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Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE)

Published on
May 12, 2024

What Does QCE Stand For?

As you may have guessed from the title, the abbreviation QCE stands for Queensland Certificate of Education and is a globally accredited body for preparing senior secondary year students for their tertiary degrees.

QCE provides a breadth of subjects and courses for Queensland students to select so that they can gain admittance to preferred future studies or employment.

About QCE Certificate

The QCE cert lies under the regulation of Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA), a statutory body of the Queensland government. The QCE certificate is seen as evidence of your credibility and flexibility in learning a broad spectrum of subjects, showcasing your skills for a subsequent degree.

In other words, the QCE certification exemplifies that the senior secondary education model is not a one-size-fits-all type of learning curriculum. Most students start thinking about their QCE subjects and course selection in the start of their Year 10. The end goal is to satisfactorily complete all the QCE requirements by the end of Year 12

This senior pathway planning involves school teachers working in close conjunction with students and their parents to develop a Senior Education and Training (SET) plan. The SET plan is structured according to the interests, ambitions and learning needs of each student. It specifically highlights the student’s trajectory of education in years 11 and 12.

If you are looking for further guidance on how to plan your educational route during high school, our admission experts can provide complimentary feedback to help  attain your goal with minimal efforts.

Upon the completion of your Year 12 school qualification, you receive an electronic Senior Educational Profile (SEP). The SEP is an official document issued by QCAA to certify your honest completion of Year 12, and that your certificates or educational achievements have not been altered.

QCE Requirements for Eligibility 

How Do You Qualify for QCE?

The primary objective of QCE is to provide a range of learning opportunities for students that can supplement their career goals and ambitions in the long run. Therefore, QCE puts forth a list of eligibility requirements to determine a student’s success rate for receiving the QCE award.

Let us look into some of the baseline requirements for students to get their QCEs:

  1. Create an open learning account through myQCE portal
  2. Must not have been issued with a QCE or equivalent
  3. Acquire at least one credit from the courses in Core Category of Learning during their tenure at a Queensland secondary school

Once you are in the clear with these basic requirements, it is essential that you start looking into the big picture - the foundational requirements that are key to receiving your final QCE certification.

1. Set Amount of Learning

Each student should complete 20 credits from the provided learning options. This includes QCAA approved subjects or courses, vocational training and educational qualifications, non-Queensland studies and recognised studies (subjects or units recognised by QCAA as good contributors to a student’s QCE record).

2. Acquired grade that is up to the set standard of QCE 

Satisfactory completion, grade C or higher, competency or qualification completion, and pass or equivalent.

3. Set Pattern of Course Completion 

12 credits from complete Core courses of study, 8 credits from any combination of: Core courses, Preparatory courses (upto 4 courses) and Complementary courses (maximum 8 courses).

4. Literacy and Numeracy Prerequisite

QCE, similar to the HSC educational qualification prevalent in NSW, requests students to achieve a defined standard in one literacy and 1 numeracy learning option. 

Here are some potential learning options available for you to choose from and decide which of the units can best suit your future interests:



QCAA General or Applied English

QCAA General or Applied Maths

QCAA Short Course in Literacy

QCAA Short Course in Numeracy

Senior External Examination in a QCAA English course

Senior External Examination in a QCAA  Mathematics course

FSK20113 Certificate || in Skills for Work and Vocational pathways

FSK20113 Certificate || in Skills for Work and Vocational pathways

International Baccalaureate examination in approved English subjects

International Baccalaureate examination in approved Maths subjects

Recognised studies that meet the literacy requirements 

Recognised studies that meet the numeracy requirements 

How Does the QCE Work?

The achievements in different kinds of learning options attract varying credit values. This acquired credit value is gauged when you meet a minimum standard of achievement and have undertaken the ‘set amount of learning’ course options. A student is expected to have at least 20 credits to achieve the QCE qualification.

QCE Exams and Assessment Process

  1. Internal Assessments

The newly designed QCE system generates students’ results for General subjects and Applied Subjects differently. 

For General Subjects, the results are derived based on students’ performance in three internal assessment tasks and one external assessment.

Internal assessments constitute 75% of a student’s final course result in most subjects except for Mathematics and Science units where only 50% of the internal assessment grades are contributed to derive the final score.

NOTE:  During the calculation of a student’s total subject results, the internal assessment results are not scaled by external assessment results.

Queensland schools have sole ownership of developing internal assessments according to the courses’ framework and also provide students with a ‘rubric’ that includes - type of the assessment, conditions of administering its parameters and the marking scheme.

Once students have completed the assessment, the school teachers are responsible for marking the assessments using an instrument-specific marking guide (ISMG) provided in the course syllabus. 

QCAA registered assessors declare the internal assessment parameters or instruments before they are deployed in the classroom. The purpose of endorsements is to ensure that all assessments are of high-quality and provide reasonable opportunities for students to demonstrate the ‘rubric’ effectively.

