Structure of the HSC
Before you choose those subjects you want to take onto the HSC you should take time out to consider some pertinent points.
Your attempt at the HSC will cover two years of your school life. In Year 11 you will spend three terms doing what is called the Preliminary Year programme. Preliminary Year is a HSC preparation year where invaluable skills and content matter are covered prior to the start of the HSC. After this you have approximately four terms of work to cover the HSC syllabus.
In choosing your subjects for next year, your HSC Preliminary Year, you must take a minimum of 12 units of work and are advised to limit yourself to a maximum of 13 units.
The following Board of Studies requirements have to be taken into consideration when choosing subjects:
So What Should I Choose?
- English is compulsory, in fact is the only compulsory course, and your ATAR will include your 2 units of English;
- you must take at least 3 Board Developed Courses of 2 unit value or greater;
- you must take at least 4 subjects in your course of studies
- you must take a minimum of 12 units in Year 11 and 10 units in Year 12.
In relation to the question, what should my son choose, the common wisdom from the Board is that:
Students should take courses in which they have an interest and an ability and which will best suit their future needs.
It is interesting to note that many scholarship schemes are looking for students who have a balanced range of activities, along with a good pass, and a balanced range of standard subjects seems to be a preferred mode of Course of Studies.
There are vocational subjects. They are delivered to Wollemi students off campus. Vocational and Educational Training (VET) Subjects are pursued at either TAFE or specialized school delivers, such as Redeemer Baptist College. Enrolment in these courses has led to successful HSC experiences, but they do cost normally in excess of $500 each subject and they normally disrupt a student’s attendance in his core subjects at Wollemi.
Alternately, other subjects that are not offered at Wollemi can be studied through Distance Education, or again at TAFE. TAFE delivered HSC courses cost in the vicinity of $200, and are taken in face to face classes at TAFE, often in school time. Again disruptions to a student’s Wollemi classes is normally a factor to be considered.
Distance Education operates as a correspondence school. For $800 per year/per subject your son can take a course through Distance Education. While we have had students study this way with positive experiences, the factors of self-motivation, time management and lonely study routines usually makes this style of study problematic for a 15 to 18 year old boy.
Determination of HSC Marks
There are two components that constitute your HSC mark. They are your school-based assessment and your HSC examination mark. Each contributes 50% towards your actual HSC. In order that you can understand how this process works and how to avoid the confusion that seems so prevalent in “HSC speak” it is important that you understand the concepts of SCALING and ATAR.
The University Admission Centre (UAC) applies scaling to all subjects. The Board of Studies assumes all subjects are the same and reports them accordingly. UAC attempts to give those students who attempt subjects acknowledged as amongst the more difficult adequate recognition by scaling up the average marks in those subjects. This does not mean that a student who attempts more difficult subjects automatically gets a better mark than the boy who attempts a conceptually less challenging subject.
The Board of Studies has stated in relation to this complex point.
The system is such that two students of equal general academic ability who take different sets of courses and perform to their ability will receive similar ATARs.
Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR)
The ATAR is not a mark but a rank. Each candidate for the HSC is ranked 0 to 100. A ATAR of 99 reflects that a student is ranked in the top 1% of the State. He or she did not score an average of 99 in his or her exams.
The previously mentioned Scaling Committee as appointed by the University Admissions Centre determines the ATAR. It is calculated using the average of a student’s moderated assessment and scaled exam mark for their best 10 units of work.
What are the moderated assessment and scaled exam marks? The scaled exam mark is that mark derived from a student’s examination. The moderated assessment mark is the mark that is initially determined by a student’s subject teachers on the basis of that student’s performance in school based assessment tasks. This mark is then standardised across the state by tying the school-derived mark to the student’s external exam performance
Importance of School Based Assessment
Students are issued with a schedule of school based assessments at the start of their Preliminary Year and HSC Year. A student must carefully prepare for each assessment task to the best of his ability. Only the HSC School Based Assessment schedule counts towards the HSC. The student’s ranking in relation to the rest of his classmates, which is derived from the assessment tasks, has a direct bearing on his ATAR.
Failure to perform in HSC assessment tasks is viewed seriously by the Board of Studies. In fact the Board delegates to school principals the authority to recommend a student be awarded a “N” determination if that student hasn’t completed an HSC course satisfactorily. A “N” determination effectively rules a student out for a ATAR in the year it is given. School based assessments are, clearly, very important indicators, amongst others, of a student’s satisfactory progress in a given course.
It is imperative that a student attempts ALL school based assessment tasks vigorously whether they are part of the HSC assessment programme or not. Any attempt on the part of a student to save him or herself for HSC assessment tasks at the cost of effectively completing other class work is bound for disaster. The best possible preparation for the HSC consists of the completion of all set tasks, an intense, diligent classroom performance, regular extra communication with subject teachers and between 3 to 4 hours of home study each night for Years 11 and 12.
Your tutor and the Director of Studies and, of course, your parents are your best resources in determining your programme of subjects for your HSC. You ignore them at your academic peril.