AS MANY as 20 to 33 per cent of students at many NSW schools have applied to have their final Higher School Certificate marks replaced with a school assessment after experiencing unexpected illness or misadventure.
A total of 4631 of some 70,000 HSC students applied for the exemption, which awards extra marks in many cases, figures published in the NSW Board of Studies annual report show. Of those claims, 4157 were fully or partly upheld last year, an increase on 3987 in 2009.
Common reasons for misadventure claims included the death of a relative or friend and natural disasters, such as floods, which have affected students at Bellingen High in recent years.
In some cases a traumatic event, such as a suicide within a school community, can result in a group or class of students making appeals.
A spokeswoman for the NSW Board of Studies said illness/misadventure appeals were available to students who suffered unforeseen or unavoidable events that prevented them from either attending an HSC exam, or from performing to the best of their ability.
The most common claims overall in recent years are related to medical conditions. Illnesses including glandular fever and flare-ups of conditions such as diabetes, asthma and epilepsy have also been cited as reasons for student claims across the state. Psychological and psychiatric problems are also among the reasons those students have given.
Students making appeals needed to submit evidence from their school's examination presiding officer and school principal. ''In the majority of cases, if an appeal is upheld, a student will be awarded the higher of their examination or assessment marks as their exam mark. This ensures that it is still the student's own efforts that are reflected in their final HSC result,'' the spokeswoman said.
At Molong Central School, 94 per cent - 17 out of 18 students - made illness/misadventure claims last year, the Board of Studies figures show.
At Abbotsleigh School for Girls, 17 per cent - or 28 out of 169 students - made claims, resulting in marks being changed in 51 HSC courses.
At Leeton High School last year, 33 per cent of students made claims - 13 out of 40 students - resulting in marks being changed in 11 courses.
The Herald understands the Wenona girls school student Madeleine Pulver, who had a fake collar bomb strapped to her neck for 10 hours at her home in August during her trial exams for the HSC, made a claim for misadventure.
Misadventure claims are different to requests for other HSC exam allowances for students with disabilities. There were 5117 students who applied for disability provisions last year and 5261 for this year's HSC.
Disability provisions, previously called special provisions, include extra exam time for some students or the use of readers and scribes. Students who receive disability provisions do not receive extra examination marks.
The Board of Studies said the number of illness/misadventure claims for this year's HSC will not be released until next year.