Senior Years

There are two types of programs available to students at Springside West Secondary College:

  • Victorian Certificate of Education [VCE] 
  • Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning [VCAL]

Within each of these programs students have the opportunity to participate in a Vocational Education and Training (VET) course of their choice.


Participation in a VCE program provides students with the opportunity of completing a senior school certificate by selecting from a range of studies including VET. Students are able to focus on studies that will provide a pathway to University, TAFE or employment.

The Victorian Certificate of Education is a program that is designed to be taken over a minimum of two years. Each subject offered at VCE is broken up into 4 units. Each unit lasts one semester. Most studies offer four units, but students do not necessarily have to take all four units for a particular subject. 

A full list of the VCE courses on offer each year is available in the Senior Years Subject Handbook [available under the “Curriculum” tab of our website]. Detailed breakdowns of each of the VCE study designs can be found here.


A VCE program will normally be made up of 22 units completed over two years. Students usually complete 12 Units [6 subjects] of Units 1 & 2 in Year 11 before proceeding to 10 Units [5 subjects] of Units 3 & 4 in Year 12. It is possible for Year 11 students who have demonstrated ability to select a Unit 3 & 4 study in their first year. This is subject to approval from the school and is also dependent upon availability within classes. 

Understanding the two levels of units within the VCE:

  • Units 1 and 2 – These are usually taken in the first year of the VCE program in Year 11. Most students take both units in a study, but it is possible in Year 11 [subject to timetabling constraints] to take only one unit of a particular study.  
  • Units 3 and 4 – These are more advanced and are mostly taken in Year 12. Units 3 and 4 must be studied as a sequence – that is, if you take Unit 3 of any study, you must also take Unit 4. 


The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority [VCAA] sets these minimum requirements for satisfactory graduation of the VCE. 

The VCE is awarded on the basis of satisfactorily completing at least 16 units. This minimum of 16 must include:

  • At least 3 units of an English study [of either English, EAL, English Language or Literature] from Units 1-4 in all, including a Unit 3 and 4 sequence AND
  • At least three unit 3 and 4 studies other than the compulsory English study

These are the minimum graduation requirements for the VCE. Please note that entry into certain tertiary courses may require prerequisite subjects and ATAR scores well beyond the minimum requirements. 


In order to qualify for an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank [ATAR] you must obtain a pass in a Unit 3 and 4 English study. The English study may be selected from any of the following studies:

  • English [Units 3 & 4]
  • English Language [Units 3 & 4]
  • Literature [Units 3 & 4]
  • English as an Additional Language [Units 3 & 4]

Please note: Eligibility criteria applies for EAL. The range of English studies on offer [other than ‘English’ Units 3 & 4] in a particular year is subject to timetable constraints.  

If a student does more than the four units of English studies, the extra units will be counted simply as additional VCE units, as is the case with any other VCE subject. 

In calculating the ATAR, any English Units 3 & 4 will be counted as part of the primary four studies. [For more information on how the ATAR is calculated, see below.]


Participation in a VCAL program provides students the opportunity of completing a senior secondary certificate. The program is designed for students with a clear career focus in a particular industry/trade. Students selecting this pathway will improve their literacy and numeracy skills, complete industry specific training and undertake regular work placement.

Students who complete a VCAL program may go on to undertake a TAFE course, pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship or begin full time employment. It is possible for VCE students to transfer into a VCAL program.


A VCAL program comprises of:

  • Four core strands of learning in the classroom at school:
    • Numeracy 
    • Literacy 
    • Personal Development  
    • Work related skills
  • Industry Specific Skills [either a VET program or a TAFE program in a specific industry]  
  • Structured Workplace Learning 
  • General Units can be acquired through
    • Certificate II in Creative Industries
    • Unit 1 and 2 Industry and Enterprise
    • Numeracy Unit 2


Students generally complete 12 VCAL units each year and complete their VCAL Senior certificate over two years. A unit can consist of a VCAL strand, a VCE unit or a VET unit. 

A student is awarded a VCAL Senior Certificate when they gain credits for 10 units. Of these 10 units, at least six must be of senior (Year 12)  level. Of these six:

  • At least one must be senior literacy and one must be senior personal development
  • At least two must be VCAL units 
  • At least one must be a numeracy unit 
  • At least one must be a VET unit 
  • At least one must be a work related skills unit 


Students completing the VCAL undertake competency based assessment. Their skills must be directly observed several times by the teacher. Students have multiple opportunities to seek feedback and resubmit tasks to be able to demonstrate competency. 

Assessment methods include but are not limited to: observation, portfolio, reports, debates, case studies and workplace logs.