Year 12 certificate and ATAR

Year 12 certificate and ATAR calculation – Compare all states in Australia

Each State and Territory has its own Year 12 certification system and ways to calculate your Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) score. Learn what is required for each state and generally about secondary school certifications.

The senior secondary certificates are recognised nationally in the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF).

Australian Capital Territory: ACT senior secondary certificate and record off achievement

South Australia: South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE)

Northern Territory: Senior Secondary Studies Certificate / Northern Territory Certificate of Education (NTCE)

Queensland: Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE)

New South Wales: Higher School Certificate (HSC)

Tasmania: Tasmanian Certificate of Education (TCE)

Victoria: Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) or Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL)

Western Australia: Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE)

ATAR and University entry
Get ready to tackle year 12. Understand your choices before starting year 12.

Preparing for tertiary courses – what is the ATAR

All Australian secondary education systems integrate senior secondary certification (year 12 matriculation) with tertiary selection through the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR)

University and Tertiary Institutions entry – Entrance Exams

There are no institutional entrance examinations and few faculty specific examinations for tertiary entrance in Australia. Entrance to medical school is one exception. The ATAR score is the sole basis for selection into most tertiary courses in Australia.

Purpose of the ATAR

The ATAR aims to give individuals a score on a scale that can be compared with students taking other subjects, students in other state systems or from overseas and students from other years.

The year 12 matriculation certificates are used to calculate the student’s ATAR ranking. In all states you have to choose whether you want to get an ATAR and then pick courses that are eligible – you can get a year 12 certificate without qualifying for an ATAR.

Two types of year 12 examination systems: scaling tests or curriculum-based tests

ACT and Queensland are the only two states in Australia that rely on a full two years of study for their year 12 certificates and use exams – scaling tests to calculate the ATAR. The tests are general ability tests and not curriculum based.

All other states rely on curriculum-based exams to decide the year 12 certificate results and thus the ATAR. These states start year 12 subjects in the last term of year 11.

Moderation Models

New South Wales and Victoria use external assessments to statistically moderate internal assessments.

Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia use statistical, social and supervised moderation in which some form of sampling of student work is reviewed by the authority.

South Australia uses social and supervised moderation without formal statistical moderation.

The Australian systems differ in the fineness of the assessments they report.

Australian Capital Territory, Queensland and Tasmania report broad grades.

New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia report a combination of grades and numbers.

Click on your State or Territory to find out about the school leaving age, school certificates and how to get an ATAR.

Relevant authorities:

ACT Board of Senior Secondary Studies (ACT BSSS)

Universities Admission Centre

Junior Years : Years 7 to 10

Senior Years : Years 11 and 12

Minimum Leaving Age

Students are required to remain in some form of education, training or employment until they turn 17. You can check further information in the Education Act 2004 [ACT] page.

Major Examinations, Reports & Certificates

ACT Senior Secondary Certificate and Record of Achievement

These are awarded to all senior secondary students who have successfully met the ACT Board of Senior Secondary Studies (ACT BSSS) requirements. The Senior Secondary Certificate details the years of attendance and the college you are graduating from, and the Record of Achievement details your studies throughout college. An explanation of grades is given on the back of the Certificate.

How you get your ATAR in the ACT: The Tertiary Entrance Statement

The ACT Tertiary Entrance Statement (TES) is awarded to all students who meet the ACT Board of Senior Secondary Studies (ACT BSSS) requirements. The TES information is used to calculate the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR).

The course results you achieved in eligible (T or H) courses at your college are used by the ACT BSSS to calculate your Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR). All students must sit the ACT Scaling Test. This allows all course scores to be scaled across all colleges and courses. This scaling allows all course scores to be reported on a common scale. The process used by the ACT BSSS is called Other Course Score (OCS) scaling.

The calculation of the ATAR is based on your best 3.6 courses.

