Tertiary Entrance Guide 2017: Ensuring fairness for all

Completing the VCE takes a great deal of motivation, prolonged effort and commitment from many thousands of students - and their teachers - every year.

VCE teachers spend hundreds of hours preparing classes, working with students in class and marking student work and providing feedback. VCE students themselves obviously spend countless hours studying.

Organising the VCE examinations, arranging for the marking of papers and collating all the results to arrive at a score for each study undertaken by each student is also a massive undertaking.

It is a key part of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority's (VCAA) role and one that we approach with pride and a deep commitment to ensuring fairness for all.

This year, a total of 85,108 students sat at least one VCE exam. On November 1, 43,808 students sat the English examination and 3642 sat the English as an Additional Language (EAL) exam. Written examinations in 108 VCE subjects were delivered at 513 examination centres across Victoria.

From these, 342,197 student examinations were processed, each of which was independently marked at least twice.

The VCE is designed to prepare students to develop the knowledge and skills they will need in an increasingly complex and rapidly changing world.

Students can choose from an extraordinarily diverse range of subjects and develop a wide range of skills.

With so many students undertaking countless combinations of studies to achieve their VCE, how can students be certain they get a fair go?

The assessment of every VCE study (or subject) consists of at least one externally assessed exam and at least one school-based assessment.

This gives teachers the flexibility to set tasks for their students while also allowing for objective external benchmarks that apply to all students.

To ensure fairness in the scoring of school-based assessment, the VCAA has developed a sophisticated statistical moderation system.

This system compares how each school group performed on local assessment compared to how the same group of students performed on state-wide assessments, and places each student's school-based results on a common state-wide scale.

The VCAA cross-checks school-based assessment results with indicators that include indicative grades provided by each student's teacher, and each student's performance on the externally-assessed General Achievement Test (GAT).

Examinations, or external assessments, are an equally essential feature of the VCE and are key to ensuring that all Victorian students receive fair and equal treatment. Any student whose examination performance is substantially lower than expected will have their exam reviewed and raised if the review produces a higher score.

The VCAA is committed to giving students with a disability, illnesses or other circumstances the opportunity to perform at their best in external examinations, and to ensure that every student eligible for special provision receives it.

Where students' performances are affected by circumstances that arise around examination time the VCAA takes steps to ensure that they receive a fair outcome. For example, a student affected by an accident, illness or personal trauma immediately before or during exams can apply for a Derived Examination Score.

Derived Examination Scores are estimates of the student's likely examination performance, based on all the evidence available, including teacher's indicative grades and the student's GAT scores.

Throughout its development and delivery of VCE assessment, the VCAA is committed to ensuring that all students are treated fairly.

Dr David Howes is Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority.

This story Tertiary Entrance Guide 2017: Ensuring fairness for all first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.