IB or HSC?

At Trinity Grammar School, we believe breadth of choice is vital to learning. That is why we offer vocational and academic pathways. The choice of academic programmes for our Senior School students are the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma and the Higher School Certificate (HSC). Both programmes offer rich opportunities for learning and have integrity and rigour.

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How to decide

In our blog, IB or HSC?, we have highlighted key differences between the two programmes to help you determine the best option for your son. The most notable are:

  • The IB Diploma is measured against international standards while the HSC is measured against state-wide standards.
  • The IB Diploma is studied over two years, whereas the HSC taught over one year in Year 12.

At Trinity, the pursuit of academic excellence matters. We are committed to setting academic standards of the highest order, nurturing and challenging students to reach their full potential. Offering our students a choice of academic pathways in the senior years demonstrates our commitment to providing options that suit different learning styles, interests and personalities. 

When deciding between the IB and HSC, parents and their children should view the choice through three ‘lenses’ to determine if a course will advance the student’s:

  • passion and interest
  • past success, and
  • future aspirations.

When determining which course of study to pursue, students should make time for open minded investigation, conversation and reflection.

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IB Diploma


IB Diploma at a glance

  • Taught in many different nations making it international in the truest sense.
  • Syllabuses are developed by educators from around the world and examinations are marked internationally.
  • An internationally accepted credential, understood by Australian and most universities around the world.
  • Mandates a breadth of study which some students find desirable. Foreign language study is mandatory. So too are English, Mathematics, an experimental Science and a humanities subject.
  • The Theory of Knowledge course encourages students to understand the underpinnings of knowledge and develop their critical faculties regarding information.
  • Accommodates those boys who may, during Years 11 and 12, move overseas to continue their studies; or boys who come to us from other nations, having already commenced IB studies.
  • Provides a set of international benchmarks against which to measure our achievement as a school. While we are justly proud of Australian education, the ever-increasing international competitiveness of our world demands that we offer a global credential.

The globally recognised IB Diploma is an academic pathway for Year 11 and 12 students and is offered as an alternative to the HSC at Trinity Grammar School. It was established in 1968 by the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) and was introduced to provide students with a balanced education, facilitate geographic and cultural mobility and to promote international understanding.

It is a challenging two-year university preparation course that is widely recognised by the world’s leading universities.

Trinity was one of the first schools in Australia to offer the IB Diploma and has been delivering the programme since 1998.

Students must study six subject areas and three core elements:

  • Theory of Knowledge – reflect on the nature of knowledge and how we know what we claim to know.
  • Extended Essay – an independent, self-directed, 4,000-word research piece.
  • Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) – requires completion of a project related to these three concepts.

Subject areas include:

  • Language and literature
  • Language acquisition
  • Individuals and societies
  • Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • The Arts

There are some key aspects that demonstrate how the IB Diploma differs from HSC. The most significant difference is that it’s genuinely an international qualification – it is recognised throughout the world and is highly regarded by some of the most prestigious universities. Further, both the curriculum and teaching methods have a strong focus on international perspective. The programme is considered strong preparation for global citizenship.

Considerable research has been conducted throughout the world to prove the benefits of the IB Diploma. Among many other advantages, it is thought that the IB Diploma can positively impact admission to university. There is also a wealth of anecdotal evidence listing student achievements attributable to their IB Diploma studies. You can learn more about how the IB Diploma can put your son on the world stage here.

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HSC at a glance

  • Offers entry to virtually all post-school opportunities.
  • Well-recognised university entry credential.
  • Has reasonable currency internationally, while also being a worthwhile school exit credential.
  • Offers a breadth which accommodates serious academic study as well as highly focused vocational study.
  • Opportunity for considerable specialisation.
  • Opportunity to discontinue some subjects in Year 12 (13 units in Year 11 can be reduced to 10 units in Year 12).
  • Within the HSC framework, students can undertake a vocational pathway.
  • Flexibility to complete the credential over a period of up to five years.

The Higher School Certificate (HSC) is a robust and traditional academic pathway for Year 11 and 12 students that commenced in NSW in 1967. According to the NSW Education Standards Authority, the HSC is the most awarded school-completion credential in Australia.

Many students transition to university upon completion of the HSC, and every university throughout Australia accepts the credential. It is also well recognised by many universities around the globe.

There are a number of reasons why students should consider the HSC. The HSC offers students familiarity, exceptional subject choice and the ability for strong specialisation in areas of interest. Given that the HSC does not mandate breadth of subject choice (the only compulsory subject is English), students can more easily pursue areas of passion and interest.

Examination results only account for 50 percent of the final result. Therefore, students can earn marks for assessments and tasks completed throughout the year and do not have to rely solely on exams. 

