Aligning refers to the process used to transform raw marks into reported or aligned marks. These aligned marks are the figures that appear on students' Records of Achievement and in all official NSW Board of Studies publications.
Why can't we just have our raw marks?
The Government's objective in introducing a policy of standards-based HSC reporting was to provide more informative reports of students' performance against the learning outcomes identified in course syllabuses. Consistently with that objective, HSC reporting is intended to indicate each student's standing relative to bands of achievement, rather than to indicate simply the achievements of students relative to each other, as the raw marks do.
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The Board has provided an explanation of the rationale behind the new method of reporting HSC performance on its website:
Refer to "What do these marks actually mean?" for more information regarding the differences between aligned and raw marks.
There have been a handful of occasions where students have successfully been able to obtain access to their raw marks through applications made under the Freedom of Information Act 1989 (NSW). We have published examples of such data in the Technical Arcana forum. Further details can be obtained from the Administration Branch of the Office of the Board of Studies.
The standards-setting procedure
The Board has provided an explanation of the standards-setting procedure on its website:
In short, experienced teachers (working as judges) make decisions about which raw marks equate with the cut-off points between bands on the performance scale. Once a correspondence is established between particular raw marks and the cut-off points between bands at 50, 60, 70, 80 and 90 on the performance scale, it is possible to align all marks to the scale. The judges are able to make these decisions through use of the Board's Standards Packages from previous years, which indicate the typical performances of students in each band, and their own teaching experience.
Example: For Mathematics (2U) in 2001, it was decided that a raw mark of 96/120 (80%) in the HSC examination corresponded to a borderline performance between bands 5 and 6. This mark therefore became the raw band cut-off for band 6 and was equated with an aligned mark of 90/100 (90%). Similar decisions were made for the remaining band cut-offs. Marks that fall between cut-offs are aligned to the performance bands through a simple linear transformation. This is easy to perform once the endpoints of the band are known.
A raw mark of 100% is always mapped to an aligned mark of 100%, and a raw mark of 0 is always mapped to aligned mark of 0. Using the above example, the following intermediate Band 6 marks can be calculated for Mathematics in 2001:
Raw Exam Mark
|Aligned Exam Mark|
Even though we only know the endpoints for the band, we are able to interpolate the intermediate marks. In mathematical terms, the band 6 conversion could be performed by examining a straight line through the points (96, 90) and (120, 100). The x-axis (and x-coordinates) correspond to the raw marks, and the y-axis corresponds to the aligned marks.
Once the judges have determined the endpoints for each band, this simple linear transformation is used to calculate the corresponding aligned mark for each raw mark between those points. As each band has different endpoints, each band will also have its own linear transformation.
The only known raw band cut-offs have been published here.
What can I actually do with my aligned marks?
Each performance band for a course includes a description that summarises the knowledge, skills and understanding typically demonstrated by students whose achievement meets that standard.
Aligned marks, when coupled with the appropriate performance band descriptors, indicate what a student typically knows and can do.
These band descriptors are available to view from the Board of studies.
Will the different band percentages affect my UAI?
No. UAIs are calculated from scaled HSC marks, which are in turn calculated from raw HSC marks. At no stage do aligned marks feature in UAI calculations. This means that the aligned marks achieved by students are completely irrelevant for the purposes of the UAI.
Relationship to UAI
Aligned marks have nothing to do with the Universities Admissions Index, nor anything to do with the scaling procedures that are associated with that index.
Refer to these documents on the Board's website: