Understanding How HSC Scaling Works – Part 2

By December 7, 2019 FAQ No Comments
A note before you read: Although we have used HSC and ATAR terminology (which is for NSW and ACT) in this post, the same system applies for all other states, so that everyone can get an understanding how scaling works.

Following on from our handy Understanding How HSC Scaling Works – Part 1, here’s the anticipated Part 2!

Examination Marks

Your personal raw examination mark is based off the final HSC examination. It is never disclosed and is moderated by the Board of Studies according to your internal school assessment ranking. The scaled mark you receive as your examination mark is determined by your in school assessment ranking and the performance of your classmates. For example, if your internal assessment marks rank you second in the subject at your school, you will be assigned the second highest examination mark regardless of your performance during the actual HSC exam.

Band Scores and Aligning

This assigned score is aligned to match the performance descriptions for each band. An external body determines the correct value of each band – this means that the performance descriptions for a band 6 (reported as 90+) may actually match a raw mark of 82.  I.e. per our example above, if your raw examination mark is 82, this is the bottom mark required for a band 6. Therefore, the examination mark reported to you will actually be 90 because it has been adjusted to fit the performance description of the band.

If your reported mark is between 80-89 that means your performance fit the criteria assigned to band 5, if your mark is towards the lower end of that range (i.e. 81) it means you were at the lower end of fulfilling the criteria.

Internal Assessment Marks

An internal assessment mark (IAM) determines your subject rank and is submitted by your school as the culmination of each of your weighted in school assessments. This IAM is compared to your external examination marks (EEM) in relation to other schools. Some schools mark assessments harder than others which means that their students assessment marks will be lower than those of students from some other schools. Because the final HSC mark is an average of the two scores (IAM, EEM), to make accurate inter-school comparisons, the assessment marks from various schools must be moderated to accurately reflect the students performance relative to the marking of other schools.

Assessment Mark  Moderation

A simple example is that if Student 1 receives a IAM of 40 but an EEM of 80, and Student 2 receives an IAM of 80 and an EEM of 80, without moderation Student 1 would receive a final HSC mark of 60, while Student 2 would receive a mark of 80. This is unfair because the normalised external examination shows that the two students are actually performing at the same level, only Student 1 has had their individual schools assessments marked significantly harder. With moderation, because Student 1 and Student 2 demonstrated in the external examination that they are actually equal in performance, their IAM ‘s will be adjusted so that both students will receive the same final HSC mark. In the table below the Adjusted Assessment Marks are the average of the two IAM, however, in reality the moderation process is much more complicated.

    Internal Assessment Mark External Examination Mark Adjusted Assessment Mark HSC Mark
Not Moderated Student 1 40 80 N/A 60
  Student 2 80 80 N/A 80
Moderated Student 1 40 80 70 70
  Student 2 80 80 70 70

Subject Scores, Normalising Subjects, and ATAR Calculation

To calculate your exact ATAR your adjusted (scaled and moderated) IAM’s and EEM’s for each subject are converted into a “Study Score” relative to all other students results in that subject for your state. A Study Score is similar to an ATAR but specific to your subject; they are not marks but rankings within the subject. Every subject you satisfactorily complete gives you a Study Score out of 50 (I don’t know why out of 50, it seems a fairly arbitrary number but anyway), and all study scores for that subject are normalised with a mean of 25 and a SD of 7. This means that it is harder for students to rank higher the more they deviate from the mean of 25 and predetermined percentages of students will reside within certain scores. Individual subject Study Scores are directly comparable with all other subjects as they are based off fully adjusted data.

To determine your ATAR, the top four Study Scores from all of your subjects (4×2 unit subjects) are taken and added together as well as 10% of your bottom two subjects (*the final 20% is made up of 10% of your bottom two units, so either 20% of a 2 unit subject or 10% of two 1 unit subjects) to give you your aggregate score. Your aggregate score is what determines your ATAR, it is the final score after everything has been adjusted, moderated, and scaled. All ATAR eligible students receive an aggregate score and it is this that determines your final rank within the state, and your subsequent ATAR.

Phew - taking in a lot of information

Phew, that was a lot of information to take in!

Having a knowledge of how these processes work means you understand the weight that the school assessment rank carries, and helps ensure that you don’t undervalue the importance of working hard throughout the year. Also, the scaling process means that contrary to popular belief the best method for obtaining a high ATAR isn’t to choose high scaling subjects, but rather choose subjects where you are confident of performing highly in comparison to other students in your school and state. Inevitably this involves choosing subjects that you find interesting, engaging and relevant.

Alternatively, another good criteria to consider when choosing subjects is relevance to your intended future study. Entering post HSC study at a TAFE, university, or college with a solid foundation of understanding of your area of study can provide an excellent head start when studying more complicated subjects.

Even armed with this knowledge not everyone will receive the ATAR they require to enrol directly in the area of study they want, but don’t let a low ATAR hold you back from pursuing your passions!  Pathways2Uni was created specifically to help people who don’t want to miss out on the great opportunities that Australian universities have to offer.

If you missed out on your preferred choice then take the first step towards your goal and contact Pathways2Uni and call 1300 e-apply (327-759).