South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE)

South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE)

In South Australia, secondary school begins in Year 8.

In Years 10 to 12, students work towards the South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE). SACE studies can be combined with a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship, an Industry Pathway Program or a flexible learning option.

The South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) is the senior secondary qualification in South Australia, forming the basis for entry into higher education. It is completed in two stages:

      Stage 1: beginning in Year 10 with the Personal Learning Plan and continuing in Year 11

      Stage 2: usually undertaken in Year 12.

To qualify for SACE, students must: 

      complete a minimum of 200 credits

      achieve a C grade or better in the Stage 1 compulsory requirements

      achieve a C- grade or better in the Stage 2 compulsory requirements.

Compulsory requirements 

      Personal Learning Plan (10 credits at Stage 1)

      Literacy — at least 20 credits from a range of English subjects (Stage 1 or Stage 2)

      Numeracy — at least 10 credits from a range of mathematics subjects (Stage 1 or Stage 2)

      Research project — 10 credits (Stage 2)

      At least 60 additional credits (Stage 2)

The remaining 90 credits can be gained by completing additional Stage 1 or 2 subjects, or Board-recognised subjects such as VET or community learning.

Subject areas

SACE subjects are offered across nine learning areas, including:


      Business, Enterprise and Technology

      Cross-disciplinary (such as Community Studies, Integrated Learning and Research Project)


      Health and Physical Education

      Humanities and Social Sciences




Visit the SACE Board of SA website for full details of subject availability.

 Students earn credits towards the SACE for each subject or course that is successful completed, with grades awarded from A to E for Stage 1 subjects and A+ to E- for Stage 2 subjects. This is called the Overall Grade and is determined by the SACE Board of SA, based on how the student has performed in assessment tasks linked to each subject. Some of these assessments will be completed at school, while others are external.

What is the Personal Learning Plan (PLP)?

The Personal Learning Plan (PLP) is a compulsory Stage 1 subject, generally completed in Year 10. It gives students the chance to identify their plans and goals for the future, and make informed decisions about personal development, education and training. 

PLP introduces students to the following capabilities: 

  • literacy
  • numeracy
  • information and communication technology
  • critical and creative thinking
  • personal and social skills
  • ethical understanding
  • intercultural understanding.

Students keep a record of their learning in a folio and review their goals as they progress through SACE. Some schools commence PLP as early as Year 8.

How is the SACE assessed? 

Students complete both internal and external assessments. Internal assessment tasks are set and assessed by the school and contribute 70 per cent to a student’s final SACE score. This includes tasks such as reports and tests, which are completed at school and moderated externally. External assessment makes up the remaining 30 per cent using tasks such as examinations and performances.


SATAC uses subject scaling to make a fair comparison between students for the purposes of tertiary entry. Scores are analysed against what is known as the Equal Achievement Principle. SATAC takes a student’s grades from all assessment tasks in each subject and assigns them a numeric equivalent. An A+ is equivalent to 150, which decreases in 10-point increments to E- (equivalent to 10) and N, marking unsatisfactory achievement, at 0. Using the weightings applied to each assessment task in each subject, SATAC calculates an overall numeric score per subject. 

Subjects that are more challenging will be scaled up, while subjects that are less challenging will be scaled down.

Tertiary institutions use SATAC’s scaled scores when ranking applicants.

Upon completion of the SACE, students’ subject scores are calculated to produce the university aggregate. The university aggregate is determined using scaled scores from three 20-credit Tertiary Admissions Subjects (60 credits) plus the best 30 credits from the scaled score of a 20-credit study, half the scaled score of one or more 20-credit studies, the scaled score of one or more 10-credit studies or the scales score equivalents for Recognised Studies to the value of 10 or 20 credits. 

The SACE score provides an indication of students’ achievement in relation to the broader cohort. 

What is the ATAR?

The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) was introduced to nationalise the Year 12 university ranks across Australia (with the exception of Queensland, which is currently working towards moving to the ATAR system). The ATAR is used by higher education providers around the country when deciding whether to offer a place to a prospective student, and is calculated by the South Australian Tertiary Admissions Centre (SATAC).

The ATAR uses study scores from SACE studies and, where appropriate, VET programs and extension studies. The scores in each study are scaled against other students in SA to yield a percentile ranking for each student, reflecting their performance against all other candidates across the state. Students completing the International Baccalaureate (IB) are also given a ranking. 

For more information about the ATAR, visit the SATAC website.

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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