In Year 11 or 12 and have no clue what HSC bands are or what they mean?
Not to worry! By the end of this article, you’ll know exactly what they are and how to interpret them when you get your HSC results.
So, let’s get into it!
What are the HSC bands?
If only it was a marching band.
HSC marks, across all courses, are divided into performance bands and according to NESA, “Each band aligns with a description of a typical performance by a student within that mark range.”
So essentially, the HSC performance bands are a grading system that give an indication of a student’s understanding in a particular course against specific criteria.
HSC marks are categorised into six bands: Band 1, Band 2, Band 3, Band 4, Band 5 and Band 6 — with Band 6 being the highest range.
Students must achieve a minimum score that falls into the Band 2 range in order to meet the requirements of the course and for their marks to count towards their ATAR.
Band 6 = 90-100 marks or an A grade
Band 5 = 80-89 marks or a B grade
Band 4 = 70-79 marks or a C grade
Band 3 = 60-69 marks or a D grade
Band 2 = 50-59 marks or an E grade
Band 1 = 0-49 marks or an F grade
Are the HSC bands different for Extension subjects?
The Extension subjects have four different bands: E4, E3, E2 and E1 — with E4 being the highest band. Unlike normal 2 unit subjects, Extension units are out of 50.
Students must achieve a minimum score that falls into the E2 range in order to pass the course and for their marks to count towards their ATAR.
E4 = 45 – 50 marks
E3 = 35 – 44 marks
E2 = 25 – 34 marks
E1 = 0 – 24 marks
For Maths Extension 2, the bands are slightly different as the marks are out of 100. The E4 band is a mark 90-100, E3 is 70-89, etc.
What’s the actual difference between the bands?
It can be hard to identify how the bands are actually different from one another, because at the end of the day, the difference between say, a Band 5 and a Band 6 is just one mark.
Let’s look at what NESA tells us:
Across all courses, the average HSC mark will fall into the mid-70s, which is a Band 4.
While there are no doubt differences between subjects, in certain course criteria, a Band 4 is generally said to demonstrate a “sound knowledge” of the course requirements.
Now to go a step further, students will need to hit the criteria of a Band 4, and then some to achieve a Band 5. Students who achieve a Band 5 will have a more detailed, perceptive and developed understanding of their course materials.
Take a step even further and you get a Band 6. To achieve a Band 6, students must have a much more sophisticated and refined understanding of the course content compared to Band 5 responses.
Make sure to check out all the relevant information for your subjects on the NESA website, including marking feedback for the recent past papers from the markers!
How many people can get a Band 6 in a given subject?
A common misconception that surrounds HSC bands is that the results are proportionate, meaning that only the top 10% of students that take a given course can achieve a Band 6. This is incorrect.
HSC marks are not a rank, unlike the ATAR, which is a rank.
At the end of the day, all subjects are different, meaning that they scale differently, and the number of students who achieve a Band 6 will also change year by year!
What are the bands used for?
HSC bands are a useful indicator of performance. Like previously mentioned, the HSC bands are very similar to the popular A-F grading system that a lot of high schools adopt.
HSC bands won’t count towards your ATAR, but the HSC mark that you achieve within those bands that will count.
For example, if I achieve a Band 5 in English Advanced, then my actual HSC mark (85) will contribute to the ATAR, not the band itself.
Why are they important?
Even though the bands are simply a grading system, they are important.
On a practical level, having performance bands can help students formulate goals for their subjects during the HSC.
Some university courses also have HSC prerequisites in order to study particular subjects.
For example, to study Commerce at the University of Sydney, students must have achieved a minimum Band 4 in Mathematics Advanced.
We hope you now have a better understanding of what each of the HSC bands mean and you’ll be able to create some goals for yourself as you go through the HSC!
Are you looking for some extra help with your HSC subjects?
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Marina Liu is currently completing her Honours in French and Francophone Studies at the University of Sydney, having finished her Bachelor of Arts (Languages). She has over 3 years of experience supporting senior English students at Art of Smart Education. In her spare time, she loves giving herself a manicure and listening to music from My Chemical Romance to Simon and Garfunkel.