News  » Stronger HSC Standard

Last updated 9:19 PM on 16 November 2017


Update 16/11/17

Parent information on the trial online tests can be found here (pdf 881 KB)


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To help support high school students achieve their best, the Higher School Certificate (HSC) is being reformed.

The changes are designed to help motivate and challenge students to achieve at their highest possible level, reduce excessive stress and give students more skills and career options.

The reform will create stronger HSC standards by focusing on:

The changes will provide a flexible HSC that caters to all students' needs, with options for further study extensions. Plagiarism and pre-prepared responses will also be reduced.

From 2020, all Year 12 students in NSW must reach the minimum standard of numeracy and literacy to receive an HSC. This means students undertaking Year 9 in 2017 will be the first students expected to meet the minimum standard.

NSW Educational Standards Authority (NESA) is responsible for the reforms, which emerged from extensive consultation over three years. We will continue working with teachers, educators, parents, business and the community to ensure the reforms provide a solid grounding for all students.

The Stronger HSC Standards Blueprint (PDF) and the Stronger HSC Standards Current State, Future State (PDF) outline the reforms in more detail.

The Stronger HSC Standards Overview of the Evidence (PDF) provides the research and rationale for the reforms.


See the webpage here



Minimum HSC Standard

From 2020 students in NSW must reach the minimum standard of literacy and numeracy to be eligible for the HSC.  There will be multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate the standard between Year 9 and when they complete their HSC.

Set for success in everyday life

The standard is mapped against the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) Level 3, a nationally agreed standard of functional literacy and numeracy.

The minimum standard is part of a broader NSW Government strategy to support students to succeed in life and work. The minimum standard complements a new cross-sectoral,  statewide strategy to boost literacy and numeracy.

Students at risk of not demonstrating the standard will be identified early and supported to improve their reading, writing and numeracy skills.

Multiple opportunities to pass

Students can demonstrate they meet the standard by passing the online reading, writing and numeracy tests, which will be available for students to sit in:

  • Year 10

  • Year 11

  • Year 12

  • for up to five years after beginning their first HSC courses.

Students can access a demonstration test to find out the level of skills required for these tests.

Students will have the first opportunity to prove they meet the standard by achieving Band 8 results or above in Year 9 NAPLAN reading, writing and numeracy tests. Students who achieve Band 8 will not need to sit the online tests later in years 10, 11 and 12.

No student will be ineligible to sit for the HSC on the basis of their Year 9 NAPLAN results.

Why have a minimum standard?

The best indicators of success (employment, higher salaries and good health) rely on a student's literacy and numeracy skills.

Without targeted intervention and support to reach the standard, some students risk missing out on skills necessary for everyday life. These skills allow students to:

  • compare prices and understand percentages

  • understand interest rates and lending offers

  • work out quantities and measurements

  • manage personal budgets

  • understand and write routine workplace instructions

  • navigate websites

  • take meeting notes and complete official documents.

Currently, the HSC does not directly measure students' literacy and numeracy skills nor require a minimum standard to be met.

The minimum standard will prompt an early focus on literacy and numeracy, and help students meet progressive milestones.  Advanced students will also benefit from an increased focus on literacy and numeracy by developing more sophisticated skills. For example, Western Australia recently introduced a minimum standard, which has helped lift the proportion of students in the top two NAPLAN bands.

Helping students achieve the standard

Schools will have access via Schools Online to information about Years 10-12 students who have or have not met the minimum standard in reading, writing and numeracy. This will help schools boost support for students at risk of not meeting the standard.

Support materials, including NSW Education Standards Authority resources, will emphasise early identification of students in primary and high school at risk of not meeting the standard. Teachers will have access to strategies and materials to help their students meet the standard.

Schools can deliver short courses, topics or additional tutoring in numeracy skills. Some students may continue studying mathematics as the best way to improve their numeracy skills.

The NSW Literacy and Numeracy Strategy is a plan to ensure NSW students have the essential literacy and numeracy skills they need for success in learning and in life.

Literacy and numeracy skills will be described clearly, taught explicitly, assessed meaningfully and reported regularly in all schools across NSW providing early identification and support for students most at risk of not meeting the minimum standard.

Find out more about the NSW Literacy and Numeracy Strategy.

Students who don't meet the standard

All students should complete high school with a functional level of literacy and numeracy for everyday life and employment.

Students who don't demonstrate the standard will have five years after beginning their first HSC courses to meet the minimum standard and receive an HSC. They will receive a Record of School Achievement on leaving school.

While maths will not be mandatory for Year 11 and 12, studying Mathematics General 1 is an option for students who need to improve their numeracy skills in order to meet the minimum standard.


Disability provisions will be available for the new tests in line with existing provisions for the HSC.

Some students, including those studying Life Skills courses in English and Mathematics, will be exempt from meeting the minimum standard.

An exemptions policy will be developed in consultation with key stakeholder groups and be released in 2017.

NESA Literacy and Numeracy Demonstration Tests

From 2020, students will be required to reach a minimum literacy and numeracy standard to receive their HSC.

The standard is set at a functional level of literacy (reading and writing) and numeracy. Students will be able to show that they meet the standard by achieving Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) Level 3 in the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) online literacy and numeracy tests. These tests will be available in 2018. Students will have multiple opportunities to sit for these tests.

Students who achieve a Band 8 in their Year 9 NAPLAN tests will have already demonstrated they meet the standard and will not be required to sit for the NESA online literacy and numeracy tests.

The demonstration tests provide examples of the range of questions above and below the standard, similar to those included in the NESA senior literacy and numeracy tests. These questions are aligned to the ACSF.

Demonstration tests

The reading test covers comprehension, grammar, punctuation, spelling and vocabulary. Take the reading demonstration test.

The numeracy test includes number, measurement, space, data and algebraic representation. Take the numeracy demonstration test.

The writing task tests structure and cohesion, vocabulary, grammar, punctuation and spelling. See the sample writing tasks.


Access the full website here for more information.