VCE IT Post Mortem by Mark Kelly

Last changed: November 17, 2017 12:17 PM

VCE IT Lecture Notes by Mark Kelly

VCAA Exam Post Mortem


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Now in living colour - and with an exciting new SECTION C !

Post Mortem Notes

This is not a VCAA publication!
I do not speak for the VCAA, the IT examiners, or exam markers.
I was not involved in the setting or marking of this examination.
Extracts from exams are all Copyright © VCAA, and are used with permission. Thanks, VCAA!
Use these post mortems at your own risk.
I reserve the right to change my mind completely, at short notice, about anything I've said here.
Suggestions, discussions and corrections are welcome.
If any third-party copyrighted material has inadvertently been used, please let me know

Questions are in black.
My suggested answers are in blue.
My editorial ramblings about the exam are in blue italics.
Examiners' report comments are in red italics.
Purple shows the explanation of an answer.

Other VCE IT Post Mortems to enjoy

ITA/Informatics - 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017

SD - 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017

The Post Mortem Awards

Dog's Breakfast Award

The infamous SCHMACKOS award for questions that are a complete dog's breakfast.

Sick as a Dog Award

The Questions That Make You Sick As A Dog Award
Questions that are wrong in a way that does not jeopardise the answer, or are just dumb.

Stamp of Approval

The Stamp of Approval for questions I like.

Illiteracy Award

The exciting Illiteracy Award for crimes against the English language.

Naughty Examiner

New for 2016 - the Naughty Step Award, for when the examiners breaks their own rules, and are sent to think about what they have done.


Written examination

Friday 11 November 2016

Reading time: 11.45 pm to 12:00 noon (15 minutes)

Writing time: 12:00 noon to 2:00 pm (2 hours)

Number of questions

Number of questions to be answered

Number of marks

Section A




Section B




Section C



Total 100

  • Students are permitted to bring into the examination room: pens, pencils, highlighters, erasers, sharpeners and rulers.
  • Students are NOT permitted to bring into the examination room: blank sheets of paper and/or correction fluid/tape.
  • No calculator is allowed in this examination.

Materials supplied

  • Question and answer book of 29 pages
  • Detachable insert containing a case study for Section C in the centrefold.
  • Answer sheet for multiple-choice questions.


  • Detach the insert containing the case study during reading time.
  • Write your student number in the space provided above on this page.
  • Check that your name and student number as printed on your answer sheet for multiple-choice questions are correct, and sign your name in the space provided to verify this.
  • All written responses must be in English.

At the end of the examination

  • Place the answer sheet for multiple-choice questions inside the front cover of this book.
  • You may keep the detached insert.

Students are NOT permitted to bring mobile phones and/or any other unauthorised electronic devices into the examination room.

Examiners' report general comments (with my emphases added)

Overall, the multiple-choice section was answered very well.

Questions that students did not perform well on were mainly related to components of the study design that were new in 2016, such as design principles, writing a hypothesis and project management.

For the first time in this study students were asked to read a case study insert and answer a number of questions. While in general this was handled well, it was clear that a number of students struggled with this, and there was evidence that they either had not read the case study or could not refer back to it when needed.

It was obvious that students understood both manual and electronic validation, as students provided well-thought-out answers to questions related to this.

Responses were also strong in the area of disaster recovery plans, including backups, and students demonstrated a sound understanding of the reasons correct procedures are needed when dealing with a disaster recovery plan and the consequences if these procedures are not followed.

The project management and databases questions were also completed very well.

Students demonstrated some understanding of techniques used to generate alternative design ideas, linking techniques such as brainstorming and comparing current websites within the same field to their own designs, and looking at how they are designed; however, other students seemed to misunderstand the question, resulting in a large number of students not obtaining any marks.

It was apparent from many responses that referencing (Section B, Question 4) is something that students need further practice with, as is interpreting a user flow diagram (Section C, Question 8). In both of these questions students either did not answer or struggled to comprehend what was being asked of them.

SECTION A - Multiple-choice questions

Instructions for Section A

Answer all questions in pencil on the answer sheet provided for multiple-choice questions.
Choose the response that is correct or that best answers the question.
A correct answer scores 1, an incorrect answer scores 0.
Marks will not be deducted for incorrect answers.
No marks will be given if more than one answer is completed for any question


Question 1

A design principle that relates to the appearance of a website is
a. useability.
b. repetition.
c. robustness.
d. accessibility.

