As you’ve probably heard, the NSW curriculum has been overhauled and there are lots of new changes to the HSC Science syllabuses.

Trying to wrap your head around the pages at NESA can be incredibly difficult, partly because it seems like there are changes every few minutes!

That’s exactly why we’ve created our guide to understanding the changes that have occurred in the HSC Science syllabuses.

In this article we’re going to look at the three most common questions!

What subjects will be offered?
A Guide to the Modules in Each Science
Are there any changes to assessment?
When do the changes come into effect?

What subjects are offered?

NSW Science Curriculum subjects

Good news! All the subjects you know and love are still offered, there are just a few small changes!

So what’s changed?

Options are gone, depth studies are in

Previously in Year 12 there were three core modules, whilst the fourth module was an option topic. Different schools had the ‘option’ to choose a specific option module. Unfortunately, some modules were more popular than others, and testing fairly was also difficult as some topics may have been harder than others. Consequently option topics have been removed, and everyone will complete the same four modules in Year 11 and Year 12.

A new addition to the sciences is the depth study, this is similar to the major work/project found in other subjects. Students will now go ‘in-depth’ into a topic of their choice in the field of science they are studying. You could conduct an experiment, undertake research, deliver a presentation or complete extension work on content already within the syllabus. Students must complete one depth study in Year 11 and another in Year 12. You’ll be allocated 15 hours in class time to work on these projects each year.

Further details on depth studies can be found here!

Content Changes

A lot of the content in the old curriculum is still actually in the new curriculum — it has just been reshuffled around! There are a few topics missing, and a few topics added here and there! Below, you’ll find all the new topics that will be added to the existing syllabi.

You can find all the syllabi here


  • Cell requirements relating to light energy and chemical energy
  • Investigating extinction events
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, paleontological and geological evidence of past changes in ecosystems
  • Single Nucleotide Polymorphism
  • Gene flow and genetic drift
  • Disease as a disruption of homeostasis
  • Pharmaceuticals and the control of infectious diseases
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ protocols for medicines.


  • Electronic configuration and spdf notation
  • The Bohr and Schrodinger models
  • The Ideal Gas Law
  • Enthalpy and Hess’s Law
  • Entropy and Gibbs Free Energy
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ applications of chemical practices
  • Calculating the Equilibrium Constant
  • Analysis of organic compounds.


  • Analysis of forces and motion in two dimensions using vectors
  • Standing waves
  • The Doppler effect
  • Elementary thermodynamics
  • Wave and quantum models of light
  • Standard Model of matter

Earth and Environmental Science:

  • Strengthened links to geological exploration and mining
  • Climate science
  • Mitigation and adaptation strategies for a changing environment
  • An increased focus on sustainability.

New Subjects

The subjects below are all new for 2018, they have not been offered before!

Investigating Science

  • This is a course focused on the scientific method.
  • It follows the standard structure of the other science courses
  • It has a similar syllabus structure and consists of four modules per year.

Science Life Skills

  • This is an alternative course, recommended only if you are unable to complete the other science i.e. Biology, Chemistry, Physics or Earth and Environmental or Science Investigation.
  • This course actually has 5 different potential options/pathways
  • In a single year you can choose to do up to 3 options. i.e. you can receive up to 6 units of credit per year

Science Extension

  • This course is currently being drafted, check back here for more details coming soon!

A Guide to the Modules in Each Science




How will assessments be changing?

The following information is obtained from NESA, you can find the full report on changes to senior science here.

You can also find details on weighting, formal and informal assessments here.

Summary of Changes to School-Based Assessment:

There are now strict rules on how much weighting your school gives to various assessments in Year 11 and Year 12 and restrictions on the total number of assessments your school can give you!

Year 11

  • You won’t be given more than three assessment tasks
  • All individual tasks have a weighting between 20 and 40 percent. No more no less.
  • One task may be a formal written examination
  • One of the tasks you do will be based on a depth study worth somewhere between 20–40%

Year 12

  • A maximum of four assessment tasks
  • All individual tasks have a weighting between 10 and 40 percent. No more no less.
  • One task may be a formal written examination with a maximum weighting of 30%
  • One of the tasks you do will be based on a depth study worth somewhere between 20–40%

When Do the Changes Take Effect?

The new HSC science syllabuses will come into effect with students who commence Year 11 in 2018, those same students will be the first complete their HSC under the new syllabus in 2019. More information can be found in the table below, from NESA.

Still not sure about the changes to the rest of the HSC Syllabus?

Check out our comprehensive guide to the changes for each subject here!

Are you looking for a tutor to help you ace the HSC?

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We offer tutoring and mentoring for Years K-12 in a large variety of subjects, with personalised lessons conducted one-on-one in your home or at our state of the art campus in Hornsby!

To find out more and get started with an inspirational tutor and mentor get in touch today! 

Give us a ring on 1300 267 888, email us at [email protected] or check us out on Facebook!

Vamsi Srinivasan is looking to uncover the next hidden truth of the universe. He was fascinated by the beauty of Physics and Mathematics during his HSC. Now, he’s in his third year of a dual degree in Physics/Computer Science. Vamsi wanted to share his passion for Maths and Physics and has been an Art of Smart coach for the past 3 years. He coaches students in Physics as well as all ranges of HSC Maths from General to Extension 2. In his spare time you can find him watching Tennis or listening to his favourite podcast ‘Hello Internet’.