What is VCE and why is it important?
The Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) is the certificate you receive once you complete your high school education if you are studying in Victoria, Australia.
You can choose from over 90 different subjects and tailor your education to your interests.
After two years of VCE studies (year 11 and 12), you will receive your Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR), which will be your main point of entry into all Australian and most international universities.
How does VCE work?
Basically, most courses (or subjects) consist of 4 ‘units’ that are usually completed over two years.
1 unit = 1 semester
You will most likely take units 1 and 2 in year 11 and units 3 and 4 in year 12. However, your school may let you take units 1 and 2 in year 10 and continue on to take units 3 and 4 in year 11, one year early.
In order to qualify for the VCE, you need to complete a minimum of 16 units, but most students do 20-24 units.
This is because you’re encouraged to take an extra subject or two so not everything weighs on those 16 units. While you’ll have a heavier workload, you’ll be under significantly less pressure as only your best subjects will be counted in the final result.
So no worries if you fail an assessment during the year, or stuff up the final exam! Your extra subjects have got you covered.
At the end of your studies, you will get an ATAR based on how well you did in your units and your score will determine where you can go to university.
The better your ATAR, the higher your chances of getting into a top uni.
How to choose your VCE subjects
With more than 90 VCE subjects, it can be hard to figure out which ones to take.
From food studies to foreign language to product design to economics. Your options are (almost) limitless!
Luckily, there is a relatively simple solution to finding the right subjects: just think backwards!
First, think about your dream job. Then, think about what subjects will help you get there.
Sounds easy enough, right?
However, the VCE curriculum scales subjects for fairness. Therefore, it can be rather simple to fall into the ‘scaling trap’ and only choose courses that have a large scaling bonus, such as Specialist Maths, that you might not actually enjoy (or may be too difficult for you to do!).
In reality, a low score (that has been scaled up) from a harder subject will still be lower than a higher score on a subject that you love, even if that score has been scaled down slightly.
If you enjoy your subjects, you’re much more likely to perform better in them! Before you get too excited, there are a two guidelines you must follow in order to receive your ATAR:
- Complete a minimum of three units in English in order to graduate, and at least one of those units must be a unit 3 or 4.
- Complete at least three other unit 3 or 4 sequences.
Other than that, your subjects are completely up to you. Choose wisely, young one, your future depends on it… literally.
VCE Exams Preparation
At the end of your courses you will be tested on what you learned.
Thankfully, it’s never too early to start studying! Don’t want to stress at the end of the year? Start preparing for your exams during the summer holidays!
I know, that sounds crazy. But when everyone else is falling behind and stressing around you mid-year, you’ll know it paid off!
Click here for some awesome tips on how to get started early and ace your VCE!
VCE Past Papers
If you had to guess what the best way to prepare for your exams is, what would you say?
If you guessed completing past papers, you’re right! After all, practice makes perfect.
Try to mimic exam conditions as closely as possible whenever you are working through a past paper. For example, do the past paper under the same time constraints as your actual exam and make sure you are in a quiet room.
Most past papers can be found on the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) website for free, so take advantage of them.
How is VCE assessed?
There are two main ways the VCE is assessed based on the year you are in.
In Year 11, you are assessed by your school (internally) through school assessed coursework (SACs) and school assessed tasks (SATs).
In Year 12, however, you are not only assessed internally through your SATs and SACs, but also by the VCAA (externally) through exams.
The contribution of SATs and SACs to your final ATAR vary between subjects and can be worth anywhere up to 50%, but generally speaking, exam results will make up a majority of your ATAR.
Through your SACs and SATs, your school is also statistically moderated to ensure fairness across the state which can end up influencing your final ATAR.
For more information on the details of each of these different assessments, visit our VCE Assessments page.
What is ATAR?
The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, more commonly referred to as ATAR, is a number between 0 and 99.95 that is calculated by the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre (VTAC). You receive your ATAR score once you complete your VCE.
This number is used by all Australian universities and most international universities to determine your admission.
Basically, it is a ranking system to compare the overall achievement of students who have completed different combinations of subjects in order to get their VCE.
It’s a way of making things fair for everyone. How else would you compare a student who took mostly arts courses to a student who took mostly maths?
The way it’s calculated is super confusing, though, so let’s circle back to that later.
What is the General Achievement Test?
But wait, there’s more!
The General Achievement Test (GAT) is a vital part of VCE assessments but it does not count towards your VCE results.
Think of it as a test to test your school assessments and exams. Many people say that your success on the GAT is a good indicator of your success on your other exams and evaluations.
It’s strange but necessary.
When you are in year 12 you will have to sit the GAT.
The test consists of general knowledge such as:
- Written communication
- Maths, science and technology
- Humanities, the arts and social sciences
Don’t worry too much about this exam – it only seeks to test your general knowledge of a variety of topics you will have learned throughout school.
In terms of studying, look at previous GAT papers to see how the test is formatted but keep in mind that you’ll already know enough about the topics in the exam.
As you are going through past papers, take note of any content you may have forgotten and be sure to study those again.