Answer is B.

It's the only principle of the four that is visible.

59% of the state got this right.


Question 2

Secure Sockets Layer technologies protect data by
a. encrypting data when it is stored in a web-based database.
b. placing a lock symbol in the address bar of a web browser.
c. separating layers of private data from sensitive information.
d. encrypting data while it is being transmitted to and from a website.

Answer is D.

Actually SSL is now replaced by the superior TLS. A browser's padlock icon often indicates SSL is active, but the icon by itself protects nothing!

58% of the state got this right.


Question 3

The efficiency of an online transaction processing system could be evaluated by

a. measuring the time it takes to enter a valid transaction.
b. counting the number of incorrect transactions rejected by the system.
c. measuring the speed of processing an entry compared to previous methods.
d. counting the number of correctly validated entries compared to previous methods.

Answer is C.

Key words - efficiency (not 'effectiveness', so rule out B and D) and evaluated (not 'tested' which is what A is). C involves both speed and a comparison of new and old systems, which is an important aspect of evaluation.

56% of the state got this right.


Question 4

Quantitative data includes data that is
a. numeric only.
b. character only.
c. character and numeric.
d. character and Boolean.

I said C. Official answer was A.

Quantitative data can be textual (e.g. The answer to this question is "C"). It can also be numeric. C is the best option, since D is too limited.

% of the state got this right.


Question 5

Criteria that can be used to check the integrity of data include
a. timeliness, authenticity, relevance and accuracy.
b. timeliness, accountability, relevance and accuracy.
c. timeliness, authenticity, relevance and acceptance.
d. timeliness, accountability, referencing and acceptance.

Answer is A.

Accountability doesn't exist, nor does acceptance.

86% of the state got this right.


Question 6

‘High temperatures affect plant growth.'
What must be added to the statement above to make it a reasonable hypothesis?
a. a subject
b. a variable
c. a prediction
d. a conclusion

Answer is C.

The study design says that variables and a prediction are required for a reasonable hypothesis.
The statement in the stem has an independent variable (the temperatures), a dependent variable (plant growth).

I didn't like this. The effect was too vague to constitute a reasonable hypothesis: it should have said how the growth is affected.
Secondly, it needed a tentative explanation of the reason for the effect (the 'because').

A hypothesis must have a prediction

47% of the state got this right.



Question 7

Janet has been investigating the decline in sales of music CDs. She would like to create a chart for her blog that clearly shows the decline.
Which one of the following is the best chart to use?

VCE Informatics exam 2016

Answer is B.

Pie chart (A) is inappropriate. B clearly shows the trend. C has a messy image interfering with the data. D is counterintuitive.

72% of the state got this right.


Question 8

One of the provisions of the federal Privacy Act (1988) and its amendment is to
a. permit access to the personal details of specific people.
b. prevent state and territory governments from misusing personal data.
c. permit someone to print their own tax file number, provided that it is for personal use.
d. protect personal information collected and stored by federal government departments,,

Answer is D.

Yep. D.

73% of the state got this right.


Question 9

VCE Informatics exam 2016

The diagram above most likely represents
a. a site map.
b. a mock-up.
c. a storyboard.
d. an entity-relationship diagram.

Answer is probably going to be C but I bet half the state also goes for A. And I would agree with them. The official answer was A.

VCAA has never defined what they think a storyboard looks like. The diagram is basically a site map with arrows attached. What do the arrows mean? I don't know. I can only guess they are meant to say 'This is no longer a site map.'

It's a bogus question examining key knowledge that is never defined by VCAA. Is an arrow significant? No such statement has been made by VCAA at any time.

The study design merely lists storyboards amongst other design tools, and the Info sample exam (A15) again only mentions them as cousins of sitemaps.

It's another example of VCAA inventing its own conventions out of the blue and examining students on their invention. Even the stem is unsure - "The diagram above most likely represents" - aren't they even sure themselves?

The markers had better accept either A or C or I will be very displeased.

I turn my back upon this question, and sniff with haughty disdain.

Dog's Breakfast Award

83% of the state got this right.


