Skip to content


What Is WACE and Why Does It Matter? A Guide for Students

The completion of the Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE) is a significant milestone for students in Western Australia as it marks the successful completion of senior secondary education. Although this is typically achieved over Year 11 and Year 12, it can be completed by mature-age students at any time. 

Attaining WACE opens the door for future study opportunities and shapes a student’s academic and career trajectory, especially for those seeking an ATAR pathway.  

A Comprehensive Introduction to WACE 


Governing Bodies 

Having a WACE is a sign that you’ve completed the academic requirements for Years 11 and 12. Rooted in the educational framework of Western Australia, WACE is administered by the School Curriculum and Standards Authority. The School Curriculum and Standards Authority meticulously oversees WACE activities, ensuring they align with the educational aspirations and standards in WA. 

WACE vs. Other Secondary School Certifications 

WACE’s unique structure and comprehensive curriculum set it apart from other secondary school certifications, offering a well-rounded educational experience. When compared with global certifications, WACE’s emphasis on holistic development and diverse subject choices underscore its distinctiveness. 

How to Achieve a WACE Certificate 

To achieve WACE, students must meet various requirements. These include completing several Year 11 and Year 12 courses and demonstrating a minimum standard of literacy and numeracy. 

Where WACE Can Take You


WACE results are used by universities, vocational training organisations, and employers to assess the suitability of candidates for further study or employment. The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) can also be calculated based on the student’s performance in WACE exams, which helps determine eligibility for university entrance.

How WACE and ATAR are Linked

There are two main types of WACE courses: ATAR and General Courses. You do not need to do ATAR to receive a WACE, but you do need to complete WACE to achieve an ATAR.

An ATAR score ranges from 99.95 to zero and is used to position you relative to all other students in WA who sit WACE exams in the same year. For example, if you have an ATAR of 75.00, it means that you have achieved as well as or better than 75% of the students who completed ATAR that year.

ATAR as a Prerequisite for University

University courses have an ATAR score prerequisite. For example, to study a Bachelor of Engineering at Curtin University, you’ll need an ATAR of 80 or higher. A Bachelor of Commerce at the same university requires an ATAR of 70 or higher.

If you don’t reach the ATAR score you need for the university course you want, don’t worry! There are other pathways you can use to eventually study that course (but we won’t go into that today).

WACE for Vocational Pathways

WACE also opens doors to various Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses, offering alternative career paths and opportunities. The VET you undertake while completing WACE can provide direct entry to employment or open doors to future study, including further vocational or higher education.

The WACE Structure

Overview of Subjects and Courses

In a sense, there are multiple ways to achieve your certificate. Rather than fixed subjects, WACE encompasses a spectrum of subjects and courses, which students can choose from. Many balance academic goals and university prerequisites with personal interests, fostering the development of essential skills and knowledge.

Learning areas to choose from at Canning College including English, health, mathematics, science, and technologies.

Assessment and Examination Structure

Assessment under WACE is multifaceted. For each subject, students have a variety of assessments throughout the year (e.g. exams, assignments, practical tasks etc.) and an external exam/s or at the end of the year. Depending on the subject, a student may have a written (or theory) exam, as well as a practical exam. All these elements are used to calculate an individual’s ATAR.

Choosing Subjects and Courses

Embarking on the WACE journey requires strategic planning and informed decision-making, aligning subject choices with career aspirations and passions. For starters, students must choose the right subjects — of course, there are no “correct” subjects in the broader scheme of things. “Right” just refers to subjects that align with academic requirements — we focus on STEM subjects at Canning College.

As a result, the correct blend of WACE subjects and courses will be different for each person. Some students find this process overwhelming, which is perfectly normal and okay. Our Student Services team can assist you in choosing the best subjects for your interests and future study needs.

Four Common Challenges WACE Students Face

WACE students encounter various challenges, recognising these early in the academic journey and adopting proactive strategies are keys to success.

