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Accreditation period Units 1-4: 2023-2027

Developing a program

The VCE Texts and Traditions Study Design outlines the nature and sequence of learning and teaching necessary for students to demonstrate achievement of the outcomes for a unit. The areas of study describe the specific knowledge and skills required to demonstrate a specific outcome. Teachers are required to develop a program for their students that meet the requirements of the study design including: areas of study, outcome statements, key knowledge and key skills.

Units 1 and 2

In these units students have the opportunity to study texts from a number of different religious traditions. These traditions can be chosen from current major world religions, from ancient religions no longer practised, or from First Nations Peoples. The selection of texts depends on the availability and accessibility of textual material at an appropriate level of reading and comprehension for the students. This applies to both the tradition’s sacred texts and commentaries upon the texts. If students are choosing traditions, and texts within those traditions, for independent study, teachers need to guide their choice. The introduction to each unit in the study design contains further guidance on the selection of texts and religious traditions. Note that these texts should be taken from sources considered to be authoritative to a particular religion or religious tradition.

As not all schools deliver both Unit 1 and Unit 2 there is some repetition of key knowledge and key skills. If only one unit is being undertaken, selection could be made from both Units 1 and 2 learning activities included in this Advice. If both units are being studied, an increasing development of knowledge and skills should be built into learning activities across the units and the suggested learning activities modified accordingly.

Units 3 and 4

In these units the traditions are specified as stated on page 18 of the study design. The set text for each tradition and certain themes and passages for special study are published in the VCAA Bulletin the year prior to study.

In developing the course for each unit, it is possible to teach areas of study concurrently, as some key knowledge and key skills are complementary. This is particularly the case for Unit 4, Outcome 2 which is best taught building on Unit 3, Outcome 2 and developed during the teaching of Unit 3, Outcome 3 and Unit 4, Outcome 1.

Students need to be aware of the overall structure and content of the set text. Therefore, students should read the whole set text at least twice during the year, before starting the course and again before starting Unit 4. This will help them understand the importance of the passages for special study in context. Students should be able to identify where in the set text major events or developments of ideas and teachings take place. For example, they should be able to locate other passages that relate to those in the passages for special study.

Throughout the course, students should be consistently referring to at least two commentaries on the set text. Students may find it useful to work collaboratively with other students on a variety of commentaries.

It is important for the study of the text to establish a clear understanding of the original context of the text. This may involve two historical times: one period for the events depicted in the text; the other period for the formation and eventual writing of the text. The exegetical process is demanding and it is helpful to teach this gradually throughout Unit 3, drawing attention to the exegetical method being used in the various texts. Becoming familiar with the literary features of the text may be challenging. It is helpful to start working with the literary structure, forms and techniques early in Unit 3. Exegetical method is consolidated in Unit 4, Area of Study 1 where a full exegesis would be expected from students.


Exegesis is one of the main skills to be developed and used in this study. It is introduced in Unit 1, developed in Unit 3 and completed in Unit 4. It is the analysis of text to discover meaning in the text. Exegesis involves finding out the what, when, who and why related to the original writing and audience of the text, and the original intention of the writer, as well as the impact on, and understanding of the text by the original audience. Exegesis enables the contemporary reader to gain a deep understanding of the text.

Exegesis requires asking questions of the text. This involves breaking the text apart to discover its whole meaning through studying its parts. Exegetical analysis requires synthesising these various points of information and insights to make a connected whole of the text again, with deepened meaning and understanding.

Exegesis involves asking a range of precise questions of the text according to the type of critical method being applied to it. Critical methods include source criticism, form criticism, sociocultural criticism, historical criticism, literary criticism, redaction criticism, feminist criticism and liberationist criticism. Most critical methods are relatively modern and are usually used in combinations. There are also allegorical and literal methods applied to the investigation of texts. Students should explore exegetical methods related to the particular religious tradition and the nature of exegesis in general. In Units 3 and 4 they must focus on the methods of sociocultural criticism and literary criticism as well as historical context. The primary focus of exegetical method in VCE Texts and Traditions is to come to an understanding of the text for its original audience as understood by scholars. As such, the knowledge gained by students in Outcomes 1 and 2 of Unit 3 will develop their ability to come to conclusions in their exegetical practice.

Exegetical method

The following describe some common critical methods. Beyond sociocultural and literary criticism, any choice of methods will be influenced by the selected tradition as well as the key knowledge and key skills listed in each unit.

  • Sociocultural criticism looks at the social and cultural context of a text. This can include finding meaning of particular cultural references that may be uncommon to a student in the 21st century.
  • Historical criticism looks at a text’s historical context. It allows the student to understand how the text came to be in a particular time and place.
  • Literary criticism classifies texts according to style and form as understood by the original audience. It also places particular passages in the context of the literary whole from which they come.

These three main methods of criticism used in VCE Texts and Traditions develop a student’s ability to analyse passages as a means to developing and justifying a particular interpretation. The method of exegesis requires students to question the texts using these critical tools and then explaining their interpretation of the passage in the light of their understanding of the intended audience in their historical and cultural milieu.

While this exegetical method develops knowledge and skills developed in Unit 1, it is in Units 3 and 4 that a more rigorous scholarly approach is required based upon commentaries and scholarly research.

Units 1 and 2

The student’s level of achievement in Units 1 and 2 is a matter for school decision. Assessments of levels of achievement for these units will not be reported to the VCAA. Schools may choose to report levels of achievement using grades, descriptive statements or other indicators.

In each VCE study at Units 1 and 2, teachers determine the assessment tasks to be used for each outcome in accordance with the study design.

Teachers should select a variety of assessment tasks for their program to reflect the key knowledge and key skills being assessed and to provide for different learning styles. Tasks do not have to be lengthy in order to make a decision about a student’s demonstration of achievement of an outcome.

A number of options are provided in each study design to encourage use of a broad range of assessment activities. Teachers can exercise great flexibility when devising assessment tasks at this level, within the parameters of the study design.

Note that more than one assessment task can be used to assess satisfactory completion of each outcome in the units.

There is no requirement to teach the areas of study in the order in which they appear in the units in the study design.

Units 3 and 4

The VCAA supervises the assessment for levels of achievement of all students undertaking Units 3 and 4.

For VCE Texts and Traditions the form of school-based assessment is School-assessed Coursework (SAC).

Units 1 and 2 are designed as stand-alone units which require no prior knowledge to be completed. Units 3 and 4 also can be taught without students having completed Units 1 or 2. However, if a school intends to teach Unit 1 or Unit 2 with the possibility of students undertaking the Unit 3 and 4 sequence, the earlier units should develop students’ knowledge and skills without doubling up on the content in Units 3 and 4.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives in the VCE

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives in the VCE
On-demand video recordings, presented with the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc. (VAEAI) and the Department of Education (DE) Koorie Outcomes Division, for VCE teachers and leaders as part of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives in the VCE webinar program held in 2023.

Implementation videos

VCE Texts and Traditions (2023-2027) implementation videos
Online video presentations which provide teachers with information about the new VCE Texts and Traditions Study Design for implementation in 2023.

Prescribed texts

2023 Prescribed texts
A list of set texts and passages for special study for 2023.

2024 Prescribed texts
A list of set texts and passages for special study for 2024.