The competition was on at St George Girls High School, where the brightest students knuckled down with the only compulsory exam in the HSC.
HSC written exams started with English paper 1 today, October 13.
Students were tested on their knowledge of “discovery” across reading and writing comprehension.
The second part of the exam is on tomorrow, when students take on classic texts including Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Judith Wright’s poetry.
Based on annual HSC results, St George Girls, a selective school at Kogarah, is consistently the best performing school in St George and Sutherland Shire.
Majority of graduates go on to study challenging university degrees in medicine, law, economics, engineering, science or maths.
But many of the school’s students are from non-English speaking backgrounds. The school’s head of English, John Turner, says despite most girls choosing the advanced and extension levels of the subject, the English exam is perhaps the most challenging.
“For many of them this will be the hardest exam because it’s unseen material,” he said.
“It was more text heavy with no images this year – students had about 1000 words to read through.
“But it was a fair paper that provided lots of opportunities for discrimination in terms of spreading out student abilities.”
He warns students not to fall into the trap of regurgitating pre-prepared essays.
“As a HSC marker, it’s obvious – you can smell it a mile away,” he said.
“Students are sold that but they are doing themselves a disservice.
“We encourage them to be flexible and think on their feet with the question they are given on the day.”
Deputy principal of St George Girls, Pam Abson, says although there is a strong academic focus at the school, teachers emphasise the importance of balance.
“There is that perfection and anxiety lead-up students can have, but it’s important that they eat and sleep well – it’s not just about results,” she said.
“Not everyone will get 100 per cent but it’s about finding where their strengths are and being happy with what they’ve done.”
Results will be released on December 15.