Twins with perfect ATARs say family support and love of study the key to VCE success

Twins with perfect ATARs say family support and love of study the key to VCE success

December 12, 2022

After receiving their VCE results on Monday morning, twins Kim and Kerry Zhu were stunned to discover they had both achieved the maximum ATAR of 99.95.

There was little time for celebration, though.

Haileybury twins Kim and Kerry Zhu both received the maximum ATAR.Credit:Justin McManus

The brothers, who graduated from Melbourne private school Haileybury, still planned to work in their parents’ Chinese restaurant in Bentleigh that evening.

“It’s a really tight-knit restaurant; most of the family works there,” Kerry said.

Single-sex schools dominated the list of 39 students who received a maximum ATAR of 99.95.

Haileybury, which is co-ed but operates on a parallel education model that separates girls and boys into single-sex classrooms, had seven students with a 99.95 ATAR.

Boys’ schools Scotch College and Trinity Grammar had five and four, respectively, Melbourne Grammar had three, and coeducational Penleigh and Essendon Grammar had three.

Boys’ schools Melbourne High and Xavier College each had two.

Balwyn High School, St Catherine’s School, Lauriston Girls’ School, Brighton Grammar, Caulfield Grammar, Genazzano FCJ and Camberwell Girls Grammar all had one student with a maximum ATAR.

The average ATAR was 70.33.

Moments after the class of 2022 received their ATARs on Monday morning, St Monica’s College student Jordan Digiglio banged his fist on the table in excitement and stared at his laptop screen in disbelief.

St Monica’s College student Jordan Digiglio reacts to his ATAR.Credit:Matilda Finn

“Oh, that’s so good. That is so good,” the Epping student laughed. “That’s brilliant. I don’t know how to say the words. I have no idea. I’ve actually done pretty well.”

Jordan was one of more than 44,000 year 12 students in the state to receive their ATAR on Monday, ending 13 years of schooling, including three interrupted by the pandemic. Many year 12s in regional Victoria were also impacted by record-breaking floods during term 4.

“I can’t believe it. I’m actually speechless,” Jordan said, still staring at his screen. He said his ATAR of 84.95 was much higher than he had hoped for. “I can’t believe it. Oh, thank God. Thank God. Thank God.”

Digiglio is hoping to study a bachelor of psychology and business at La Trobe University.

St Michael’s Grammar School student and aspiring investment banker George Kaltzidis said he had started to worry as the results date approached.

George’s accounting tutor texted asking for updates and his mother, Maria, stood ready to report to extended family.

“He’s a pretty clever cookie,” she said. “I’ve never really had to tell him to do his homework.”

George Kaltzidis from St Michael’s Grammar School receives his ATAR on Monday.Credit:Wayne Taylor

Her assessment was borne out by the results: perfect 50s in accounting and legal studies, contributing to an ATAR of 99.4.

George aims to study a bachelor of commerce at Melbourne University, which has a 91.00 entry rank.

Ashwood High School student Hamna Sajid, who moved to Australia from Pakistan in 2020, excelled with an ATAR of 95.1.

Hamna opened her results with mother Masooma Naseer Cheema and father Sagid Randhawa by her side. She wants to study biomedicine and engineering at Monash University.

“It is a bit lower than I expected, but it’s not bad at all. I am happy with it,” she said.

Education Minister Natalie Hutchins said it was the first time VCE and GAT tests were delivered at the same time, helping derive scores for students who were affected by floods.

Hutchins said 49,581 students graduated with their VCE – a completion rate of 98 per cent – and 82,000 students sat the GAT on September 7, with 96 per cent meeting the standards in each of the three domains: reading, writing and numeracy.

Stephen Gniel, CEO of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, said average ATAR rates were slightly up this year, at just over 70.

The average ATAR score for girls was 71.23, a jump from 70.60 last year, and 69.30 for boys, an increase from 67.62. But boys received more perfect scores than girls.

Haileybury, Victoria’s biggest school, said more than 60 per cent of its students achieved an ATAR of 90 and above, and seven achieved a perfect score.

The Zhu brothers credit much of their academic success to the support of their family and the Haileybury alumni network, as well as the enjoyment they found in their studies.

They are both passionate about STEM and studied the same VCE subjects, including English, maths methods, specialist maths, biology, physics and chemistry.

Kerry said the most challenging aspect of VCE was completing the compulsory English course.

“I would use the science subjects as a bit of a leisure time activity. When I actually go to work, I would work on the English,” he said.

Another high-fee independent school, Presbyterian Ladies’ College in Burwood, said 12 per cent of its students achieved an ATAR of 99 and above, while more than a third scored above 95. Kew boys’ school Trinity Grammar has four perfect scores and a median ATAR of 88.9.

Selective government school Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School saw close to 13 per cent of its students receiving an ATAR above 99. At McKinnon Secondary College, close to a third of students received an ATAR of 90 and above.

Glen Waverley Secondary College achieved its highest result in seven years, with 5 per cent of students recording an ATAR of 99. And at University High School in Parkville, 12 students received an ATAR of 99 and above, and 43 per cent of students achieved ATARs of 90 and above.

At Kew High School, 9 per cent of students got an ATAR over 95 and almost 40 per cent received 80 or above. About one in four Box Hill High School students got an ATAR above 95.

Ballarat Clarendon College, one of the state’s highest-performing schools, said its results proved “regional students can … achieve excellence”. Twelve per cent of students achieved an ATAR of more than 99, and close to two-thirds recorded an ATAR of more than 90.

Aleshia Morgan, a student from Newport’s Bayside College, was nervous about her ATAR but came away feeling accomplished.

“I did OK – I didn’t get what I wanted, but I’m proud of how far I’ve come,” she said. “I think I did a good job.”

Aleshia Morgan, of Bayside P-12 College, felt a sense of accomplishment, despite not getting the ATAR she had hoped for.Credit:Luis Enrique Ascui

Aleshia scored 76.90, excelling in psychology and English. She had hoped to study a bachelor of arts at Melbourne University, specialising in psychology, but with entry requirements for the course set at 85.00 this year, she is also considering Victoria University and Federation University.

“I think I have other options, so that’s good.”

Braybrook College student Najila Ghafari was so thrilled with her 93.6 ATAR, she almost caused her mother to crash their car.

“I knew I had worked really hard, but I never expected to do so well,” she said.

The eldest of four siblings, Najila arrived in Australia at the age of eight after her family fled war in Afghanistan. She hopes to study biomedicine at Melbourne University next year.

Braybrook College Principal Kelly Panousieris said the community was thrilled with the results, with two-thirds of the VCE cohort achieving ATARs above 70.

The public school situated in Melbourne’s western suburbs has a high proportion of culturally and linguistically diverse students, with 85 per cent speaking a language other than English.

With Matilda Finn, Loughlin Shannon, Ebony Weston and James Dowling

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