End of an era: Courtney Lawrence and Amelia Lewis said they have mixed feelings about finishing 13 years of schooling. Picture: Marina NeilHUNTER students are feeling “surprisingly calm” ahead of the Higher School Certificate written exams starting on Thursday, saying they are hoping the papers are similar to thetrial tests.

The region’s students account for5815 of the 76,732 across NSWenrolled in one or more HSC coursesthis year.

The first written exam is English Paper 1.

Hunter Valley Grammar’s Courtney Lawrence,17, and Amelia Lewis,18, said they have been studying – mostly using past papers – for an average of about four hours each day.

They’ve been balancing study with exercise, socialisingand relaxing.

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“The HSC is supposed to be the same as trials. If we can do the trials we can get through the HSC.”

“Our trials were packed into seven days and we’d only finished the content the week before, but this time my exams are spread across the entire four weeks,” Courtney said.

“The HSC is a big deal, but it’s not the biggest thing I’ll ever have to deal with. We’ve done so many practice papers we’re used to it.”

Courtney has been treating recent weeks like a regularschool day, by waking up at a normal time, going to the gym, studying at the library, seeing friends, doing more study and then watching a movie before bed.

Ameliasaid she usually slept in but wrote at least one practice essay each day for either English or Legal Studies and sent them to her teachers for feedback, as well as answered some short answer maths and Legal Studies questions.

She said she hadn’t been declining invitations to socialise, especially in the evenings.

“You’ve got to base your studies around past papers – knowing the answer is not good enough, you need to formulate it in a way the marker wants it.”

It’s been a busy final year for both girls.

As well as completing a diploma in speech and drama outside of school and working, Courtney said she has had a series of illnesses that were only recently diagnosed as Irlen Syndrome, nerve damage, low blood pressure that induces non epileptic seizures andreactive hyperglycemia.

“I needed to look after myself and couldn’t be stressed with all that going on.

“But having the HSC as a goal has been keeping me going. If someone says I can’t do something I do it 20 times better.”

Amelia has juggled basketball, netball, volleyball, cross country, rowing, rugby and athletics.

The girls are alsolooking beyond the HSC to their formal,on November 15.

Courtney will then travel to South West Rocks and Amelia to the Gold Coast.

Courtney wants topursue nursing, dietetics or pharmacy and work for a few years, before studyingmedicine.

Amelia wants to study law.