Question 10

Bentwood Softball Club needs to ensure that all of its umpires are registered to umpire games in Victoria. To do this, the club needs to record detailed personal information regarding each umpire's level of skill. Recently, the club undertook an online survey of all of its 35 umpires.
The safest way for Bentwood Softball Club to store the data from the survey is on

a. the club's ‘members only' social media page.
b. an unsecured web page on the club's website.
c. a DVD kept on an open shelf in the clubrooms.
d. a secure laptop with restricted access kept in the clubrooms.

Answer is D.

If you chose (B) or (C), please let me know so I can come around and slap some sense into you.

Dumb dog

Rather easy and obvious, but good for a giggle.

94% of the state got this right.


Question 11

VCE Informatics exam 2016

For the Gantt chart shown above, a delay in the completion of Task D by one day will
a. have no effect on Task E.
b. delay only Task E by one day.
c. delay only Task F by one day.
d. delay both tasks E and F by one day.

Answer is A.

If Task D overruns by 1 day, dependent task F starts one day late, and its dependent task G also starts one day late. Hence option (C) does not work because it says that only Task F is delayed.

Task E is dependent on F, but there is a day's slack so E is not affected.

VCE Informatics exam 2016

Task D is delayed by 1 day... Task F and its dependent task G are delayed. Task E is not affected.

VCE Informatics exam 2016

A cunning question. I was wondering why task G was included... then it dawned on me.

The little word "only" in the options makes a big difference.

As Task E is not dependent on Task D and there is slack time of two days for Task D, there is no effect on T ask E.

29% of the state got this right.



Question 12

VCE Informatics exam 2016

In the diagram shown above, what security control is at P to ensure that the data is provided by a valid source?
a. a switch
b. a firewall
c. a biometric reader
d. antivirus software?

Answer is B.

A switch (A) only connects cables within a LAN. It does not assess the credentials of packets of data.
A firewall (B) stands between a LAN and outsiders, and actively inspects data transfers to ensure they are legitimate and allowed.
(C) is just silly. The exam writer obviously ran out of cunning distractors.
Antivirus software (D) does not examine the source of incoming data, only its contents.

74% of the state got this right.


Question 13

A dental clinic has the following table storing appointment information. The business would like to store the data in a relational database.
VCE Informatics exam 2016

Which of the following diagrams shows the data in third normal form?

VCE Informatics exam 2016

Answer is A.

It looks scary at the start, but sketch a quick schema based on common sense.
All options have the same 3 tables, so no decision needed there.
The problem with (B) is that the duration is related to APPOINTMENT, not DENTIST. A quick first victim to rule out.
(C) links the patient's whole name in one table with the FirstName in another table. Another quick loser.
The relationships in (D) are fine, but the Duration is now in the PATIENT table, to which is doesn't belong. Also PatientName is two names in a single field and that violates 1NF. Can't be that, then.

A challenging way to test 3NF and relationship key knowledge in one go. Shame it's only worth 1 mark.

But why are AppointmentDate and AppointmentTime underlined as if they were keys? The only other underlined fields are keys!

Shame on the examiners for breaking their own rules. Go sit on the naughty step and think about your sloppy proof-reading and confusing inconsistency.

Soon after...

A worthy colleague has reminded me that the underlined fields may well be acting as a multi-field primary key for the appointments table!

That is technically feasible. Grrr.

But why would anyone in their right mind create a multiple-field key after all we've learned about 2NF problems? It's just dumb database design!

I never even consider using multiple-field keys, any more than I would consider checking for gas leaks by striking a match.

All right. I withdraw my complaint about the redundant underlining, and replace it with a complaint about setting a bad example to impressionable young database designers.

Any depiction of multiple-field keys in exams should be accompanied by compulsory health warnings.

Back onto the naughty step for misguiding modern youth about good database design!

Naughty Examiner

70% of the state got this right.


Question 14

Information created for educating a worldwide audience about career options should be
a. age appropriate and gender inclusive.
b. appropriate for all ages and gender inclusive.
c. suitable for adults only and culturally exclusive.
d. suitable for young people only and culturally inclusive.

Answer is A.

