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Determining HSC results

Your Higher School Certificate (HSC) results will generally show three marks for each of your courses:

  • an assessment mark

  • an exam mark

  • an HSC mark, which is the average of the first two marks.

You will also be assigned a performance band, which shows how well you performed compared to other students in the course.

To determine your HSC results, we use the following processes:

These processes include strict quality controls to ensure all students are treated fairly and the outcomes are accurate.

Learn about the moderation process, or find out more about understanding HSC results.

Aligning exam marks to achievement standards

This process means that marks across different years can be compared

Because exam papers and marking guidelines differ each year, we use a procedure called 'standards setting' to align raw exam marks to our course achievement standards and standards-based reporting scale. We then moderate assessment marks using the aligned exam marks so they are on the same scale. This allows student marks and performances to be compared over different years.

Course achievement standards set expectations for each performance band

Our achievement standards for each course have six levels, or performance bands. They also outline the kinds of knowledge, skills and understandings required of students at each level.

Band 6 represents the highest level of achievement, and Band 1 the lowest. A student who receives a higher mark in a band shows a stronger grasp of the required knowledge and skills for that band than a student with a mark towards the bottom.

You are assigned to a performance band for each course, based on your HSC mark.

Expert markers decide the cut-off marks for each exam

The supervisor of marking recommends a team of markers or ‘judges’ to decide the minimum mark needed in each exam to meet the achievement standard for each performance band. These marks are the ‘cut-off marks’ for the exam.

We don’t publish these marks to maintain the integrity of the standards-setting process. This allows judges to set each year’s cut-off marks without being influenced by those from previous years.

Deciding the cut-off marks for each performance band involves four stages.



1 Independent judging

o    Each judge reviews each question and determines the mark that a student at the level between each performance band would receive.

o    These marks are added together to get the judge’s set of recommended cut-off marks for the exam.

o    All judges’ recommended marks for each band are averaged to get the team’s first set of estimated cut-off marks.

2 Team discussion

o    The judges review statistics on how students at different levels of attainment in the course performed on each question, and how they responded to different multiple-choice question options.

o    Judges adjust their earlier recommendations as needed.

o    The judges’ modified cut-off marks for each band are averaged to get the team’s second set of estimated cut-off marks.

3 Refinement and recommendation

o    Judges review sample student responses marked at or near each cut-off mark and confirm that these are as expected at that level.

o    Judges further refine their recommendations as needed. 

o    The judges recommend these cut-off marks to the HSC Consultative Committee, which is made up of leading NSW authorities in educational measurement.

4 HSC Consultative Committee review

o    This expert technical committee reviews the judges’ work and recommendations before deciding the final cut-off marks.

o    The committee also decides what to do if it finds any issues or anomalies in the standards-setting process.

All exam marks are aligned to our standards-based reporting scale

When the cut-off marks have been decided, we use the mathematical technique below to align raw exam marks to our reporting scale.