How do SACs work? VCE Explained

A set of kitchen scales

If you’re going through VCE right now, you don’t need me to tell you that your SACs are important. They are one of the key determinants of your success. For some subjects they’re even worth up to 50% of your overall mark!

Yet somehow, SACs are the most poorly understood part of VCE. They’re something I often get questions about, from parents and students alike. Read on as I dispel the myths and answer some commonly asked questions.

Why do we have SACs anyway?

If there were no SACs, the only available assessment for VCE would be the end of year exams. Two years of study all coming down to one day – that’s a lot of pressure! Imagine feeling sick on the day of the exam or not sleeping well the night before. Any number of things could happen before exam day that might affect your performance. Not to mention the extra stress that this would place on students.

One way to fix this would be to have regular exams interspersed throughout the year. In fact, many subjects previously had mid-year AND end of year exams. However, it is logistically very difficult to make thousands of students sit exams at the same time, in the same conditions, at regular intervals.

The solution? Internal, school assessed coursework (SACs). Personally I think they are a wonderful alternative to regular exams. Not all students learn at the same pace, and SACs allow schools (and tutors) creativity to teach the course in the order they think is best for their students.

So how do they work?

Myth: ‘My school has hard SACs so they scale up’

This is something I hear all too often. There is no such thing as SAC scaling. Instead, you have a SAC rank. At the end of the year, when all your SACs are done, your school will use your internal SAC marks to rank every student. To illustrate, let’s use an example of a school with 5 students.

Internal SAC markSAC rank

In this cohort, Ben performed the best, so he earned a SAC rank of 1. Anna was the next highest performer, earning a rank of 2. On exam day, their marks are as follows:

SAC rankExam mark
Anna290 (1st)
Ben188 (2nd)
Clara483 (3rd)
David568 (5th)
Emily378 (4th)

Final SAC marks are then formulated using a combination of SAC rank and exam marks. Ben was ranked first, so his SAC mark is equal to the highest exam mark at his school (90). Anna was ranked second, so her SAC mark is the second highest exam mark at the school (88).

SAC rankExam markFinal SAC mark
Anna290 (1st)88
Ben184 (3rd)90
Clara478 (4th)78
David568 (5th)68
Emily388 (2nd)84

Your final mark is calculated based on your exam mark and your final SAC mark. This varies between subjects. For example, VCE English uses a 50-50 split between SACs and the exam. In our example cohort, this would look like this:

SAC rankExam markFinal SAC markTotal mark
Anna290 (1st)8889
Ben184 (3rd)9087
Clara478 (4th)7878
David568 (5th)6868
Emily388 (2nd)8486

Importantly, SAC difficulty doesn’t factor into this process. However, the strength of your cohort does (sort of). It doesn’t directly improve your mark, but if your school does well in their exams, this provides a cushion for you if you don’t get the exam score you hoped for. So help your peers! VCE is hard and your mates are in this with you. Helping out your friends will help you learn better, keep you sane, and lead to a better mark for all of you.

Written by

  • Mayu is a doctor, researcher, and founder of Intuition Academics. His passion for education has culminated in years of teaching high school and medical students. In his spare time you'll find him perched on a mountain with a camera in one hand, and a tripod in the other.

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