How does the QCE work?

The Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE) is a certificate that recognises the successful completion of secondary education in Queensland. It is a valuable pathway to further study at university or TAFE institutes, and to the world of work. Students choose from a range of subjects in the key study areas of arts, business and economics, career development, English, health and physical education, humanities and social sciences, ICT and design, languages, mathematics and sciences.

The QCE is structured as a ˜learning account' (accessible through the Student Connect website) to which students add credits as they complete their studies. Although most students are awarded their QCE at the end of Year 12, candidates must complete their studies before their credits expire. All students who finish Year 12 receive a Senior Statement learning transcript, but only eligible students receive the Tertiary Entrance Statement, complete with QCE results, issued every July and December.

To be eligible for the QCE, students must complete 20 credits, with a ˜sound' level of achievement or equivalent, and meet literacy and numeracy requirements. Credits are gained by completing four types of courses: core, preparatory, enrichment and advanced. Of the 20 total credits required, students must complete a minimum of 12 credits of core studies.

Core studies may include the following:

  • Authority or Authority-registered subjects: These are the most common QCE studies undertaken. The results of Authority subjects count towards the calculation of Overall Positions (OPs) and Field Positions (FPs), while the results of largely vocational Authority-registered subjects do not.
  • Subjects assessed by Senior External Examination: These are completed by Year 12 students who are unable to access particular subjects at their school. Examinations are held once a year and students may complete a maximum of two examinations.
  • VET qualifications: see the VET in Queensland section.
  • School-based apprenticeships and traineeships: see the Apprenticeships and traineeships in Queensland section.
  • Tailored training programs: These programs are designed to meet individual training needs that may not be readily met by a training package. The programs must include a minimum of 12 related competencies from VET certificate II level or above and be negotiated in advance with the QCAA.
  • Recognised international learning programs: Courses that have been developed by overseas institutions, such as the International Baccalaureate organisation.

Students may earn the remaining eight credits by studying any combination of core subjects, preparatory courses, enrichment courses or advanced courses (with no more than six credits earned through preparatory courses). These courses are taken in addition to the core subjects managed by the school and offer differing amounts of credit depending on their classification. An up-to-date list is available on the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority website.

Each type of course involves the following:

  • Preparatory courses (for example: VET certificate I qualifications, literacy and numeracy short courses and employment skills development programs) support further education and training a maximum of six credits can contribute towards the QCE.
  • Enrichment courses (for example: VET courses, school-based subjects and structured work-based or community-based learning programs) allow students to develop higher-level skills a maximum of eight credits can contribute towards the QCE.
  • Advanced courses (for example: university subjects and VET diplomas and advanced diplomas) go beyond the recognised scope of senior schooling a maximum of eight credits can contribute towards the QCE.

Recognised certificates and awards in areas such as music, dance, drama, sport and community development may also earn credit towards the QCE.

Literacy and numeracy requirements

The literacy and numeracy component, which must be completed in addition to the 20 credits, consists of two short courses developed by the QCAA, which focus on providing literacy and numeracy skills for everyday life. Schools may implement these short courses at any stage during Years 10, 11 and 12. Many students complete them in Year 10, either as stand-alone subjects or integrated with English and mathematics subjects. They offer good preparation for students wanting to complete the literacy or numeracy component before moving into English and mathematics subjects in Years 11 and 12, but may also provide an alternative for students who do not wish to study English and mathematics in senior years.

Queensland Certificate of Individual Achievement (QCIA)

The QCIA offers students with learning difficulties and impairments the opportunity to have their schooling achievements recognised. Completion of the QCIA results in the attainment of a Statement of Achievement describing the student's demonstrated knowledge and skills and a Statement of Participation listing the activities the student has undertaken.

How is the QCE assessed?

Queensland students are predominately assessed through school-based assessment that requires students to achieve a particular standard before receiving credits. Teachers award one of five levels of achievement to students after they complete a course of study, which are as follows:

  • Very High Achievement (VHA)
  • High Achievement (HA)
  • Sound Achievement (SA)
  • Limited Achievement (LA)
  • Very Limited Achievement (VLA).

Authority and Authority-registered subjects are assessed through this system of school-based assessment using school-based exams, observation of practical performances, projects, assignments or field work as the basis of assessment. Other core studies that do not use school-based assessment are assessed using different criteria, such as the suitable completion of VET certificates in the case of VET studies, for example.

While core study areas may be assessed differently, students generally need to obtain a sound level of achievement (or a pass) to earn QCE credits.

The QCS Test complements the school-based assessment by contributing further information for the calculation of OPs and FPs for statistical scaling processes.

What is the Overall Position (OP)?

Completion of the QCE does not automatically qualify students for tertiary entrance. An Overall Position (OP) or selection rank must also be obtained.

An OP calculates a students' ranking within the state based on their achievement in Authority subjects. There are 25 OP bands (with 1 being the highest and 25 being the lowest), which are used by higher education institutions to compare students in Queensland for the basis of tertiary entrance. To be eligible for an OP, students must sit the QCS Test and have studied 20 semester units of Authority subjects, including at least three subjects for four semesters each. The distribution of students across OP bands is as follows:

  • Band 1 about 2 per cent of students
  • Bands 2 to 6 about 21 per cent of students
  • Bands 7 to 21 about 73 per cent of students
  • Bands 22 to 25 about 4 per cent of students

OPs are calculated using each student's best five Authority subjects. The scores in each study are ˜scaled' against students within that school and then scaled again to compare students between schools, reflecting each student's comparative performance against all other candidates across the state. OP-eligible students also receive an ATAR, which is the national standard used in other states throughout Australia.

Field Positions (FPs) are five additional rankings that bolster the OP. Institutions use these to differentiate students within each OP band, providing a greater insight into their performance in a particular field of the curriculum. Students may receive up to five FPs in the following skill areas (depending on the subjects they completed):

  • Field A extended written expression involving complex analysis and synthesis of ideas
  • Field B short written communication involving reading, comprehension and expression in English or a foreign language
  • Field C basic numeracy involving simple calculations and graphical and tabular interpretation
  • Field D solving complex problems involving mathematical symbols and abstractions
  • Field E substantial practical performance involving physical or creative arts or expressive skills.

FPs are reported in ten bands, with 1 being the highest and ten being the lowest.

Queensland Core Skills Test

The Queensland Core Skills (QCS) Test, based on the senior curriculum, examines students' general knowledge, vocabulary and knowledge of mathematical operations. Information collected through the QCS Test is used in the calculation of Overall Positions (OPs) and Field positions (FPs), which rank students for tertiary entrance, alongside other forms of assessment. Year 12 students eligible for an OP must take the test over two consecutive days in September, while ineligible students may choose to take it. The test consists of a 600-word writing test, a short-response paper and two multiple-choice papers, with Year 10 learning from the senior curriculum forming the expected standard of knowledge.

Further information

Parents and students can find further information about tertiary study on the Good Universities Guide website. The Good Universities Guide provides course and institution searches, institution ratings and helpful editorial for prospective tertiary students.

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