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About the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE)

The Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) is a senior secondary certificate that provides pathways to tertiary education, advanced certificate courses and the workforce.

It is a world-class credential that enables students to study a broad range of subjects and is recognised nationally and internationally.

Most students in Victoria receive their VCE when they complete secondary schooling. Many students outside Australia also study the VCE, with students in China, Vanuatu, Timor Leste and the Philippines choosing to complete the certificate.

Speak to your careers counsellor for advice on your options.

How is the VCE structured?

Male student with backpack 

The VCE course is made up of studies and units, some of which must be studied as a sequence.

A study is a subject, for example, English or Biology. It is made up of four units (Units 1, 2, 3 and 4), each of which is a semester in length.

For most students, the VCE is completed over two years.

Students typically study Units 1 and 2 in their first year, and Units 3 and 4 in their second year of the VCE.

You can study Unit 1 or Unit 2 of a subject as stand-alone units. However, you must enrol in Units 3 and 4 of a study as a sequence. This sequence needs to be completed in the same year if a study score is to be calculated.

Students usually study from 20 to 24 units (five or six studies) in Years 11 and 12.

You can take longer than two years to finish the VCE if you need to. Some students start the VCE in Year 10, and some study Units 3 and 4 in Year 11.

You should talk to your teachers or careers counsellor about how to structure your VCE program to best meet your needs.

What studies can I choose?

You have a variety of study options in the VCE through which you can pursue your interests and build your skills.

There are more than 90 VCE studies and over 20 VCE Vocational Education and Training (VET) programs for you to choose from across the humanities, sciences, mathematics, technology, the arts and languages, as well as vocational studies.

Each school decides which VCE studies and VET programs it will offer. If your school doesn't offer your chosen studies, they might be available from another provider.

You may want to consider Distance Education Centre Victoria or the Victorian School of Languages, or you can speak to your VCE coordinator about other options.

Female student considering options  

How should I choose which VCE studies to do?

The best idea is to choose studies that:

  • interest you
  • you are good at
  • lead to a job that interests you
  • will help you get into a university or Technical and Further Education (TAFE) course that you want to do.

There is a full list of studies on the VCE Studies page.

What do I have to do to achieve my VCE?

To achieve your VCE you must successfully complete 16 units including:

  • three units from the English group, two of which must be a Unit 3 and 4 sequence
  • at least three additional Unit 3 and 4 sequences.

Your teacher can explain the differences between the English group studies, or you can find out more about them on the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) website.

You can complete the remaining units, including the three sequences at Unit 3 and 4 level, in any study that interests you. This could even be an additional English group study on top of the units you take to meet the minimum English requirement.

Your teacher determines whether you have satisfactorily completed a unit, based on the work you produce and submit, and your adherence to VCAA and school rules.

How do I achieve marks in the VCE?

Units 1 and 2 are marked by your school; your teachers will set a range of assessments to see how you are progressing. The assessments have deadlines and you will need to plan and submit your work on time. Deadlines can only be extended in special circumstances.

For Units 1 and 2 you will receive either S (Satisfactory) or N (Not Satisfactory). Your school may give you a grade for each unit, but only the S counts towards your VCE.

For Units 3 and 4 you will have grades calculated from A+ to E, or UG (Ungraded) or NA (Not Assessed) for your assessment tasks, as well as an S or N.

There are three graded assessments for each VCE study at Unit 3 and 4 level. All VCE VET programs with scored assessment have two graded assessments.

Depending on the study, these may be school-based assessments and/or external assessments.

School-based assessments are set by your teacher following the requirements set by the VCAA in the relevant study design and include School-assessed Coursework (SAC) that is completed at school, and School-assessed Tasks (SATs) that are completed at school and home. These are marked at your school by your teacher. You can read about the rules for assessment on the VCAA website, or you can ask your teachers.

External assessments are set and marked by the VCAA. They are the same for all students taking the same VCE study. Usually this will be an examination – whether written, oral, performance or in an electronic format.

Your external assessments are marked by assessors who are experts in their area of study. All VCE studies are marked to the same standard and there are multiple checks to make sure that marking is fair.

Examinations are held each year in October and November. Your school will give you plenty of notice about the exact dates of your examinations.

Did you know that you can include a VET program in your VCE?

See the VET section of Where to Now?

Can I repeat a unit if I receive an N (Non-Satisfactory)?

Yes, you can repeat a VCE unit. There is no penalty for repeating; however, you cannot count a unit more than once towards satisfactory completion of the VCE.

If you repeat a unit you must do the full unit, including all assessments for the outcomes.

What is a study score?

If you obtain at least two graded assessments and achieve an S for both Units 3 and 4 in a study in the same year, you will receive a study score. A study score is a number between 0 and 50 that indicates your ranking in relation to all students doing that study in that year.

Can I repeat a study to achieve a better study score?

Yes, you can repeat a study. Repeating a study at the Unit 3 and 4 level can also be a way of improving your study score and Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR). To do this, it is necessary that you repeat the Unit 3 and 4 sequence of the VCE study.

How do I get into university or TAFE?

To get into university, you generally need to achieve particular study scores in your studies and have an ATAR. To get into some TAFE courses you may also need to have a study score.

What is an ATAR?

The ATAR is calculated by the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre (VTAC) on the basis of study scores and is presented as a ranking between 0.00 and 99.95. The ATAR reflects your relative achievement compared to everyone else in the Year 12 group.

Before offering places, tertiary institutions look at each student's ATAR and the combination of VCE studies they have completed.

To qualify for an ATAR, you need to have at least four study scores, one of which must be from the English group.

You can find out more about the ATAR, subject combinations and course choices through VTAC.

boy with a backpack looking over his shoulder 

What is the GAT and why is it important?

All students studying at least one Unit 3 and 4 VCE study (or scored VCE VET study) are required to sit the General Achievement Test (GAT). The GAT measures your general knowledge and skills in written communication, mathematics, science, technology, humanities, the arts and
social sciences.

Although the results do not count directly towards your VCE results, they play an important role in checking that school-based and external assessments have been fairly and accurately assessed.

The GAT may also be used to determine Derived Examination Scores for students who are ill or affected by other personal circumstances at the time of a VCE external assessment and whose result is unlikely to be a fair or accurate indication of their learning or achievement.

How will I receive my results?

All students who enrol in VCE studies receive a Statement of Results.

If you undertake Units 1 and 2, your statement will be sent to your school. If you are enrolled in at least one Unit 3 and 4 study, the VCAA will mail it to your home address in December. Your Statement of Results includes the overall grade for your school-based and external assessments.

Students who sit the GAT will also obtain a Statement of Results, which will show their results in the three key areas tested.

You will also be issued a certificate when you have successfully completed the VCE.

Can I complete a VET qualification or school-based apprenticeship or traineeship as part of my VCE program?

Yes, you can. Read more about this in the VET and Apprenticeships & traineeships sections.

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