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Assessing and reporting student achievement

The page describes the methods of assessing student achievement in the range of courses studied in Western Australian schools and how student achievement is reported on senior secondary certificates and related documents.

The page does not refer to calculation of the rankings for university entry.

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 assessment only. Western Australia uses moderated school-based assessment and external examination.

External examinations

External examinations in the WACE courses provide students and the wider community with confidence about the standards students achieve at the end of Year 12. They also make it possible to compare the achievement of students, regardless of the school attended.

Moderated school-based assessment

School-based assessment is done by teachers in schools using a variety of assessment types. Assessment tasks may include tests, essays, examinations, reports, investigations, exhibitions, productions, performances, presentations and demonstrations.  The marks from this assessment process are moderated (ie adjusted) by various factors including the school group’s performance at external examinations and advice from teachers at other schools.  The reason for doing this is so that direct comparisons can be made between marks and grades awarded by different schools.  Through this process, marks from different schools are placed on the same scale.

School Curriculum and Standards Authority policies and procedures aim to ensure that the standards for student assessment are followed as stated in the syllabus and the WACE Manual.

The school marks and examination marks are used in the calculation of:

External scaling tests

No external scaling test is used in Western Australia.
Scaling is the joint responsibility of the School Curriculum and Standards Authority and TISC.  The Average Mark Scaling (AMS) method is used to adjust for differences in difficulty between courses and ensure that students are not disadvantaged if they choose difficult courses.

2. Reporting

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

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.

In Western Australian schools, teachers of senior secondary courses use marks to indicate the student’s performance on each assessment task.  The marks for each task are weighted (as determined in the syllabus for the course) and totalled for each unit (or pair of units). This mark (out of 100) is used to rank all students in the unit at that school.

Students are then assigned a grade (A, B, C, D, E) by the school based on School Curriculum and Standards Authority determined grade descriptions. Each school establishes its own grade cut-offs.

Final year students are also assigned an achievement band (excellent achievement, high achievement, satisfactory achievement, limited achievement or inadequate achievement) based on their performance in the WACE examination.

3. FAQs

What assessment method(s) are used for  the Western Australian Certificate of Education?

Teachers use the requirements of the unit syllabus to assess the achievement of students.

There is school-based assessment for all WACE course units with moderation of Stage 1 to Stage 3 results.

External examinations are compulsory for all students who are in their final year of schooling and are enrolled in a pair of Stage 2 and/or Stage 3 units of a course.  Each course has at least two separate examinations — one for students enrolled in Stage 2 units and one for students enrolled in Stage 3 units.  Students can sit only one examination in a course because the Stage 2 and Stage 3 examinations for a course are held at the same time.

Vocational education and training assessment is competency-based and specific requirements are outlined in each industry training package.

Endorsed programs are assessed according to the program requirements and the category of endorsement.  Students are not awarded a grade for achievement of endorsed programs.


How are the marks determined in the Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE)?

For WACE courses, schools implement an assessment program that meets the requirements of the unit syllabus published by the School Curriculum and Standards Authority for each course.

All students receive a school grade for each Stage 1, 2 or 3 course unit they complete. Achievement for each grade is represented as:

A: excellent achievement
B: high achievement
C: satisfactory achievement
D: limited achievement
E: inadequate achievement.

To assist in their judgement, teachers are provided with grade descriptions and work samples that show what is expected of students for each grade.

In addition, teachers of Year 12 (final year) students determine a course unit mark out of 100 (the school mark) for each Stage 2 and/or Stage 3 course unit that a student completes.  For all courses with a practical examination (oral, performance, portfolio, production submission), schools are also required to submit for each unit a course unit written mark (out of 100) and a course unit practical mark (out of 100).

No grade is awarded for Preliminary Stage units.  Students are assessed as having ‘completed’ or ‘not completed’ the unit requirements.

Vocational education and training assessment is competency-based and specific requirements are outlined in each industry training package.

Endorsed programs are assessed according to the program requirements and the category of endorsement.  Students are not awarded a grade for achievement of endorsed programs. 

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