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 AustralianCertificate of Education (SACE) is the senior secondary qualification in SouthAustralia, forming the basis for entry into higher education. It is completedin 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 qualifyfor SACE, students must:

complete a minimum of 200 credits

achieve a C grade or better in theStage 1 compulsory requirements

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

Compulsory requirements

Personal Learning Plan (10 credits atStage 1)

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

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

Research project — 10 credits (Stage2)

At least 60 additional credits (Stage2)

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

Subject areas

SACE subjectsare offered across nine learning areas, including:


Business, Enterprise and Technology

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


Health and Physical Education

Humanities and Social Sciences




Visitthe SACE Board of SA website for full details of subjectavailability.

Studentsearn credits towards the SACE for each subject or course that is successfulcompleted, 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 theSACE Board of SA, based on how the student has performed in assessment taskslinked to each subject. Some of these assessments will be completed at school,while others are external.

What is the Personal Learning Plan (PLP)?

The PersonalLearning Plan (PLP) is a compulsory Stage 1 subject, generally completed inYear 10. It gives students the chance to identify their plans and goals for thefuture, and make informed decisions about personal development, education andtraining.

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 asthey progress through SACE. Some schools commence PLP as early as Year 8.

How is the SACE assessed?

Studentscomplete both internal and external assessments. Internal assessment tasks areset and assessed by the school and contribute 70 per cent to a student’s finalSACE score. This includes tasks such as reports and tests, which are completedat school and moderated externally. External assessment makes up the remaining30 per cent using tasks such as examinations and performances.


SATAC uses subject scaling to make a fair comparison between students for thepurposes of tertiary entry. Scores are analysed against what is known as theEqual Achievement Principle. SATAC takes a student’s grades from all assessmenttasks in each subject and assigns them a numeric equivalent. An A+ isequivalent to 150, which decreases in 10-point increments to E- (equivalent to10) and N, marking unsatisfactory achievement, at 0. Using the weightingsapplied to each assessment task in each subject, SATAC calculates an overallnumeric score per subject.

Subjectsthat are more challenging will be scaled up, while subjects that are lesschallenging will be scaled down.

Tertiary institutions useSATAC’s scaled scores when ranking applicants.

Uponcompletion of the SACE, students’ subject scores are calculated to produce theuniversity aggregate. The university aggregate is determined using scaled scores from three20-credit Tertiary Admissions Subjects (60 credits) plus the best 30 creditsfrom the scaled score of a 20-credit study, half the scaled score of one ormore 20-credit studies, the scaled score of one or more 10-credit studies or the scales score equivalents forRecognised Studies to the value of 10 or 20 credits.

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

What is the ATAR?

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

The ATAR usesstudy scores from SACE studies and, where appropriate, VET programs andextension studies. The scores in each study are scaled against other studentsin SA to yield a percentile ranking for each student, reflecting their performanceagainst all other candidates across the state. Students completing the InternationalBaccalaureate (IB)are also given a ranking.

For moreinformation about the ATAR, visit the SATAC website.


Parentsand students can find further information about tertiary study on the GoodUniversities Guide website. The Good Universities Guideprovides course and institution searches, institution ratings and helpfuleditorial for prospective tertiary students.

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