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Don't understand what the difference is between an ATAR and a study score? Has your school talked to your teenager about VCE alternatives and you'd like to be better informed? Keep reading....


WHAT IS AN ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank)?


The most important thing to realise is that an ATAR is not a score – it is a rank. It’s designed to help tertiary institutions accurately compare Year 12 students across Australia (except Queensland) so the admissions process can be fairer. The way the ATAR works is by spreading all the eligible students out evenly across a 100 point scale. So if you had an ATAR of 70, you would be approximately in the top 30% of students for that year.


Students will receive an ATAR if they have successfully completed VCE (Victorian Certificate of Education) and met the minimum requirements for tertiary entry.



The ATAR is calculated from an English subject and the 3 next best eligible subjects. A 5th and 6th subject can be included but will only contribute 10% extra each.



At Unit 3 and 4 level (Year 12), there are three Graded Assessments for each study, consisting of School-assessed Coursework (SACs), School-assessed Tasks (SATs) and examinations. The combination of these 3 assessments (2 for eligible VET subjects) make up the subject study score. The Graded Assessments are different for each subject and contribute towards the study score in different ways. If the student completes at least two Graded Assessments, and has satisfactorily completed both unit 3 and 4, they will be awarded a study score.

The maximum study score is 50. Each year, and for every subject, the mean study score is set at 30. A score of between 23 and 37 shows the student is in the middle range of students; a score of 38 or more indicates the student is in the top 15%.

For studies with large enrolments (1,000 or more):

§  2% of students will get a score on or above 45

§  9% of students will get a score on or above 40

§  26% of students will get a score on or above 35

§  53% of students will get a score on or above 30

§  78% of students will get a score on or above 25

§  93% of students will get a score on or above 20.





It’s a rank as well, not a score! Scaling adjusts the study scores in each subject to take account of the strength of competition among students taking the subject. Unscaled study scores don't take into account how difficult it was to achieve a middle ranking of 30. In order to be fair to all students across all subjects, academic subjects with stronger competition (ie harder just to get a score of 30) are scaled up and subjects with weaker academic competition are scaled down. 

Once the study scores have been scaled, they are called VTAC Scaled Study Scores. It is the VTAC Scaled Study Scores that are used to calculate the ATAR.


However, just because a subject is often scaled down doesn’t mean a student shouldn’t take it. If it is where their interest lies, chances are they will do better in that subject, even when scaling is taken into account, than if they chose a subject that is scaled up that they have no interest in.


Mathematics and languages – a special case


To ensure that students undertaking the more difficult mathematics studies are not disadvantaged, all three mathematics studies are scaled against each other as well as being scaled against all other studies. The higher of the two resulting scales is used for each of the mathematics studies.



Government policy encourages the study of languages and languages receive a further adjustment upward during the scaling process.


The information regarding ATAR and Study Scores has been summarised from the VCAA and VTAC websites.


 See clearly what effect scaling will have with our ATAR calculator.


Click on the button below to see how hard your teenager will need to work to ensure they get the score they need for the course they want.



Don't know what the most recent ATAR cut offs are? Here is a link to the VTAC ATAR cut offs.


WHAT IS VCE VET (Vocational Education and Training)?


VET subjects are generally more “hands on” and practical in orientation. A VET subject can give the student a feel for how an industry operates and prepare the student for the workplace. A student can be “work ready” or go onto further study. Many students find combining VET with more theoretical subjects gives them a well-rounded overview of their area of interest.


Many VET subjects can contribute towards a study score (and ATAR), meaning choosing a VET subject does not reduce the student’s chance of studying at university, if that’s where their interests lie. All VET subjects can contribute to VCAL.



WHAT IS VCAL (Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning)?


If finishing Year 12 is important, but going to university isn’t, VCAL may be what you are looking for. Students studying for their VCAL are more likely to be considering further study at TAFE, an apprenticeship or getting a job after completing Year 12. Like VET subjects, the studies are more practical in nature. VCAL is flexible, including time off for part time work, with the aim of giving the student the best opportunity to develop their employability skills.


There are 4 compulsory strands in VCAL…

Literacy and numeracy skills, work related skills, industry specific skills and personal development skills.


There are also 3 levels of complexity…

Foundation, Intermediate and Senior.


The student, in combination with their school, will determine which level of study best suits their needs. The VCAL certificate will include the level of complexity chosen.



The VCAA (Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority) has a brochure titled "Where to Now 2019" which provides a more detailed overview of all the options.




Do you have a current VCE student?


Introduce them to On Track VCE's Study Score Estimator and Study Score Oracle



Study Score Oracle

The Study Score Oracle sorts past exam questions by difficulty level and topic, offering a targeted learning experience. If the student adds the mark they got for each question attempted, the Oracle will use the information to make an estimate of the student's study score. The more questions the student answers the greater the accuracy of the estimate.


The Study Score Oracle can be used throughout the year.


closer to exam time....

As soon as your teenager has attempted a Year 12 practice exam you can Estimate Their Study Score.


Every teenager has a rough idea of where they fit in compared to their peers at school. On Track VCE can provide a report that shows where they fit compared to students across Victoria who sat the exam, without your teenager needing to do any extra work! 



No extra work? Shouldn't be too hard to convince them to try it.

What’s involved?


Your teenager has probably sat practice exams at school that the teacher has marked. Get them to bring home any recent VCAA practice exam Mathematics (Further, Methods or Specialist), Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Psychology, Health and Human Development, Legal Studies, Business Management, Physical Education or Accounting.


Sign up and enter their marks for each question into our form. Click Estimate My Study Score and you will receive a report that compares your teenager to the other students who actually sat the exam, both overall and for individual questions.




Green shows the proportion of students your teenager did better than for that question, grey they performed the same as and red shows the proportion of students who were awarded more marks than your teenager.



Effective study tips

Would you like to be able to give your teenager the tools they need to help them study more efficiently and effectively? On Track VCE offers resources to help establish effective study habits and guidance to help keep your teenager on track.



Stay up to date with the latest research and top techniques for effective study and memory retention with our Study Tips Blog. Sign up to receive tips directly to your inbox. Sign me up!