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Frequently asked questions

The senior assessment system in its current form began in the early 1980s. The tertiary entrance system — commonly known as the OP system — was introduced in 1992.

In a report released in 2014, the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) found that while existing arrangements had served Queensland students well and remained fair and reliable, they would not be sustainable over the longer term. ACER recommended changes to achieve greater rigour and simplicity.

Read more about the development of the new QCE system.

The new QCE system starts with students entering Year 11 in 2019. The first students to receive an ATAR instead of an OP will graduate from Year 12 in 2020.

Students finishing Year 12 in 2019 are not affected by the changes. Families with students finishing Year 12 in 2019 can be assured that the current senior assessment and tertiary entrance systems remain fair and reliable.

Before reaching its decision, the government consulted extensively with education stakeholders and the wider community. The feedback indicated strong support for changes to the way students are assessed. There was also strong support among Queensland universities for eligible Year 12 students to be provided with an ATAR rather than an OP .

The Minister for Education chairs the Senior Secondary Assessment Taskforce with representatives from schooling sectors, parent groups, principal associations, teacher unions, the QCAA , QTAC and the tertiary sector. The taskforce is advising the Minister on the shape of the new systems. Outcomes from each taskforce meeting are published in communiques on the Department of Education and Training website.

A system of 100% school-based assessment has operated in Queensland for more than 40 years.

In the new system, results in subjects will be based on a student’s achievement in three internal assessments, and one external assessment that is set and marked by the QCAA . This is fewer assessments than students currently complete — emphasising quality over quantity.

External assessment results will generally contribute 25% towards a student’s result in most subjects. In mathematics and science subjects, it will generally contribute 50%. The school-based assessments will not be scaled by the results of the external assessment when calculating a student’s subject result

The new system will keep all the qualities inherent in school-based assessment while introducing greater consistency and the transparency of common assessments that are sat by students at all schools.

Variation between subjects reflects the kinds of learning specific to those subjects and how achievement is most appropriately assessed. It would be inappropriate to assess all subjects in the same way. Variation exists in other states, although few take exactly the same approach.

New processes of endorsement and confirmation will be adopted to strengthen the quality and comparability of internal assessment.

The QCAA will provide more specific parameters for developing internal assessments in each subject. This will include the type of assessment, the conditions under which it should be administered and a common marking scheme.

All internal assessments for General subjects will be subject to endorsement by the QCAA before they are used in the classroom. This will ensure that all assessments provide sufficient opportunities for students to demonstrate syllabus requirements and to build teachers’ capacity to develop high-quality assessments.

The QCAA will select representative samples of completed student responses from each school. Trained assessors will then review a sample of student work to check the accuracy of grades awarded by teachers. Importantly, the QCAA will select the student work to be reviewed.

In the new QCE system, internal assessment in General subjects will be quality assured through two new processes — endorsement and confirmation.

Internal assessment in Essential English and Essential Mathematics will be quality assured through the new endorsement process and annual moderations meetings held for all Applied syllabuses, which will include a review of judgments about student responses.

See the Assessment section of our website for key dates for endorsement, confirmation and external assessment.

From 2020, the ATAR will replace the OP as the standard pathway to tertiary study for Year 12 students in Queensland. The ATAR is a finer grained rank order of students than the OP and is commonly used in other states and territories. It’s a number between 0.00 and 99.95 with increments of 0.05, whereas the OP consists of 25 bands. The Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre (QTAC) will be responsible for calculating students’ ATARs

The Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre (QTAC) will be responsible for calculating students’ ATARs.

Visit the QTAC website for information about the calculation of ATARs in the new QCE system.

In each General senior subject, numerical results from the three internal assessments and the external assessment will be added together to calculate a final subject result. Following completion of the subject, students will be provided with their overall numerical result as well as a corresponding level of achievement.

The QCE will remain as Queensland’s senior school qualification. Students who are eligible will continue to be awarded one at the end of Year 12. Students will also receive a statement of results. It shows all studies and the results achieved that may contribute to the award of a QCE

The QCAA has developed new senior assessment processes through:

  • redeveloping senior syllabuses that reflect a new assessment model and 21st century skills
  • trialling external assessments in a range of subjects with thousands of students at hundreds of schools
  • trialling processes for improving the quality and comparability of internal assessment.

Teachers have been well supported in the transition to the new system through a range of professional development activities and resources.

Thousands of teachers have participated in surveys, forums, trials and professional development workshops throughout the transition period.

The education community in general has been an important driver of the changes.

The QCAA has reviewed all senior syllabuses to ensure they reflect the knowledge and skill sets required for further study and employment in the 21st century. Some subjects have been renamed, others combined to better describe what the subjects are about, and new ones developed. For example:

  • Prevocational Mathematics and Mathematics A, B and C will be replaced by the Australian Curriculum-aligned subjects of Essential Mathematics, General Mathematics, Mathematics Methods, and Specialist Mathematics
  • existing Information and Communication Technology (ICT) subjects have been redeveloped into a single digital technology and computational thinking subject called Digital Solutions and a new subject — called Design — will incorporate valued learning from Graphics, Technology Studies, Home Economics and Information Technology Studies
  • a new subject of Psychology has been developed.

The new syllabuses include greater detail on what students must know and be able to do. They also contain common requirements for the development of internal assessments and common marking guides to support teachers in making judgments about student learning.

Students should continue to choose subjects according to their learning goals, and what they enjoy and are good at. They should pay close attention to the prerequisite requirements of the courses they are considering for tertiary study.

For all students intending to go on to tertiary study, achieving a satisfactory grade in English will be a prerequisite for receiving an ATAR . However, it will not be mandatory for a student’s result in English to be included in the calculation of their ATAR .

Currently, Year 12 students complete up to ten assessments in some subjects. Under the new QCE system, students will be expected to complete four pieces of assessment per subject. Three will be internal assessments and one will be externally set and graded. All four assessments will count towards a student’s final result.

These will not be ‘one-shot’ external exams where an entire course of study comes down to performance over a few hours. External assessments are designed to give an extra layer of information about what students have learnt and can do in a subject. Queensland is introducing a progressive system that embodies the best of school-based and external assessment.

The report, Flexibility in senior secondary schooling: Flexible Curriculum Delivery Working Group findings (PDF, 308.9 KB), discusses the range of strategies used in Queensland and around Australia that provide flexibility for school communities in senior curriculum and assessment systems. Read more about flexible curriculum delivery in the new QCE system.

To support the new QCE system and ensure the QCE keeps pace with the changing nature of senior schooling, some minor changes were made to QCE eligibility requirements. The changes will apply to students whose learning accounts are opened in 2018 and who will graduate from Year 12 in 2020 or continue to work towards their QCE after leaving school.

Some minor changes were made to QCIA eligibility requirements. The changes will apply to students whose learning accounts are opened in 2018 and who will graduate from 2020.

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