In order to compare the overall achievement of students who have completed various combinations of VCE studies, the ATAR is determined by VTAC solely for use by tertiary institutions. VTAC forwards the ATAR to the selection authorities at the institutions along with application information. It is a rank, the ATAR is not a score out of 100. It implies the accomplishment of a student in comparison to other students.
All studies at the VCE are grouped into units. Usually, VCE subjects consist of four units, with each unit covering one research semester. Each unit requires a fixed number of results (usually two or three); an outcome defines the skills and abilities that should be exhibited by a student by the time the unit is completed by the student. Topic selection relies on each individual school. It is appropriate to research units 3/4 of a subject in sequential order, while units 1/2 can be mixed and matched.
To be awarded the VCE, a student must successfully complete at least:
- All 4 units of an English subject
- Three additional Unit 3/4 sequences
- Pass with a satisfactory of at least 16 units out of the normal 20-24 units
This therefore means that a student must study at least four subjects to be awarded the VCE. Selection of studies depends on other factors as well, such as prerequisites for university courses.
A student earns either a ‘satisfactory’ (S) or ‘non-satisfactory’ (N) outcome upon completing a unit. A ‘Satisfactory’ result is all that is required to graduate with the VCE if a student does not wish to continue tertiary education. If a student wishes to study at a higher level, they may need an ATAR. A student must satisfactorily complete three units of any subject in the English sector in order to obtain an ATAR and twelve units in any other subject.
A student who completes 3/4 units of a VCE study satisfactorily is eligible for a study score of between 0 and 50. Study scores are determined on the basis of a normal distribution, where the mean is 30 and the standard deviation is 7, with the majority of the study scores dropping between 23 and 37. A research score of 40 or more places a student in the top 9 percent of all students in that subject for studies with several registrations (1000 or more).
Scaling is the mechanism by which VCE study scores are adjusted into ATAR subject scores. To equalise outcomes between experiments with stronger cohorts and those with weaker ones, the VTAC changes all VCE research scores. Scaling, contrary to popular belief, is not dependent on the subject’s difficulty, as each study score is simply a rating. The score change means that the score is changed downwards in those subjects where it is easier to surpass the cohort, whereas it is transferred upwards in those subjects where it is harder to place highly.
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