Of 126 awards, 48 went to students at public schools and TAFEs, 32 went to students from specialist language schools, seven were Catholic systemic schools and 39 were from independent schools.

Seven students topped more than one subject, including Akina Li from Pymble Ladies College who finished first in Latin extension 1 and English extension 1, and Chae-Weon Lee from the Conservatorium High, who topped German beginners and music extension.

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“In a normal year finishing first in an HSC course is an outstanding achievement and, to do so in a year like 2020, is a credit to the dedication and talent of the students being recognised today,” said NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

“Congratulations to the exceptional young people who achieved top marks this year. I am sure your teachers, family and friends are incredibly proud of you.”

The last time a student finished first in the state in both chemistry and physics was 2003. Sariena is the first female student to top both physics and chemistry since first-in-course awards began in 2001.

Alexander Van Phan, from James Ruse Agricultural High School, who topped the state in extension 2 maths in the 2020 HSC.

Alexander Van Phan, from James Ruse Agricultural High School, who topped the state in extension 2 maths in the 2020 HSC.Credit:James Ruse Agricultural High School/Facebook

“It feels a bit surreal right now,” Sariena told the Herald. “I wasn’t expecting it. [The test] was a bit out of the box.”

She is planning to do a general science degree then a postgraduate degree in medicine or research.

“I love how [science] challenges me to solve problems by linking ideas from different fields,” she said. Sariena is also an artist, and this year created posters for her school’s Amnesty club to raise awareness of human rights violations.

English whiz Eszter hopes to get into arts/law at ANU. For English extension 2, she created a 6000-word fictionalised history of lobotomies in the US. “My parents are pretty excited, they are a bit hysterical,” she told the Herald on Thursday. “I wasn’t really thinking about state ranks. It was very exciting.”

Julina, who topped the state in economics, is co-captain of Cabramatta High and interested in a career in engineering. “I am collaborating with other school leaders to initiate environmental projects, such as new recycling bins and food waste bins,” she wrote in her LinkedIn profile.

Julina Lim, from Cabramatta High School, topped the state in economics in the 2020 HSC. 

Julina Lim, from Cabramatta High School, topped the state in economics in the 2020 HSC. Credit:Facebook

Alexander, who topped maths extension 2, helped other James Ruse students in science and maths as part of a school program. “I took part in weekly sessions where I guided year 11 students to solve challenging questions in mathematics,” his LinkedIn profile said.

He also attended the Australian Chemistry Olympiad Summer school – which covers the equivalent of first-year university studies in Chemistry – twice, while holding the rank of sergeant in the school’s cadet unit and playing a lead role in the school play.

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PLC’s Akina hopes to be a neurosurgeon. “What it means to be human and the idea of consciousness arising from a bunch of atoms interacting fascinates me.”

Annabel Knight from Strathfield Girls’ High topped information processes and technology. After her first HSC exam in October, she told the Herald she was nervous about how the year would unfold due to COVID-19.

“At the beginning of the year we didn’t even know if we’d be here right now,” she said. “My friends have been a really big support, and my teachers. We’re confident we can get through these next three weeks.”

Lachlan Fisher, from Tumbarumba High, came first in metalwork and engineering. “Telling my family and friends, hearing their words of praise … made it all worth it,” he said.

 Annabel Knight, left, who has topped the state in information processes and technology, with her friends Gina Lee and Jenny Yang.

Annabel Knight, left, who has topped the state in information processes and technology, with her friends Gina Lee and Jenny Yang. Credit:Janie Barrett

More than 69,000 students completed their HSC this year. Another 7500 students studied one or more HSC courses throughout the school year.

All students will receive their HSC results at 6am on Friday before the honour roll is released at noon. They will also receive their ATARs, at 9am. Join our live blog from 6am at smh.com.au. The full honour roll – which includes every student who receives a band 6/E4 in any subject – will be published in Monday’s print edition of the Herald. Students who choose to share their results with us on Friday can do so via this panel:

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