How Did COVID-19 Change The 2020 HSC Exams?

HSC Exams are set to go ahead on the 20th October. In this article, we summarise comments from NESA and UAC to give you an up-to-date overview of how COVID-19 measures have impacted Year 12 students this year.

“Written exams will not be held online or rescheduled”

The 2020 HSC Written Exam Timetable. All exams have been delayed by 1 week and are set to commence on the 20th October and end on the 11th of November.

HSC results will be available on the 18th December 2020.


Key HSC Changes 2020

All written exams will go ahead as normal unless impacted by a matter related to COVID-19

HSC COVID-19 Illness and Misadventure Process

Illness and misadventure forms are not new and have always been a way for HSC Students to communicate how their ability to sit or complete their exam has been significantly impacted by a life or personal event.

Standard procedure involves an application form lodged through the students’ school and if the decision is upheld (approved) students can expect that they will receive a moderated school assessment mark if unable to attend, which is, a mark estimated by the school. And, if they were able to attend the exam they may instead receive their exam score if this is higher than the school provided estimate.

With COVID-19, NESA introduced a strict rule for students who have flu-like symptoms, test positive for COVID-19 or are self-isolating during the period of their exam – and that is to simply ‘DO NOT ATTEND THE EXAM’.

We agree, if you are sick, unwell and fear for your safety or the safety of others – that the HSC exam is not worth it. Take precautions, stay home and the system will look after you. Though the question now arises, what about those who aren’t sick and claim misadventure?


Does this mean students can ‘skip’ their exam and go for an estimated mark if they don’t feel confident to sit their HSC?

At Stepping Stones Education, we’ve worked with many high achieving students, as well as students who have worked very hard during 2020 to improve their results throughout the year. We know first-hand the amount of effort that goes into preparing for the HSC exams and the attitude of the students sitting these exams.

With this, we simply say that the misadventure process is not easily abused, students thinking that they can skip their exam will be very disappointed in taking this risk as firstly, NESA has notoriously been very strict with their approval process and secondly if a student is able to sit their exam safely we can almost always guarantee that this is better than the school estimate.

We also believe that it isn’t in character for students who are high achievers to take misadventure if they had the option to sit their exam. We observe that these students have prepared day and night to guarantee a good result and they understand that they can do better if they had a chance to sit the exam rather than be provided an estimate.



Exam cancelled due to covid-19

Your school will prepare a group application and it will be submitted to NESA. There is nothing you need to do.

Flu Symptoms

If you have any signs of the flu, DO NOT ATTEND the exam and contact your school and get tested. You will be provided an application form to complete and sign.



Learning-From-home misadventure

Available to those who were unable to access teaching for six weeks or more between 9 March – 22 May. All eligible schools have been accounted for.

University Admission – UAC COVID-19 Update

UAC announced earlier this year that all Year 12 students will still be receiving an ATAR for 2020. Here are some of the key take-aways from that statement:


  • UAC will be working with universities, schools and other stakeholders to ensure that no students is disadvantaged during the university entry process.
  • UAC has added two new categories to the EAS (bonus marks) in 2020. Students can claim financial hardship if their parent or gaurdian has received Jobkeeper or Jobseeker for at least three months. Read more here.
  • There will be no change to how ATARs are calculated. ATAR places students in rank order based on their overall achievement and UAC reminds that providing every student extra ‘points’ will not affect this order.
2021 HSC – What to expect?

Principles will continue to have flexibility to decide number and weighting of assessments.

Staying healthy is top priority, and schools will continue to keep this as priority number one.

In 2021, we will likely see the same flexibilities given to Year 11 and Year 12 students.

We have seen changes to practical examinations for Creative Arts, Technologies and Extension 2 English and most recently more options for students to sit their eligibility ‘minimum standards’ online test to receive an ATAR.

NESA and the Education Board has set strong precedence in how we’ve approached the HSC in 2020 to suggest that in 2021 students will not get any more preferable treatment than already provided.

It really does still depend on how well the pandemic is controlled and it is fair to say that if it gets out of hand we could still expect some more drastic changes to the HSC.

However, for now, the exams are still important and the content remains the same. Students sitting their HSC will need to be at their tip-top form and continue their learning despite the disruptions caused by COVID-19.

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