The difference between a 30+, 40+, 45+, and a 50 score in VCE

lots of numbers

Scores aren’t everything. As any VCE graduate will tell you, your study score does not define you.

If you’re a nervous VCE student searching for this article, I can assure you that studying for your exams is a far better use of your time. Plugging your predicted study scores into an ATAR calculator or dreaming of getting a premier’s award are not productive approaches to getting the best score you can. Only completing your work on time and following these study tips will help in the long marathon that VCE is. 

Despite the technicalities, if you’re simply wondering how study scores work, read on for more information!

How are study scores calculated?

Study scores are a measure of your rank within the 50,000 or so students undertaking VCE each year. To determine your rank, VCAA first accumulates your grades from SACs and exams. The weighting of SACs vs. exams is slightly different for each subject. For most subjects, SACs weigh between 25-50%, with the final exam making up the remaining 50-75%. 

Once VCAA has the data of how well you’ve done in your graded assessments, they rank you by turning this information into a whole number score between 0 and 50. This number score is relative to the other students taking the subject, where 30 is the average.

The maths

When evaluating study scores, remember that they are not a percentage. For example, a study score of 35 in a subject does not mean you have obtained a 35/50 (70%) in the coursework and exam. 

Your VCE study score is actually  a reflection of  your ranking. 

A 30 means that you are in the top 50%* of students taking that subject

A 35 means that you are in the top 24%* of students taking that subject

A 40 means that you are in the top 8%* of students taking that subject

A 45 means that you are in the top 1.6%* of students taking that subject

A 50 means that you are in the top 0.2%* of students taking that subject

* approximately 

As you can see, earning a raw 50 score is extraordinarily challenging, It means beating 99.8% of all other students in your subject


Some subjects will be more competitive due to having a large number of high achieving  students. The competitive nature of these subjects makes it harder to achieve a high rank. 

That’s where scaling comes in. It puts everyone on the same level playing field.

To determine how many points a subject is scaled up or down, VCAA looks at the relative competitiveness of the cohort doing each subject each year. Competitive subjects scale up, while non-competitive subjects scale down. 

You can learn more about how scaling works here.

Depth of knowledge

Any score above 40 in VCE is quite an achievement and will get you a place in the honor roll published in the newspaper.

But what sets 40+ scorers apart from the 45+ scorers? A 45+ requires a much greater depth of knowledge and a comprehensive grasp of the learning intentions and concepts. This generally requires more time invested into studying for a subject. 

VCAA examiners often include a couple of near-impossible questions on the final exams to differentiate very talented students (especially for highly competitive subjects such as Maths Methods). Some of these questions trick even the best students, and other very competent students often leave them until the last minute of the exam. There is a reasoning behind this standard tip amongst students, which is to attempt all questions that are ‘easy marks’ (i.e comparatively easier) before trying hard questions. This ensures that you aren’t stuck on one question for the entirety of the exam and lose out on easier marks.


For many subjects, there is a concentration of exceptionally bright students in the 45+ range who all have the potential of scoring a 50 on a ‘good’ day. A degree of luck comes into play here, as trivial differences in marks can account for a 1 or 2-point difference at the top end.

However, to do your very best on the final exam, you should study as much as you can, as luck is not a reliable factor in your success in a VCE subject. 


Hopefully, this article was informative for you, and you now know what each study score entails. It’s recommended that you do not stress about your study score too much. After all, it is just a ranking. Push yourself to the best that you can with all your subjects (all the while avoiding burnout, of course), and you will receive a study score you can be proud of. 

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  • Sara is a student studying at Melbourne University and an aspiring doctor. Her passion for writing and reading developed when she was young through her diary entries and blogging. Now, she continues to love both creative and factual writing, and works as an English tutor and freelance writer.

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