Illawarra year 12 students let out a collective sigh of relief as they completed their first High School Certificate (HSC) exam on Wednesday morning.
More than 2500 Illawarra students finished their first English paper before noon, including the class of 2023 at Bulli High School.
When school captain Lani Taylor skimmed the questions she felt relief that some of her fears were set aside.
"[I thought] it's not gonna be this ridiculously hard question that I just wouldn't even know how to approach," she said.
The advanced and standard English exams didn't have any nasty surprises according to Bulli's relieving head English teacher Laura Devlin.
"It seems like a very fair and accessible paper to me," Ms Devlin said.
Despite a few questions some students may have struggled with, Ms Devlin was happy with the paper.
Along with the English exams, some students also completed the Classical Hebrew, Japanese, and the VET Tourism, Travel and Events exams on Wednesday October 11.
More than 120 HSC exams are scheduled over the next three and a half weeks, ending on November 3.
For Bulli High student Rose Yousiph it was a day of milestones as she exited her first HSC exam on her 18th birthday.
"It's interesting to reach adulthood [and] reach the HSC, sort of like this new phase of life all crushing down on me at once," she laughed.
Rose started her exam with the short answer questions and was relieved to see the essay question: "A text can ignite ideas about collective human experiences that enrich our view of the world. To what extent do you agree with this statement in relation to your prescribed text?"
"Before the exam I guess it's easy to expect the worst... but I think it was a pretty straightforward question," Rose said.
Ms Devlin said the question allowed students to showcase what they had learned and their understanding of their prescribed text.
"I tried to assure them that they've done everything that they can possibly do and I have every confidence that they'll do really well," she said.
Senior lecturer of secondary English at Macquarie University Dr Janet Dutton, who was the chief HSC English examiner for five years, advised year 12 students to stay away from social media after the English exam.
"My advice would be just don't listen to everyone who says 'I did really badly' or 'I did really well'. Just focus on the next exam," she said.
There isn't much time for Rose to celebrate her 18th birthday as students prepare for the second English paper on Thursday, October 12.
Ms Devlin estimated some students would "write about 3,000 words tomorrow in two hours".
After her initial trepidation, Lani said she was relieved the first exam was done, adding: "One down, only five to go".
Former PE teacher and Minister for the Illawarra Ryan Park said he understood how stressful this first day could be for both sides.
"You've achieved so much over your 13 years of school and we're all so proud of you already," Mr Park said.
The MP extended his congratulations and thanks to the school staff, P&C committees and everyone involved in supporting HSC students.
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