At HSC Study Buddy, we know first-hand that the Higher School Certificate is not only one of the most stressful periods in a student’s life, it’s also a very intensive time for parents. Our team of tutors have all faced this daunting time and come out the other side, having achieved their goals and beyond their expectations. We have experienced both sides of the coin: being the educators and the ones requiring the education. It is from this experience and knowledge that we’ve pieced together this definitive guide to not simply surviving the HSC, but how your child can master it.

Let us take the confusion or unanswered questions and show you how you can help your child master the HSC.

The advantage of being involved in my child’s education

Studies show that parental support is absolutely vital in achieving a high overall score in the HSC. Children with supportive parents are more likely to get into university, top their subjects and make it onto the HSC All Rounders List. However, time and again parents approach our tutors wanting to understand how it is that they can help. Many parents feel slightly ‘out of the loop’ when it comes to understanding how the HSC actually works, and others simply want to know what’s the best path for their child to getting into the university course that they have their heart set on.

HSC Study Buddy is more than just a resource for getting the best quality notes, tutoring and support available throughout the HSC process. We’re a team of dynamic educators who are genuinely interested in helping our students achieve their goals. We’re not only here to take them through every process, prepare them for each exam and give them the top hints and tricks that past HSC High Achievers used to get their impressive results, we’re here to inspire and motivate. Motivation is what lies behind sustained long term HSC success. It’s not the smartest child who receives the top score. It’s the child who is dedicated to getting the results they have strived for.

3 tips for supporting your child through the HSC

The following video has been produced by Keely Gordon-King, a former HSC student and now practicing child psychologist. Keely achieved an ATAR above 99 and has worked with kids through a number of different organisations, specialised in dealing with the typical challenges that adolescents face. Keely uses this experience to provide you, as the parent, with 3 simple ways that you can support your child through the HSC.

Ensuring my child selects the right subjects

Subject selection is a key factor that determines a student's’ success in the HSC. In fact, it is this decision made before your child even starts learning, which can have the single greatest impact on their final HSC results.

You may have heard the idea that your child should ‘pick the subjects that scale the best’. However, contrary to speculation, many are misguided by this idea of scaling. In fact, most people don’t know how it works. Click here for information on scaling.

It is recommended by our tutors, that you encourage your child to pick subjects based on the following criteria:

  1. They enjoy the subject. Selecting a difficult subject based on the hope that it will push their final HSC mark up is never a good reason to encourage or force your child to pick a certain subject. Studies have shown that students are more likely to excel in subjects that they have a genuine interest in. Your child has to remain dedicated and focused to the selected subject for two whole years. If they have no enthusiasm on day one, what is their performance going to be like when they finally sit their last HSC exam? Interested students spend more time learning the content because they are simply more motivated to do so.
  2. Play to their strengths. If your child is good at a subject and learns the content or information quickly and can apply it to different scenarios and situations, then this subject will also be one which should be encouraged. Combined with a sense of enjoyment towards what they are studying, this is the 2 pronged approach to excelling in any HSC subject and will typically be the best decision. For example a student who is very good at remembering facts and dates and has a passion for learning about other cultures and time periods, will thrive in Ancient History. 3 unit Mathematics may sound like a more ‘promising choice’, however, if your child does well in Ancient History, their overall mark and ATAR will outperform a mediocre or even above average Mathematics score. Click here to learn more.
  3. It is a prerequisite for a university course that they are interested in applying for. This is becoming more and more unnecessary as certain universities are dropping prerequisite subjects, or a short bridging course can be taken to get your child up to speed. However, if your child is considering studying a discipline such as medicine, science, engineering or fine arts, they may be required to have completed an HSC subject like Biology/Chemistry/Physics OR Visual Arts/Design and Technology. Speaking to your school’s career advisor or checking the university course admission requirements will clear this up within a matter of minutes.

What is the ATAR?

The ATAR is the Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank and is the way universities measure students and determine course acceptance. It is separate from the HSC score, which is a series of marks out of 100 for 2 unit subjects and 50 for 1 unit subjects. The best 10 units (500 marks) make up your child’s ATAR. The ATAR is determined by the Universities Admission Centre (UAC) and not the Board of Studies. This is why the HSC results and ATAR are received a day apart. Click here to understand how this impacts university placement.

