Study scores reflect the relative performance of a student in that individual study, but make no comparison against students completing other studies. To select applicants fairly, institutions need an overall measure of the performance of students undertaking the VCE in all studies and in all combinations. Study scores are scaled to consider the different levels of competition in different studies.
When are scores scaled?
VCE studies are always scaled in the year in which you undertook them. This may not necessarily be in the year in which you receive your ATAR.
How study scores are scaled
- The VCAA collects your assessment results and uses them to calculate your VCE study scores.
- When VTAC receives your study scores from the VCAA, each study has been standardised. The average score for each study is 30.
- VTAC looks at the assessment data across all studies to make sure obtaining the average score in one study required the same level of achievement as every other study.
- When the data demonstrates the overall level of scores across studies doesn’t match, adjustments need to be made. This is the scaling process.
- If competition in a particular study was higher than the average level of competition across all studies – as indicated by the group of students performing higher in their other studies – study scores need to be adjusted upwards, otherwise students doing that study would be unfairly disadvantaged.
- Likewise, if competition in a particular study was lower than the average level of competition across all studies – as indicated by the group of students performing lower in their other studies – study scores need to be adjusted downwards, otherwise students doing that study would be unfairly advantaged.
- Once the study scores have been scaled, they are called scaled study scores. It is these scaled study scores that are used to calculate the ATAR.
The basics of scaling: an example
In scaling VCE Chemistry, VTAC follows the following process:
- The average VCE study score for all studies is 30. Therefore, Chemistry VCE study scores are calculated with a fixed average of 30, like every other subject.
- VTAC analyses the performance of Chemistry students in all their other studies, and calculates their overall average – across all their studies. In this example, Chemistry students’ overall average across all of their studies is 35.
- Because the overall average for Chemistry students is higher than 30, we can see that it was harder for Chemistry students to obtain the average (or above) in Chemistry than it was in their other studies. This means, to be fair, the average for Chemistry needs to be adjusted to the new average of 35.
- All Chemistry study scores are recalculated around the average of 35, producing scaled study scores for the study.
This process is repeated for every VCE and scored VCE VET subject every year.
Studies with additional scaling rules
The following studies attract additional scaling rules. Unless you like these studies and are good at them, choosing these studies simply because they are treated differently in scaling won’t automatically guarantee you a higher ATAR.
Mathematics: VCE mathematics studies are designed to cater for students of differing abilities and interests. Unlike other studies there is a distinct hierarchy of studies:
- Specialist Mathematics is the most difficult
- Followed by Mathematical Methods
- And then Further Mathematics
To ensure that students undertaking the more difficult mathematics studies are not disadvantaged by the level of difficulty, 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.
Languages: As a result of government policy to encourage the study of languages, each language is adjusted up by adding five to the initial VTAC scaled study score average. This does not mean that five points are added to the ATAR. What it does mean is that for study scores at, or close to, the score average of 30, the adjustment is 5. This adjustment is different for each study score and decreases as the study score moves away from 30.