Not all information needs to be appropriate for all ages: it needs to suit the ages at which it is targeted. Rule out B because it would not allow discussion of any 'adult' careers such as exotic dancing, or portraying Santa in a supermarket at Christmas.
Rule out C quickly - cultural exclusivity is never an aim unless... no. Let's not bring Donald Trump or Pauline Hanson into this.
D is not sensible. Career options are relevant to many groups other than only young people.

Pretty easy.

In the key knowledge of Outcome 1, an approach to problem-solving is, 'characteristics of information for educating worldwide audiences, including gender and culture inclusiveness, commonality of language, age appropriateness'. Option A was the only option that fit this statement.

35% of the state got this right.


Question 15

Greenwood Council is developing a disaster recovery plan.
What is the best management strategy to enable the restoration of data quickly with the least loss of data?

a. Implement weekly full backups.
b. Implement only daily incremental backups.
c. Implement daily incremental and weekly full backups.
d. Implement daily incremental and weekly incremental backups.

Answer is C.

I've never heard of a weekly incremental backup. It sounds impressive, and may be designed to distract weaker students.
Option C is the current standard for backups, but is increasingly being displaced by continuous data backups (CDB) to the cloud.

I'm really glad the examiners did not roll out 'differential backups' just to muddy the waters.

I thought the abbreviated wording of options C and D was not good for ESL students. It would have better been expressed as
"Implement daily incremental BACKUPS and (other) BACKUPS."

Otherwise, what is a "daily incremental"?

Hello, Tim. Have you had your daily incremental?
No, Tania. By golly I have not. I'd better get incremented immediately!

Illiteracy Award

89% of the state got this right.



Question 16

A school's administration is reviewing its information management strategy based on the following criteria: security, cost, speed of data retrieval and currency of data.
Taking into account all of the criteria, which of the following is the best information management strategy to enable the urgent restoration of data?

VCE Informatics exam 2016

Official answer is D.

68% of the state got this right.


Question 17

The photograph editor for a magazine publisher is setting up a folder structure for a new project based on the following conditions:

  1. Several photographers will be sending original photographs to the editor during the next three months.
    At the end of the project, each photographer's full set of original photographs will have to be easily identified.
    The originals will never be manipulated but will need to be archived at the end of the project.
  2. When a photograph is to be manipulated, the editor will make a copy of the original. The copy will be manipulated as needed. There may be many different versions saved. These will require daily backup.
  3. The final photographs that are accepted for publication will need to be sent as a batch to the publishing team. They will also need to be archived at the end of the project.

[Note - I have changed the criteria dotpoints to numbers to make discussion easier]

Which of the following folder structures will most efficiently meet these storage, backup and archival needs?

VCE Informatics exam 2016

VCE Informatics exam 2016

VCE Informatics exam 2016

VCE Informatics exam 2016


Answer is D.

Rule out B immediately since it cannot accomplish identification of the photographer (criterion 1).
Let's proceed through the criteria to see which other options fail to make the grade.

Criterion 1 - options A, C and D all keep all original files identifiable by their photographer.

Criterion 2 - the 'daily backup' of versions of copies would be easier if all of them were in a single folder, such as (D). Otherwise, a backup would need to search each photographer's working copy files folder individually, which is a pain. D is looking good.

Criterion 3 - again, to send the final photos as a batch, it would be easiest if they were all in the same folder as a group. Option (D) again achieves that. This is not to say that (C) would not be possible, but it would be less efficient (in terms of labour and time) - the main point of the question.

Wow. That's a lot of information to unpack before trying to earn a single mark!
It's not a bad question at all, but the time it requires is significant for one mark.

Option D has a clear folder structure that allows for the originals from each photographer to be easily accessed, as well as all the final photographs.

38% of the state got this right.


Use the following information to answer Questions 18-20.

Two organisations, Painfree Medical Centre (PMC) and Bushwalks for Over 60s (BOS), are reviewing their information management strategies. In particular, they need to update their equipment and procedures for backing up, managing and disposing of client and membership data.
Currently, PMC backs up its database records to a set of five 4 GB flash drives that is stored in the office. The office is open to all staff.
BOS backs up its files to an 8 GB flash drive.


Question 18

PMC needs a storage capacity of 20 GB per day for its client data, while BOS needs 5 MB per day for its membership data.
Which pair of options will provide the best backup plan for both organisations?

