What is a rank and is it important?

Danielle Barakat

Community Manager at Atomi


min read

To quickly answer the second half of that question, yes your rank is important.

Securing your rank is one of the most competitive parts of year 12, but not a lot of people really understand why it’s so important. There’s no point competing for something when you’re not even sure of the beneficial outcomes...

So, let’s jump right in!

What is an internal rank?

🎶 Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. 🎶 (If you don’t know where that is from BTW you need to stop what you’re doing and go watch The Sound of Music.)

Anyways, your internal rank is your position in your year for a particular subject, based on all of your internal assessments. This means that to come first in a subject, the average mark of all your assessments just needs to be higher than everyone else in your year at your school doing that subject. This is where the weighting of assessments comes in handy. If one assessment is worth 50%, that’s taken into consideration when calculating the average of your marks. It’s not just a simple add all your marks up and divide by the number of marks type of situation.

Say I got a mark of 97 (killing it) but my rank is 6th. How is this possible? Does that mean that someone got 103 for the exam?


Your rank takes into consideration multiple people getting the same mark. What happens in this situation is the next rank number is skipped. So, if I get 100 and someone else gets 100, we both rank first, but the next person who got 99 doesn’t rank second, they actually rank third because they are the third best (despite the fact that the best 2 got the same mark). So in year 12, if you have 150 people in your year doing English, the person who is coming last will have a rank of 150 despite how many equal firsts there are.

What do ranks impact?

Your internal rank actually influences your final mark. NESA has a fancy way of figuring out how this is done, which is quite technical so we don’t need to get bogged down in the specifics (because to be fair no one fully understands it).

But to quickly summarise, we need to have a look at how your marks actually work. Your final mark is made up of your internal mark and your external mark. Your external mark is whatever you get in that final, ugly, scary exam. Your internal mark is based on how your school went in the final exams compared to other schools in the state, and where you are ranked in your school.

Confused? Thought so.

Let’s break it down with an example:

Imagine your internal rank in a subject is second. You sit your final exams and get a mark of 57. If 57 was actually the second highest mark in the final exam of everyone in your school, then that would become both your internal and external mark. BUT, if someone else got the second highest mark in the final exam, and they got 96, because you are ranked second you’ll end up with an internal mark of 96! Yep, that’s even though your actual external exam mark was only 57. And as we said before, your final mark is the average of your internal and external marks, so that second place ranking is going to give your marks a huge boost. But this could always work the other way, and your school’s performance could drag your marks down! For those who want a bit more detail on this, check it out here.

Essentially, your ranks determine what your internal mark will be, after they take into consideration your school’s result in the external exam.

How can I make sure I have a good rank?

To get a good rank, it’s really important that you start thinking about it now. Don’t wait till your July/August exams because by then it’ll be harder to secure yourself a good place, especially if you’re not doing that well at the moment. This is where things can start to get a little competitive amongst your year group because everyone is fighting for the same ranks. Unfortunately, you can’t control everyone else’s marks and ranks so it’s time to be a bit selfish and focus on yourself.

What you have to be focusing on now is perfecting your strategy, your notes, and your responses. This is what will give you an advantage over your year group. Be the one who sends in extra essays to your teacher for marking, be that freaky kid who is doing all of the maths past papers from 1985-now, make sure you’re writing sample short answer responses and getting them marked, go through your notes and update, edit and perfect them, watch all the Atomi videos to help your understanding of topics and concepts, be the student who books a meeting with your teacher after class hours so they can sit down and explain it to you one-on-one.

You want to be doing everything you can right now to get yourself ready to smash all your assessments and exams.

Why do ranks matter?

There are 3 main reasons why ranks matter and we’ve actually covered one of them already, but just to make sure we are all on the same page, here they are:

  1. Your internal marks depend on them
  2. Motivation
  3. Fairness

We have gone through the first point up above so let’s not go down that confusing path again. Let’s just get straight to number two.


As we mentioned before, now is the time to work towards getting your rank at a position you’re happy with, whether that be first, top 5 or top 20. Everyone has their own personal goal and it is really important to use these upcoming holidays to work towards that goal. The good thing about ranks is that they give you something to strive towards and a little more motivation. Having a solid rank will also increase your confidence and give you the momentum to want to keep it up so you don’t drop any places.


Do you ever question if your teacher is a really harsh marker and whether it’s fair that they keep giving you 75s on your essays when you think they deserve a higher mark? NESA doesn’t control the internal marking of your assessments, so there has to be a way to make it fair across the state—this is where ranks come in.

The final HSC exams are their way of putting everyone on equal footing because everyone sits the same exam at the same time and they’re all marked using the same criteria. If it weren’t for the ranking system there’d be nothing stopping schools from giving everyone 100% in their exams to lift the school’s ranking. This makes the ATAR a fair and relatively equal system.


Hopefully, the idea of ranks gives you the motivation you need to pick up the slack, especially with holidays approaching. Use them to push you to get on top of your workload, spend some time making sure all of your answers are the best they can be, and go over any topics you find tricky. These steps will dramatically increase your chances of increasing your rank and will put you in a really good position for the rest of the year. So hustle!


Published on

March 28, 2019

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