Mathematics may have been a male-dominated course in years gone by, but Smith's Hill High School student Lauren Madigan said it should be no surprise that all of this year's Higher School Certificate maths courses were topped by girls.
At a ceremony held in Sydney for 118 students who came first in the state in one or more of their HSC subjects, Lauren was one of three girls awarded equal first in advanced mathematics.
The other three maths courses were also dominated by girls.
"I don't think it should be that surprising," Lauren said.
"There are a lot of girls who work hard and really love the maths and sciences - like me - so it probably shouldn't be such a big deal.
"It's more of a stereotype than the reality these days."
The 17-year-old Mt Warrigal student used past maths papers as a "study break" in the lead-up to her HSC.
"Maths has been my favourite for a long time and I know I'm not going to get out of being called a nerd today so I'm happy to admit that maths actually became a way to get away from the heavy textbooks of all the other subjects," she said.
As well as dominating maths, girls came first in two-thirds of all HSC courses.
NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said he was happy to see young women performing so well, but hoped to see the gender balance even out in future years.
"As a male, I've got to say it's time for the boys to step back up and really get in there and be competitive in those subject areas," he said.
Board of Studies president Tom Alegounaris said girls had outperformed boys for a number of years.
"The trend is a sustained pattern that possibly reflects cultural change because it is something we are seeing around the world," Mr Alegounaris said.
"While at one stage it was the humanities the girls began to excel in, now it's in maths and sciences as well."
Alice Kemp from Bowral High School took out equal first in general mathematics, a result she said was due to "extreme hard work" and studying her favourite subject.
"I practised questions over and over and put in a lot of effort and study - but luckily maths was my fun study and I found it much easier than studying Hamlet."
Muhammet Canli - first in state for Turkish Continuers
Muhammet Canli arrived in Australia from Turkey four years ago but in the short time since, he has managed to master English and top his school in all but one of his Higher School Certificate subjects.
However, his crowning glory came from studying something much closer to home, as he was yesterday awarded first in the state for the Turkish Continuers HSC subject.
The Warrawong High School student studied his native language at the Saturday School of Community Languages, held at Smith’s Hill High School.
He was one of 39 students to study the subject statewide.
‘‘I was expecting to do well in the course because it is my first language but when I saw the exam, half of it was in English so that made it a bit harder,’’ the 18-year-old said.
‘‘I’m so happy to have come first and my family is very proud too.’’
Muhammet hopes to use his language skills to take on International Studies at university in Australia or Turkey next year.
Catrina Ralph: first in state for dance
Catrina Ralph may have come first in the NSW Higher School Certificate dance course but she’s adamant it was a group effort.
The Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts student said her teachers – Chris Richards and Nadina Bampton – were the key to her success.
‘‘To do something like this takes a good environment and really good teachers,’’ she said.
‘‘I had two really good teachers who were inspiring, so even though it was a tough two years and a lot of work we had to put in, we just had so much fun as well and that made it easier.’’
Her classmates also provided a source of support and inspiration.
‘‘They were just my best friends and they are incredible dancers as well, so we all bounced ideas off each other – I think that’s what made our dances so great.’’
Catrina’s classmates received at least one nomination each for Call Back – a Sydney concert of the best HSC dance performances in NSW.
The 18-year-old hopes to study a combined dance and conservation science degree next year.