The UAC announced earlier this month that the UAI system will be replaced by the ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank). The conversion of UAI to ATAR aligns NSW’s system of measuring HSC performance for the purpose of university admissions to that of other states. The ATAR will replace all UAI’s, starting with the year 12 students in 2009, and will be a rank-based score out of 99.95 (instead of 100.00).
How will the ATAR affect me? The ATAR is a similar (but not identical) rank-based scale used to differentiate student performance for the purpose of university admissions. Like the UAI, the ATAR is a rank-based index, meaning the same rules of HSC scaling would apply under the ATAR.
Students should remember that just like under the UAI system, it is your rank relative to other HSC students which determine what ATAR / UAI you will receive. That is, based on your aggregate mark (out of 500), your percentile position will be calculated, and this will be directly converted into an ATAR. As a result, the number will change when converting from UAI to ATAR, however your rank remains the same. As a result, university ATAR cut-offs for all courses will be converted to match the previous equivalent rank cut-off.
For example, say Bachelor of Commerce at UNSW has a UAI cut-off of 90.00. Say this translates to a rank cut-off at the 8,800th student from the top rank. The ATAR cut-off would be adjusted to match the rank, and not be converted according to some arbitrary process. E.g. according to UAC’s published UAI to ATAR conversion table, a UAI of 90 converts to an ATAR of 90.80.
Converting from UAI to ATAR score
Read UAC’s full conversion table here.
Because both the UAI and the ATAR are rank-based scores, they are directly comparable to previous years’ UAI scores. So if you have an older brother or sister and want to best them in the HSC, the implementation of the ATAR system won’t affect that! Notice that the highest attainable ATAR is 99.95 (instead of a UAI of 100). As a result, UAI’s near 100 (above 99.7) are converted to a slightly lower ATAR score, and all UAI’s lower than 99.2 are converted to a slightly higher ATAR. For the vast majority of students, this makes their university entrance score look slightly better! However, again we remind you that your rank is not affected by these changes, and therefore the difference in numbers between the ATAR and UAI make no difference to you.
Doing well in HSC sciences requires a slightly different approach than HSC maths or English subjects. HSC sciences, like Chemistry, Physics and Biology, place a heavy focus on the syllabus. Detailed knowledge and familiarisation of the syllabus is very important.
TIP 1: Know the syllabus Knowing the syllabus very important. Firstly, all HSC science exams can only test you on content within the syllabus. Most of the time, HSC exam questions will simply be a syllabus dot-point that has been reworded.
For example, an actual HSC Chemistry syllabus dot-point is “Describe hydrogen bonding between molecules”. A corresponding exam question can ask something simple like “Describe hydrogen bonding between water molecules”. Alternatively, exam questions can be slightly more complicated, for example: “Identify a compound that exhibits strong hydrogen bonding and descbribe how hydrogen bonding affects its melting and boiling temperatures”. However in both cases, the question can be reduced to simply describing your knowledge of how hydrogen bonding works as between molecules, and how this phenomenon affects some of the chemical’s physical propertie(s).
If you have an excellent understanding of the syllabus and have covered in detail each dot-point, you will know enough to get a Band 6. We emphasise the fact that exams can only test you on what is in the syllabus. If you ever don’t understand a concept because it has been poorly explained to you at school, or the concept is very difficult, ask your teacher whether it is in the syllabus. If it is not, understand that it will not be examined, so don’t worry too much about not fully understanding that concept. However, if a concept is within the syllabus, or required by one of the dot-points as background information, you should know it well.
TIP 2: Know what’s important for practicals / experiments HSC Sciences’ syllabi contains many dot-points requiring students to “conduct a first-hand investigation”, or “gather data from a first-hand investigation”. These dot-points are responsible for the regular experiments you conduct at school. It is very important that you do not neglect the information presented to you during one of those experiment classes at school. Many students think of experiments as fun (and they are), but they ignore the fact that each experiment deals with at least one dot-point in the syllabus, sometimes several at once.
The things you need to know in ALL experiments are:
The important thing to remember here is to pay attention in school during experiment classes, and not to ignore these dot-points during your study and revision.
TIP 3: Understand the concepts We do not recommend trying to memorise too many things. HSC sciences cannot be mastered through memorisation, and all of the top students who achieve a HSC mark of >95 genuinely understand the concepts in their subject.
Understanding the concept is very important to succeeding in HSC sciences. Before an exam, there is no way you can predict what specific questions will be asked of you. You will only know that everything tested will be in the syllabus, but the specific wording of your questions can catch you offguard.
If you rely on memorisation of the course content, you are inflexible. A question that is slightly unorthodox in approach or worded in an unfamiliar way will catch you offguard, and you will run the risk of losing easy marks. However, if you genuinely understand the concepts involved, you can always derive the answer in the spot, even if the question is worded in an unfamiliar way, or requires unorthodox thinking. This way, you are a flexible student, and no matter how the exam is set, you will get a high mark reflecting your good ability.
There are certain situations where memorisation is appropriate. Generally, these are:
But always strive to understand the underlying concept, as it will benefit you in the long run.
TIP 4: Make good use of the resources available to you What we mean by this is, for example:
Most teachers will answer any question a student asks them, as they will be happy to know that their students are so dedicated to doing well. After all, the satisfaction of seeing their students succeed is one of the main reasons why teachers choose this profession! However not every student has access to teachers that are willing and happy to answer many questions or explain concepts at length. In this case, there may be other resources available to you. For example, find good tutoring and ask the teachers there!
Another thing to keep in mind is making your own syllabus dot-point summaries. Synthesise and gather all your knowledge, summarise it and write it onto paper. It is a good idea to submit your notes for review by your class teacher (or after-school tutor) to make sure your knowledge of the course is comprehensive. Going this far may seen daunting, but remember that high marks can only come with hard work.
Conclusion Our top 3 tips for succeeding in HSC sciences are:
Following this general advice will improve most students’ approach to HSC sciences, as these are the main shortcomings of most HSC science students of today.