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Scared of my ATAR (1 Viewer)


New Member
Jul 31, 2022
Hi everybody!
Recently my Mum has told me that she thinks I could possibly have inattentive ADHD. I have no idea if I do or if I don't, but I have tremendous difficulty completing assigned tasks, studying, and remaining focus throughout a lesson. There are other symptoms that I relate to and people within my family have ADHD, but my overall concern is for my performance in the HSC. If I end up getting diagnosed with ADHD (hopefully, so I can receive sufficient help), I feel like it will be too late, considering trials are tomorrow and I'm not prepared at all. I've struggled with completing work all throughout my schooling years, ever since I was little. I honestly don't know what to do and it's stressing me out a lot. I've always wanted to achieve more, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't, and it's due to the reasons I've stated above. Is it possible to save your overall ATAR with your HSC mark? I'm really stressed out about this. I want to do well in life but my lacking within my studies is restricting me and I feel like I'm not going to achieve the things I want to.

If anybody has advice I would appreciate it incredibly. Overzealously. For real.
Thank you so much for reading


New Member
Oct 26, 2021
Hi bbybaby26,

I can't speak much on your possible diagnosis, and whether this would provide you with some kind of misadventure appeal / special consideration. However, I'll try my best to answer your question, "Is it possible to save your overall ATAR with your HSC mark?"

Short answer: It depends what you mean by 'save'. But yes, doing well in external exams can significantly boost your ATAR!

Long answer: So I think it would be best to explain how the HSC is calculated.

I'm sure you are aware that your HSC mark is the mean (average) of both:
- Your HSC raw exam mark (the mark you receive out of 100 on the external exams - or out of 50 if you do any extension subjects)

- Your moderated school assessment mark (the weighted average of your school assessment marks, for the 4 assessment tasks you complete)

In other words, your overall HSC mark is calculated by adding your raw exam mark to your moderated school assessment mark, and dividing it by 2. Or it might be simpler to say that each component is worth 50% of your overall HSC mark.

It is important to note that your school assessment mask is moderated by NESA. The process in which marks are moderated is quite complex and mathematical (and it's generally not fully understood by most people, including me) but I'll attempt to provide a simplified version.

Why does NESA moderate school assessment marks?
Let us say that school A marks their students very harshly, and school B marks their students very leniently. Well, because schools set their own tasks, there is no common ground to assess which school has better or worse students. We can't say that school B is smarter than school A, just because they received better marks. Perhaps the tests were easier. So to make it fair, NESA moderates the marks according to external HSC exam performance.

Let's say at school ABC there are 5 students doing Standard English. The weighted average (internal mark) of the students at the end of the year are:
Stephanie - 90
Lisa - 85
Steven - 80
Nick - 75
Julie - 70
(mean = 80)

Now school ABC sits the external HSC exam, and receives these scores:
Lisa - 75
Stephanie - 70
Steven - 60
Julie - 55
Nick - 50
(mean = 62)

NESA will do this:
Step 1: Adjust the mean - The average of the scores in the internals must match the externals. Thus, an average of 80 would become an average of 62, for the moderated marks.

Step 2: Adjust top and bottom scores - The bottom moderated HSC assessment mark is equal to the lowest HSC examination mark, and the highest moderated HSC assessment mark is equal to the highest HSC examination mark. It would look like this:

Stephanie came first in the internals, but second in the externals. Her mark of 90 would be moderated to a 75 (first highest score).
Julie came sixth in the internals, but fifth in the externals. Her mark of 70 would be moderated to a 50 (sixth highest score).

So that's basically how moderation of school assessment marks work! You can see that how your cohort does is important to the moderation of assessments. The more people that do well, and the higher your rank is, the better mark you will receive.

So to determine final HSC mark:
(Moderated School Mark + Raw Exam Mark) / 2

For example:
Stephanie would receive her moderated mark of 75, plus her exam mark of 70. This equals 145. Divided by two, this equals 72.5. Stephanie's overall HSC mark is 72.5.

Once this process is carried out, UAC scales the marks, according to subject.

Why are marks scaled? Because getting 100% in Math Ext 2 is much harder than getting 100% in Standard Math. So, we need a process to make sure the marks are fair. Scaling changes year to year (not really that extremely) depending on the performance of students in their courses. I can't really explain the process of scaling due to it's technical nature (not many people fully understand this part either). It involves a lot of maths, particularly in using standard deviation and other statistical analysis methods. I'm not a math wiz, but if you are, feel free to check out the UAC Technical Report. If you want to read about scaling trends for common subjects, Matrix Education has some nice graphs and explanations.

After the processes of moderation and scaling as explained, you have your HSC mark. This is used to determine your ATAR.

Step 1: Your HSC Marks for your subjects are converted to an aggregate. This sounds fancy, but it's really not. It just is the sum of your 5 HSC marks (1 for each subject you do), out of 500.
For example:

James receives:
Standard English - 80
Standard Math - 78
Modern History - 88
Geography - 90
Economics - 68

Aggregate = 404/500

Step 2: Covert into percentiles - This indicates your ranking in regards to other people who have sat the HSC. The percentile of any aggregate (mark out of 500) is the percent of students who received a mark equal or less than the aggregate.

For example, let's say a aggregate of 400/500 corresponded to a percentile of 85. This means 85% received a mark of 400/500, or lower.

These percentiles are rounded to increments of 0.05, which is why it's impossible to get an ATAR of 60.77, or 90.56. Once they are rounded, THIS is your ATAR!

Now (I hope) you have a pretty good understanding of how the ATAR is calculated. This leads me to properly answer your question: "Is it possible to save your overall ATAR with your HSC mark?"

The most important thing (my opinion) in getting a good ATAR is your internal rank. If you are ranked first (or near) in your school, even with crappy marks, there is a HUGE potential to boost these marks through assessment moderation!

Another important thing is how your cohort does in external exams, which is especially true if you are land somewhere in the middle in terms of internal ranks. If everyone does really well, this will push the average up, and when the mean get equated for moderation, this can boost your moderated mark up!

Another thing to consider is scaling. If you are getting disheartened with bad marks in difficult subjects, don't beat yourself up. These are likely to go up once scaled.

And the biggest thing of all, is that the external exam is STILL 50% of your mark !!

I'll provide an example to show how important this is.

Let's say student A is enrolled in Ancient History. Their internal mark after moderation is 70. In the HSC exam, they received a 50.
(70+50) / 2 = 60. Not the greatest, eh? (60 is a Band 3 I believe)

Let's say student B is also enrolled in Ancient History. Their internal mark after moderation is also 70. In the HSC exam, they received a 90.
(70+90) / 2 = 80. That's a drastic difference! (80 is a Band 5 I believe)

So surely you can see that HSC external exams have a colossal influence on your ATAR! Don't be disheartened or give up, if you really want to improve your ATAR, there's still heaps of potential!

I want to finish by adding your ATAR is not everything. I know this is really annoying to hear, but there are heaps of pathways into degrees. You can also usually do a degree, and transfer to your more desired degree after a year, sometimes even with credits. There are also many TAFE courses etc, and depending on what you want to do, you might not even need university. If you have a passion for something, you'll be sure to achieve it!

I apologise for the long read, I wanted to best help you understand the answer to your question, rather than simply say yes.

Good luck with your diagnosis and future studies! 😊

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