GAT: Yet another three-letter acronym in the VCE world, and one that never seems to be properly explained. What is it? Should I be studying for it? Why does it matter?
As with most acronyms that get passed along the VCE grapevine from the year 12 cohort down, the three letters GAT are commonly thrown around in the high school lexicon. Some mock the GAT, while others take it immensely seriously, so it can be hard for students to gauge how to approach the GAT when it finally comes around. If you’re studying a Unit 3 & 4 VCE subject, you’re required to sit the GAT, so should probably familiarise yourself with how it sits into your overall VCE and what you can expect. Here, I’ll go through a breakdown of the various components of the GAT, what its results are used for, and some tips on how to best prepare for the GAT in the context of broader VCE study and survival. So let’s get cracking.
What is the GAT?
GAT stands for General Achievement Test, an assessment testing VCE students’ general knowledge (including writing, mathematics, humanities, science and technology). It is mandatory for all students enrolled in one or more VCE Unit 3 & 4 or scored VCE VET subjects. The 2022 GAT will be held on Wednesday 7 September - this is slightly later in the year compared to previous GATs because of the new GAT format being rolled out this year, providing extra time for students and teachers to understand the changes.
What are the components of the GAT?
From 2022 onwards, there will be two sections to the GAT. While the previous GAT was a three-hour assessment, the new GAT is a bit longer (but thankfully, it now comes with a break). The new GAT schedule is:
9:30 - 9:45am Reading time
9:45 - 11:45am
- One writing task with two parts
- 50 numeracy multiple-choice questions
- 50 reading multiple-choice questions
As per VCAA’s example on their website (https://www.vcaa.vic.edu.au/assessment/vce-assessment/general-achievement-test/Pages/SampleUnits.aspx), a writing task prompt could look something like:
“Your school council has provided a $5,000 grant to improve facilities. Senior students have been invited to send in their recommendations. Write an email to the school council president in which you outline what you think the money should be spent on. Give reasons for your recommendations.”
A numeracy multiple choice question could look like:
John is a casual adult worker in a shop. His hourly rate of pay is 20% more than the normal hourly rate of pay for permanent adult workers.
The normal hourly rate of pay for permanent adult workers is $22.
What is John’s hourly rate of pay?
Senior VCAL students will only need to sit Section A of the GAT. For everyone else, there will be a break from 11:45am - 1:15pm before Section B commences.
1:15 - 1:30pm Reading time
1:30 - 3:00pm
- One extended writing task
- 25 mathematics, science and technology multiple-choice questions
- 25 arts and humanities multiple-choice questions
For Section B, the questions and writing task will be similar to previous GATs (https://www.vcaa.vic.edu.au/assessment/vce-assessment/general-achievement-test/pastGAT/Pages/index.aspx), but with an increased focus on critical and creative thinking.
What is the GAT used for?
There are three main uses of the GAT:
- Standardising SAC results: Without the GAT, your study scores could be greatly affected by the difficulty level of the SACs your teachers set. It is no hidden secret that some schools set much more difficult SACs than others, and it wouldn’t be fair for students to be penalised for this reason - so that’s where the GAT comes in. By comparing GAT scores across schools, VCAA will either score SACs up or down from the mark given by the teacher to level the playing field for all. So when it comes to the GAT, you’re not competing against the other students in your school - in fact, you should hope they all do well to maximise your SAC scores!
- Derived examination scores: If you can’t sit your exams at the end of the year for whatever reason, or want to apply for special consideration, the GAT will play a major role in adjusting your scores. If you receive stellar GAT scores and much lower exam scores, and apply for special consideration, your scores would likely be adjusted upwards to more closely reflect the scores you would have received in more normal circumstances.
- Cross-checking exam results: All VCE written exams are marked by two separate assessors. If they both give you similar marks, no further action is taken. But if there is a notable difference in their scores, not only does a third assessor get involved, but your GAT scores from that area (e.g., writing if it’s your English exam) are compared against the exam. So if you did well in the GAT, it’s more likely the exam score will be adjusted to something more in line with the examiner who gave you the higher mark.
Do I need to study for the GAT?
While it would be ideal to study for the GAT and prepare yourself as best as you can given the implications if, for example, you are unable to sit your exams at the end of the year for whatever reason, it is important to consider the GAT in the context of broader VCE when deciding if and how much study you decide to undertake. At the very least, I would certainly recommend visiting the VCAA website and familiarising yourself with the types of questions. If time permits, go back in time starting from 2021 and work your way through past GATs. Some schools provide practice GATs for their students; if this is your school, treat it like a real exam and give it your best shot. Revise the questions you got wrong and any teacher feedback on writing tasks. Consider booking in a free 30-minute study skills consultation to discuss how to best approach the GAT given your individual situation, as well as broader strategies for semester 2.
Written by KIS Academics tutor Dee Tomic. Dee currently offers tutoring for VCE Maths Methods and Biology. Dee is completing her PhD in epidemiology with Monash University. If you have any questions for her or would like to request Dee as a tutor, feel free to reach out through her profile here.