VCE Study Scores Scaling


  • ATAR is used by tertiary institutions to select students. There are almost one hundred of VCE studies alone, not mention VCE VET subjects, which means there are millions of possible VCE study combinations in total. The ATAR was created to provide an overall ranking position of students undertaking any one of these different combinations. The use of the ATAR guarantees that all studies are treated equally. It is a fair system which allows students to undertake the studies they want and enables tertiary institutions to compare students who have completed different combinations of VCE subjects.
  • ATAR is universal across Australia. It provides students with a common score for tertiary selection in all states in the country.

Why are VCE Study Scores scaled?

To ensure that no student is advantaged or disadvantaged by their choice of subjects, VTAC adjusts VCE study raw scores for fairness. They look at the strength of competition in each study which is measured by how well the students in that study performed in their other studies. The study scores are scaled so that the overall level of scores in that study matches the scores obtained by the same group of students in all of their studies combined. This does not mean that some studies are inherently more difficult than others. In fact, most are designed to be of equal difficulty. However, the stronger the competition, the harder it is to achieve the middle score of 30. So all raw study scores are scaled by VTAC before they are used to calculate the aggregate and ATAR. Scaling is all about the strength of the competition in that year, not about how hard we think a certain subject is. Study Scores are scaled up if the student competition in a study is higher so the students doing that subject are not unfairly disadvantaged. Similarly, the Study Scores are adjusted downwards in a study if the strength of the student competition is lower so the students doing that study are not unfairly advantaged.

Key VCE Study Scores Scaling points

  • Scaling ensures that it is possible for you to obtain a high ATAR regardless of the combination of subjects.
  • It is the scaled scores that are used to calculate the aggregate and ATAR.
  • By using scaled scores, fair comparisons can be made of students' achievements over all their studies, regardless of the studies they have taken. So you can freely choose subjects you are good at without worrying about your ATAR.
  • VCE studies are always scaled in the year in which they were undertaken (this may not necessarily be in the year in which you receive your ATAR). The scaling process starts afresh every year.

Do students need to choose studies that are scaled up to maximise their ATAR? Not necessarily. The way to ensure that you achieve the best possible ATAR is to choose studies:

  1. you like;
  2. you are good at;
  3. you need to meet prerequisites for future university course.

Choosing studies merely for scaling-up may work against you. The study score you receive will be a lot lower than what you would expect in a study you are good at and that interests you. Although your raw score will be scaled up, it is unlikely that your scaled score would be any higher than if you had chosen a more suitable study, even one that is scaled down.

Note that every year there are many students who achieve high scaled scores for subjects that have been scaled down, and achieve lower scaled scores for studies that have been scaled up.

Subjects with additional scaling

Mathematics: Specialist Mathematics is the most difficult, followed by Mathematical Methods (CAS) and then by Further Mathematics.

All the three mathematics subjects are scaled against each other as well as scaled against all other studies to ensure students undertaking the more difficult mathematics studies are not disadvantaged.

VCE Languages (formerly known as LOTE)

Since government encourages the study of languages, there is an additional scaling-up in the scaling process. Each VCE Language is scaled up by 5 to median score. All students of a Language receive an adjustment, but it is not a uniform adjustment. For scores at or close to the median score 30, the adjustment is 5, but the adjustment decreases as the score moves away from 30.