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Drouin Secondary College - Course Selection

Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE)

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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. The VCE is usually completed in Years 11 and 12, but can be started in Year 10. Within the VCE, students can undertake vocational education and training (VCE VET).

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.

To get your VCE, you must satisfactorily complete at least 16 units, 13 of which can be from VCE VET. Regardless of how many units you do altogether, you must satisfactorily complete:

  • At least three units from the English Group listed below:
      • English Units 1–4
      • Literature Units 1–4*
      • English Language 1- 4

        Of these three units at least one must be from Units 3 and 4 as a complete sequence. 
  • 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.

*The decision to study literature alone has implications for tertiary entrance and should be discussed with a Careers Pathways Advisor.

Each unit has outcomes, which describe what students are expected to know and be able to do. The decision about satisfactory completion of units is based on a student's ability to demonstrate outcomes specified for each VCE study. There are also two types of graded assessment in the VCE - school-based assessment and examinations. External examinations (written, oral, performance or electronic) are set and marked by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA). Most are held in November, and some examinations are held in June and October.

Choosing your VCE course requires careful consideration and advanced planning. Currently you need to be thinking about what subjects you wish to study over the next one or two years. For both year levels, you should keep in mind where your subject choices might lead you after your course is completed.

By gathering information on a particular career or better still, a range of careers, you are going to be better able to make sensible and realistic decisions about your future.

Universities, TAFE Institutes, and even some employers, such as the Defence Forces, have certain study requirements that need to be met by applicants. Obviously you need to be giving some thought to your subject/course selections.

Ask yourself these types of questions-

  • Is my English up to standard?
  • What level of Mathematics should I choose?
  • Do I need Chemistry or Information Technology or Art (and so on)?
  • Should I be specialising or trying to mix up my course to keep options open?
  • Am I better suited to the technology-based subjects, or more to humanities?
  • Are my subject choices and career goals realistic given my current grades and progress?

It is important that you find out exactly where that course or combination of subjects can lead in terms of career options!

Tertiary Selection

While it may seem a long way off, in one or two years, many of you will be applying through VTAC (Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre) for tertiary courses. Each year more than forty thousand students satisfactorily complete VCE in Victorian secondary schools and apply through VTAC for tertiary places in courses offered in Victoria’s Universities and Institutes of Technical and Further Education (TAFEs). In most of the 1800 courses offered, there are more applicants than there are places, so each institution needs to select from the applicants those who will be offered a place in the course.

VTAC assists tertiary institutions with selection and provides information to institutions concerning the applicants, eg. VCE results. The information required, and how it is used, varies from course to course.

First, a student must satisfy the VCE prerequisite studies for the tertiary course. (Students who don’t have the prerequisites are not considered for further selection)

The second factor is an overall measure of how well the student has performed in his or her VCE studies. This measure is called the Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR). ATAR’s are only determined for students who have successfully completed VCE. How important the ATAR is in selecting students for a course depends on the selection criteria of the course concerned.

Interviews, more specific and detailed considerations of the student’s VCE results, work experience, auditions, or the assessment of a folio could also be used as a factor for selection.


The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is calculated by VTAC solely for the use of tertiary institutions to compare the overall achievement of students who have completed different combinations of VCE studies. VTAC forwards the ATAR along with application information to selection authorities at institutions.

How is the ATAR Calculated?

VTAC uses VCE results issued by VCAA (Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority) to calculate the ATAR.

The ATAR is not a score - it is a rank (which shows a student's achievement in relation to other students).

Subject to the restrictions outlined in VICTER 2011 (available at the ATAR is developed from an aggregate produced by adding:

  • ATAR subject score in English, English Language, Literature or ESL
  • The next best three ATAR subject scores permissible; and
  • 10% of the fifth and sixth permissible ATAR subject scores that are available

Who gets an ATAR?

VCE students: VTAC calculates an ATAR for all VCE students who have successfully completed the VCE and satisfied minimum tertiary entrance requirements. Only applicants who have at least four VCE study scores in an acceptable combination will have an ATAR calculated.

Early Access to VCE Studies

The College encourages capable students to undertake VCE Units 1 & 2 while they are in Year 10 or Units 3 & 4 while in Year 11**.  Students whose results indicate they have the aptitude and application for Early Access to VCE studies need to see their Year Level Learning Leader or a Careers Pathways Advisor.

Early Access may occur when the following conditions are met:

  1. Capacity to achieve success in subjects is indicated.
  2. Entry to Early Access is found to be in the best interests of the student, after counseling involving the student, his/her parent, teachers and Year Level Learning Leader.
  3. Career guidance is obtained.
  4. Capacity for placement is within class size requirements

** Students who have completed Units 1 and 2 of a study will not necessarily be guaranteed a place in Units 3 and 4 of that study in the following year.

Why? Advantages of Early Access to VCE

  • It allows students to experience the structure of VCE
  • It enables students to undertake background studies to VCE Units 3 & 4 which they plan to take in Year 11
  • The ATAR can be calculated over two years
  • Doing a Unit 3 & 4 sequence while in Year 11 and following this with 5 other Unit 3 and 4 sequences allows the ATAR to be calculated from 6 subjects rather than the usual 5
  • It allows students to experience the General Achievement Test (GAT), coursework assessment and external examinations in Year 11
  • It opens the door for enhancement studies while in Year 12
  • It enables students to “free up” their subject choices for Years 11 and 12. This is particularly helpful for those students who wish to undertake tertiary courses with a high number of pre-requisites and recommended subjects