VCE Informatics exam 2016

Answer is C.

It was pretty quick and easy to eliminate options just by looking just at PMC's column.
(A) the external HDD was OK, but backing up only once a week is a deal-breaker.
(B) DVD is not wise, since it can only hold 4.7GB, is easily scratched, is relatively slow to burn data to, is not reusable unless it's read/write, is believed to decay over time. Oh, yes. And it's stored onsite, which rules it out immediately.
(C) Tape is OK. Yes - shock, horror - tape is still widely used in industry and can still whoop HDD's backside when it comes to speed and capacity. Daily backups are good. Tapes stored offsite - all good.
(D) The SSD in itself is worth considering, but the "stored in office, open to all staff" is dangerous.

So (C) looks good so far so let's check the other column for (C). Automatic backup to the cloud is worthy of consideration. The 1Mbps is OK (assuming that is the upload speed - not so good if it's the download speed.

I wish exams would tie up loose like this. It makes a considerable difference - if the download speed were only 1Mbps, it might take ages to restore one day's data. The question could have cleared up this ambiguity with only a word or two.

Tip: "ADSL" stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line, and the key word is "Asymmetric" which means that the upload and download speeds are significantly different. Quoting a single speed when there are in fact two is incomplete and confusing.

So (C) stands up in both columns.

Just for fun (yeah, I know, I don't get out much, so discussing the merits of unsatisfactory backup methods is my idea of fun) let's check out the remaining options.

In the BOS column...
(A) internal HDD is fast and capacious, but very difficult to take offsite at the end of each day.
(B) a read-only DVD? How are you going to write data to a read-only DVD?? Weird.
(D) flash drives are convenient and very portable, but not hugely reliable. 32GB could store 6 days' data, which is not really enough. And it's only a weekly backup, which is once again a dangerous strategy.

52% of the state got this right.



Question 19

Both organisations are aware of the need for privacy when storing data. Which pair of options will provide the best rule for each organisation?

VCE Informatics exam 2016

Answer is D.

If 99% of the state does not get this right, I'll be surprised. The distractor options were too extreme to make them tempting.

82% of the state got this right.


Question 20

PMC has decided to replace its current backup strategy with cloud storage. It is aware of the need to dispose of data when clients' records are no longer required. PMC has a number of options:
1. Crush the old flash drives and place them in the garbage.
2. Delete backup files from the old flash drives before re-using them.
3. Delete data from cloud storage that is no longer needed.
4. Ensure that the contract with the cloud company requires it to dispose of the data PMC no longer needs.

Which pair of options should PMC choose to ensure old data is disposed of properly?

a. 1 and 3
b. 2 and 4
c. 1 and 4
d. 2 and 3

Official answer is C.

This is a chewy question, unlike the previous one. As with all section A questions, one should look for patterns. Each option referred to one of the first two methods (both of which deal with the old backups), and one of the second two methods (which both relate to new cloud-based backups).

Option 1 allows for complete disposal of all the old drives before moving to a cloud solution. Option 4 ensures that the cloud company disposes of the data that is not required in the cloud anymore.

46% of the state got this right.


Overall for section A

Pretty easy, on the whole. A bit too easy in a few cases..
New key knowledge was approached fairly and sensitively.
A9 was a disaster, and something that VCAA really needs to address since it has been a long-running bad habit of theirs to invent conventions that are used nowhere else on the planet and assess these idiosyncratic inventions in exams; also refer to their weird interpretation of ERDs in the previous study design.
I've noticed a recent tendency for section A questions to require much more reading and thought to answer, e.g. A17. This is welcome to a degree, but remember the ESL kids will be struggling with page-long questions, and most students will be taking several minutes to earn a single mark.
On the other hand, several of the questions (such as A10 and A19) had ridiculously absurd options that provided no challenge whatsoever. Is it a good VCE exam if someone could walk in off the street and earn several marks without any Informatics study at all?
A better balance in the degrees of difficulty would be beneficial.

SECTION B - short answer questions

Instructions for Section B
Answer all questions in the spaces provided.


