By ANN-MARIE MAY
A FALSE start, a blackout and nerves marked the start of four gruelling weeks of exams for Coffs Coast's Year 12 students.
It was a bumpy start to the 2005 Higher School Certificate for Bishop Druitt College students who, in an administrative mix-up, were given the wrong paper.
Instead of receiving the first English paper, they took their seats at the Coffs Harbour Showground to face Thursday's exam.
A spokesperson from the NSW Board of Studies yesterday confirmed the mix-up, but said exam supervisors were alerted to the mistake before the papers were opened.
"I have been assured by the deputy principal and proceeding officer that they are 100 per cent certain that the students did not see any of the questions," the spokesperson said.
"Nothing on the front of the papers could have alluded to what questions were inside, so I want to reassure everyone that they have not been given any advantage."
The spokesperson said only minimum disruption was caused for the students, and that once the correct papers arrived they were given the full exam time.
The false start followed a dark night for students living on the Northern Beaches, with a blackout from around 6pm to 1am calling an end to any last-minute cram sessions.
But for the majority of Coffs students, the first exam was met with a sense of relief.
Coffs Harbour High School's Catherine Troster said it was what she expected and was happy with how she went.
"Hopefully I went okay. I was nervous going in, but I think I was pretty well prepared," she said.
Former Coffs Harbour High School captain Shanan Beesley also thought she did alright, but said you could never really tell.
"It was very similar to the trial HSC in terms of the style of questions and layout, so we walked in knowing what we had to do," she said.
"The questions were very specific with few general questions, so a lot of people couldn't use all the knowledge they had learnt."
Like many of her classmates, Shanan hopes to get the best mark possible, but is also counting the weeks until it is over.
"A lot of us just want to get it over and done with, so we can start the next part of our lives, like going to university or staring a job," she said. "I have seven more exams to go, with the next one on Thursday."
A total of 5054 students on the North Coast, from Taree to Lismore, are sitting the 2005 HSC, which will finish on November 11, with Drama and Economics the last exams to be sat.