About VCE

Rather than re-invent the wheel, the following explanation about VCE is directly from the VCAA site, with notes supplied in red from your friendly careers advisor… The VCAA is the Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority and is responsible for the Certificate.

Prior to Reading the following article, it is very important to understand the terminology supplied here:

About the VCE

What is the VCE?

The Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) is the certificate that the majority of students in Victoria receive on satisfactory completion of their secondary education. It is an outstanding qualification that is recognised around the world. The VCE provides diverse pathways to further study or training at university or TAFE and to employment.

**Do YOU choose VCE or VCAL? If you like academic study, homework and striving to do well in tests, exams etc and you want to go to University in the future then VCE is for you.

When can I start my VCE?

The VCE is usually done in Years 11 and 12 but can be started in Year 10. About half of Victorian Year 10 students take some VCE units.

What studies can I choose?

There are over 90 VCE studies, or subjects, and over 30 VCE VET programs to choose from. The VCE VET programs can also provide a nationally recognised industry qualification. See: Complete lists of VCE studies and VCE VET programs.

What can I choose from at my school?

Each school decides what VCE studies and VCE VET programs it will offer.

Your school will advise you on subject choice and if a VCE subject that interests you is not available it may be possible to do it outside school, for example at:
• Distance Education Victoria (www.distance.vic.edu.au)
• Victorian School of Languages (www.vsl.vic.edu.au).

What should I consider when choosing my studies?

When making your choice you should consider studies that:

  • interest you
  • you are good at
  • lead to a job that interests you
  • prepare you for further training or tertiary courses
  • you should speak to your careers counsellor before making a final decision
  • Include a maths in yours studies… even if you don’t like it… this opens many more doors further down the track…

How is the VCE organised?

A VCE study is made up of units. A unit is half a year, or one semester, in length. Units 1 and 2 can be taken as single units – that is, just the Unit 1 or just the Unit 2 – but Units 3 and 4 must be taken as a sequence of two units and in the one year.

A VCE program will generally consist of 20 to 24 units taken over two years, although you can vary the number of units that you do in one year. You may take more than two years to complete your VCE.

Units 3 and 4 are normally taken in your final year at school. If you are planning to take Units 3 and 4 studies in Year 11, remember that these are more difficult than Units 1 and 2.

What must I do to get my VCE certificate?

To get your VCE, you must satisfactorily complete at least 16 units.

Regardless of how many units you do altogether, you must satisfactorily complete:

  • At least three units from the English Group listed below:
    • Foundation English Units 1 and 2
    • English Units 1–4
    • English as a Second Language (ESL) Units 3 and 4
    • English Language Units 1–4
    • Literature Units 1–4
  • No more than two units of Units 1 and 2 from the English Group may count towards the English requirement.
    • Three sequences of Units 3 and 4 studies in addition to meeting the English requirement. These sequences can be from VCE studies and/or VCE VET programs.

How do I get an ATAR?

An ATAR is calculated by VTAC using VCE study scores. VTAC uses the ATAR in the process of offering university places. To get an ATAR you must complete both Units 3 and 4 of an English study (from the group above) and three other Units 3 and 4 studies in addition to the English requirement. You must also get a study score for these. VTAC places restrictions on certain combinations of VCE and VET studies so if you intend to apply for an ATAR at the end of your VCE talk to your VCE coordinator about these rules.

What must I do to get my VCE?

To get the VCE you need to satisfy the VCE program requirements described above.

Your school will decide whether or not you have satisfactorily completed the units in your VCE program. Satisfactory completion is reported as an ‘S’. Not meeting the requirements for satisfactory completion is reported as an ‘N’.

Each unit of VCE study has a set of outcomes that must be achieved in order to get an ‘S’ result for that unit. The outcomes describe what you are expected to know and be able to do by the time you have completed the unit. Outcomes include key knowledge and skills. Each unit of a VCE study has between two and four outcomes.

Your teacher will give you a copy of the outcomes at the beginning each unit (or should).

How will I be assessed in Units 1 and 2?

