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For every HSC course you are studying, an Assessment mark, along with an Exam mark and an HSC mark will appear on a course report. This assessment mark is not the raw assessment mark that your school has sent to the Board of Studies, but first goes through a process of change, called moderation. The marks are moderated because, some teachers set harder assessment tasks or are more strict with marking than other teachers.
Below is the scenario for two small-sized hypothetical schools:
Now, we moderate the raw School Assessment marks (while students keep their own Exam marks). We need to retain the rank order of students according to the School Assessment, but need to make sure the marks are high enough (or low enough) to be in line with the group performance on the Exam. Tim gets the highest Exam mark as his moderated Assessment mark, Joe gets the lowest Exam mark as his moderated Assessment mark, and Fred receives a mark that ensures that the average of the two groups of marks are the same, and so in this case receives the middle Exam mark as his moderated Assessment mark.
In School B the raw school assessments are much lower than School A, but the Exam marks are consistent between schools. The raw School Assessment marks are moderated in the same fashion:
The School Assessment marks were originally much harsher (lower) for students in School B than School A, but the performance in the Exam suggests that both groups are similar in ability. While School A’s School Assessment average was slightly higher than expected given their exam performance, School B’s School Assessment average was much lower than expected (it was 47.3, rather than 79.3). Therefore moderation for School A brought the assessment marks downward slightly, while moderation for School B brought the assessment marks upwards a large amount. The end result is School A and School B students receiving consistent HSC marks.
We want students to work equally hard both during the year for assessments and for the HSC exams itself, so they are worth equal amounts. Because Fred (and Ben) ended up with the best performance on the exam in their respective school groups, they should be rewarded for that by retaining their own high Exam mark, but because Tim (and Anne) had the best assessment performances in their school groups, they should be rewarded by having the highest Assessment mark in the school group (which is made equal to the highest Exam mark for the school). Therefore, in this simple case Tim and Fred end up with exactly the same HSC mark, as did Anne and Ben.
In School A, Joe, although always coming last ends up with 70, rather than 60, because this is how he performed in the external Exam – his School Assessment mark seems to be a little harsh, so is brought up in line with the lowest Exam performance (which happens to be his own). Likewise in School B, Chris always comes last, but ends up with 70, rather than the 26 suggested by the teacher, given his exam performance.
These examples I have given are of pretty simple cases, and when more students are in a class and/or when a student performs very poorly in comparison with their Assessment ranking, other rules can come in to play, so students are not disadvantaged by the process. However, the examples should give you a good understanding of how moderation generally works and why it is used.
In summary, both the School Assessment rankings for a group of students and how these marks are distributed are important. So if you want to have the highest Assessment mark in the class you need to be ranked first in the group in the School Assessment. However, if you come second in the School Assessment but someone beats you by only one mark and the next student is a lot lower, you and the student who just beat you will end up with similarly high marks, and the next student will receive a mark that is quite a bit lower. If you do receive a low ranking in your class for a particular course, but end up beating most of your classmates in the exam, you will end up with a rather higher reported Exam mark than Assessment mark, and your HSC mark for the course will be half way between the two.
Therefore, work as hard as you can both during the school year and in preparation for the external exam itself. In addition, if you think your teacher is giving very hard tasks and marking them harshly in comparison to another school, this will not have an effect on the reported HSC marks, because the process of moderation is used; only the relative rankings and distributions
within each group is important.