VCE ATAR Scaling Report 2023 - How to Maximise your ATAR in 2024

Interested in how your subject could scale your ATAR this year? This report analyses 2023's ATAR trends to explore how scaling impacts different VCE subjects and how you can utilise that knowledge to maximise your marks.

3 months ago   •   4 min read

By KIS academics

Why does scaling exist?

Scaling is when the raw marks a student receives in their subjects are adjusted to reflect the relative difficulty of those subjects compared to others.

There are actually many factors that affect scaling; the difficulty, its popularity and how competitive is. Maths and English undoubtedly have much more competition than VCE's more obscure subjects. As such, performing well or coming first in Maths or English VCE students should be worth more towards the final ATAR than coming first in a subject with only a couple hundred state-wide students. Likewise, scoring 90% in general Maths vs scoring a 90% in specialist maths also shouldn't be worth the same since getting 90% on a specialist maths test is significantly harder.

Hence, scaling exists to make the VCE more fair and to reward students who attempt to tackle harder and more competitive subjects.

What is a VCE Study Score?

Despite the name VCE study score, like your ATAR, it is a RANK, not a score. That means getting a 50 study score does not mean getting 100% in all your assessments and exams but it means that you are one of the top achieving students for that subject. Your study score will be based on your results in school assessments and final VCE exams. It will be a number between 0 and 50 determined by the VTAC which represents how well you performed relative to all other students doing the same subject.

How do they then allocate study scores to students?

The easiest way to understand is to picture a bell curve. All the VCE students finishing a subject will be ranked based on how they have performed that year. If you sit right in the middle of that bell curve, you will receive the mean study score of 30. If you performed way above average and are at the top, you will receive a study score of 50. The majority of students will find themselves in the dark blue section, between 20 and 40. Note that this is a simplification of the process.

This standardises the test scores to ensure that obtaining the average score in one subject requires the same level of achievement in every other subject.

Once the scores have been standardised they will then be scaled again when forming your ATAR. This way, students who have outperformed their peers in challenging subjects are rewarded in their final atar.

2023 VCE Scaling Report

The table below extracts data from the VCAA’s 2023 VCE Scaling Report and illustrates how VCE's most popular subjects have been scaled in 2023. The number on the right represents the scaled study score achieved from a base score of 35. You can find a more detailed list of all VCE subjects in the official Scaling Report.

You will notice that Languages tend to scale really well with Latin being the highest-scaled subject in the VCE - a 35 being converted into a 50! This is because languages are pretty difficult but also a very popular choice amongst VCE students causing quite a bit of competition.

Unlike other subjects, Mathematics have a distinct hierarchy of difficulty so they are scaled slightly differently. VCE Mathematics is designed to offer a level of maths for students of differing abilities with;

  • Specialist Mathematics is the most difficult
  • followed by Mathematical Methods, and then
  • Further Mathematics.

To ensure students undergoing specialist Mathematics are not disadvantaged by its harder level of difficulty, all three Math subjects are scaled against each other as well as being scaled against all the other subjects afterwards. What this means is that all Maths students will fill up the bell curve and be ranked together based on their selected level of Maths and performance in that subject.

Want to get a more precise estimate of your ATAR? Check out our ATAR calculator.

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What does high-scaling vs low-scaling subjects mean?

High-scaling subjects are those that are perceived as more difficult, and consequently, students may receive higher-scaled marks for achieving the same raw mark compared to subjects considered low-scaling. High-scaling subjects often include specialist maths, physics, chemistry, and certain languages such as Latin. These subjects are generally seen as more challenging and may attract students who excel academically.

Should you avoid doing ‘lower’ scaling subjects?

NO! Scaling exists to make subjects fairer. It wouldn't make sense to count a 90 in Specialist Maths the same as scoring a 90 in general maths because specialist maths is significantly more difficult and most students are struggling to pass. Hence scaling exists to encourage students to pursue academically challenging subjects without fear of hindering their ATAR. That being said, picking 'high scaling' subjects will not give you a higher ATAR. If you pick the subject just for its scaling, most often you will struggle with it and subsequently be left with a poor mark. You can achieve a top ATAR no matter which subject you pick so long as you excel in them. So pick subjects based on your strengths and passion!

Want more personalized study guidance to help drastically improve your marks? A private tutor can make the biggest difference!

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