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Assessing and Reporting Student Achievement

The page describes the methods of assessing student achievement in the range of subjects studied in Australian and New Zealand schools and how these assessments are reported on senior secondary certificates and related documents.

The page does not refer to calculation of tertiary entrance scores or rankings.

1. Assessment

Assessment is a judgement of student achievement or progress in a program of study and indicates the level of knowledge, skills and understanding achieved by the student.

There are four main methods of assessing students’ academic achievement:

In Australia the methods of assessing student achievement are combinations of these. None of the states/territories uses a single method of assessmentonly.

External examinations

All students studying a subject sit for the same examination, normally at the end of the study period. The major purposes of external examinations may be to allow students to demonstrate their achievements against set standards and to rank all students in the state on a single specified scale.

Moderated school-based assessment

School-based assessment is conducted by teachers in schools using a variety of assessment methods. The grades from this assessment process are moderated by various factors including the school group’s performance at external exams or advice from outside experts. The reason for doing this is so that direct comparisons can be made between assessment marks awarded by different schools and marks placed on the same scale.

Some states use statistical moderation in which students’ external exam results are used to scale their school-based assessment.

Other states, including Queensland, use a process of social moderation in which the achievements of students are externally moderated by groups of trained teacher reviewers who meet formally to make sure the assessment instruments are high quality and that teachers’ judgments are comparable from school to school.

School-based assessment (not moderated)

School-based assessment is done by teachers in schools using a variety of assessment methods. In some states, the results of subjects with non-moderated assessments are recorded on certificates and other documents.

Policies and procedures aim to ensure that the standards for student assessment are followed as stated in the syllabus or course documents. The assessments may be subjected to some form of moderation within the school but there is no system-wide moderation. However, courses and assessment procedures may be accredited by the central assessment and certification authority.

External scaling tests

The content of these tests may be based on state curriculum or may be an assessment of general scholastic ability. The tests are used to rank students on a statewide basis.

2. Reporting

Student achievement may be reported by using numbers (marks, scores or percentages), grades or descriptive statements.


Marks usually indicate a student’s relative standing compared with other members of the candidature. Marks can be totalled or averaged for comparison of achievement levels. Raw marks are rarely used. The marks are usually subjected to scaling or standardisation to put them on a common scale.


Grades may represent

Grades are a code representing the standard of student performance, e.g. A–E.

Descriptive statements

Statements such as Very High Achievement or Satisfactory Achievement may be written on certificates to describe a student’s performance in achieving defined objectives and standards.

3. FAQs

What assessment method(s) are used for the senior secondary school leaving credential in Queensland?

In Queensland, assessment is standards-based. Students are initially assessed by their teachers who are most familiar with the skills and knowledge of their students. Judgments about the quality of student achievement are made with reference to predetermined standards that describe how well students have achieved the objectives in the syllabuses.

Queensland’s system of externally moderated school-based assessment relies on the practice of “social moderation”, where groups of trained panellists meet formally to assure the quality of assessment instruments and ensure that judgments of standards are comparable from school to school through a process of negotiation.

How are marks determined in the senior secondary school credentialling program in Queensland?

Assessment in Authority and Authority-registered subjects is standards-based. Each syllabus for Authority and Authority-registered subjects has general objectives that state what must be taught and assessed. A standards matrix describes the standards for each dimension, expressed as A–E grades.

Teachers use the standards first at the level of the individual assessment instrument and second for decisions about overall achievement towards the end of the course. These decisions are on-balance judgments. On completion of the course of study, teachers award one of five levels of achievement:

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