BlogStudyWhat Are VCE SAC Rankings and How Do They Affect Your ATAR?

What Are VCE SAC Rankings and How Do They Affect Your ATAR?

SAC Rankings - Trophy

Worried about how your VCE SAC rank will affect your ATAR score?

Here’s my two cents — don’t worry about it.

To find out why, let’s take a look at VCAA’s ranking systemunpacking what, how, and why the process is used.

What are VCE SAC rankings?
How do VCE SAC rankings work?
Why does VCE have SAC rankings?
How do VCE SAC rankings affect my ATAR?
Frequently Asked Questions

What are VCE SAC rankings?

VCAA refers to their SAC Ranking method as a ‘Statistical moderation process’.  They describe the process as follows:

SAC Rankings - Statistical Moderation

Extract obtained from VCAA

Essentially, the ATAR calculation process is fairer, giving teachers more flexibility and choice in teaching their classes and assessing their students.

Did you know that the GAT can also affect your ATAR?

How do VCE SAC rankings work?

VCAA place all VCE students and schools onto a common scale in these steps:

#1: Students in their cohort are ranked

Moderation groups consist of everyone in your school (and possibly partner schools) completing a subject.

So, if you are attending School A and studying English, you would be in a moderation group of everyone studying English at School A.

Accordingly, everyone in the moderation groups will be ranked according to their coursework grades (This is how SAC Rankings are made). It’s nothing fancy, the person with the highest coursework grade is the first SAC rank, second highest coursework grade is the second SAC rank and so on.

#2: A common scale is developed

Two scales are made from school-assessed scores and external assessment scores. These two are aligned by matching fixed points like the median scores as closely as possible.

Creating a Common Scale - VCE SAC Ranks

Extract obtained from VCAA

However, please note that every VCE student’s SAC rank is preserved in this process.

#3: Students school-based assessment scores are compared

Subsequently, every VCE student’s score is then placed on this common scale. The scores will be ranked and distributed to fulfil the following benchmarks!

2% of students will get a score of or above 45

9% of students will get a score of or above 40

26% of students will get a score of or above 35

53% of students will get a score of or above 30

78% of students will get a score of or above 25

93% of students will get a score of or above 20

Statistics obtained from VCAA

On the other hand, it is important to note that Statistical Moderation does not alter the rank of students. Therefore, a student given the top rank for school based assessments will have the top score after statistical moderation no matter how they perform on the exam.

Statistical moderation example

Statistical Moderation Example

Above is an example of how the statistical moderation process works. Take particular note of how the students rankings and exam scores impact their moderated SAC score. The moderated SAC score is what calculated your final study score for the subject.

Please note that the process is much more complex than the table above, which is merely a simplified example of VCAA’s process.

See how your Study Score will be affected from here using the Study Score Report!

Why does VCE have SAC rankings?

Why does VCAA do statistical moderation?

The SAC ranking process does tries to achieve one simple goal — fairness and equity for all involved in VCE.

To be more specific, this process accounts for the fact that you cannot have everyone sit the same SACs and SATs or at least make them all the same difficulty.

This ideally means that you will not get a lower or higher study score because of the school you went to or the type of teacher you had! 

Additionally, the statistical moderation process rewards students who perform consistently throughout the year, not just on the final exam. Yes! This means your SACs do matter!

Learn more about VCE SACs and how they work!

How do VCE SAC rankings affect my ATAR?

Overall, VCAA’s statistical moderation process tends to be to the benefit of all students.

  • Have a harsh SAC marker? your scores will be increased.
  • Someone have an easy SAC marker? their scores will go down.
  • Did someone underperform in the exam? they won’t bring the class down with them.
  • Did you underperform in the exam? your achievements throughout the year will not be tarnished.

Avoid poor exam performance with our guide to VCE External Assessment Preparation!

However, there are situations where the process could have a negative effect. For example, if your teacher fails to separate the top students in the cohort, the ‘good’ and ‘excellent’ students will be clumped at the top. Possibly creating an inaccurate ranking of the cohort.

Ultimately, it is critical that your teachers get the rankings spot on. If they don’t, it could drag everyone down.

Increase your knowledge about the VCE system by reading a guide on VCE Study Scores!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do ‘School rankings’ affect my ATAR?

‘School rankings’ is quite a misleading term. VCAA does not compare between schools in their statistical moderation process. The process involves two types of comparison:

  • Between students in the same cohort (moderation group).
  • Between the cohort and the state as a collective (remember the ‘common scale’?).

Students won’t have their moderated SAC scores scaled up significantly because they were the best cohort in the state. They will have their moderated SAC scores scaled up because they performed significantly better than other students in the state.

In other words, how your cohort performs does matter quite a bit. Referring back to the statistical moderation example, all students collectively performed better on the exam than their SACs, leading to them all getting their SAC scores scaled up in the conversion to moderated SAC scores.

Do I have to try as rank 1 in my cohort?

Not necessarily. You will get the highest moderated SAC score – unless you really bomb the exam. Although, please note that if you get a poor exam score it will be at the expense of the rest of your cohort (it happens more than you think). Remember, how your cohort performs collectively matters.

Additionally, if you really perform significantly worse in the exam, you will be omitted from the cohort when the scales are aligned in statistical moderation. Meaning you won’t get the highest score in your cohort, and will just be compared on your own to the rest of the state.

Don’t be the person that costs the rest of their friends a good study score!

Can you get a high study score from a low SAC rank?

Yes. If a cohort was strong enough a rank 20-40 could scale up to anywhere between 90-100, meaning an aced exam looks like a 45-100.

This displays that when you are in a strong cohort, your rankings don’t really matter anymore and rankings are just a bragging right at that point!

However, if you aren’t in such a strong cohort, it would be quite difficult to get over 40 from a low SAC rank.

For instance, referring back to the ‘statistical moderation example’:

Statistical Moderation #2

Student A had a low SAC rank in the cohort, so despite getting an exam score that typically leads to at least a study score of 40, they got a 38.

This is largely because their exam score went to another student who was ranked higher than them.

That’s all!

VCE SAC ranks become a major point of discussion for VCE students as exams approach. I fully understand why they can cause so much stress.

Regardless, it is really important to understand that the rankings will take care of themselves. They’re not out to ruin your ATAR. They’re there to make sure you get the result you deserve!

Also try our article on what are VCE Study Scores and why are they important?

Need more VCE resources?

Use our comprehensive list of past VCE exams to start your exam preparation!

Boost your chances of acing VCE and check out our other resources!

Are you looking for some extra help with understanding how your VCE SAC rankings work?

We have an incredible team of VCE tutors and mentors!

We can help you master your VCE subject study designs and ace your upcoming VCE assessments with personalised lessons conducted one-on-one in your home or online!

We’ve supported over 8,000 students over the last 11 years, and on average our students score mark improvements of over 20%!

To find out more and get started with an inspirational VCE tutor and mentor, get in touch today or give us a ring on 1300 267 888!


Max Huyton is the VIC Growth Marketer for Art of Smart and a Laws and Commerce student at Monash University. In his other life, Max spends his time reading and writing whenever he gets the chance and cooking extremely mediocre dishes for friends and family.

45,861 students have a head start...

Get exclusive study content & advice from our team of experts delivered weekly to your inbox!

AOS Website Asset 2

Looking for Academic Support?

Discover how we can help you!

AOS Website Asset 1