ACROSS the state, 70,000 teenagers are white-knuckled and tense. The Higher School Certificate is here again.
On Monday, students began a gruelling four-week exam schedule, sitting the first of a two-part English paper.
At Lambton High School, where a prefect named Sharon Claydon once sat the same finals, there was a mix of nerves and relief as the exams got underway.
The overall verdict on the first English paper was that the essay questions were pleasingly broad, and, as is the tradition, felt easier than the lead-up trials.
Maddy Allen, 18, from Merewether, is hoping to do well enough to study primary teaching.
After weeks of study, she was pleasantly surprised coming out of the first exam.
‘‘Compared to how I was feeling before, I feel so much better,’’ she said.
‘‘I had a study plan and I think it definitely helped; I feel more relaxed and calm about it.’’
After a year-long build up of pressure, it can be hard to heed the advice of people like Premier Mike Baird, who on Sunday took to Facebook to wish students well, and share some of his own experience.
‘‘Here’s the truth of it ... life isn’t defined by your exams. It begins after they are finished,’’ he wrote.
‘‘It’s always important to give everything you do your very best shot, but make sure you keep some perspective.’’
Chloe Arens, 18, from Mount Hutton, has been doing her best to keep the pressure in check.
She wants to study nursing at the University of Newcastle.
‘‘You could say it’s more like a 13 year build up,’’ she said.
‘‘I have to find a way to study and manage my anxiety levels, too.
‘‘It’s just the overall pressure of the HSC, I think. Everyone puts pressure on you and of course you put pressure on yourself.’’
Nicholas Ekin, 17, from Cardiff, had a similar philosophy:
‘‘I’ve tried to keep a balance so that I don’t go insane,’’ he said.
He’d been doing his best to keep his motivation levels going for the long haul.
‘‘I’ve got nine days to prepare for woodwork, which is a bit of a joke, I could have used that for something else.’’