Making sense of the marking criteria

The marking criteria can be hard to follow when it uses words that are hard to understand. Luckily, there is a glossary of key words for you to help you understand what you have to do.

Say for example, you have to write an essay and it asks you to critically analyse or evaluate part of your text. The glossary tells you that this means you have to add a degree or level of accuracy depth, knowledge and understanding, logic, questioning, reflection and quality to (analyse/evaluate). This means when you have to critically analyse something, you have to discuss your understanding of a concept and argue that through evidence (techniques).

Click here to access the glossary.

Looking at the Board of Studies syllabus can also help you to understand the marking criteria. Simply pick your subject and open the syllabus. Page 97 also has a glossary of important terms. For tips on how to utilise the syllabus handout, see related article Research tips & shortcuts.

It’s important to follow the marking criteria, these sites and tips should help you to do just that!


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HSC study guides & past papers

Bored of Studies is Australia’s largest online student community, with over 10 000 notes, guides, past papers, summaries and more. You will need to register with them to access their resources, which is free to do. You can check them out here.

The Board of Studies provides past papers that you can download. You do not have to sign up to access their resources. You can check out past papers here.

The tutoring website Art of Smart provides free access to study guides and past papers for a variety of subjects. You will have to sign up with them to access these resources with your email. Unfortunately, Art of Smart does not have resources for ESL English, however there are plenty of resources at Bored of Studies. Check out your options here.


Public libraries offer a wide range of textbooks for you to borrow. You can search for the textbook you need here. If it is not available at your local library, you can ask to have it sent there. Simply call your local library and ask.

If your textbook is not available at a public library, there are other ways to access textbooks at a cheaper price.

Gumtree is a great place to look for second hand textbooks, which you can pick up or have sent to you! For the link on textbooks available in NSW, click here.

You can also look on Facebook for buy & sell groups. Simply type in what you’re after!


Ebay has textbooks available, though it is generally more expensive than Gumtree and you can’t negotiate pricing. You can find a list of Excel HSC textbooks here.

Sustainable School Shop is another site where you can buy second hand textbooks. It also has other school supplies, such as uniforms, calculators and instruments.


I need a tutor

If you need some extra help with your subjects, seeing a tutor can drastically improve your confidence, skills and marks.

How do I find a tutor?

There are many tutoring agencies to pick from! Just do a quick google search for your area. For example, if you live in Wollongong, type in ‘tutors wollongong’ and you’ll see a number of options. Make sure you check them all out to find a tutor best suited to you (check the price, qualifications and location).

You can also ask your teachers at school for any tutors they recommend.

Tutoring sites to check out that are nation wide:

  • Tutor Finder – select the area you live in and the subject you need help with and the site will give you a list of tutors, with their qualifications and pricing.
  • Your Tutor – an online tutoring service supported by universities with learning resources. It offers a free trial, followed by monthly payments.
  • Tutoring For Excellence – one-on-one tutoring service. It’s price range is more expensive (starting at $45/hr), but ask your school and/or social worker if you are able to receive funding for tutoring, which you can access through this agency.

What if I can’t afford to pay for a tutor?

Not a problem! There are ways to access a tutor for FREE!

Ask someone at your school and go to your local public library to find out about any free tutoring services they may know about.

Free services in Wollongong/Sydney Region:

  • Refugees in the Wollongong area can register with SCARF, who provide free tutoring twice a week.


Useful sites: essay examples, techniques, text summaries and more!

Navigating your way through the HSC, with all the texts you have read and all the concepts you have to understand, it can feel like it’s all too much.

So here are a list of handy websites that can help ease your way through the HSC, focusing mainly on ESL English:

  • Save My HSC – this guide includes sample essays, tips on how to write essays, and understanding the syllabus (this is from 2014 and focuses on Belonging).
  • Spark Notes – the ultimate saviour. For English (Shakespeare/books) this site gives you summaries, character analyses, concepts, techniques (themes, motifs & symbols), key parts of the play/book, explains quotes and provides essay topics. It also has notes on other subjects, including biology, health and history. You can access them here. This is an American website, so best to use them mainly for English and stick to Board of Studies syllabus for other subjects.
  • Matrix Education – this site provides a list of techniques you can use for English. It is very helpful for poetry or analysing a text!

Now you can get started on that essay with all these helpful sites to guide you through!

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