There were a few shaking heads, a couple of worried faces, some smiles and lots of sore hands yesterday after Edmund Rice College students finished this year's first Higher School Certificate exam.
For Nicholas Beale, the end of the first English paper brought a sigh of relief.
"This was the exam I was most worried about but it was a lot better than I thought it would be. I just had a really negative feeling and was very worried going into it," he said.
"I was really excited to get it over with and I think I did a pretty good job."
Nicholas and his classmates were among 68,611 NSW students who sat the first paper yesterday.
The two-hour paper, the first of two English exams, was set in three parts requiring students to complete a short-answer comprehension section, compose a piece of creative writing based on one of several images provided and write an essay based on studied texts.
Nicholas said he was grateful the exam was in the afternoon, giving him an extra few hours to prepare.
"This was one that I really needed a bit of time beforehand, so this morning I practised writing out my prepared creative writing story," he said.
"I had an idea that I thought I'd be able to mould to different questions and I looked up a list of different essay questions and thought about how I could answer those.
"But I was still really worried until we got to look through the exam and then I felt a lot better, although it still got a bit stressful with the timing."
The 18-year-old said he was planning to "maybe rest for a couple of hours this afternoon" before hitting the books again ahead of his second exam - another English paper - tomorrow morning.
Illawarra students will sit more than 100 separate exam papers over the next 19 days.