The Aggregate Scores for all students who have met the requirements are listed in order from highest to lowest. The students are then given a rank called the rank by candidature. This rank is then converted to an age rank (ATAR) by using a table supplied by the NSW Technical Committee on Scaling. This gives a rank for ACT students as if they were part of the NSW age cohort.

VET Certificates and Statements of Attainment

Year 10 Certificate

Includes High School Record.

This allows you entrance into year 11 and 12.

School Types

Colleges, Comprehensive, District, High, K-10, K-12

Relevant authorities:

Board of Studies Teaching and Educational Standards NSW (BOSTES)

Universities Admission Centre (UAC)

Junior Years : Years 7 to 10

Senior Years : Years 11 and 12

Minimum Leaving Age

Year 10 completion is compulsory for all students and regardless, a person must remain in some form of education or training until they turn 17.

Major Examinations, Reports & Certificates

Record of School Achievement [RoSA]

The RoSA records all the study achievements for a student. This is what is awarded if the student leave school before completing the HSC.

Higher School Certificate HSC

To gain an HSC, students must have completed a minimum of 12 units of Preliminary courses and 10 units of HSC courses. All courses in the HSC have a unit value. Most courses are 2 units.

Students must satisfactorily complete the Preliminary course, usually studied during Year 11, before they are eligible to commence the corresponding HSC course, usually studied during Year 12.

English is the only compulsory subject for the HSC.

Year 10 students and others planning Year 11 and Year 12 studies will find more information about choosing HSC courses and how the HSC works on Students Online.

From year 11, the student have to decide if he or she wants to get an ATAR, since they have to then choose enough courses that count towards the ATAR.

Students will complete school-based assessments as part of their HSC which together contribute 50% of their final HSC mark for a course (except VET courses). ATAR courses will also have external HSC examinations that counts the other 50 percent of the final mark. The raw scores are then scaled to achieve an ATAR.

The Universities Admissions Centre releases the ATAR the day after the HSC results are out.

The ATAR is a rank based on an aggregate of scaled marks in 10 units of ATAR courses comprising your:

BEST TWO units of English

BEST EIGHT units from your remaining units, which can include no more than two units of Category B courses

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Although eligibility for an ATAR requires completion of at least four subjects, the aggregate may be based on fewer subjects: eligibility.

School Types

Agricultural, Central [K-10 & K-12], Comprehensive, Dramatic Arts, Selective, Senior College, Single Sex, Sport, Technology, Visual Arts & Design.

Special Information

Selective High Schools : Year 7 placement

Relevant authority:

Northern Territory Board of Studies (NTBOS)

Since NT has a service agreement with the South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) Board of South Australia and offers the SACE curriculum, also see SACE. https://www.sace.sa.edu.au/home

Middle Years : Years 7, 8 & 9

Senior Years : Years 10, 11 & 12

Minimum Leaving Age

Students must complete year 12 and regardless must stay in education or training until turning 17 for a minimum of 25 hours a week.

Major Examinations, Reports & Certificates

NT Certificate of Education and Training [Y12] (NTCET)

The Record of Achievement records the results in all eligible courses.

The NTCET/SACE is made up of two parts: Stage 1, which most students do in Year 11 and Stage 2, which most students do in Year 12.

You need to get 200 credits to achieve the SACE, through a mixture of compulsory and free-choice subjects and courses. To gain your SACE, you need to achieve:

C grade or better in the compulsory Stage 1 subjects (worth 100 credits)

C grade or better in the compulsory 70 credits of Stage 2 subjects, including 10 credits for a Research Project.

Keep in mind that 10 credits equate to one semester of study in a subject, and 20 credits equate to a full-year subject.

Stage 1 (usually year 11) is 100 percent school based assessments that are moderated to make sure standards are applied appropriately.

Stage 2 (usually year 12) assessments are 70 percent school based assessments that are moderated to make sure standards are applied appropriately and 30 percent external examination.