Assessment in Units 1 and 2 is school-based. Your teachers will set a range of assessment tasks to see how you are progressing. These tasks will have deadlines and you need to have a very good reason for extending a deadline, so you should plan well to get all your work done on time. If you fail to meet your school’s deadlines you may not satisfactorily complete a unit.

For Units 1 and 2, as well as giving you an ‘S’ or ‘N’ for units some schools may also give you a grade for your assessment tasks. These grades will not be reported to the VCAA.

How will I be assessed in Units 3 and 4?

For Units 3 and 4, you will get grades for your assessment tasks as well as the ‘S’ or ‘N’ for the satisfactory completion of a unit.

Grades will NOT appear on school reports. Results are known as High, Medium, Low – and usually marked as such on your SACS or SATS

In each VCE study there are three graded assessments at the Units 3 and 4 level, either:

  • two school assessments and one examination
  • or
  • one school assessment and two examinations.

Every VCE study has at least one examination.

At the Units 3 and 4 level the VCAA supervises the assessment of all students – both at the school and in the examinations.

A similar process of assessment applies to scored VCE VET programs, that is, they have a school assessment and an examination. Your school will be able to tell you which VCE VET programs are scored.

Types of assessment in Units 3 and 4

In the VCE there are two kinds of assessment in Units 3 and 4.

The first assessment is done at school. Your teachers will set assessment tasks that are done mainly in class time. These are often referred to as School-assessed Coursework (SACs) or School-assessed Tasks (SATs).

The second kind is the examination/s in each VCE study. These can be written, oral, performance or electronic. Most are held in November, but a small number of studies have examinations in June or October.

For all forms of assessment, both school assessment and examinations, the VCAA has careful procedures to ensure that all schools throughout the state are marking to the same standard. They involve statistical procedures and multiple checks on each aspect of your assessment. The GAT is part of this process. See our GAT link.

Other things I might like to know

Extension studies

Extension studies are first year university subjects taken with the VCE. If you are a high achiever looking for an extra challenge, an extension study can build on your interest in a subject beyond the VCE. Extension studies are not VCE units and cannot be counted as part of satisfactory VCE completion. All extension studies programs are at least 20 per cent of a full-time first-year program at university.

Satisfactory extension study results will be reported on your Statement of Results and may contribute to your ATAR as a sixth VCE study. You will usually be able to take up your subject at second-year level at university if you are selected for the course to which the subject belongs.

To be eligible for an extension study you need to have completed the preparatory VCE subject at Units 3 and 4 with a study score of at least 41. Your school will advise you on university enrolment for an extension study.

Universities participating in Extension Studies Program in the past:

List of universities participating in extension studies is current and accurate at time of publication.  Check the VCAA web site.

How can I get into university or TAFE?

VTAC calculates your ATAR using the VCAA study scores for Units 3 and 4. Other studies used in the calculation of your ATAR can include VCE VET programs and extension studies.

The ATAR is an overall measure of a student’s achievement in relation to that of other students. It allows tertiary institutions to compare students who have completed different combinations of VCE studies and is reported to you as a rank between 0.00 and 99.95.

Further details about this process and tertiary selection are given in the following VTAC publications:

  • Enter into Tertiary Study (VTAC website only)
  • ABC of Scaling (a copy is mailed with the ENTER statement in December)
  • Choice! (Year 10 booklet available through schools
  • VTAC Guide 2010 (available at newsagents $15.00 rrp and on the VTAC website)
  • Victorian Tertiary Entrance Requirements (VICTER) 2011 for Year 11 or (VICTER) 2012 for Year 10 (available through schools)
  • VTAC website: www.vtac.edu.au

