The Victorian Certificate of Education or VCE is the credential awarded to secondary school students who successfully complete high school level studies (year 11 and 12 or equivalent) in the Australian state of Victoria.
Study for the VCE is usually completed over two years, but can be spread over a longer period of time in some cases. It is possible to pass and obtain the VCE without completing the end of year exams. The VCE was established as a pilot project in 1987. The earlier Higher School Certificate (HSC) was abolished in 1992.
The Victorian Certificate of Education is generally taught in years 11 and 12 of secondary education in Victoria, however some students are able to commence their VCE studies in year 10 or earlier if the school or institution allows it.
All VCE studies are organised into units. VCE subjects typically consist of four units with each unit covering one semester of study. Each unit comprises a set number of outcomes (usually two or three); an outcome describes the knowledge and skills that a student should demonstrate by the time the student has completed the unit. Subject choice depends on each individual school. Units 3/4 of a subject must be studied in sequential order, whereas units 1/2 can be mixed and matched. Students are not required to complete all the units of a subject as part of the VCE course, meaning they are able to change subject choice between years 11 and 12.
On completing a unit, a student receives either a 'satisfactory' (S) or 'non-satisfactory' (N) result. If a student does not intend to proceed to tertiary education, a 'satisfactory' result is all that is required to graduate with the VCE. If a student does wish to study at a tertiary level then they will require an ATAR. In order to gain an ATAR a student must satisfactorily complete three units of any subject in the English field (at least one English field subject is compulsory) and twelve units in any other subjects.
VCE studies are assessed both internally (in school) and externally (through the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA). During units 1/2 all assessment is internal, while in units 3/4 assessment is conducted both internally and externally.
Internal assessment is conducted via "school assessed coursework" (SACs) and "school assessed tasks" (SATs).
"School assessed coursework" (SACs) are the primary avenue of internal assessment, with assessment in every VCE study consisting of at least one SAC. SACs are tasks that are written by the school and must be done primarily in class time; they can include essays, reports, tests, and case studies. Some studies in the visual arts and technology areas are also assessed via "school assessed tasks" (SATs). SATs are generally practical tasks that are examined in school. Both SACs and SATs are scaled by VCAA against external assessment; this is to eliminate any cheating or variances in task difficulty.
External assessment is conducted in the form of examinations set by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority for units 3/4 studies. As of 2013, only the General Achievement Test (GAT) will be examined in June, with all subjects now only having one external assessment with the exceptions of mathematics subjects, and LOTE studies, which consist of both a written and oral external test. All examinations excepting the GAT are held in late October and most of November.
Subjects in the LOTE field (languages other than English) are also assessed in the form of oral examinations. Subjects in the Music field are assessed by a performance for a VCAA panel of examiners as part of their external assessment. All performance based external assessment (Oral Examinations and Music Performances) are typically held in early October.
General Achievement Test (GAT)
The GAT is an essential part of VCE external assessment. It provides the basis of a quality assurance check on the marking of examinations. Any student who is enrolled in a VCE units 3/4 study is required to sit the GAT.
A student who satisfactorily completes units 3/4 of a VCE study is eligible for a study score of between 0 and 50. Study scores are calculated by VCAA, and indicate a student's performance in relation to all other students who undertook that study.
Study scores are calculated according to a normal distribution, where the mean is 30 and the standard deviation is 7, with most study scores falling in the range 23 to 37. For studies with many enrolments (1000 or more), a study score of 40 or more places a student in the top 9% of all students in that subject.
Scaling is the process that adjusts VCE study scores into ATAR subject scores. The Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre (VTAC) adjusts all VCE study scores to equalise results between studies with stronger cohorts, and those with weaker ones. Contrary to common perception, scaling is not based on the difficulty of the subject, as each study score is in fact a ranking. The score adjustment ensures that in those subjects where it is easier to overtake the cohort, the score is adjusted downwards, while in those subjects where it is difficult to rank highly, it is moved upwards.
In total there are 129 VCE studies ranging across education fields including humanities, science, mathematics, technology, the arts and language as well as incorporating vocational studies.
The following is a list of all VCE studies available:
There are also University Extension studies available for high-achieving students. These subjects are carried out through multiple universities, including Monash University, The University of Melbourne, Swinburne University and Deakin University