What does the ATAR mean for University Admission?

The ATAR is NOT a mark or a score. It is a rank. 99.95 is the highest rank, with positions being allocated every 0.05. The University course will then determine their cut off ATAR each year. Hence, students with the highest rank are given course preference and this rank works its way down until there are no positions left.

What the HSC actually means for your child

As parents, you may have the impression that the ATAR is essential for your child to continue on their studies at University level. Many teachers and other tutoring services stress the importance of this year in order to help motivate and inspire students to work harder. However, this unfortunately can have the reverse effect as we have witnessed in many instances. Your child may feel overwhelmed and begin to adopt this ‘all or nothing’ approach under the belief that their ATAR will determine success in their future endeavours too. At HSC Study Buddy we acknowledge that this is most definitely not the case. In fact, we have always told our students that no matter what it is in life that they wish to pursue, an ATAR won’t stop you from doing this.

The ATAR is simply a rank that allows your child to fast track into their desired course at university. If your child is unable to achieve the required ATAR, there will be ways around this, however, it just may take a little more time and some research. Check out our section on other ways into university for more information about this.

So, rather than looking at the HSC as the determining factor in whether or not that individual will succeed or fail in life, as so many students unfortunately do. We see the HSC as one of the steps into University but more importantly, a challenging time that will provide your child with an opportunity to learn more about themselves, build self-confidence and form healthy habits that will help them as they make the transition into the next stage of their life.

Important note for parents: The HSC is indeed a very stressful year - your child will likely understand that they are competing against 75,000 other students and much of the talk within the schools is about getting that required ATAR so you can continue your studies. So be sure to check out our video on 3 tips to supporting your child through the HSC, which has been conducted by Keely, one of the HSC Study Buddy tutors. Keely is a practicing psychologist, who recently went through the HSC and managed to achieve an ATAR of 99.35. More importantly, she has experience in working with families and adolescents.

How does scaling work?

Scaling is a heavily contested and largely misunderstood topic. Many parents are told that certain subjects ‘scale’ better than others. In other words, there is a false perception that by selecting a said ‘more difficult subject’, the student’s final mark will be pulled up, whilst other subjects will be pulled down. In theory, this is slightly true. However, scaling is by no means simple nor is it uniform. Here are some important points to remember:

  1. Scaling varies from subject to subject, year to year
  2. It is calculated based on how an entire cohort not only performs in a given subject/course, but also in relation to their performance across their other courses (for example, results in General Mathematics will be compared to that of the Advanced Mathematics 2 Unit Course)
  3. There is a certain threshold whereby a mark will not be scaled further up or down, again, relative to the other 2 factors above.
  4. Scaling is not calculated on the HSC mark, but rather, is applied to the ATAR.
Student A Subject Mark Student B Subject Mark
English Advanced 80 English Standard 70
Mathematics 80 Mathematics 70
Business Studies 80 Business Studies 70
Biology 80 Biology 70
Ancient History 80 Ancient History 70
Final ATAR 83.50 Final ATAR 65.80
Example based off of the 2014 HSC Result Calculations

The 4th factor is probably the most common misunderstanding that students face. Using the example above,, Student A receives 80s in all of their subjects. Student B receives 70s. Student A’s ATAR ends up being 83.5 whilst student B’s ATAR is equated to 65.8 The following reasons for this, we can speculate would be:

  1. More students received a mark of in the 70s for the same subjects, hence, their rank is not as high as Student A (remembering that he ATAR is a rank form 99.95 downwards)
  2. Student B also completed HSC courses whereby 70 was easier to obtain. We cannot deduce which subjects these are, as it will depend on the difficulty of the final HSC exam. However, it is generally accepted that certain subjects like General Mathematics, Standard English, Community and Family Studies as well as others, will not fare as well in the scaling process.

How can I make the ATAR scoring system work for my child?

