NESA new HSC Science Summary: Changes for all sciences


The new science syllabi aim to:

  • Bridge the gap between Year 12 and University – level Science
  • Equip students for increasingly STEM- focused careers in the modern world
  • Emphasise skills and understanding over the memorisation of facts
  • Increase time available for teaching and learning, over exam preparation
    • Schools are required to assess abilities with a maximum of 1 written examination.
    • There will be more assignments that allow students to demonstrate their abilities in different ways.
    • The new science syllabi introduce a depth study for the detailed study of one topic area. This will allow students to develop crucial scientific skills. There is great flexibility here – for instance, it could be a research task, a design process or a multimedia project.

There are 7 Working Scientifically Skills

Questioning and Predicting – Students will be asked to form their own hypotheses and predictions based on their understanding of science concepts.

They will be required to clearly explain their reasoning and justify their ideas.

Planning Investigations and Conducting Investigations – Students will be required to design their own experiments based on their experiences in practicals that they per formed at school. This requires an intimate knowledge and understanding of the scientific method.

Processing Data and Information and Analysing Data and Information – This is especially important in the current world of STEM. Universities are restructuring their degrees to better train students for a data- rich world, and this new syllabus attempts to the do the same. Students will be asked to process data that is provided to them in the same way that a scientist would, and then critically analyse this data and draw conclusions (but not over -conclude).

Problem Solving – This is an age-old skill of being able to apply their understanding of scientific concepts. Students will be asked to employ higher-level thinking skills to solve complex problems that they may not have come across previously.

Communicating – Students will be asked to express complex ideas in clear and concise ways. This is one reason why practice papers are so important.

Specific breakdown

Chemistry syllabus 2018

The new chemistry syllabus is exciting for students and teachers alike. It has a greater focus on skills and understanding, which will equip students with sustainable skills rather than forget table facts. The syllabus is structured by scientific concepts (e.g. inorganic and organic chemistry in their own blocks) rather than societal perspectives. This will better allow students to build upon their skills progressively throughout the course, rather than in disjointed bits and pieces. As such, consistent and regular study is more crucial than ever, but the rewards will also be greater.

Physics syllabus 2018

The new physics syllabus changes have been designed to help challenge students to at higher levels. The changes are undoubtedly more effective for equipping students with more relevant skills as they move into their tertiary specialities. For the first time in 17 years, we will see a shift away from a more historical syllabus to one that is more focused on present developments and self – initiated study. The new course encourages students to be curious and to tackle issues that they themselves find interesting, and present it in mediums they are comfortable with.

Biology syllabus 2018

Of the sciences, biology has been well documented as being the subject with the harshest marking guidelines. Knowing the content has recently not sufficed in allowing students to achieve top bands. Marking guidelines in stage 6 biology extends to assess students on response structure with particular focus on the specific wording of certain responses. In the midst of uncertainty with the introduction of the new syllabus, students’ concerns in relation to traditional biology marking strategies would inevitably heighten. However, as a Dux student, there is nothing to be concerned about! NESA has clearly stated that they would “maintain rigorous standards”. Our tutors would simply apply the existing rigorous standards to the new syllabus allowing Dux students to be steps ahead from their respective cohorts.

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