Stress less.

The Victorian Certificate of Education is awarded to every single Year 12 (final year) student in Victoria, Australia who have actually bothered to take the exams. As it is pointed out above, it is very pointless for students who don't intend to attend university. For those who don't, there are other opportunities, such as:

Having opted for VCE subjects myself (known colloquially around here as 'the hard way'), I know little about SNBAs, VET and VCAL. However, I do know about VCE, and after 18 months of reading and studying, I think I have this thing figured out.

Relax. It's not as bad as it seems. (This quote is directed not only at the audience who will definitely be reading this tripe that I am about to spout, but also to fellow VCE students.)

VCE starts in Year 10.

At most schools (I believe) Year 10 students are given the option of starting their VCE early, and getting subjects over and done with so they don't have to worry much. Mind you, they are only allowed to do a Year 11 subject.

In Year 11, students really start getting into it. They can choose 6 Unit 1 and 2 subjects, or an amount of Unit 3 and 4 subjects mixed in. Units 1 and 2 are set at a Year 11 level and units 3 and 4 are set at Year 12 level. Easy so far.

In units 1 and 2, students complete three SATs (School-Assessed Tasks), also referred to as SACs (School Assessed Coursework) or CATs (Curriculum-Assessed Tasks), neither of which I like using. These SATs cover a variety of areas and may be presented in many different forms, such as written, practical or in robotic form. Students must satisfactorily submit their original work on time and following all rules of the VCAA (Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority) and the school. Students gain either an S or a U for the SAT, and students must gain Ss in every SAT to pass the unit.

Students must take 22 units over the course of two years (or 24 over 3), and must pass 16 of these units satisfactorily, and have taken four of any English units. This includes Literature and English as a Second Language.

At the end of each semester, each VCE student takes part in exams. Most of these exams are internal, but the GAT (General Assessment Task) and most Unit 3 and 4 exams are conducted by the VCAA. The GAT is taken by every student who is taking a Unit 3 and 4 subject and does not count towards the VCE; it is a predictive measure of how the student will perform later on. The GAT is taken between semesters.

If a student successfully passes 16 units, he or she will be given their VCE. They will also be given an ENTER (Equivalent National Tertiary Entrance Rank), which is a mark given to students comparing them to all other students who sat their VCAA exams. The highest score is 99.95, and it shows the percentage of students that you have performed better than or equal to in the exams.

The exams are held like any other - they are three hours long, and are marked differently for each exam. The exam scores are added to the SAT scores, which combine to make your raw score. Raw scores are ranked onto a normal distribution with a mean (and median, and mode for that matter) of 30, and a standard deviation of 7. This means that 65% (or thereabouts) of all students taking the subject score between 23 and 37, a further 30% score between either 16 and 23, or 37 and 44. (The rest of the student population get the rest.) Scores of 40+ are generally only achieved by 10% of the student population, but scores of 30+ are achieved by 50% of the population. This score is called your Study Score.
I have been informed by Deejah that some Study Scores have a maximum of 55, including Specialist Mathematics. Of course a Maths subject is going to break the rules. ...I have also been informed by the VCAA's website that the normal distribution figures I have above are only a generalisation, and are more accurate with studies that have more than 1000 students. ...There is also some scaling system involved with calculating Study Scores, but it is completely beyond me.

Now the following figures are tallied:

  • Your Study Score for your English subject (includes Literature);
  • Your Study Scores for your best three other subjects;
  • 10% of each of your other 2 subjects, or if you have done 7, 10% of each of the best two of the remaining 3.

Everyone is ranked using these final scores, and ENTERs are calculated from these final scores and sent to students, along with exam results.

Example: Say I received a Study Score of 42 for English, and other scores of 41, 48, 43, 36 and 37. Those are damn good scores. In any case, the Top Four (as it is called) is 48+43+42(Eng)+41=174. Add 10% of the other two to get 174+3.6+3.7=181.3. A score like this usually correspoinds to an ENTER somewhere in the mid-80s.

After this hectic period, students apply for university through VTAC (Victorian Tertiary Admission Centre), and hope they get a place. Then they hopefully go through uni, graduate, get a job, get a wife and kids, and live happily ever after. The end.

For those interested, I have successfully completed Information Technology Units 1, 2, 3 and 4, plus Unit 1 and 2 in each of Chemistry, Physics, Mathematical Methods, English and English Literature. My IT Study Score was 36, meaning I am in the top 20% of those students. Yay! I'm taking English Literature 3&4, Maths Methods 3&4, Specialist Maths 3&4, Chemistry 3&4 and Physics 3&4 next year.

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