Attainment of the Higher School Certificate marks the end of secondary schooling for Australian students.

To obtain the HSC candidates must complete a minimum of ten units of study in their final year (year 12). Most subjects make up two units and English is compulsory.

Success is relative. Students' raw marks from internal assessment and final exams are converted to a ranking, which determines their UAI score, which in turn determines which university courses a student is eligible to study. There may be other criteria considered, but usually the UAI alone decides entrance to tertiary institutions. The high level of competition reflects the exclusiveness of the most sought after areas of tertiary study. UAI cutoffs increased when the Federal Government decided to cut spending on higher education, increasing pressure on students.

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