension and Visual Arts sit the final exams, a total of 117 different exams papers will test the knowledge and skills of the fresh faced teenagers .
Another change greeted the Tumut High School year 12 students this year as they moved off campus to sit their exams in the Presbyterian Church Hall, a move that has been welcomed by the students.
As week one of the exams draws to a close the students from Tumut High had mixed feelings about the first exams but all seem to be glad the end of their high school education is now in sight.
For Alicia Johnson, her two English exams were a surprise in terms of the variations they contained compared with her study papers.
“So far I think they have been worse than what I expected,” Alicia said. “I have been studying since last term and have been studying questions from past papers as well. There seemed to be a few questions that we hadn’t looked at before and I did run out of time.”
Alicia will finish her exams on November 7 with Community and Family Studies and is already thinking how she may have chosen her subjects differently if she had her time over again.
“I have enough units to get an ATAR (necessary for university entrance) but I do wish instead of doing Early Childhood Studies I did another ATAR subject just so I’d have a back up one,” she said. “I think there is too much emphasis on the final exams. I have enjoyed doing year 11 and 12, it has been hard but good and I guess the exams could be a lot worse.”
Alicia will be taking a gap year in 2013 and has already secured employment at the soon to be opened Subway in Tumut. Following the exams she will join four other friends on a cruise to Vanuatu and New Caledonia.
“The cruise will be really cool,” Alicia said. “I’m not sure after my gap year what I will do but I am interested in something in early childhood, child welfare and special needs.”
For 18-year-old Adam Withers, it is a case of so far so good in terms of the exams.
“The HSC really hasn’t been as scary as I initially thought it would be,” Adam said. “The way I see it is if you have put in the effort throughout the past year and have prepared thoroughly enough
then now is the time to reap the rewards. As long as we have done some study, can remain calm and believe in our abilities then there’s no reason we can’t succeed.”
Adam is motivated and determined.
He has already gained acceptance into the University of Wollongong through their selective entry program to study commerce but is also hoping to gain entry into the Bachelor of Psychology course in order to complete a double degree.
“My aim is to complete the four year degree and go on to do my masters in psychology to become a clinical psychologist,” Adam said. “ I believe mental health is an issue that is becoming more prevalent in our society, particularly amongst young people, and this is an issue which I am passionate about.”
The two exams so far have produced a bag of mixed emotions for Sophie Skeers, who describes the experience to date as stressful, surreal, nerve-wracking, scary but overall okay.
“Understanding that the Board of Studies need to have a higher degree of difficulty and variety of questions to prevent clustering, has helped me to understand and come to terms with those tough questions,” Sophie said. “Our teachers have been very helpful and supportive going into the HSC period, providing us with holiday and week one study sessions to help build on knowledge and ask last minute questions.”
Sophie feels grateful for the support she has received from the community, family and friends who she says have provided large amounts of encouragement and affirmations whilst she completes this milestone.
Akin to many thousands of students in the same boat, Sophie’s future plans are still hanging in the balance, depending on her final exam results.
“I hope to become a middle school (K-12) teacher, doing PDHPE in the secondary years,” Sophie said. “Hopefully somewhere that is sunny and has a beach, maybe Newcastle, Wollongong or maybe Canberra to make this dream come true. If I don’t gain the HSC marks needed, a bridging course program may also need to obtained hopefully at University of Canberra, University of Newcastle or CSU.”
Brian Hardwick, with two exams down and five to go, still doesn’t feel like this is the real thing.
“To think that one by one, another subject is being completed, forever and that all the help from the teachers, the study and practice have all lead to this, is surreal,” Brian said. “Thirteen years of school have come to this month, which I have been looking forward to finish since the start of year 11, two years ago.”
The reality of no more fun days with friends at school and the time rapidly approaching to go their separate ways is not lost on Brian as he finishes his final sessions of study.
“Now I don’t know what to feel, it’s weird thinking I won’t be able to spend recess and lunch with my friends anymore, and from next year things become real,” Brian said. “I hope to go to either Griffith or Wollongong University next year to study Bachelor of Engineering, with the ultimate career goal to be working with renewable energy, as I believe there is so much energy we could potentially be harnessing to improve our future.”
He too knows the pressure of his future dreams depending the results from the exams, but has his fingers tightly crossed, believing everything happens for a reason.
“So far the two English exams have been almost exactly as expected, we have been preparing for the layout of them with all past exams to get us into the way of using them,” Brian said. “Because we aren’t sitting the exams at the school it doesn’t make it seem as stressful as it is in the school hall because of all the exams he had done in there.”