Question 1 (4 marks)

Marco is the owner of a recently opened shoe store. He has been storing sales records in a flat file database. Each record contains the following fields: customer ID, customer name, address, contact number, purchase price, date sold and the unique item code for each pair of shoes.
Customers sometimes buy more than one pair of shoes. Marco has to enter a new record for each pair of shoes purchased.
Marco is investigating the idea of moving his sales data into a relational database.

a. State two advantages of moving the sales data to a relational database. 2 marks

  • It removes much repetition of data, such as names, addresses that could be stored just once in a relational database. This would make the database smaller and more responsive.
  • It reduces the risk of invalid data being stored - e.g. if a customer moves house, the address stored in previous records would become incorrect, while yet others would be correct. This loss of integrity makes the whole database unreliable.
  • More data would be accessible. The use of relationships greatly increases the number of ways data can be searched, manipulated and arranged.
  • Data entry would be far faster, since repeated data (e.g. name, address) would not need to be entered for each item sold.

The most common accepted responses were: can save storage space, changes to information only need to be made in one place, less chance of losing data as only entered once, removes repetition and data redundancy.

Average mark - 0.6/2

b. Marco has started to create the entity-relationship diagram below for his data.
Complete the diagram by showing the relationship between the two entities and the cardinality of the relationship. 2 marks

VCE Informatics exam 2016

VCE Informatics exam 2016

OK. I have problems with this.

1. The question's case study says that "Customers sometimes buy more than one pair of shoes." This guarantees at least the cardinality that ONE customer can buy MANY shoes. Hence my reluctant solution, which is actually ridiculous.

In The Real World™, one type of shoe must obviously be bought by more than one person - unless it was a particularly unsuccessful range of shoes that only ever sold a single pair, like this...

VCE Informatics exam 2016

So it should actually be a M:N (many to many) relationship.

But let's not let mere trifles like practices in The Real World™ and common sense get in the way of an Informatics exam question. Otherwise we'd be here all month.

2. What on earth is "Date sold" doing as an attribute of the SHOE entity? That would mean that an instance of an entire shoe variety could only be sold once - ever. It's not like "Date invented" which applies to every member of the SHOE class.

"Date Sold" relates to a transaction, not the SHOE entity. The positioning of 'Date Sold' in this ERD is obviously wrong and icky.
It violates 3NF, and standard human decency. It's like sneezing on a nun. Or naming a dog "Stay" and then calling "Come here, Stay! Come here, Stay!" *.

Newsflash. Research in The Real World (TM) reveals Chen relationships CAN have attributes, so the exam's ERD (or the official VCAA rules for Chen ERDs) is flawed.

Specifically -

It shows how Chen ERD relationships can have attributes attached, for example the "Has" relationship has attributes, "LastPlayed" and "CreatedOn".

Exam markers should accept either 1:M or M:N for this question.

3. The term 'cardinality' does not appear in the study design or 'Advice for Teachers'. It does appear in the VCAA document on Entity-relationship (ER) conventions'. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find relevant canonical course information in the growing number of VCAA's Informatics documents that are stored in disparate places (VCAA site, Advice for Teachers site) and formats (docx, HTML, PDF).

If only VCAA could take their own advice and gather their resources into a single, searchable database of relevant course information so teachers and students would not have to load a multitude several documents to check whether something is assessable or not. This site tries to do this, but it's not my job.

Naughty Examiner

A number of students were able to identify the cardinality of the relationship but struggled to show an understanding of what the relationship was. The most common accepted response for the cardinality was Customer (1) to Shoe (M); other responses that were accepted were the infinity ('many') symbol, N and crow's foot. The most common accepted response for showing the relationship was 'buys'.

Average mark - 0.9/2




Question 2 (3 marks)

A large number of paper survey forms have been completed and now the data must be entered into a database. It is important that the data is entered accurately.

a. State one manual technique that could be used to ensure data entry is as accurate as possible. 1 mark

Enter the data, then read it over and compare it with the original data on paper.

This question was well answered. Most students could demonstrate knowledge of what a manual technique is. The most common accepted response was proofreading

Average mark - 0.6/1

b. Describe an electronic validation check that could be used to identify possible errors as data is entered. 2 marks

  • Existence check - to detect missing data.
  • Range check - to ensure data is within acceptable limits, or is one of a permitted set of responses.
  • Type check - to see if data is text, numeric, or whatever is appropriate for that question.

