Ask a few dozen HSC students from various schools in the city who achieved the highest ATAR amongst them, and they point to James Sheahan Catholic High School student Isabel Francis.
Ms Francis scored an ATAR of 99.15 and was in Band 6 (90-100 percent score) in five subjects.
"A lot of the exams were harder than I thought they would be," she said.
"People were saying the HSC would be easier than the trials but I didn't find that at all."
Students were texted HSC results on Friday morning and after 9am could log into a portal to check their ATAR scores.
When Ms Francis saw her result she said she "didn't believe it".
"My whole family was in the lounge room and I couldn't say anything, so I just showed them my phone."
Kinross Wolaroi School student Dominic Reilly received his HSC results at 6am but was yet to check his ATAR.
"I decided not to look at it; I'll wait to see uni offers then I'll look at it," he said.
Mr Reilly had hoped to build an electric motorbike for his major design and technology project, however the difficulty in sourcing components during COVID made it impossible.
At Kinross Wolaroi School 48 students achieved 78 Band 6 results.
This equates to 37 percent of the year 12 cohort.
The top ATAR was achieved by Edward Taylor, who scored 99.6.
Orange Christian School's senior school coordinator Len Elliott said he had spoken to "very happy parents and students" on Friday morning after the release of the HSC results.
"We've got some great ATARs," he said.
"I've been working all the way through the [COVID] difficulties and seen how the students have supported each other, and they've had some spectacular achievements."
Mr Elliott said nine students out of 39 doing the HSC this year achieved a Band 6 result.
The school's highest ATAR was achieved by Dylan McHatton who scored 97.65.
At Orange High School Annabelle Sattler was in Band 6 for English, mathsm music and personal development, health and PE.
Captain at Canobolas Rural Technology High School Shawn McKeowen, who will study teaching, described Friday morning as "stressful to say the least".
"Overall I'm happy and proud of myself," she said.
At Orange Anglican Grammar school captain Jessica Bennett was in Band 6 for her 93% mark in Design and Technology.
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