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The need for information about the new GAT

May 29, 2023 by Doug McCurry from BooBook Education

The stakes for students have gone up significantly with the new GAT. The test now offers definite standards-based and normative information about individual students.

To get a VCE Vocational Major students are expected to do GAT Section A. Section A reports on three standards.

  • Not yet meeting the standard,
  • Meeting the standard and
  • Exceeding the standard.

Student who do not sit the GAT will have it reported on their VCE certificate.

To get an ATAR students must also do Section B of the GAT, and the results are reported as a standardised score out of 50, as with other externally assessed VCE studies.

The grading of GAT B out of 50 will be on the curve, as the Americans say. Some of the following normative information will be on the GAT statement of results.


Standardised Score







Proportion of students on or above this position (approximate)







Standardised Score as grades







Proportion of students in each grade (approximate)








Students can get a VCE certificate without doing the tests, but the statement of results will say that they did not do the GAT and were not exempted.

With the old GAT the VCAA attempted to minimize the visibility of the test by saying you don't have to study for it, and only raw scores were reported without any supporting information that would give meaning to those raw scores. This is no longer the case. The new GAT Section A scores place students quite definitely and significantly as Below, At or Above Y12 standard in reading writing and numeracy. These results will have significant currency value in the future.

The VCAA has always minimized the GAT by reporting raw scores and offering no examiners report. This minimization is no longer appropriate given that the GAT is a high stakes test. In the future it is likely that the first criterion in selecting applicants will be the GAT results. Student who didn't do the GAT or who did not reach the Y12 standard will be the first to be culled.

The GAT generates significant information which is why the VCAA has retained the test when the initial purpose of monitoring CAT scores in the 1990s was made redundant by the statistical moderation of SAT scores. Information from the GAT is not publicly released, although a great deal of detail is reported to individual schools in terms of the value adding assessments. These value adding assessments are also publicly reported for schools.

Given the importance of the new GAT for individuals and schools, the VCAA must offer much more information about the GAT than in the past. There must be significant qualitative and quantitative information publicly released to inform the work of teachers and students.

There are many uncertainties about:

  • the aims of the different GAT assessments;
  • the GAT constructs;
  • how they are scored;
  • criteria for assessment;
  • described levels of performance; and
  • examples of levels of performance.

The lack of information about the new GAT which is an unknown, high stakes test is egregious, and particularly egregious with two new and unfamiliar writing tests.

The VCAA has published literacy and numeracy standards, but they are of questionable value, and they do not address the issues that need to be understood by students and teachers about the new GAT.


The reading and HASS tests are uncontroversial (look at NAPLAN reading or old GAT HASS tests), but the numeracy test is seriously problematic.

  • What is numeracy in the GAT Section A test?
  • What is the relationship between numeracy and mathematics?
  • How much mathematics is there in numeracy?
  • What maths is and is not counted as numeracy?

These issues are not clarified in the VCE numeracy standards, the Australian Core Skills Framework Level 3 on which the VCE standards are said to be based, or in the Victorian numeracy curriculum.

The situation is even less satisfactory for the GAT writing tasks. Teachers need to know the following about the new GAT writing tests.

  • What is the rationale for the design of the different tasks?
  • What are the criteria for assessment of both parts?
  • What are the characteristics of the different levels of performance?
  • Are the two parts assessed on the same or different levels or standards?
  • To what extent are the tests literacy assessments that give primacy to control of language?
  • What is the relationship between quality of language and quality of thought in the writing assessments?
  • To what extent is complexity of language taken to be quality of thought in assessing writing?
  • To what extent is Section A writing a test of spelling, punctuation and grammar?
  • To what extent is Section A writing a test of reasoning and critical thinking?
  • To what extent is the quality of writing taken to be a matter of appropriateness and effectiveness of language in terms of purpose, audience and context, as in the English study?

While VCAA presses to have exam papers and examiners reports on the website as soon as possible each year, it seems the VCAA will not put the new GAT on the website until May the next year. And one suspects, as in the past there, will be no examiners report from the GAT of 2022.


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