“Your rank in each subject is all-important. Your school assessment marks are only important insofar as they determine your rank in the course; they have no absolute value.”
Each VCE subject has a number of assessments called SACs (School Assessed Coursework) that are designed and marked by the teachers at your school. Your SAC marks, however, are not used to calculate your study scores or ATAR. In fact, your SAC marks are merely used to rank you in each subject at school.
Your rank is an indicator of your performance in comparison to the other students studying a subject at your school. If you obtained the highest total SAC marks, you’ll be given a rank of 1 in that subject. If you obtained the seventh highest results in your SACs, your rank in that subject will be 7.
So it doesn’t really matter what marks you obtain in your SACs – what’s important is how much better your performance is in comparison to your subject peers.
Why are Students Ranked?
Is 75% classified as a good score?
If the rest of your classmates scored higher than you then 75% is not a high mark at all. However, if 75% was the highest mark then it’s a really good score. So scores can be misleading, which is why students are ranked in each school. This way, it doesn’t matter if a teacher is a harsh or lenient marker or whether your SACs are harder or easier than that given to students at other schools.
Each school’s assessment marks are compared with a common scale, which is the external VCE exam(s) that every student sits at the end of the year. VCAA uses the external exam results to adjust the school assessment marks accordingly. The student who received the highest rank in the school assessments will be given a moderated assessment mark that is equal to the highest exam mark obtained in that subject at your school. The student with the third rank in the school assessments will receive a moderated assessment mark that is equal to the third highest exam mark obtained in that subject at your school. i.e. Each student receives the exam score with the same rank as that obtained in the SACs as their moderated assessment mark. It is this mark, together with your standardised exam mark that is used to calculate a study score.
“Your SAC marks depends on how your whole school performs in the external exams. The better everyone performs in the VCE exams, the higher your study scores.”
What Should We Learn from this?
Do well relative to your classmates in your SACs, but work together as a class to all do well in the final exams.
Strategies to Maximise Your Subject Ranks
Start preparing for each SAC as soon as you possibly can. If your SAC is a prac or report, search for examples on Google and ATAR Central, the online VCE resource portal built by TSFX.
If your SAC is a test then work through as many past VCE exam questions as possible, as it’s more than likely that your teachers are replicating similar material for your SACs. Furthermore, most SACs are designed to test a student’s ability to apply their learnings to questions not seen before (like exam questions), rather than simply stating facts. Checkpoints by Cambridge is a great resource for SAC and exam preparation as questions are grouped by topic, and come with detailed solutions.
Ask recent VCE graduates for copies of their SACs so you can get a good idea as to what to expect.
Ask your teacher for previous SACs on the topic. If they’re not reusing SACs then there’s no reason why they wouldn’t make past assessments available as samples.
Read the study design carefully and determine exactly what can be asked and how it can be asked with respect to each specific topic. There is no point in revising extra material that isn’t on the study design and won’t be examined.
Focus your efforts on maximising your rank in your weaker subjects rather than trying to excel even further in subjects where you’re already ranked among the best at your school. The effects on your ATAR will be greater than if you were to focus on your strongest subjects.
Do everything you can to make sure that your marks are in the top 25% of each subject at your school. Seek different perspectives (revision lectures are great for this), research widely, and read through copies of past student A/A+ assessments. This will help you appreciate what’s required to secure the higher marks.
Aim to continually improve your ranks. Immediately after each assessment, complete a PMI form (Plus, Minus, Ideas), and review your comments before starting on the next assessment task. PMI forms can be found here.
Take advantage of quiet periods such as school holidays. As the majority of students spend little or no time studying during holidays, a great opportunity exists for you to get ahead, and to make a significant difference to your stress levels and study loads later in the year. Use these periods to:
Revise concepts from previous terms.
Compile thorough summary notes for the next SAC or exam.
Read (or re-read) your assigned English texts.
Work through the next term’s materials before it is covered at school.This will allow you to develop a strong grasp of examinable concepts when the same topics are covered at school. You’ll then find it easier to complete homework, increasing confidence levels, decreasing the time spent studying, while greatly improving your marks. Furthermore, hearing information a second time will engrain examinable materials in your long-term memory, decreasing the time and effort that’s needed to prepare for SACs and exams! We therefore recommend you consider attending a quality head start program, such as our Summer School and Winter School.
The demands on VCE students rise and fall like a rollercoaster, and are quite inconsistent in terms of intensity across the year. When you add the fact that many students display poor study habits and leave most tasks to the last minute – you get the following stress/workload profile across Year 11 and 12:
Students who apply themselves in this way spend more time on their studies, and obtain lowermarks than otherwise possible. If you’re serious about maximising your VCE marks, you need to set up strategies that will smooth out the intense peaks, and create an even, consistent, but lower level of stress and study across the year. This can be accomplished by investing between 16 and 24 hours into personal study each week. You’ll circumvent the exhaustion and apathy that’s common during Terms 3 and 4 and perform to a higher standard than your peers.
If you’re not using qualified, experienced teachers as tutors, rather than using just any university student, consider employing high achieving ex-students from your school – especially those who had the same teachers that you currently do. These students will be able to give you great insights into the types of SACs you’re likely to receive.
Don’t waste time writing notes. Not only is the notes writing process time-consuming, it’s also the most ineffective way to memorise information. Learn directly from your text books and invest the time saved for those activities that have the biggest impact on SAC marks: working through SAC-style questions. Note: Every student who attends our lectures and tuition classes receives a detailed set of notes that cover all relevant theory in easy to follow, student friendly language. Our notes also include worked examples with step-by-step instructions, as well as a huge selection of exam-style questions – everything you need to prepare for your SACs and exams!
Study smarter, not harder. There are many skills and techniques that have been shown to save time and improve marks, but are not known, or used, by the majority of students. So to help you through this challenging year (or two), we’ll be sending you resources and advice that will help to decrease stress levels, save you time, and of course, maximise your VCE marks.
If your school’s performing poorly academically, you can minimise the effect of your school’s performance by ranking first in your SACs and in the external VCE exams. You should also help out as many students at your school as possible so that the sum of your exam marks in a subject is greater than the sum of your assessment marks. In this case, assessment marks are likely to be adjusted to higher values as there is a greater distribution of examination marks available towards each individual student.