Raw scores from SACE/NTCET are scaled to achieve the ATAR. http://www.satac.edu.au/scaling

School Types

Area School, College, Comprehensive, Rural College, Senior College.

Relevant authority:

South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) Board of South Australia

Junior Years : Years 8 to 10

Senior Years : Years 11 and 12

Minimum Leaving Age

South Australian students who have turned 16 are required to remain at school or undertake an approved learning program until they turn 17 or gain a Senior Secondary Certificate or equivalent or a Certificate II [or higher] vocational qualification.

Major Examinations, Reports & Certificate

South Australian Certificate of Education, SACE

The SACE is made up of two parts: Stage 1 (which most students do in Year 11) and Stage 2 (which most students do in Year 12).

You need to get 200 credits to achieve the SACE, through a mixture of compulsory and free-choice subjects and courses. To gain your SACE, you need to achieve:

C grade or better in the compulsory Stage 1 subjects (worth 100 credits)

C grade or better in the compulsory 70 credits of Stage 2 subjects, including 10 credits for a Research Project.

Keep in mind that 10 credits equate to one semester of study in a subject, and 20 credits equate to a full-year subject.

Stage 1 (usually year 11) is 100 percent school based assessments that are moderated to make sure standards are applied appropriately.

Stage 2 (usually year 12) assessments are 70 percent school based assessments that are moderated to make sure standards are applied appropriately and 30 percent external examination.

Raw scores from SACE/NTCET are scaled to achieve the ATAR. http://www.satac.edu.au/scaling

SACE International An internationally recognised one year pre-university program, previously known as the South Australian Matriculation program.

 School Types

High School, Secondary School, Comprehensive, Specialist [subject area and Gifted], Rural, District.

Relevant authority:

South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) Board of South Australia

Junior Years : Years 8 to 10

Senior Years : Years 11 and 12

Minimum Leaving Age

South Australian students who have turned 16 are required to remain at school or undertake an approved learning program until they turn 17 or gain a Senior Secondary Certificate or equivalent or a Certificate II [or higher] vocational qualification.

Major Examinations, Reports & Certificate

South Australian Certificate of Education, SACE

The SACE is made up of two parts: Stage 1 (which most students do in Year 11) and Stage 2 (which most students do in Year 12).

You need to get 200 credits to achieve the SACE, through a mixture of compulsory and free-choice subjects and courses. To gain your SACE, you need to achieve:

C grade or better in the compulsory Stage 1 subjects (worth 100 credits)

C grade or better in the compulsory 70 credits of Stage 2 subjects, including 10 credits for a Research Project.

Keep in mind that 10 credits equate to one semester of study in a subject, and 20 credits equate to a full-year subject.

Stage 1 (usually year 11) is 100 percent school based assessments that are moderated to make sure standards are applied appropriately.

Stage 2 (usually year 12) assessments are 70 percent school based assessments that are moderated to make sure standards are applied appropriately and 30 percent external examination.

Raw scores from SACE/NTCET are scaled to achieve the ATAR. http://www.satac.edu.au/scaling

SACE International An internationally recognised one year pre-university program, previously known as the South Australian Matriculation program.

 School Types

High School, Secondary School, Comprehensive, Specialist [subject area and Gifted], Rural, District.

Relevant authority: 

Office of Tasmanian Assessment, Standards & Certification, TASC

Junior Years : Years 7 to 10

Senior Years : Years 11 and 12

Minimum Leaving Age

Tasmanian students are required to continue participating in education, training or full-time employment until they turn 17.

Major Examinations, Reports & Certificates

Tasmanian Certificate of Education TCE.

The TCE is awarded for meeting core skills to a certain standard and will be issued at end of year 12 for students meeting the standard or to anyone at any age that can meet the standard.

