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How your HSC ranks work (finally)

By Lily Dalton on 2 August 2016HSCGeneralNSWblog

I once read a novel set in a dystopian world where each member of society was defined by a number based on their ability to undertake a series of tests. The strong desire to have a better number caused sabotage and rivalry. Before long, the society was in the midst of a civil war.

If you aren’t familiar with this novel, it’s called ‘The HSC.’

All terrible analogies aside, we all know that the internal rank is one of the most competitive aspects of year 12. Being ranked against the rest of your year is daunting for all of us: if you’re not aiming to come first, you’re aiming to not come last. But at the end of the day, no matter what your rank is, do you really know what ranks mean?

Regardless of if you answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’, you’re reading a blog post called ‘how do ranks work’– so you’re about to find out.

What is an ‘Internal Rank’?

Internal ranks work something like this: basically, they’re the position you’re coming in a particular subject based on your internal assessments. To come first, the average mark of all your assessments is better than everyone else’s. Some assessments are worth more than others, so this is taken into consideration when calculating your mark. In other words, your rank is your actual rank: they didn’t get it wrong.

I’ve always battled with maths. When I was at school and I got a mark of 97, I didn’t see how I could possibly be coming sixth when nobody got 103. I thought the system was lying to me until I worked out that if multiple people get the same mark, your rank will be affected. When there’s a tie in the Olympics two people get a gold medal, nobody gets a silver and the next person gets a bronze. You might be the second best, but you can’t come second if you’re the third person. The same goes for the HSC, if you have 150 people in your year it’d be pretty confusing if the person who came last had a rank of 90.

How does it all work?

Unless your rank gets you a prize on speech day, it probably doesn’t mean much to you. At the end of the day, ranks don’t matter much to anyone. What we all think about in the end is the ATAR. Saying ‘I came 4th in English at my school’ doesn’t have the same ring to it as ‘I got 99.7’.

So why do we even need ranks?

Internal ranks are one of the many factors influencing your final HSC mark. But thankfully, you don’t need to worry about the specifics of ranks. BOSTES have that covered. If you don’t trust BOSTES and think ranks are just another conspiracy they have against you, here’s a very condensed explanation of how ranks affect your HSC mark:

“Your HSC mark for a subject is the average of your external mark and your internal mark. Your external mark is whatever you get in the HSC exam. Your internal mark is based on how your school went in the actual HSC exams and where you are ranked in your school.”

Wait, what?

Ok, let’s pretend your internal rank is 2nd. You sit the HSC and get a mark of 57. If 57 was actually the 2nd highest mark then that’d be both your internal and external marks. But if someone else got the 2nd highest mark, which we’ll say was 96, because your rank was 2nd you’ll end up with an internal mark of 96 even though your external mark is 57. And because your final mark is the average of your internal and external marks that 2nd place rank is going to come in handy and give your average a nice boost. So if you rank second, you pretty much take the 2nd highest mark, even if that’s not your mark.

So that’s how ranks work: they determine, based on your school’s result in the external exam, what your internal mark will be.

So where does that leave us?

Right now, you’re knee deep in the bloodbath of trials. Not that you needed another reminder, but the upcoming exams are your last shot at maximising your internal mark - your last shot of securing that all important rank. It might seem like it’s an every-man-for-himself fight to number one, but at the end of the day if you play dirty you’ll only have more cleaning to do later. So you can’t control everyone else’s mark, should you really care about ranks?

Three reasons why ranks matter:

1. Your internal marks depend on them. Your ranks determine half your HSC marks, half your ATAR. If you go into the HSC with a strong rank, you’ll have an insurance policy if you bomb out and cop a bad external mark. If the person whose mark matched your internal rank did well, they might just catch you when you fall.

2. Motivation. If you’re doing well already, chances are you want to keep it up. If you have the goal of maintaining a good rank, you’ll be motivated to keep putting in consistent effort. Likewise, if you aren’t doing as well as you like, ranks are going to motivate you to make small improvements with confidence. You’ll be a lot happier if you jump from a 67 to a 70 if you know that you just climbed 20 ranks.

3. Fairness. For a lot of us, our teachers might seem like the hardest markers in the world. There’s nothing more frustrating than consistently getting C’s when you know you’re smarter than your mate from the school next door who gets handed high A’s on a silver platter. But that’s where BOSTES comes in. Since they don’t control all the schools’ internal exam difficulty, the HSC exams are their way of putting everyone on equal footing. If it weren’t for the ranking system, there’d be nothing stopping schools from giving everyone 100% internally to lift the average of their final HSC mark. So if you’re worried about bad school marks hurting your ATAR, internal ranks will mean you’re not at a disadvantage

Overall, we’ve covered everything you could possibly ask. If there was an HSC exam on the ranking system you’d not only come 1st, but you’d understand what it means.

Unfortunately, the only exams you’re sitting are your trials.

But with everything you know about ranks, you’ll have the confidence to put in your best effort for the home stretch to your internal mark.

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