There is no simple answer to this question. However, there are several things you can do to promote the highest possible ATAR for your child. First of all, your child needs to perform well in at least 10 units of study (this is typically 5 subjects worth 2 units each). However, we encourage students to have approximately 11-13 units of study. This is important as it acts as a security measure, should your child not perform their best on the day of the HSC or their internal ranking with their school is not optimal. This way, your child’s performance in this subject will NOT count to their final ATAR. For example, if your child has a score of 90 or more in 10 units of study and then a 60 in another 2 units, these 2 units will not contribute to their ATAR. This will ensure an ATAR of above 90 as their final result and not in the 80s (depending on their precise performance in every other subject).

Subject selection, as mentioned above, is also important for achieving a high HSC mark and then a high ATAR. Please note that at least 2 units of English are compulsory for HSC study and these 2 units MUST count towards your child’s ATAR. For this reason, excelling in English is important. At HSC Study Buddy, we place a strong emphasis on English and have a wide variety of resources which will cater for students of all backgrounds and levels of English, including study notes, related texts, essay writing tutorials and creative writing workshops. We also recommend that you encourage your child to take on English Advanced if they are capable. This is because English Advanced, historically has boosted student’s ATARs far more than English Standard. Hence, your child’s English performance will likely play a large role in their acceptance into their desired university course.

Is my child eligible for bonus marks?

There are many different tiers with HSC Bonus Marks and parents and students often have the false hope that their school will ‘automatically’ be eligible for bonus marks. As a general rule of thumb, your child will be eligible for bonus marks under the conditions of the Educational Access Scheme (EAS). Bonus points are awarded to students under the following conditions:

  • Disability: throughout the HSC or a prolonged chronic disability
  • Professional athlete: if your child represents their state/country in a particular sport and this takes up a considerable amount of time, impacting studies, bonus points may be awarded
  • Grave incident: death in the family, personal situation, etc.

Normally applications are filled out and submitted a few months prior to the final HSC exams. These bonus points will be added to their ATAR when applying for a course and this will be the new ATAR that the univserity sees upon application.

Some universities also offer bonus points based on the following:

  • Their high school is determined to be a ‘disadvantaged school’ based on funding, location and demographics. This list is published late in the year and changes annually. A school’s past eligibility does NOT determine their eligibility in the future
  • Achieving a band 5 or 6 in a certain subject

Students who are eligible under the university and course specified bonus points will automatically have these added to their ATAR, but these points will not be added to their ATAR from UAC, as they are added by the said university being applied to.

For example, if your child chooses to study Business at UTS, bonus points will be awarded for high performance in HSC Business Studies or Economics.

What are the other ways into University if my child doesn’t achieve the required ATAR?

Today there are so many opportunities and pathways available for your child, should they not get the desirable ATAR required to get into their university course. However, at HSC Study Buddy the chances of your child getting into their first preference for university is higher.

Should they not get into the desired course, we have outlined a number of alternative pathways, and our tutors are also able to take students through this process to help them better understand which option would work best for them and their needs.

Students who wish to study a particular degree normally have more than one university to choose from. Although they may not have received an eligible ATAR for their first preference, other universities will offer lower admission scores. From here, students have the opportunity to transfer to their desired university typically after the first year of study. Another option would be to study a different degree or major at the university they ultimately want to be studying at, and transferring degrees or majors after the first semester or year. We are able to offer more information about how this works, as it varies based on the situation and university.

TAFE also offers bridging or prerequisite courses that can be taken from one semester to a year, which will enable your child to then gain access to university. Many students find this a desirable pathway as it enables them to study straight out of high school and thus enabling them to get into their field of study as quickly as possible. Certain universities also offer partnerships which, where applicable, can credit this time at another institute towards their final degree. For example, The University of Technology Sydney has a partnership with ‘Insearch’, a separate institute which offers the same degrees and subjects as UTS. Should a student perform well in the first year, they will be invited to attend UTS and automatically enter their second year of study.

Another viable option is to postpone university study until your child turns 21. At this time the student is classified as ‘mature age’ and an ATAR is no longer required to gain access to university. Students often find it beneficial to take a ‘gap year’ to travel and grow on a personal level. Many work for a few years to have financial assets behind them before they embark on further education.

