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Understanding HSC results

Understanding what HSC and School Certificate marks mean is a five-minute video explaining the standards-referenced assessment model. Watch now

Achieving the HSC is different to getting a driver’s license or an ATAR. A student does not receive a simple ‘pass’ or ‘fail’, nor do they get a single rank or mark for all courses. The HSC results are a detailed package showing each student the level of knowledge and skills that they achieved in each course.

The marks and corresponding performance bands reported for each course are outlined below. Visit HSC Credentials to view samples of the award documents students receive.

How the HSC mark is calculated

The HSC mark is a 50:50 combination of a student’s examination mark and school-based assessment mark for each course. 



Assessment mark

School-based assessment tasks measure performance in a wider range of course outcomes than can be tested in an external examination. Students are required to complete a number of assessment tasks for their courses. This may include tests, written or oral assignments, practical activities, fieldwork and projects. Schools submit an HSC assessment mark for every student in every course. The Board puts the marks through a process of moderation to allow a fair comparison of marks in each course across different schools. Read more about the moderation process.

Examination mark

The examination mark for each course shows the student's performance in the HSC examination for that course, which was set and marked by the Board of Studies NSW. The examination consists of a written paper and, for some courses, speaking and listening examinations, practical examinations, or major works that are submitted for external marking. Each student's achievement is assessed and reported against set standards of performance.

A unique part of the standards approach is a special procedure called 'judging'. Judging means a student’s raw exam marks can be matched to the standards and the reporting scale used by the Board. It means a student is rewarded for their performance with the mark they deserve, no matter how many other people performed at a similar, higher, or lower level. Read more about judging and applying the standards.

Performance band

Student performance in each HSC course is measured against defined standards. HSC marks for each course are divided into bands and each band aligns with a description of a typical performance by a student within that mark range. The performance bands and descriptions give meaning to the HSC mark. For a 2 unit course, Band 6 indicates the highest level of performance and the minimum standard expected is 50.

  • Band 6 = 90 - 100 marks
  • Band 5 = 80 - 89 marks
  • Band 4 = 70 - 79 marks
  • Band 3 = 60 - 69 marks
  • Band 2 = 50 - 59 marks
  • Band 1 = 0 - 49 marks

Each band is aligned to what a student at that level of performance typically knows, understands and can do. The 'average' performance in most courses is usually a mark in the mid-70s (Band 4). Band 1 indicates that a student has not met enough of the course outcomes for a report to be made. Band 1 includes marks ranging from 0 to 49. For an Extension course, the bands are E4 (highest level of performance) to E1.

Determining HSC results

HSC achievement is assessed and reported against set standards of achievement ensuring students are rewarded for their performance with the mark they deserve, no matter how many other students performed at a similar, higher, or lower level.

Read more about how HSC results are determined in line with these achievement standards for each course a student studies.

HSC results process graph

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to compare marks between courses?
No. Comparisons between courses are not valid. However, English Advanced and English Standard are reported on a common scale, so marks in English can be directly compared.
Is it possible to compare HSC marks between schools?
Yes. It is possible to compare marks between students doing the same Board Developed Course. The same examination is undertaken by every student enrolled in a Board Developed Course and the same moderation process is applied to each school's assessment marks.
What happens when part of my exam paper isn’t marked?
In the rare instances when part of a student’s examination cannot be marked for any reason, the Board’s usual procedure is to estimate a mark for the affected portion of the examination, based on the best available evidence.
What does 'satisfactory completion' mean?
To satisfactorily complete a course, a student must:
  • follow the course developed or endorsed by the Board
  • apply themselves with diligence and sustained effort
  • achieve some or all of the course outcomes.
Satisfactory completion can be judged by attendance, level of involvement in class, assignments and tasks completed, and level of achievement. Failure to meet one or more of these requirements may lead to an 'N' or 'Non-completion' determination. An 'N' determination for a course may make a student ineligible for the HSC.
What are Life Skills?
Life Skills courses have been developed for the small percentage of students with special education needs for whom the regular outcomes and content are not appropriate, in particular those with an intellectual disability. Life Skills courses are reported on the Record of Achievement and outcomes achieved are shown on a Profile of Student Achievement.

Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR)

The HSC results are used by the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) to calculate a rank order of students known as the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR). The ATAR is not a mark, nor is it a summary of the HSC. It is a ranking system used to allocate university placements.

The UAC releases the ATAR the day after the Board releases the HSC results. The UAC calculates the university admission ranks each year using students’:

HSC students may indicate that they wish to have an ATAR calculated. However, calculation of an ATAR is optional. For example, many students who do not wish to gain entry to university the following year do not request calculation of an ATAR. To be eligible for an ATAR, students must satisfactorily complete at least 10 units of certain Board Developed Courses for which formal examinations are conducted by the Board of Studies NSW. Visit the UAC website for further information.

HSC results information flyer

Understanding HSC Results

This A4 flyer provides an overview of the 'Understanding HSC results' section and includes a summary of HSC and other services available for students.

Understanding HSC Results (PDF, 4 pages, 3.4 MB)
Published November 2013
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