Some Rules to Abide by

  • Attendance – all units require 50 hours of class time. Basically 90% attendance, regardless of illness, medical certificates etc
  • Missing SACs will require prior notification to the co-ordinator or a medical certificate on the return to school. We would ask for parents help with this in trying to make medical appointments outside school time.
  • Work completion by appropriate deadlines is a critical issue in Senior School. And can (and has) affected the granting of an S or and N
  • Extensions – may be granted in exceptional circumstances. Students must see the VCE Co-ordinator and the subject teachers to arrange these and fill out the appropriate forms.
  • Special Consideration – As above and covers such contingencies as loss/grief in the immediate family, long term illnesses or illness at the time of the exam. The mark is then judged externally by how the student performed in other SAC’s and the end of year exam.
  • Authentication – One straightforward principle underpins authentication – work submitted MUST be your own. You can help each other…. but don’t lend your work. It may be difficult to prove whose work is whose. If the teacher cannot decipher whose work it is, both students may be penalised
  • Lost/Damaged work – Schools must keep a record of lost or damaged work. The person who has lost or damaged work will need to complete a Statutory Declaration and report it to the VCE Coordinator ASAP.
    • Computer RelianceYou must back-up your work (USB / CD’s / emailing home / different drive etc). Computer failure is not an accepted excuse for non-submission of work.


  • A good Senior year – not a good ATAR – is the doorway to virtually all careers.
  • Good marks do not necessarily equate to a high ATAR, that is just the way some subjects are.
  • Do your best in your chosen field.
  • Career paths will change greatly in your lifetime so be flexible and a good learner.
  • Employers want good references and people who can fit into their workforce.
  • What do your school report comments say about you?
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  1. Hi, my name is Ahmet and I was just wondering, if someone recieves below 50% for Unit 3 or Unit 4 are they denied an ATAR?

    • Hi, Alaina… You get a STUDY SCORE for each of your subjects at the end of the Year. STUDY SCORES are made up from your results in SACS/SATS/EXAMS. The highest score is 50. To get your ATAR….. They take your top 6 (Unit 3/4) subject STUDY SCORES and SCALE them first. Then they take your SCALED scores and add them up in this order: ENGLISH, + the next three highest scores, then 10% of the 5th & 6th (lowest scoring) subjects. The total of your SCALED scores is called the AGGREGATE score. Sounds like your Religion and Society will end up being your 5th or 6th subject – and therefore worth 10% in the AGGREGATE score. The AGGREGATE score is then converted to the ATAR. You really have to understand how the ATAR is calculated, but if all your other subjects are OK, then it should not effect your ATAR score too greatly after all the calculations are made….. Does this make sense??

  2. hi,
    i missed a sac but i have a medical certificate for missing it. but i really dont want to do it because its a prresentation. does it matter if you miss a sac??

    • Hi Alex, it is a bit hard to answer the question when I do not know the subject. If it is English then it is possible that your SAC marks will contribute 25% to your Study Score… so that is a bit tricky… and English is pretty important… usually schools reschedule your SAC so that you have a fair go… you will have to speak to your VCE coordinator at your school.. I know that presentations can be daunting for some students.. have you asked the Teacher if you can do the presentation privately…??

    • I positively recommend that you make an appointment with your VCE Coordinator… If you have extenuating circumstances which affected you at the time of your SAC then there may be avenues which your school can explore… Your study score for English is calculated from your SACS and end of year exam… And there are other calculations which could come into play based upon your exam result (if you do ultra well in your end of year exam this could (not a dead certainty) adjust your SAC result)… But, as I said, you need to speak to the relevant people at your school. Good luck.

        • To graduate with the VCE, students must satisfactorily complete a minimum of 16 units, although 20 to 24 units is generally the norm (see the link I provide below). Regardless of how many units are completed, students must complete a minimum of three units from the English group listed below in order to graduate. At least one of the English units must be a Unit 3 or 4. THIS MEANS YOU MUST PASS Unit 4 ENGLISH NEXT SEMESTER….
          …Foundation English, Units 1 and 2
          …English, Units 1 to 4
          …English as an Additional Language (EAL), Units 3 and 4
          …English Language, Units 1 to 4
          …Literature, Units 1 to 4
          Students must also satisfactorily complete at least three other Unit 3 and 4 sequences to graduate with the VCE.

          A great web site to visit is: http://www.goodschools.com.au/at-school-and-beyond/understanding-the-school-curriculum-in-victoria/vce …. It explains everything nicely…

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