Finally, there are also private institutions and colleges which do not have the same ATAR requirements as many universities. However, it is important to note that their fees are typically higher than public universities and/or require upfront payment.

Effective studying techniques that you can assist your child with

When it comes to ‘studying’, many people think simply of notetaking, rote learning and regurgitating. However, here at HSC Study Buddy we teach your child that there are hundreds of effective study techniques that can be applied to their learning process. Our team love to guide students in finding the most effective strategies which work personally for them, as there is no one size fits all approach. We do this through engaging Video Tutorials, looking at different methods of studying both in general and in preparation for upcoming exams.

The latest research points to three main types of learning styles: Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic. Typically, visual learners excel the most with traditional study techniques and the way high school learning is taught: written text, diagrams, summary notes, etc. However, we firmly acknowledge that this does not work well for all students. For example, auditory learners absorb information best through sound - hearing information, associating certain noises with ideas, etc. Kinesthetic learners learn best through physical activity, whether this be drawing a diagram themselves or enacting the idea or process being taught. This is why the most effective study techniques need to be applied on a case by case basis. Our resources provide many different outlets and approaches to learning and we believe in a holistic approach whereby your child learns through all three major modalities.

A handy tip for parents!

Talking about the learning process with your child and asking them to explain the content that is being taught in the classroom or at HSC Study Buddy, will greatly enrich their learning process. This is because students who are able to explain something to another individual, are more likely to retain the information and understand it on a more advanced level. Many HSC subjects require students to ‘explain and analyse’ content, whether this be in an english essay, a biology short answer question or provide the necessary evidence for how a mathematics solution was acquired to any given question. Try reversing the roles and getting your child to be the teacher and you the student. Furthermore, having a genuine interest in what your child is learning will boost their own confidence and ensure that they stay motivated through their HSC and their learning process.

Staying ahead of the pack & why this is important for your child

We like to teach our students that the HSC is a marathon, it’s not a sprint. Every single assessment task is important in determining your child’s overall HSC mark for each subject and thus ultimately, their ATAR. Staying ahead of the pack means having a solid grasp of how the HSC works and what each assessment means for their placement in the subject. Hence, the information you are currently reading is the perfect starting point to ensuring that your child is placed in a favourable position in all of their subjects. We talk of ‘placement’ as being critically important as the position your child is ranked within their class, their school and then ultimately, the state at large, will determine their final ATAR.

To stay ahead of the pack, your child will need to maintain a high ranking in their courses, as this is the best way to ensure that their performance is not negatively affected by the performance of other students. To make this clearer, consider the following example:

Student A is ranked 4th in their Chemistry Class throughout the year. Their internal mark, as set by the school, sits at 84/100. In the exam, Student A outperforms their school cohort and obtains 98/100. Since they were ranked 4th in their internal assessments, their final score will be calculated based on the students who performed above them internally. Hence, they will be affected by the other student’s marks.

Student B is ranked 1st throughout the year. They don’t perform their best in the final exam, scoring 70. However, since student A scored so well, Student B’s final HSC mark will be recalculated based on the fact that they were ranked 1st throughout the year. Their final score will lie between 70 and 98.

It is also worth considering the internal weighting of each assessment task, as they won’t all count for the same number of overall marks. For example, scoring 98 on an exam worth 10% internally, won’t have a great impact on the student’s overall mark, whereas a 30% assessment task can greatly impact their ranking and hence, their overall HSC mark.

It is essential to remember that the HSC is more about rankings than anything else. The higher your child’s ranking within the state, the higher their ATAR will be.

What can 2 extra marks mean for my child?

Let’s take a look at a case study based on actual HSC data for 2014 published by UAC. Here we will illustrate the impact 2 extra marks can have.

Student A Mark Student B Mark
English Advanced 85 English Advanced 87
Business Studies 85 Business Studies 87
Chemistry 85 Chemistry 87
Ancient History 85 Ancient History 87
Modern History 85 Modern History 87
Final ATAR 87.95 Final ATAR 91.05

This is a difference of just over 3%, which, given the ATAR is based on your ranking, puts your child ahead of roughly 3,000 other students who are looking for university admission. ATAR cut offs for universities are often based on popularity for a course, so small improvements here can have very positive impacts for your child's university admission prospects.