TASC secondary school courses are graded from 1 to 4 with increasing levels of complexity. To meet the participation and achievement standard for the TCE, a student will need to have 120 credit points in education and training (TASC level 1, 2, 3 or 4), with at least 80 credit points in studies rated at complexity level 2 or higher.

A TCE only gives a Tertiary Entrance Score if certain requirements are met. Only level 3 and 4 courses can contribute to an ATAR.

To be eligible for tertiary entrance, a student must satisfactorily complete a minimum of four TASC level 3 courses, with at least three being done in Year 12. A maximum of five TASC level 3 courses will be used to calculate their Tasmanian Tertiary Entrance Score.

All TCE level 3 syllabuses include an external assessment component, where students are assessed on half of the criteria stated in the syllabus

The Tasmanian Tertiary Entrance Score (TES) is calculated by adding the best three course scores from TASC level 3 courses satisfactorily completed in Year 12, together with the next best two other course scores taken from either the same year, or any other single year after Year 10.

Senior Secondary Equivalent Qualifications

These provide equivalence for qualifications from other states, territories and countries, e.g. if you have done year 11 in another state, you apply for this qualification recognition certificate that will tell you how many TASC units level 3 and four is required to get a TCE.

School Types

Comprehensive, District, Secondary Colleges : 7 to 10, 11 to 12. The Tasmanian Academy.

Relevant authority: 

Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, VCAA and the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre, VTAC

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Junior Years : Years 7 to 10

Senior Years : Years 11 and 12

Minimum Leaving Age

Students must complete Year 10 and then be at school, in approved education, training or full-time paid employment until they turn 17.

Major Examinations, Reports & Certificates

Selective Entry for Gifted Students

Victorian Certificate of Education VCE

The VCE is designed for Years 11 and 12, however VCE studies can start in Year 10. This is the case with approx. 54% of Victorian Year 10 students.

A ‘study’ consists of four units. Each VCE study unit is numbered 1, 2, 3 or 4. Student programs may include some Units 1 and 2 in the second or final year and/or some Units 3 and 4 in the first year.

A student must satisfactorily complete at least 16 units

Can include VET

Regardless of total number of units, must satisfactorily complete at

least 3 from:

– Foundation English Units 1, 2

– English Units 1–4 or /EAL 3-4

– English Language Units 1- 4

– Literature Units 1- 4

 Cannot count more than 2 units from studies at units 1 and 2

 Three sequences of Units 3 and 4 studies in addition to the

sequence chosen for compulsory English. These sequences can be

from VCE studies and/or VCE VET programs.

External examinations (written, oral, performance and electronic)

VCAA set and mark the external examinations. External examination scores, however, are the major influence in statistical moderation. The VCAA statistically moderate all VCE studies.

The General Achievement Test (GAT)

The GAT is an essential part of the VCE assessment procedures.

All students enrolled in one or more VCE or scored VCE VET Unit 3 and 4 sequences must sit the GAT.

Although GAT results do not count directly towards a student’s VCE results, they play an important role in checking that school-based and external assessments have been accurately assessed, and in calculating Derived Examination Scores.

The study scores are raw scores.

VCAA sends the student’s raw scores to VTAC (Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre), which converts the scores into  subject scores.

Subject scores are scaled scores.

The scaled subject scores are then used to calculate the student’s ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank).

Aggregate subject scores to obtain the ATAR aggregate: Use maximum of 6 results (including VCE VET sequences) in the aggregate. Where more than 6 results exist, use the 6 legitimate results yielding the highest aggregate. Add ATAR subject scores according to the following sequence:

STEP ONE: Take the Best subject score for an English study

STEP TWO: Take the Best 3 ATAR subject scores of an allowable combination

STEP 3: Take 10% of any fifth and sixth ATAR subject score as/if available.

The student may include up to 3 scored VCE VET sequences in the primary four. A fourth or fifth may count as an increment. VET sequences may count as the fifth and/or sixth increment by adding 10% of the average 35 of the primary four. The increment for the sixth study may be for an approved university study as part of the VCE extension study program.