For Applied Subjects, on the other hand, there are four internal assessments to gauge a student’s overall achievement.

Applied subjects include - Essential English and Essential Mathematics. These subjects require endorsement by QCAA and the fourth internal assessment is a common internal assessment created by the QCAA.

  1. External Assessments

The QCE system measures a student’s performance on three internal and one external assessment. This method of testing is”

  1. Commonly practised in all schools
  2. Administered at the same time, on the same day and under similar circumstances
  3. Marked by the QCAA 

A student’s external assessment performance in General Mathematics and Science subjects contributes 50% to their final scores whereas in all other General subjects, the external assessment constitutes only 25% of the total score.

How Are QCE Assessments Developed and Marked?

QCE Exam Creation Process

Each year Queensland teachers, QCAA staff members and Academics assemble to develop examination papers for over 70 subjects. The development of these exams begins with an ‘Assessment proposal’ for individual subjects, which is then cross-checked against the QCAA syllabus.

The writing team is then responsible for developing exam questions, the marking scheme and drafting the official question papers for students. In order to ensure that the exam papers are of high-standard, subject experts are asked to undertake examinations and provide invaluable feedback to improve the quality of testing. 

On this basis, students are given equitable opportunities to showcase their learnings to the best of their ability. This feedback from subject specialists is utilised effectively to make necessary edits to the questions and illustrations present within the exam papers.

After several rounds of editing and checking, the exam papers are delivered to Queensland schools where students get a chance to demonstrate their core learnings in specific subject matters.

How the QCE Marking Guidelines are Developed?

The stage after QCE exam completion is crucial as your QCE results are the ultimate determinants of whether or not you qualify for a QCE award and the following endeavours.

So, how does the QCAA marking system work?

For starters, the exam papers are collected from students and then scanned through a machine for marking purposes.  Approximately 3,000 Queensland teachers grade students’ assessments online and it takes an entire month to complete marking all subjects units.

The markers or the teachers receive intensive training from the QCAA to carry out accurate and reliable marking operations for each student. Each marker’s performance is monitored by the QCAA to ensure that their marking is consistent with the marking guidelines designed by QCAA itself.

How to Rightly Prepare for the QCE Exams?

The Queensland schools share the same goal as other Australian state schools when it comes to preparing students for a demanding tertiary education. 

Particularly, in Years 11 and 12, students require that extra push and training to be suited for the external assessments generated by the QCAA. Hence, teachers within each Queensland school tailor students' knowledge and skills according to the subject matter in the syllabus.

The QCAA, on the flip side assess students’ foundation in every single subject that is part of Units 3 and 4 or Unit 4 of the syllabus. Considering the fact that the external assessments are quite tricky and require a streamlined approach of preparation, the QCAA has developed some sample papers for more than 50 subjects. These sample papers:

  1. Allow schools to interpret how the syllabus and individual subjects are assessed year after year.
  2. Ensure students and parents alike have an opportunity to see a sample of QCE past papers before sitting external assessments for an academic year.
  3. Provide schools an opportunity to foresee some, or all of the QCE trial exams as practice tests once students complete the relevant subject matter.

But then, how are these QCE sample papers useful to students?

The QCAA developed sample papers are beneficial during your preparation because they are specifically designed to help you maximise your performance. It is important to take full advantage of these free resources and study material that can help you revise and improve your subject knowledge in a coherent method.

Besides, the external assessments are a new form of assessment to most students, so familiarising yourself with its question-types and the expected length of responses to score a full mark are essential details you must know.

Finally, adapting to an external assessment process builds confidence and gives you an edge when challenged to exercise relevant skills in a new test format. This ability to sit any exam format can really come in handy when you sit the UCAT aptitude test, in the near future, for getting into medicine.

What is ATAR QLD?

The Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank, also known as the ATAR is a primary metric used during the tertiary admissions process to determine competent fresh school leavers who have what it takes to be in a university-level of education.

The Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre (QTAC) calculates your ATAR to indicate your academic position in relation to other ATAR-eligible students in your cohort.

Let us establish how your QCE subject selection accounts to your final ATAR calculation.

The ATAR is derived from the final results you achieve in Units 3 and 4 during your Year 12. These include:

  1. 5 General Subjects; Or
  2. 4 General Subjects + 1 Applied Subject or a completed VET qualification at Certificate 3 or higher
  3. Achieve a grade of C or above in one of the five QCAA English subjects - English, English Essential, Literature, English and Literature Extension or English as an Additional Language.

QCE Exam Timetable: External Assessment

The 2022 external assessment dates have been released on the QCAA official website. For General and General (Extended) subject units, the exams will be held from Monday 24 October to Tuesday 15 November 2022.

A full-fledged exam timetable will be released in the mid of Term 2 for all students. 

For further information and queries on sitting the UCAT, visit our website to access Free resources and tools that can help shape your understanding of what the UCAT entails.