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Part 1: Why the GAT matters and how to it to your advantage

Lisa Tran

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The General Achievement Test (GAT) is a 3 hour assessment based on your general knowledge ranging from English, mathematics and humanity topics. The general vibe seen from majority of VCE students is that they aren’t really too sure why they have to take part in this ‘exam’ and as a result, most have little care for it. However, the GAT is an important component in the VCE assessment process. Let’s see why:

1. Standardising how teachers grade your SACs between different schools

Have you ever talked to your friend from another school and realised how unfair it was that their SAC length for the same assessment was twice the amount of time you had for your SAC? or that perhaps they received the English prompt a week prior to the SAC, rather than during the SAC like you did? Well, this type of this discrepancy can be compensated by the GAT as it helps to eliminate any biases school to school. This means that ultimately, when SAC marks contribute to your overall study score, you can be sure that your grades have been fairly compared to all other VCE students across the state. This also means that as a whole cohort, the students undertaking VCE at your school should all try to do their best because a better outcome will reflect better on the school’s grading system.

2. Ensuring that your exam marks at the end of year reflect your level and skills

All end-of-year papers are checked twice by two different assessors who independently give you a score for your exam. Now if they both give you a similar score then great, your exam has been marked. If not, a third assessor will then look at your exam in order to reach an agreement. Then, there is a last check against your GAT mark. If it so happens that your exam mark is much lower than what your GAT mark anticipated you to obtain – in other words, if you received a high GAT mark which demonstrates your strong skills in English, mathematics, science or humanities depending on the subject in question, then the paper will be reassessed again. So if you do well in the GAT and receive an excellent score, if for some reason you under-perform in the exam, then the GAT mark can help lift up your score. If your GAT mark is relatively low, then it probably can’t help you, despite you receiving an unexpected low exam grade. Thus, the GAT mark will only ever help you, it can never bring your mark down. That’s another reason why you should try to do well.

3. Derived Examination Score (DES)

Some students apply for a DES when they experience hardship during their VCE exam period such as personal trauma or an accident. In such situations, the GAT is compared with their exam mark to see whether or not the student demonstrated their full potential or if they under-performed because of their current situation. Again, if the student received a lower exam mark but has a high GAT score, it can mean that perhaps the student didn’t do as well as they could have, and thus, their grade may be boosted upwards. Many students believe that they are immune to anything happening to them before or during the exams, but you never know. You may as well take advantage of what VCAA is offering you – basically a ticket to a better ATAR if you’re ever in need.

Now knowing all this, it is often said that there is no preparation required for the GAT. Of course, if you are the type who would like to fit in some practice before the real thing, then have a look at the GAT archive available on the VCAA website. While you may not need to ‘study’ for the GAT, it is definitely worth knowing how you can best approach the examination in order to maximise your score outcome – so have a read of Part 2 of our GAT series: How to perform well in GAT Writing Tasks!

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