Students undertaking VCE History (Revolutions) complete five assessment tasks for the year. The first four of these tasks are assessed by their teacher during the school year. These tasks are referred to as school-assessed coursework, or SACs. All four SACs must be completed at school, in class time and under the supervision of your teacher. The teacher is responsible for selecting, designing, writing and marking SACs. He or she must ensure that the SACs students submit are their own work, free of plagiarism, assistance or collaboration with other students. The four SACs students must complete are:
A historical inquiry. For this SAC students investigate an aspect of one of your revolutions, such as a leader, a group, an event or an issue. They will research and gather primary sources, use them to form conclusions and interpretations, then present their findings in writing. This SAC will test student understanding of the relevant Area of Study, their research skills, their ability to use primary and secondary sources, their understanding of important historical concepts and their ability to write for history.
An analysis of primary sources. For this SAC students examine, interpret and critically analyse one or more primary sources, such as documents or visual representations. Teachers provide students with sources, questions and guidelines for this analysis. This SAC will test student understanding of the relevant Area of Study, their ability to extract information from primary sources, their ability to position sources in the context of the revolution and their skill at communicating historical conclusions in writing.
An evaluation of historical interpretations. For this SAC students are required to study, interpret, compare and evaluate different views of the revolution. During the course students will examine and discuss different historians and the conclusions and arguments they have formed about the revolution. This SAC will test student understanding of the relevant Area of Study and different historical interpretations of it. Again, teachers will provide students with sources, questions and specific guidelines for this task.
Essay. This SAC requires students to write and submit a formal essay. Students will need to use appropriate structure, such as an introduction, paragraphing, signposting or topic sentences and a conclusion. They will also need a strong argument or contention to underpin the essay. This SAC will test student understanding of the relevant Area of Study, as well as their grasp of important historical concepts and their use of evidence, analysis, contention and structure.
Note: there is no set order for these four SACs; teachers may decide which SACs are used to assess each Area of Study. Students may end up completing the essay for the French Revolution (Area of Study One) in March – or for the Russian Revolution (Area of Study Two) in September. It is common for teachers to design and organise SACs so they mirror or resemble questions from the end of year exam. The historical inquiry, for example, may be tested with extended response questions similar to Questions One and Two on the exam paper. This means that SACs not only count for assessment, they also provide valuable practice for the end of year examination.
The exam. The fifth and final assessment task – and undoubtedly the most important – is the end of year examination. The exam is held in early to mid November. It contains two hours of writing time plus 15 minutes of reading time. Questions in the exam paper are set by VCAA. Exam questions follow a consistent format and test a range of skills, including knowledge of all four Areas of Study, understanding of historical concepts, ability to analyse and interpret visual and documentary evidence, understanding of historical perspectives and interpretations, and the student’s ability to write about history. All students in Victoria attempt the same exam questions, under the same conditions. Each exam paper is graded externally by two VCAA appointed teachers. Exam results constitute 50 per cent of a student’s Study Score. They are also used to statistically moderate results in school-based assessment tasks (see below).
Study scores. As in other VCE subjects, students who complete the History (Revolutions) course receive a study score: a number between 0 and 50. Study scores are calculated by VCAA, using results from the four school-assessed coursework tasks (SACs) and the end of year examination. Study scores are not really scores, they are a ranking. The study score shows where a student’s results sit in comparison to all students who completed the same subject. For example, a study score of 40 or above means the student has ranked in the top eight per cent of all History (Revolutions) students in Victoria.
Study scores are calculated using statistical moderation. Results from the end of year examination are nominally worth 50 per cent of the study score, however the exam result carries greater statistical weight than a student’s SAC scores. This is because the exam is standardised – in other words, the same exam is completed by all students, under the same conditions, and assessed by the same people. Standardisation means that VCAA considers exam scores a more reliable indicator of student performance and achievement. SACs, on the other hand, are considered less reliable. This is because they are completed in schools, under a variety of conditions, and assessed by different teachers who apply different marking standards. Because VCAA places greater trust in exam results, these results are used to moderate [adjust] SAC results. It is therefore essential that you approach the exam seriously and complete it to the best of your ability.