Skip links and keyboard navigation

This site uses cookies. By using this site, you agree to our: Cookie Policy, Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

All the detail is here, including where to go for more. But if this is confusing or overwhelming, DON’T PANIC! Someone at school should talk you through it, or you can ask for help any time from your guidance officer or year level coordinator.

As you head towards senior school, the options and acronyms go next-level.  So if you’re thinking ‘what the heck are all these words?’ This article will make things way easier.  

The big three – QCE, ATAR and QCAA

QCE (Queensland Certificate of Education)

The QCE is Queensland’s senior secondary schooling qualification. It is internationally recognised and provides evidence of your senior schooling achievements. A QCE alone doesn’t give you an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) but it does open up many other pathways.

ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank)

ATAR is a number mainly used by universities to select which students, out of high school, will be offered a place in a particular course. It’s a number between 0 and 99.95, which shows where students rank in their year group, based on their academic performance. Your ATAR is used for tertiary entrance only.

QCAA (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority)

The QCAA is the Queensland Government statutory body that develops syllabuses, marks assessments and issues the Queensland Certificate of Education.

QCE terminology 

To receive a QCE, students must achieve the set amount of learning, in the set standard, in a set pattern, while meeting literacy and numeracy requirements.  Right….what does that even mean??

SET amount

The number of credit points you need to achieve your QCE (it’s 20 – but more on this later).

SET pattern

How you structure your learning and choose your subjects/courses to achieve your 20 points.

To get a QCE you must complete a minimum of 20 credit points from a combination of courses:

SET standard

The minimum grade or pass mark that you need.

Literacy and numeracy requirements

You need to meet minimum literacy and numeracy standards to get your QCE, but this doesn’t mean you have to do English and Maths. There’s a number of ways to meet these numeracy and literacy requirements.

Core courses of study terminology 

Remembering that you need at least 12 points of these to achieve your QCE…

Core Subjects are made up of:

  1. General subjects
    Typically suited to students who are interested in pathways beyond school that lead primarily to tertiary studies, vocational education and training, or work.  Examples are biology, geography, music and visual arts.
  2. Applied subjects
    Typically suited to students who are primarily interested in pathways beyond school that lead to vocational education and training or work. Examples are Agricultural practices, Building & construction skills, dance, and tourism.
  3. General extension subjects
    Extensions of the general subjects, for example, English & Literature Extension, French Extension and Music Extension.
  4. General senior external examination subjects
    This is a program of individual subject examinations offered to eligible Year 12 students and adult learners (who are 17 years or older, or students under 17 who are eligible).

For a full list of subjects go to the QCAA website.

Certificate II, III and IV qualifications (includes traineeships)

Approved qualifications obtained can be counted towards your Core courses of study.

School-based apprenticeships 

All school-based apprentices and trainees participate in vocational training that contributes to a Certificate II, III or higher vocational qualification which can count towards your QCE Core courses of study.

Recognised studies categorised as Core

Recognised studies are courses of study that have been recognised by the QCAA as being eligible to contribute credit to the QCE. Check out the full list.

So that’s the first 12 points and Core courses of study explained!

Now, for the next 8 points….

Other courses of study terminology 

Remembering that 8 credits can come from any combination of:

Let’s take a look at the other types of courses.

Preparatory courses

These include Certificate 1 courses, QCAA short courses in literacy and numeracy, and other QCAA-recognised preparatory courses.

Complementary courses

These include QCAA Short Courses, University subjects (while a student is enrolled at a school), Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas (while a student is enrolled at a school), and QCAA-recognised complementary courses.

TIP! In theory, all 20 credits could come from Core subjects; however, this structure enables you to achieve your QCE in a variety of ways.

Helpful Jargon

SET plan

In Year 10 you’ll work with your school to develop your SET plan or Senior Education and Training Plan, which is all about planning your pathway forward and how you want to work towards your QCE.  

QCE pathways

The best part of the QCE (other than the satisfaction of achieving it) is that you have choices and options about how you make it happen.  There are many different pathways and helpful advice for constructing your own QCE pathway.

If you're struggling and don't know where to start go to...