1. Poor Time Management

You won’t be able to master your subjects solely by the work that you do in class, even if this is what you’ve done in the past. You’ll need to put in additional time for study, practice and revision at home, especially around exam time. However, between work, family, hobbies, and social commitments, some students struggle with time management when it comes to studies.

2. Unaware of Syllabus and Study Requirements

While it’s true that the syllabus can be hard to understand, reading it is essential so you know what’s required of you. You can read the WA syllabus here. 

3. Not Enough Emphasis on Assessments

When it comes to ATAR, too many students mistakenly believe everything depends on the end-of-year exams. Remember, 50% of your ATAR comes from the marks you achieve throughout the year (assignments and assessments) and 50% of the end-of-year exam marks.

4. Cramming for Exams

Adding another dimension to poor time management, “cramming” occurs when students cruise through the year and then intensively study large volumes of information in a very short period of time, right before exams. The technique focuses on rote memorisation rather than a deep understanding of the material and often results in a lack of sleep, which ironically impairs memory. Exam cramming is famously ineffective, yet it’s a common situation students find themselves in.

Study Tips and Resources for WACE 

Study Habits and Routines 

Establishing disciplined study habits and routines early on in the year is fundamental for academic achievement. It also helps you maintain a healthy balance between all commitments — work, hobbies, family, and friends. It’s a good idea to regularly review your commitments and prioritise accordingly.  

Utilising Resources and Seeking Help When Needed 

Using available resources and seeking help proactively can significantly enhance understanding and retention of knowledge. At Canning College, teachers are always willing to provide out-of-class additional support as required. Teachers are also rostered into our learning centre-for ‘free tuition’ at advertised times. 

Managing Stress and Exam Anxiety  

Learning to manage stress and anxiety can significantly improve assessment experiences and outcomes. A key way to mitigate and manage stress is making time for hobbies, relaxation, journaling, meditation, sleep and social engagements. A balanced diet and exercise — even if light or minimal — are also key. 

Six Specific Study & Revision Techniques for WACE 

Adopting effective study and revision techniques significantly improves learning speed and information retention. 

Below are some proven and popular study methods. You’ll naturally gravitate to specific ones and combinations, or blend techniques, depending on your learning style. For example, you might use the Pomodoro Technique (5) to do Mind Mapping (3) and then finish up with a Summary Sheet (6). 

1. Active Recall 

Retrieve information from your memory without looking at the text. Answer questions, do practice problems, or explain concepts out loud. This strengthens memory recall and identifies areas of weakness. 

2. Spaced Repetition 

Review the same material multiple times over increasing intervals. This helps combat the “forgetting curve” (a hypothesis that suggests that over time, the memory of learned information decays if it’s not reviewed or used) and strengthens long-term retention. 

3. Mind Mapping 

For visual learners, mind mapping is a great practical tool — simply draw or create visual diagrams that represent relationships between concepts. This enhances memory through visual cues and the organisation of information. When it’s time to recall this information, you’ll picture the diagram in your head instead of words on a page. 

4. Self or Assisted Quizzing 

Regularly test yourself with flashcards or mock quizzes. If possible, have someone else write the quiz or hold up flashcards for you. This reinforces memory, identifies gaps in knowledge, and mimics test conditions. 

5. The Pomodoro Technique 

Work 25 minutes then take a five-minute break. Repeat. Each study session is called a “Pomodoro” — when you complete four, increase the break intervals to 15 minutes. This prevents burnout and helps you maintain high levels of focus.  

6. Write a Summary Sheet 

Condense your notes and material into one-page summaries for each topic. Even if you study the same material multiple days in a row, you should write a new Summary Sheet each time. This simplifies revision, identifies key points, and aids visual learning. 

Your WACE Journey Starts at Canning College   

Looking to begin your academic WACE journey? You can register your interest in attending Canning College on this page or call us on 9278 3500 to arrange a discussion. Canning College will contact you to arrange a meeting to discuss your interest in the College and your future plans.