There are many little-known facts about the HSC . For example, 70,000 students completed their HSC in 2017 – roughly 28,000 came from regional areas and over 400 from outside NSW. The three most popular electives are Maths, Biology and Business Studies. Seven English courses are offered.

Trinity has arguably one of the largest HSC course offerings in the state, with some 39 different courses available. Choosing HSC subjects can seem quite challenging. While some students have clear and definite aspirations for pathways beyond school, more often, students are in fact exploring a range of quite diverse possibilities. Learn more about HSC courses at Trinity here.

For students who are not university bound, the HSC caters for those who would prefer to undertake vocational subjects, allowing them to commence learning a trade while completing the HSC. HSC students can transition easily to TAFE and other post-secondary training, as well as immediate employment.

HSC Survival Guide

For students already undertaking the HSC, discover our 7 practical study tips.



The Universities and Admissions Centre (UAC) calculates and releases the Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) which tertiary institutions use as a predictor of a student’s first-year performance at university.

The ATAR rank is a number between zero and 99.95 that tells students where they rank in their year group. Seven things you should know about ATARs, uncovers the myths and how ATARs are calculated, and provides tips to secure a good ATAR.

Many parents refer to the league table of school results to get a snapshot of the academic performance of schools across the state. However, due to limitations of the league tables, they do not necessarily offer a true reflection of a school’s performance. When assessing the standard of academic excellence at a school, it’s important that parents have an accurate understanding of the league table. The league table is formulated by the percentage of HSC Band 6 results alone. It does not take IB Diploma results into account. 

For a school such as Trinity, where over one third of our students completed the IB Diploma in 2017, this means that less than two-thirds of our student results are used to calculate its result for the league table. It doesn’t paint the full picture, and the league table is not an accurate measure of a Trinity education.

Trinity Grammar School graduates consistently achieve excellent results in both the HSC and IB Diploma. In 2017, Trinity results were among the best on record:

  • A median ATAR of 89.70
  • 32 HSC All Round Achievers or IB Distinctions
  • 23 students received an ATAR over 99
  • 31 percent achieved an ATAR equivalent to 95 or above
  • 49 percent achieved an ATAR equivalent to 90 or above

Trinity students have consistently performed well on the world stage, with an average IB score of just under 37 and 18 maximum IB scores of 45 (ATAR equivalent of 99.95) since 2004. In 2014, Trinity graduates received the best IB results in Australia. In 2015, six students received a perfect score of 45, placing them equal first in the world. In 2016, 90 percent of students obtained scores greater than the world average, with Trinity receiving close to 10 percent of all perfect scores awarded in Australia.

In 2017, the average score equated to an ATAR of 95.85, with 33 percent of our students achieving an IB score of 40 or above (ATAR 98.30+), considered the equivalent to the Premier’s All-Rounder award and earning an IB Certificate of Distinction.

Trinity Grammar School is proud to be an open-entry, non-selective boys’ school, providing a variety of education pathways to suit the differing needs of our boys. Our programmes are challenging and varied, whether boys participate in the HSC, IB or even vocational pathways.

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Our 2017 graduates

Trinity graduates consistently receive excellent academic results. Many of our graduates have been fortunate to earn scholarships or admission to some of the world’s most prestigious universities.

IB Diploma Scholars

Aruren Ravichandran
Score – 45
With hopes of becoming a corporate legal practitioner, Aruren is studying a double degree in Commerce and Law at Sydney University.

Brian Kim

Score - 44
Offered a position at Conservatoire Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris, to study flute – an Australian first. Laureate of the Nicolas Baudin Travel Grant. Brian has been studying a semester of combined laws at Sydney University before his departure from Australia.

Will Todd
Score – 41
Secured a four-year scholarship to Ivy League Columbia University in New York City, USA, based on his academic results, football career and leadership skills.

Martin Floro
Score – 40
The only NSW recipient of Bond University’s prestigious Vice Chancellor’s Elite Scholarship. Martin receives full remission of tuition for any double degree programme (excluding the medical programme) and an invitation to participate in the Vice Chancellor’s mentoring programme Students were identified by their teachers and peers for their commitment to their community and their willingness to help and inspire others.

HSC Scholars

Elliot Ho
ATAR - 99.1
With initial plans to take a gap year to travel, Elliot instead commenced a Bachelor of Biomedicine at the University of Melbourne, after which, he plans to start a post graduate medicine degree.

Ronak Nand
ATAR – 99.1
Enrolled at the Business School of the University of Sydney as a Dalyell Scholar studying Bachelor of Commerce/Advanced Studies. Ronak is a resident at Australia’s oldest college, St Paul’s College.