Common Myths and Misconceptions about the HSC

| Last Updated: 30 January 2021 Common Myths and Misconceptions about the HSC  
General » Common Myths and Misconceptions about the HSC

Throughout your time doing the HSC, you are going to hear some wild claims about the HSC that maybe couldn’t be further away from the truth. So, I will be debunking some myths that I was told in my HSC year so you know what is true and what is not. 


“Only pick subjects that scale well”

This one was told to me by a friend of mine when I was in year 10. This could not be further from the truth. Yes scaling exists however getting a high mark in what is considered to be a low scaling subject can still allow you to achieve an ATAR in the nineties. Study the subjects that you enjoy as it won’t seem like a chore to study them.

You don’t need to study all sciences and the highest levels of maths and English to get a high ATAR. If you enjoy science and want to challenge yourself in Maths and English then you are more then welcome to choose those subjects. However don’t pick them if you are only doing it for scaling reasons as science and extension subjects are hard work and if you don’t enjoy it you will not do well. 

“Being in Year 12 means you have to study 24/7.” 

This could not be further from the truth. If you study all day every day, you will not retain any information and just burn yourself out. In fact, your teachers and even NESA recommend that you keep up your job, sports and social life. It is all about balance.

When I was doing my HSC, I was still working the same hours I normally do and kept doing sport twice a week as normal to ensure that I did activities that took my mind off the HSC and give myself a well-deserved break. 


“Getting a high ATAR is the only way to get into university.”

Sure, getting an ATAR is one way to get into university but it certainly isn’t the only way. I have give you a miniature blurb on each pathway so you can delve further to see which option is the best for you.

  1. Early Entry: Universities such as Wollongong university, Notre Dame and many more have early entry. Early entry allows you to have the opportunity to get into your desired course before you sit your HSC which means you don’t have to worry about your ATAR. It takes a lot of the stress off you when you sit your exams. I recommend you to apply for early entry even if it is not your desired university as it is always good to have a back up plan.
  2. TAFE: There is a bad stigma going around about TAFE and it is always the punchline of the joke when people claim they are going to fail the HSC. However TAFE gives you the opportunity to get industry skills that will give you a good chance of getting a spot in university and getting credit recognition so in fact you will be a head of some of the first years in your chosen degree.
  3. Pathway Providers: UTS Insearch, Wollongong College, Western Sydney college are just some of the various colleges that you can go to if you do not get the ATAR you were aiming for. For example, UTS Insearch allows you to complete a diploma and with good grades gain direct entry to a UTS degree and go straight to 2nd year so no lost time. 

“I must have a tutor to do well.”

I used to hear numerous people tell me that the only way to do well is to get a tutor. You should only get a tutor if you think it will benefit you in your studies. If you are not finding your subjects very challenging and do not need extra help then it is best not to spend money on a tutor as they can be quite expensive.

Most tutors are around $60 an hour so if you are getting good marks without a tutor then I recommend not to get one. I had a tutor for maths and English and I found them very useful and my marks and ranks significantly improved.

“Spending more time studying means definitely getting better marks”

There is a saying that you will hear a lot in your HSC year and that is to “study smarter not harder”. This statement is definitely true. As I said above, you should maintain a healthy balance and keep up doing the extracurricular activities you love doing.

Sometimes studying more can result in you burning out and ending up getting lower marks than you normally would. When I did the HSC, I would study six hours a day in two hour blocks with one hour breaks in between (on weekends and school holidays).

During the school term, I would study an hour or two after school. I would never study past seven at night as I found that I am not productive late at night. This worked for me so the tip is to find out when and how you study best to ensure that you achieve your best. For more study tips click here!


“Rote learning essays will get a Band 6”

Rote learning essays is not the worst thing to do as it gives you an essay that you can use in your exams. However, the question that you have spent days’ memories may not be of any use in the actual exam. Especially with the new English syllabus, they made it so people do not rote learn their essays.

Your English question may include a theme that you have never studied in class and by rote learning an essay it can throw you off and give you a satisfactory mark at most. In my English exam in paper one, I had studied the themes love, prejudice and morality and the question we were given was about deception.

If I had prepared an essay I would have not been able to answer the question and not done very well. Instead I memorised different quotes, analysis and had a good understanding of the plot so I had a better understanding of the question thus making sure that I am answering the question to the best of my ability. 



To sum up, I hope that this list of debunked myths will put you at ease when completing your HSC. Remember to always choose subjects that you will enjoy and that there are other pathways to university than your ATAR. You are more than just a number and your ATAR doesn’t determine how well you do in life.

If you have any questions feel free to email me! To learn more about study tips click here and to learn more about exam advice click here.

Share on:
Isabella Thanos

Hi, I’m a university student studying a Bachelor of Computer Science at UTS. The subjects I did for the HSC were Advanced English, Mathematics, SOR 2, Business Studies and Design and technology. Feel free to message me if you have questions about the HSC. Connect with me @Facebook or @Linkedin