At HSC Study Buddy, we not only aim to help your child get those extra 2 marks which will increase their HSC score and ATAR accordingly, but to greatly improve their rankings, boost their confidence and bolster their motivation to turn the HSC into a period in their life that they will be proud of for years to come. Our resources are suitable for those from all levels and abilities, as we believe that everyone has capacity to improve and realise their full potential.

How can HSC Study Buddy help your child?

At HSC Study Buddy, we offer a library of resources which are provided exclusively by Band 6 students as well as those with State Rankings. These are students who have outperformed all of their cohort, over different years of HSC examination. Our resources provide insight into how these students were able to do this:

  1. Engaging Video Tutorials designed to get your child exam-ready, so that they can get those extra marks that many students miss out on. Our team go through past HSC papers, section by section and really prepare your child for the types of questions they will face and the ways in which they can go about answering these to ensure full marks. These videos are unique and not the same material offered in the classroom. What’s more, several of these tutorials have been used by various teachers across the state to aid in their own teaching process.
  2. Detailed & organised Study Notes providing insight into how the State's best students approached the same syllabus. These are a brilliant resource for your child, as they gain access not only to comprehensive outlines and in depth analysis, but also from a variety of different individuals, providing ample information to comprehensively cover the HSC Syllabuses.
  3. Practice HSC questions with model responses. This is an excellent way to assist your child in studying, and our team of experts believe that this is one of the most effective measures to increase your child’s performance in the shortest period of time.

Your child can gain access to this library and begin filling their own library with these helpful resources. We are mobile optimised, which means that they can access their library and watch video tutorials or read over notes anytime, anywhere. So whether they are on the train or in the comfort of the family home, they can be getting ahead of the rest of the pack. Signing your child up is easy and they will gain instant access.

The advantage over textbooks

Did you know that by the time a textbook is printed, it is already out of date? New information, more up-to-date and hence reliable information is available, but your child unfortunately does not have access to this through their textbooks. Authors are constantly striving to find better ways to teach students and provide more relevant examples. However, at HSC Study Buddy, these updates are ongoing and instantaneous. Your child has access to the absolute latest in the essential information and teachings patterns for their subjects. Our tutors and educators are constantly keeping in tune with any changes to the HSC Syllabuses or information which may impact the way a course is taught. Unlike textbooks, our resources are designed specifically for your child’s syllabus, as set by the Board of Studies, which outlines all examinable content. This ensures relevancy and allows your child to study more efficiently.

Printed study guides are also not the best outlet, as they often condense a course’s information too much, offering general examples and information that ‘skims the surface’ of the course in order to appeal to a wider demographic and produce a text in a shorter period of time. The information in these books is not always very good either, and HSC markers have become aware of the information provided in each variety of such ‘study guides’. For example, English HSC Study guides that provide specific examples have been overused by students, with markers aware of what information has been lifted from a study guide and what is unique, fresh or original. However, since HSC Study Buddy has more examples, is more in depth and updated more regularly, our students don’t face these same dilemmas.

Other online printed information from web sources like ‘Bored Of Studies’ are not monitored or filtered and hence, any student can post their material without it being checked for accuracy or reliability. This is rather dangerous for students to rely upon, as they may be learning incorrect or misleading course material. This in turn can negatively impact their performance in the subject. Hence, up-to-date, accredited and approved material is absolutely essential.

Our approach to learning

Our team believe in a simple approach to studying that allows students of all abilities to achieve great marks. It is this approach that has formed the foundation for the development of our resources.

Learning the syllabus will get your child familiar with what content they are required to cover. From here, they will need to apply this knowledge in various assessments, in a way that pleases the markers and it is often this step that differentiates students. Development of fundamental HSC skills such as essay writing for English, source analysis for History and how to include case studies in Business Studies are often not fully understood.

