SACs Explained - How important are SACs in VCE?

November 20, 2020grusha

As a tutor, there is one question I get asked more than any other.

  • From parents.
  • From students.
  • Even from other tutors!

What they all want to know is… How important are SACs?

In fairness, the link between school assessed coursework (SACs) and your final study score for a VCE subject is not well covered in VCE guides. Many students and teachers also belittle the importance of SACS, encouraging students not to stress out as each individual SAC is ‘only worth 5%’.

Sound familiar?

However, this ambiguity often leads students to fall into the trap of thinking SACs have little impact on their study score, and that it is ‘all about the exam’. This is dangerous for two reasons. One, it puts enormous pressure on one test on one day and only exacerbates fear and stress. And two, SACs do matter.

So how do SACs work?

The most confusing part about SACs is that your SAC score DOES NOT go towards your study score, at least not directly. In fact, your SAC score is merely used to rank you in your class.

Let’s illustrate this with an example. Imagine you have a class of four students, John, Ben, Louise and Penny. For their SACS, they get the following marks (on average over the year).

John 71 3rd

Ben 88 2nd

Louise 96 1st

Penny 69 4th

Clearly, Louise has the highest mark, followed by Ben, then John and finally Penny. Thus they are assigned these ranks, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th. Now, we consider the scores these same four students achieve in their final exam.

John 75 4th

Ben 85 2nd

Louise 76 3rd

Penny 90 1st

Now the order is different. This may not seem intuitive, but the different order is actually very typical for VCE students. Imagine the following scenarios. John and Ben perform roughly the same as they have during the year. Louise exemplifies those students who, having performed outstandingly during the year, overestimates her abilities and focuses on revising for other subjects instead. She ultimately performs significantly worse on the exam than during the year. Penny, however, symbolises the opposite scenario. Maybe she got some last minute Learnmate Tutoring to prepare her for the exam!

What happens next is that the exam scores are also ranked 1st to 4th. Now comes the interesting part. Each student receives the exam score with the same rank as their SAC score for their final SAC score. For example, John’s SAC score was 71 and was ranked 3rd highest. Thus his new SAC score is the 3rd highest exam score, 76. Similarly, the SAC score that counts towards Louise’s ATAR is not 96, but instead only 90. As we can see, this process seems to be wonderful for some students and incredibly unfair for others. In reality, the system is moderated so that these massive differences in scores do not exist. However, the VCE system does penalise students with major discrepancies in their SAC and exam scores, designed to prevent cheating.

So what is the take-home message?

SACs DEFINITELY matters. They provide a ranking system for your class; so if you were hoping to relax all year and cram for the exam, think again! Your performance during the year has a direct result on your final scores. Another thing we can gather from this is that although it is certainly important to stand out, you can improve your own performance by being in a clever class. Helping each other with challenging problems and supporting fellow students during VCE may actually help to boost your own grades!

So the next time a teacher or friend tells you not to worry as a SAC is ‘only worth 5%’, refer them to this blog post, or the YouTube video at


About Learnmate

Learnmate is a trusted Australian community platform that connects students who want 1:1 or small group study support, with tutors who are looking to share their knowledge and earn an income. From primary school to high school subjects — from science and maths to niche subjects like visual communication — Learnmate can help you improve academic performance or boost confidence, at your pace with the tutor that you choose.

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