ATAR aggregate is between 0 and 210+. Rank all eligible students according to their ATAR aggregates. Assign a percentile rank that, as far as possible, distributes the students evenly. Although ties might result in an increase in the number of students assigned a certain percentile rank.

Convert the percentage rank to an ATAR, using a method agreed to by all States (except Qld). ATAR, a number between 0 and 99.95 in intervals of 0.05, is thus an estimate of a student’s relative position in her/his age-group, having taken account of students who have moved or left school before Year 12.

Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning

For students in Years 11 and 12. Gives you practical work-related experience, as well as literacy and numeracy skills and the opportunity to build personal skills that are important for life and work. Like the Victorian Certificate of Education, VCAL is an accredited secondary certificate.

School Types

Comprehensive, Selective Entry High Schools, Technical.

Relevant authorities: 

School Curriculum and Standards Authority, SCSA

The Tertiary Institutions Service Centre, TISC (calculates the ATAR)

Junior Years : Years 7 to 10

Senior Years : Years 11 and 12

Minimum Leaving Age

The end of the school year in which they turn 17 years of age. Young people must be in school, training, an apprenticeship or a traineeship, or approved full-time employment – or combinations of part-time education/training and employment.

Major Examinations, Reports & Certificates

Gifted and Talented Programs

Includes a process for High Academic Achievers.

WA Certificate of Education WACE

Breadth and depth requirement

Completion of a minimum of 20 units or the equivalent. This requirement must include at least:

TEN UNITS or the equivalent of Year 12 courses and

TWO Year 11 UNITS from an English course and

ONE PAIR of Year 12 units from an English course and

ONE PAIR of units completed in Year 12 from List A, which includes arts/languages/social sciences subjects and 

ONE PAIR of units completed in year 12 from List B, which includes mathematics/science/technology subjects.

Achievement standard requirement

The student must achieve at least 14 C grades or higher or the equivalent in Year 11 and 12 units, with a minimum of six C grades or the equivalent at Year 12.

The student must complete at least four Year 12 ATAR courses or a Certificate II or higher VET qualification.

Literacy and numeracy standard

The student must complete at least four units of an English course post year 10 and must have studied over at least two years.

The student must have demonstrated the minimum standard of literacy and numeracy. Students can meet the literacy and numeracy standard either through the Online Literacy and Numeracy Assessment (OLNA) or by achieving Band 8 or above in the associated components of reading, writing or numeracy in the Year 9 NAPLAN tests

Externam examinations:

Year 12 students who are enrolled in Units 3 and 4 of an ATAR course must sit the ATAR course examination. Some ATAR courses have both written and practical examinations.

The board calculates an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) using the school assessment and WACE examination results combined.

The board conducts the examinations at the end of each year, with the written examinations starting on the first working day in November and the practical (performance) examinations held during the Term 3 holidays, including weekends and public holidays and continuing into the beginning of Term 4. The board decides the examination schedule by the end of July and circulate it to students.

The ATAR is based on a student’s four best Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE) course results. Each course result is based 50% on school assessment and 50% on the examinations. TISC then offers university places based on the ranking.

School Types

College, Community College, District, Senior Campus, Selective High School [Perth Modern School], Senior High, State High.

Special Information

Country Residential Colleges The Country High School Hostels Authority continues to provide a high-quality and reliable boarding service for Western Australian secondary school students who do not live close to a secondary school.

Lise Copeland
Author: Lise Copeland

Lise writes about current topics concerning young people, education and mental health. Can usually be found with a cup of tea discussing education policies or the latest research on a topic of interest when she’s not working full time. Lise has two kids at University and one in high school. They have attended State, Catholic and Independent schools in three States and Territories as well as overseas, providing plenty of background to her writing. Education: BA(Hons) with Philosophy, Latin and Ancient Greek languages and BA Law (LLB).

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