Day One of this year's HSC at Bellingen High

This morning nearly 2000 students on the Mid North Coast sat the first of 123 exams, as this year's Higher School Certificate got underway.

Sixty-six of them were from Bellingen High School, and there was no denying those we spoke to were pleased to have the first of two English papers out of the way.

For most, the paper was 'not too bad', although for Eve Matthews, it was perhaps a little more difficult than she had hoped for.

She is not however too fussed, as she has her eyes firmly set on being a hairdresser as soon as this compulsory part of her life is over.

Teegan Williamson-Leslie said she thought the paper was OK, given it was the first year of a new syllabus.

"I did the best that I could ... plenty more ahead," she said.

She is still deciding what her next step will be ... either a gap year or taking up an advance offer from Charles Sturt University to study criminal justice.

Wil Thomas had no hesitations: "Gap year, work and travel".

Fred Mitchell and Brad Hickey are planning to head into the army and Max Shaw wants to study para-medicine at university.

While these students did not seem overly stressed, there are ever louder calls, including from NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell, to overhaul the ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) as research shows it is losing cache amid fears it puts too much stress on students.

But today Ms Mitchell urged the state's Year 12s to practise self care throughout the next three weeks.

"I remind students that taking care of themselves is crucial during the exam period. This includes eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep and doing some exercise every day," she said.

"Keep up the hard work; we are behind you and completely believe in your ability to do your very best.

"Don't be afraid to reach out to family, friends or your teachers if you feel at all overwhelmed at any time."

Exams finish on Monday, November 11, with Design and Technology and Textiles and Design.

One week before Christmas, on Tuesday, December 17, students will wake up to their results which will be delivered via email and sms from 6am.

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