It’s been a long, long time. Alas, we’ve been kept way too busy by the Evil Mathologer, as well as some edu-idiots, who shall remain nameless but not unknown. Anyway, with luck normal transmission has now resumed. There’s a big, big backlog of mathematical crap to get through.

To begin, there’s a shocking news story that has just appeared, about schools posting “wrong Year 12 test scores” and being ordered to remove them by the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre. Naughty, naughty schools!


The report tells of how two Victorian private schools had conflated Victoria’s VCE subject scores and International Baccalaureate subject scores. The schools had equated the locally lesser known IB scores of 6 or 7 to the more familiar VCE ATAR of 40+, to then arrive at a combined percentage of such scores. Reportedly, this raised the percentage of “40+” student scores at the one school from around 10% for VCE alone to around 25% for combined VCE-IB, with a comparable raise for the other school. More generally, it was reported that about a third of IB students score a 6 or 7, whereas only about one in eleven VCE scores are 40+.

On the face of it, it seems likely that the local IB organisation that had suggested Victorian schools use the 6+ = 40+ equation got it wrong. That organisation is supposedly reviewing the comparison and the two schools have removed the combined percentages from their websites.

There are, however, a few pertinent observations to be made:

None of the sense or substance of the above is hinted at in the schools-bad/VTAC-good news report.

Of course the underlying issue is tricky. Though the IBO tries very hard to compare IB scores, it is obviously very difficult to compare IB apples to VCE oranges. We have no idea whether or how one could create a fair and useful comparison. We do know, however, that accepting VTAC’s cocky sanctimony as the last word on this subject, or any subject, would be foolish.

5 Replies to “VTACKY”

  1. Welcome back Marty.

    Before anyone (assuming there are enough people remaining who give a crap) begin to make statements about this being a private school problem, the IBO does not discriminate and public schools in Victoria do offer IB courses. Indeed the popularity of the IB against the background of anti-IB sentiment from VTAC (several statistical papers have been published to show that IB students with similar ATARs to VCE students have actually performed at a far superior level) is testament to just how good the program is

    There are perhaps a few possible (but also highly improbable) solutions to this little conundrum:

    1. Ban all schools from publishing student achievement data (while we’re at it, stop MySchool from publishing NAPLAN data).

    2. Determine (perhaps based on the GAT) a fair model for comparing VCE band scores to IB scores.

    3. Just make the VCE exams better (the difference in difficulty and scope between the VCE Mathematics exams and the NHT equivalents could be the topic for a great many blog posts if you had the time)

    4. Everyone just get over it and choose schools based on something other than published results.

  2. Thanks, Number 8. Can you supply references for analyses showing that IB students with similar ATAR’s performed at a superior level? Also, though it’s kind of off-topic, are you suggesting there’s a systemic difference in standard between VCE and NTH-VCE?

    1. Having been a student at an IB school (not in Australia) for three years, I noticed a lot of differences at a local independent school (which was misunderstood by my family because they had high median VCE scores) when compared to my last school. Hopefully I can go back after this semester.

      Although in all honesty I haven’t experienced IB that much. The school wasn’t teaching the Middle Years Programme and have their own curriculum, but I can see primary differences between IB and VCE where IB could prepare students better in the workplace, and tertiary.

      Besides the obvious fact that IB Maths is just superior, I have noticed that IB draws more focus on research skills and writing.

      IB has EE (Extended Essay), TOK (Theory of Knowledge) that get students to write a lot. Having more focus on writing is good for assessing application of knowledge.

      If you look up “Scotch College” on JSTOR, they are not among the list of schools that provide access. Because who needs them? This is almost a necessity for IB schools, I had looked up several schools that offer IB in Australia and they all have access. (The “Scotch College” in WA offers IB)

      1. Thanks, Anonymous. I don’t have a lot of experience with IB, but everything I’ve seen is consistent with what you write. If Scotch College (Melbourne) doesn’t have JSTOR access, that’s pretty telling. But one can also understand: that eighth polo field won’t pay for itself.

  3. I don’t have recent studies, having not been an IB Coordinator in some time. The head of IB in Australia tabled a paper at a coordinators meeting (this would have been in about 2012 maybe?) demonstrating how poorly IB students were treated in the VTAC calculations.

    As for the NHT VCE papers I’m thinking of doing some further research on this myself because based on the 2 years currently available they are VERY different papers.

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