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NSW Curriculum
NSW Education Standards Authority
ACE Rules

NESA has published clarified ACE Rules on the NSW Curriculum website. Stay up to date with the clarified ACE Rules by visiting this website. 

The clarified rules come into effect from 14 October 2024. Schools must not implement the clarified rules before this date. Schools must use the current ACE Rules on Loading... until 14 October 2024.

To learn more about how NESA has clarified the ACE Rules, refer to the information sheets.

Pattern of study

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NESA is authorised under section 12 of the Education Act 1990 (NSW) to advise the Minister on a pattern of study for Years 11 and 12.

  1. NESA’s pattern of study is the combination of Preliminary and HSC courses studied by students over Years 11 and 12 for the award of the HSC. NESA has structured its pattern of study to ensure that students study a broad range of Preliminary and HSC courses.
  2. The pattern includes the:
    1. number of units to be studied, and
    2. sequence in which the courses will be taught.


HSC credentialHSC (curriculum)Life SkillsPreliminaryVET

NESA’s pattern of study

  1. To be eligible for the award of the HSC credential, students must satisfactorily complete:
    1. a Preliminary pattern of study comprising at least 12 units, and
    2. an HSC pattern of study comprising at least 10 units.
  2. To ensure students satisfy NESA’s requirements, the pattern of study in both Preliminary and HSC must include:
    1. 2 units of a Board Developed course in English
    2. at least 4 more units of Board Developed courses
    3. at least 3 courses of 2 or more units (which may be either Board Developed or Board Endorsed), and
    4. at least 4 subjects.
  3. Students may study a maximum of 6 units of Preliminary Science courses, and 7 units of HSC Science courses.
  4. For students entered in Mathematics Extension 2, both Mathematics Extension 1 and Mathematics Extension 2 are counted as 2-unit courses.1
  5. Students must meet all other course eligibility requirements, and HSC eligibility requirements to be granted the HSC credential.
  6. Students may accumulate HSC courses towards the award of the HSC credential within a consecutive five-year period.

Course exclusions

  1. Schools must ensure that students are not entered into a pattern of study where course exclusions apply.
  2. Specific course exclusions are detailed in the course description with the Loading... for each course. Exclusions for VET are listed in the Framework syllabus and/or Stage 6 VET BEC course description.

Limitations on Life Skills courses

  1. Each Life Skills course derived from the Creative Arts Life Skills Stage 6 syllabus; and Human Society and Its Environment Life Skills Stage 6 syllabus; and Technology Life Skills Stage 6 syllabus is considered a separate course for the purpose of a student’s pattern of study for the award of the HSC.
  2. Courses must not duplicate outcomes and content in other Life Skills courses.

Online resources

For further information

For enquiries about pattern of study, please contact Manager, Liaison Unit on (02) 9367 8387 or by email at


  1. Mathematics Extension 1 is a 1-unit course when studied with Mathematics Advanced.