Each year during the heavy assessment periods of Term 1 and 2 we field phone calls from parents who are seeking clarification around the difference in marking agendas from the different schools. For example, is a 15/20 at one school the same as a 15/20 at another school during this assessment process? Depending on the schools it may or may not be. When the FergHSC markers are marking our students work they are marking work as if they were marking it in the HSC Exam room based on Board of Studies outcomes. Inevitably the marks that are given by FergHSC will differ from the marks given at schools as we don’t take into consideration whether the school is marking “softly” or “harshly”. One of our markers, Susan, has provided her insights into this often confusing topic. Ferg’s take on the topic of marking of HSC English assessment tasks is in a video at the bottom of the page.


Update from FergHSC marker Susan

Having taught at one of Sydney’s top private schools with over 2000 students from Prep through to Year 12, and with as many as 11 classes per year group in English, I can certainly attest to the “anomalies” regarding the grading of scripts.  Even within staffrooms, the disparaties between different teachers’ marking schemes causes a lot of tension.  


We must remind students and parents that it is a very difficult task faced by every Head of English Department to get his/her teachers grading scripts according to a set criteria. This is why students are given “Assessment Guidelines” for each assessment task, and these are painstakingly drafted by teachers following the criteria in the Stage 6 English Syllabus.  As objective as our marking aims to be, at the end of the day, the written word is a “subjective” entity and no two teachers will ever read a script in exactly the same way.


It is also the case that there are underlying factors ….largely unknown and mysterious to students (and parents) that affect the way scripts are graded.  Here I speak of private schools as I am unfamiliar with the public school system.  In a school where students are streamed according to their perceived academic abilities, the marking often reflects the “stream” within which they are placed (unless scripts are marked anonymously).  A student in a top stream class will be expected to write an “A” range script (ie 13-15/15) or possibly at the worst a low “B” range script; their writing style rarely reflects a “C” range response.  


In addition, unless you are in Selective School, it is not possible for all students to receive “A” range grades….the grades MUST be spread across a spectrum…remember the Bell Curve….so some students will receive a “C”, a bigger group will receive a “B”, and some will receive an “A”. 


A final word (or two). In most private schools, Year 12 assessment scripts are double marked.  Some are even marked externally by other HSC teachers/markers to ensure as much objectivity as possible.  Please have some faith in your school teachers as they are by and large very experienced if they are teaching you in Year 11 and 12.  Private schools would not risk giving you an inexperienced teacher….your results impact directly on their reputation, and this affects the enrollments on which they depend.  


If you receive a grade which seems “under par”, or there is a disparity between the grade given at school and the grade awarded by a tutor, try to remember that your school teachers need to be seen to be a little tougher on you so as to encourage improvement.  Also remember that it is the “Creative Writing” papers that cause the most aggravation in terms of consistency in marking……everyone has read a novel they just couldn’t put down…..but when we have given a copy to our best friend, or discussed it at bookclub….others just can’t find any joy in it! My recommendation is to focus on developing the depth and breadth of ideas from your Area of Study (Belonging) in your narrative.  If these ideas are explored meaningfully, then you have safely scored at least a “B”.


Having marked scripts for FERGHSC for the last two years I have to say that I am always overwhelmed by the progress the students make over the course of their HSC year.  Stick with those EBTs …take on as much feedback from your school teachers and your tutors at Ferg’s…..and just keep submitting your practice scripts.