Our Study Notes are set out by the syllabus requirements as per the Board of Studies. This syllabus outlines exactly what your child can be tested on and anything outside of this is not eligible for examination in the HSC. We like to refer to the syllabus as an HSC students bible. Our Video Tutorials will also look at some of the trickier syllabus requirements, however, will be more focused on developing HSC skills for each subject and walking your child through question-response approaches so that they are exam-ready.

How to sign your child up to HSC Study Buddy

Signing up to HSC Study Buddy is 3 easy steps and your child will instantly gain access to our library of resources compiled exclusively by Band 6 & State Ranking students.

How to sign your child up

  1. Choose one of the all access packages below
  2. Notify your child of the login credentials you used to sign up
  3. Your child can then begin browsing our library and adding subjects to their personal library. The platform is very user friendly and we have over 30 different subjects covered, so we are sure to have content relevant to them.

Average Cost for HSC Tutoring is $40/hr for one subject. For a just a little extra, your child can gain 24/7 access for 2 full months to our online library of resources.

For more information on pricing, visit out pricing page.

Case Study from Former HSC Parent

If you are reading this, it’s likely that you have an interest in supporting your child through one of the more challenging and stressful times in their education. Although it feels like a long time ago now, it was just last year (2014) that my daughter was doing her HSC. She had set her heart on achieving an ATAR that would give her a choice to be accepted into the degree she wanted at a university that would enable her to live close to our family. We knew this would be a stretch, but were uncertain about how much of a stretch. In particular, I felt some anxiety because I had no idea how the ATAR worked, and I wanted to support her in making important decisions about subjects and being clear about the marks she would need to achieve.

Having come through the experience, with Alana now studying pharmacy in Queensland, I would like to share my experience with you and hope that it will take some of the stress out of your time as a parent of an HSC student.

What did you find most challenging

As with every important phase in parenting, everything is new territory and in many ways, we are learning as we go. I wanted to support my daughter in dealing with stressful situations in a way that would teach her to be resilient rather than overwhelmed.

The most challenging aspect was knowing the extent to which I should be involved. My natural instinct was of course to want to do as much as possible, but I also understood that this was a transitioning period as she was about to enter the world outside of school. As a parent we appreciate that with freedom comes responsibility. So I wanted to foster the sort of independence that would help her build self confidence by taking on challenges and learning more about herself. So for me, it was finding that balance between being over-involved but also remembering that she will still need some guidance.

What advice would you give to HSC parents?

In my experience, it was the weight of expectation that really overwhelmed Alana - this idea that success in life hinged on the mark they received for their efforts in the HSC. So if I were to give one piece of advice, it would be to help manage your child’s expectations. I think it is positive to encourage them to aim high but rather help them manage expectation around workload and what the mark means for their future.

I would often take my daughter out surfing or go bike riding, to keep her active and make sure that she got a break from studies. Particularly after exams, as I found this to be a time where Alana would worry and go over things in her mind about where she went well or where she didn’t. I didn’t want her becoming anxious as she speculated on what mark she was going to get. I found that by distracting her and keeping her active, she was able to enjoy time with friends and family.

It is also important to remind your child that success or failure in the HSC will not determine their future. Positively encouraging them to stay motivated for themselves, rather than out of fear I think is far more beneficial for your child in the long run. I think that teachers need to be careful that they don’t add more pressure at this time too. Students won’t work harder and achieve a better ATAR through fear. Whilst I wanted Alana to recognise that this was an important time, I didn’t want her to think that if she failed to achieve the ATAR she wanted, that it was the end of the world. Reassuring her and keeping this in perspective for her, allowed her to feel more relaxed throughout the year.

How did HSC Study Buddy help?

I found HSC Study Buddy’s advice for parents extremely useful in helping me understand the options for Alana if she wasn’t able to achieve direct entry into the course of her choice from high school. This eased my concerns and allowed me to pass on this knowledge to Alana. Keely’s video on the best ways to support your child through the HSC was fantastic and I strongly recommend this to parents.

As for HSC Study Buddy resources, I know that Alana spoke highly of them and of their tutors. Coming from regional New South Wales, access to support of this standard was definitely limited, so I am truly grateful for the help they provided Alana.

Sign your child up to HSC Study Buddy