If you are a student of a ‘good’ school (e.g. one that ranks in the top 50 in the state), you are not necessarily automatically advantaged in terms of how well you will do in your HSC. When your external exams and internal ranks are assessed to calculate your aligned marks and UAI, you will simply be a student number to the BOS. They don’t take your school into account, so the fact that you go to a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ school will not have any direct bearing on how your papers are marked.
However, there are some indirect advantages from going to a ‘good’ school that may help you throughout the HSC. Some of these are:
• Peers with higher ability pushes you harder
• Teachers with a higher standard of teaching
• Your school might offer higher scaling subjects
• You will have teachers capable of teaching higher scaling subjects
These factors are important, but not essential. Even if you go to a school that is ranked below the top 300 (below average), in theory there is still nothing stopping you from achieving a great HSC result. If you are a good student and you are capable of achieving high ranks within your school, even if the school is considered ‘bad’, your ranks (especially if you rank 1st) will immunise you from the performance of your peers in the external exam. For example, if you rank 1st in Chemistry and externally your mark was the highest amongst your Chemistry peers, you would receive the same raw mark for your internal exam as your external raw mark.
Benefit of being competitive
The main advantage students from ‘good’ schools have over students from other schools is the first point mentioned above. Students who spend time in a competitive environment where their peers are all mostly of a high standard pushes all students to work harder in order to meet their standard. There is a strong psychological force behind the notion of being ‘above average’ within any environment. That is, regardless of which school you go to, there is a strong drive within all of us to use our peers’ averages as a benchmark. For example, if you go to a ‘bad’ school, you will find that being above average is rather easy, and if you are well-ahead of your peers, you will get complacent and less concerned about self improvement. However if you go to a ‘good’ school where most students are highly competitive, you may find that keeping up with the average is significantly more challenging, but in doing so, your standard relative to everyone else in NSW is improving significantly.
In order to combat this, students who go to ‘bad’ schools but want to do well for their HSC often attend tutoring in order to meet other students from ‘good’ schools and match their standard. This is a good strategy, as tutoring allows you to witness the various standards of other HSC students around NSW. Also, students who attend tutoring are generally of a higher than usual standard, as these are students who want to achieve their best for their HSC.
The motivational effect of being surrounded by competitive peers is a hugely strong force. Becoming complacent during the HSC is dangerous as it gives us a false sense of security. Instead of being secure, students who become complacent are instead being left behind, since the standard of their competitors are continually on the rise.
The correct mindset
Regardless of whatever school you go to, trust that there are better schools out there. Students should realise that they are competing against the entire NSW cohort of students, all of whom are eager for limited university places in the popular courses at reputable universities. Therefore whether you attend tutoring or not, it is highly important that you keep reminding yourself that there are many smart students out there that you are up against. In order to keep up, you’ll need to stay competitive and continue trying your very best, even if you are already ranked 1st for everything at your school. The trick is to never be complacent, never think your existing standard is enough, and always know that there is room for improvement.