The HSC is only a few days in but the relief is already showing.
Take a peek inside the exam hall at St George Girls High School, and the vibe is unexpectedly relaxed.
Post-lockdown, students, who have had an extra four weeks to prepare for the HSC, are off and writing.
From online learning to last minute face-to-face study groups, these girls have taken the year of COVID-19 in their stride.
On Monday, November 15, it was mathematics crunch time. The three hour paper is the most popular elective at the Kogarah school. Most of the girls are enrolled in Extension 1. Many of them simply enjoy the subject.
Across NSW, it's a similar scenario. Mathematics is taken up by 78 per cent (59,310) of the total HSC cohort.
St George Girls principal Betty Romeo said while the year was unpredictable and full of uncertainties, the focus on learning was always top of mind.
"It's been a very coordinated effort. Staff and students have pivoted to whatever they needed to do to continue learning," she said.
"I'm proud of how we could safeguard that continuity, and actually this year's group has had more face-to- face learning than any other year group because of the [exam] delays."
Students were forced to transition to Zoom learning - an advantage for many of the girls.
"A lot of our students saved on commute time," Mrs Romeo said.
"They enjoyed being at home because they did not have to go long distances. But what they missed were the social connections with their teachers and peers. That was hard to replicate. But we had high Zoom attendance each day, and we made sure we supported their well-being."
She said students were keen to get stuck into their final exams.
"The anticipation of the HSC was mounting," she said. "Now students can demonstrate what they know. There is a sense of relief. They have already put in all the work."
Humnah Bhatti said she would have preferred to get the HSC "over and done with" earlier.
"That extra time dragged on," she said. "Home schooling was hard, trying to get all the content covered. I couldn't go to the library."
Vice-captain Samantha Edvell said the maths exam was tougher than expected. But having to wear a mask was a little frustrating.
"Every time I wanted to look at the time I had to put my glasses back on," she said.
"It's been a really hard year. If lockdown didn't happen, I'd be in a better position."
School captain Alannah Ajami said maintaining contact with friends during the year was key.
"It was good to keep in touch on FaceTime, even with our study sessions," she said. "But everyone was excited to go back to school."
The HSC ends December 3.