What is the GAT and do I need to do well?

4 years ago   •   3 min read

By Jess Randall
Photo by Thought Catalog / Unsplash

The GAT is coming up this week and I’m sure most of your are still a little unsure about what this exam is actually about (Does anyone really know 😂).

This may seem like an unnecessary additional exam but the GAT is actually a pretty important assessment task for a variety of reasons. Let's break it down.

What is the GAT?

The General Achievement Test (GAT) is a 3-hour exam and aims to test your general knowledge and skills in three areas of study, English, mathematics, and humanities. All students enrolled in a VCE 3/4 unit must sit this test.

The GAT involves 2 written tasks and 70 multiple-choice questions which must be completed within the 3-hour time frame. It is suggested that you spend 30 minutes on each written task, and 2 hours answering the multiple-choice questions.

What is the purpose of the GAT?

There are 3 main reasons why the GAT is so important:

1. Derived Examination Scores (DES)

If you are affected by illness, accident or personal trauma and apply for a DES, your GAT scores will be used to calculate your final ATAR. You never know if something will go wrong, so you want to get a good GAT score just in case the worst happens. If you're still a bit confused about exactly how the ATAR works, we explore the nitty gritty in this blog.

2. Scaling between schools

Ever wondered if your teacher's marks are harsher than teachers in other schools? GAT exams essentially provide a quality assurance check to make sure any discrepancies in internal assessments (such as SACs) are compensated and final results are comparable across the state.

This is pretty similar to subject scaling, where students are ranked against their cohort, more information regarding subject scaling can be found in 2022's scaling report.

3. Final Exam scores

If you receive high marks on your GAT exam, (demonstrating your strong English, mathematical, or humanities skills), this then predicts you will also score relatively high marks on your final year exams. If for some reason you don't perform as well as predicted, your exams will be remarked. This could potentially increase or keep your marks the same, but they will not decrease. So it is in your best interest to perform highly on the GAT as it may increase your final exam scores!

Does the GAT count towards the ATAR?

Not directly. It doesn’t count towards your ATAR as a SAC does, but as mentioned before, it does help standardise the SAC marks between schools and may also impact your final exam marks. Again, if you're still a bit confused about exactly how the ATAR works, we explore more in this blog.

If the worst-case scenario happens and you can’t sit your final year 12 exams, your GAT score will be used to determine your Derived Examination Score.

Should I study for the GAT?

Not necessarily. There is no need to overly stress about the outcome of your GAT score but you also want to try your hardest. It also doesn’t hurt to be a little prepared. Try some of the past exams on the VCAA website as a practice in order to understand what is required of you and how to best approach the exam questions.

How is the GAT marked?

You are given a raw score as well as a scaled score for each section.

The raw scores are out of 40 for written communication, 35 for mathematics, science and technology, and 35 for humanities, the arts and social sciences.

Standardised scores are calculated using the same scale as Study Scores from 0 to 50 with a mean of 30 and with a standard deviation of 7.

Do you have any tips on how to do well?

Keep an eye on the time! Although 3 hours sounds like a reasonably long time to complete all questions, it is easy to get held up on a difficult multiple-choice question or to spend an hour on a written task. Set time limits and try to keep to them. You can always go back over questions if you have time in the end.

Overall, don’t stress too much about the GAT. You can still get a killer ATAR without a high GAT score. However, it is in your best interest to perform highly as your scores may be used to improve your final ATAR. Good luck!

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