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New HSC assessment guidelines

New, rigorous guidelines for effective school-based Higher School Certificate (HSC) assessment will be introduced across all courses from 2018 (Year 11 students) and 2019 (Year 12 students).

The school-based assessment guidelines will be tougher to prevent plagiarism and cheating and help reduce student stress caused by over-assessment.

Reducing stress

To reduce excessive stress and allow more time for teaching and learning, school-based assessment tasks will be capped at three per course in Year 11 and four per course in Year 12 (including the HSC trial examination).

Research, including from Hong Kong, shows fewer and more targeted assessment tasks are more effective in giving feedback to teachers about their students’ strengths and weaknesses. As a result, Hong Kong has restructured its school-based assessment tasks.

Reducing plagiarism and cheating

Redesigned HSC examination questions will help reduce formulaic, pre-prepared responses and cheating. 

Stricter guidelines will assure the authorship of take-home assessments and projects.

Why change assessment?

The final HSC examinations form 50 per cent of a student’s final HSC marks.

In its consultation, NSW Education Standards Authority (at the time BOSTES) found that teachers, parents and students reported that Year 11 and Year 12 students experienced assessment fatigue.

Some schools are using school assessments as a way to motivate students, or to ensure they attempt work. This means students can have up to six assessment tasks per course in each year. For example, a student with five 2 Unit courses can have 25–30 assessment tasks over three terms – roughly one a week on average.

In reality, assessment tasks are clustered at similar points of the school year. From the student perspective, every assessment task counts, whether it is worth 5 per cent  or 25 per cent. The assessments are not always single tasks, such as one essay, and often comprise subtasks that require a substantial amount of work to complete.

Students often feel compelled to choose to do “what’s due next”, or “what’s worth more”. Some assessment tasks replicate previous HSC examination questions, either in the form of an essay, or mimicking the examination. This limits the variety of tasks used to assess student knowledge and skills.

Fewer assessment tasks will allow schools to spend more time teaching the knowledge and skills in a course, and shift the focus from superficial learning just for the examination.

Will HSC examination questions change?

The final HSC examinations held every year will continue. They will also continue to form 50 per cent of a student’s final HSC marks.

However, HSC examination questions will change to help reduce cheating and plagiarism.

Some HSC examination questions are very similar every year. Teaching and learning can become formulaic in reflecting this.

HSC examination questions will be less predictable so students must apply their knowledge and skills in their answers.

Students repeatedly practise their essay writing skills (particularly in English and History), resulting in pre prepared and memorised essays. Some schools set the previous HSC essay questions for homework tasks, or under examination conditions for the HSC trial examination.

Memorising key facts and skills, such as times tables and quotations, is important, however memorising entire essays to adapt and reproduce in an examination is a narrow demonstration of a student’s application of knowledge and skills.

Marking mathematics

Similarly to English, Mathematics courses will be on a common scale to allow comparison of students doing easier or harder courses.

Placing mathematics courses on a common scale will act as a disincentive for capable students who deliberately choose easier courses for a perceived ATAR advantage.

The common scale will allow better recognition of student efforts and encourage them to take a mathematics course that better suits their ability.

Read more about the Stronger HSC Standards


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