After 18 months of disrupted learning, weeks of home schooling and prolonged uncertainty around their end-of-school assessments, the NSW class of 2021 are starting their written HSC exams.
Almost 70,000 students across the state will on Tuesday morning line up with their black pens and clear water bottles before sitting their English test.
But students this year will also need a mask, with the mandate among a suite of safeguards which also include spaced seating and increased ventilation.
Before entering the exam room students will be asked to confirm they do not have any flu-like symptoms and are not required by NSW Health to self-isolate, but this year they will not have their temperatures checked.
Students will not be allowed to borrow or share equipment such as pens, pencils or calculators, and shaking hands or hugging other students is also banned.
After the exams students will be required to wipe down their chair, and no mingling will be permitted before or after.
The students are the second senior year plagued with interruptions caused by the pandemic.
Classrooms have been shut for weeks, sports and performances cancelled, and treasured rites of passage like graduation and formals scrapped, delayed or pared back.
Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the cohort “are some of the most resilient students we have ever seen”.
“The past 18 months have been challenging, but I know that HSC students across the state will walk into their exams (on Tuesday) determined to smash their goals,” she said.
“We are all behind the Class of 2021 as they head towards the finish line.”
The state’s Delta outbreak also blew out the exam timetable, with written exams pushed back and major project deadlines extended.
As a result, HSC students will also to wait an extra week to learn their ATARs.