In order to ace any HSC subject, students need to understand how the HSC marking system works. The following is a guide which will help students effectively plan and maximise their marks for any HSC subject.
How HSC marks are calculated
The final HSC mark a student receives for any subject is calculated from the average of their internal HSC mark and external HSC mark. The internal HSC mark is worth 50% of the final HSC mark, and is calculated from the student's rank amongst their school peers. The external HSC mark is also work 50% of the final HSC mark, and is calculated from a final examination held at the end of the year.
In the following example, the final HSC mark for each student studying Advanced English would be calculated as follows:
There are several important concepts to note here.
-School marks do not matter, but ranks do. Student A’s mark of 88 may initially look poor, but they ranked first in their school. Academically top schools will tend to mark students harshly and to a higher standard, whilst academically low schools will tend to overestimate the marks of students. Hence there is no relationship between a student’s school report mark and the final HSC mark attained, since the marking criteria varies from school to school. It is only the internal HSC rank student hold compared to their school cohort that is important.
-Calculation of the internal HSC mark is based on ‘stealing’ the external HSC marks of a peer who performed to the equivalent of a student’s rank. Student A came first in the internal HSC rank so they will receive Student C’s (who scored first in the External HSC) mark of 96 for their internal HSC mark.
-Calculation of external HSC mark is based on a student’s own performance. Student A received an external HSC mark of 92 so they will keep this mark.
-The final HSC mark is calculated from the average of the internal HSC mark and external HSC mark. Overall, Student A received an internal HSC mark of 96 and an external HSC mark of 92, so their calculated final HSC mark is 94. If a student’s internal HSC mark and external HSC mark have only a one mark difference, they will receive the higher of the two marks.
What can students learn from this? Half of the HSC English mark is derived from an entire year’s worth of work in school, whilst the other half is derived from two days of sitting the external HSC exam. It is therefore important for students to understand the importance of maintaining a good internal HSC rank throughout the year, but even more so the importance of thoroughly preparing for all written pieces examined in the final external HSC examination.
Internal HSC assessments
Internal HSC assessments are conducted to compare a student’s level of achievement against the entire Year 12 school cohort. Each school decides how many assessments they will hold each year and what parts of the course they would like to examine. For example, all schools will examine the AOS Discovery essay at some point in the year, but some schools may choose to examine the AOS Discovery essay more than once in the form of a speech, a hand-in assessment, or a written examination. Regardless of how many assessments a student’s school holds, the total percentage weighting will add up to 100%. Half yearly, yearly, and HSC trial assessments tend to hold more value than smaller assessments.
At the start of Year 12, schools should provide students with a list of the course year’s assessments tasks. This includes information on the requirements of each task, its estimated date and its percentage weighting. If you do not receive this list then make sure to ask your teacher about upcoming assessments and compile it into a list for self-reference.
Knowing about each English assessment tasks in advance is crucial in planning time and effort wisely. Diagram 1 on page 15 showcases an example of a Year 12 student’s internal HSC assessments for English. The first few assessments from November until March only total 25%. This indicates that there is a good chance the student can improve their rank in English later in the year, even if they perform poorly in these early assessments. Furthermore, it may even be tactical for the student to invest their time in other subjects that are weighted more heavily during this time period. However, the Yearly and HSC Trial assessments total 50% so it is integral that the student invests time into both of these assessments to maximise their final ranking.
Students should note that schools do not necessarily test assessments in the chronological order of Discovery, Module A, Module B and Module C. In Diagram 1, Module C is tested before either Module A and B, meaning that the student should prioritise reading and performing research on their Module C text before the other Modules.
External HSC assessments
The external HSC assessments are conducted at the end of Year 12 and always appear in the format and percentage weighting shown in Diagram 2 on page 15. Note that Paper 1 is only worth 40%, whilst Paper 2 is worth 60%, although both exams are two hours long and examine three pieces of writing.
The best way to prepare for the external HSC assessments is to simply prepare well for the internal HSC assessments. If a student has written high quality and easily adaptable essays and creative pieces through the school year they can easily re-utilise them for the final exam. Thus, it is important for students to rewrite and improve their pieces as soon as possible if they have performed poorly in an assessment task. Students should not delay rewriting their essays and creative towards the end of the year, since the workload will quickly accumulate and diminish time to prepare for other HSC subjects.
Gaining the marks you want
For any HSC subject, students should strategically plan how to attain the marks they desire. Use the table here to fill in the following information.
-Figure out what mark you want to achieve in Advanced English. In order to do so, you need to consider what ATAR you would like to achieve. Use the various ATAR calculators available online such as Matrix and Talent100 to estimate the mark you need in English to attain this ATAR. For example, you may find that in order to attain an ATAR of 98 you need a final HSC mark of 94 in English.
-Figure out what rank you need to achieve. Ask your school careers advisor or English head teacher for past statistics on what rank is typically needed in Advanced English to gain your desired final HSC mark in Advanced English. This rank will vary in each school, depending on the level of academic achievement in the school cohort. For example, your school may typically have its third ranking student achieve a mark of 94 in English. You should therefore aim to attain a rank of third in your school cohort in order to achieve a final HSC mark of 94.
-Track your rank. In every assessment, track your rank to ensure you are heading towards your final goal rank. Ask your teacher to provide you with your rank or estimate your rank by considering how your marks compare to your peers. If you are falling behind, invest more time in English, and if you are already ahead of the rank, feel free to invest more time in other subjects that you would like to improve in. For example, if you rank 8th in your first assessment you should aim to rank 1st or 2nd in the next assessment so that you are closer to achieving the final goal rank of 3rd.
Do not forget to take into consideration the percentage weighting of every assessment. It is not as detrimental to rank lowly in an assessment valued at 5% compared to one valued at 25%.
Although internal assessments are worth only 50% of the final HSC mark, it is integral to realise that a student’s internal HSC rank is often an accurate reflection of their performance in the external HSC. This is because high-ranking students will already have prepared high quality pieces of writing to use in the exam, whilst low ranking students will be struggling to edit and improve their essays in a last minute fashion. Putting consistent effort throughout the school year will therefore maximise a student’s ability to gain the English marks they desire.
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