Students were asked to describe an electronic validation check. While most students could identify a number of electronic validation checks that could be used to identify possible errors in data, many could not successfully describe the check. The most common accepted response was existence check. Other acceptable answers were range check, input mask and data type check.

Average mark -1 /2




Question 3 (5 marks)

Janice wants to create a web page to inform the public about her amateur theatre group's new play.
The play is going to be performed each weekday during the school holidays. There will be a special price for families of at least one adult and two or more children. Janice is thinking about how the page should look.

a. Outline two techniques Janice could use to generate alternative design ideas for her web page. 2 marks

  • Brainstorm ideas with friends.
  • Visit several similar sites online and get ideas from them.

There are many other possibilities, but let's rule out mushrooms, OK?

The majority of students misunderstood what was being asked of them in this question. A large number of student responses were related to different types of design tools or the number of design ideas they completed.
Students who obtained marks for this question wrote about how they could brainstorm ideas or compare current websites within the same field and look at how they are designed.
Average mark -0.4 /2

b. Suggest a criterion Janice could use to evaluate which of her design ideas she should choose.
Justify your answer. 3 marks

  • Attractiveness - the site must look good to attract readers and maintain their interest long enough to get its message across.
  • Cost - an amateur group would probably not have a big budget.
  • Ease of creation - if she does not have strong web skills, the page may need to be quite simple.

Results indicated that many students do not understand what a criterion is and how to write one and/or do not know how to evaluate. Students who gained marks for this question could identify a question relating to ease of navigation, attractiveness and usability; only a few could justify why it was a criterion.

Average mark - 0.8/3



Question 4 (2 marks)

A student has found an online report containing data he wishes to use for a school project. He viewed and downloaded the report on 14 June 2016 from <>.

The report was written by M van Olst and entitled ‘The plight of the pygmy possum'. It was first published in 2014.

Using your preferred method of referencing and the information provided, write the reference the student would put in his reference list.

Referencing method -Harvard.

van Olst, M 2014. The plight of the pygmy possum, accessed 14 June 2016. <>.

Referencing method -American Psychological Association (APA).

van Olst, M (2014). The plight of the pygmy possum. Retrived from

Referencing method -Chicago.

van Olst, M. "The plight of the pygmy possum." (accessed June 14, 2016)

Referencing method -Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

[1] M. van Olst (2014).The plight of the pygmy possum [Online] Available:

Hang on a minute! The question did not specify that the 'preferred method of referencing' had to be one of the four in the study design. LOOPHOLE!

But seriously, folks, this was far from easy for the average student. Getting each comma, italic (have you ever tried to handwrite in italics?), and quotation mark right is a big ask - especially for a website reference, which is arguably trickier than a reference to a book.

I hope the markers are allowed a fair amount of latitude when awarding marks. Nevertheless, I predict the state average will be about 0.5 / 2 or less.

Students received one mark for naming one of the four referencing methods: Harvard, APA, Chicago or IEEE. The other mark was awarded for having the information in the correct order, for example, author, date, title, date viewed or retrieved, and URL.
It was clear that most students had an understanding of one of the four referencing methods; however, fewer students could actually reference the information provided correctly.

Average mark - 0.9/2


Question 5 (7 marks)

VCE Informatics exam 2016

The design for the home page of a website is shown above.

a. Identity three features of this design that do not follow appropriate conventions. 3 marks

  • The logo is not at the top of the page.
  • Heading is too small.
  • The main navbar is at the bottom of the page.
  • Underlining is used to highlight main points.

This was confusing. It was hard to see whether the slanted writing was supposed to appear as it is shown, or whether it was meant to
(1) identify the main body text and
(2) provide instructions re. underlining.
Surely the slanted writing could have appeared beside the page with an arrow aiming at the main text box, and the instruction could have been in a different typeface to make it visually distinct from the other text within the page.

A rather messy and awkward presentation for a question, I thought. Question C9 did it a little better.

VCE Informatics exam 2016

Students were asked to identify three features that did not follow appropriate conventions in a design. Most students were able to identify one or more, and the most common accepted responses were: logo in incorrect place, navigation bar should be at top or to the left, and underlining in the body text will be mistaken for links.

Average mark - 1.5/3

b. Use the grid below to redesign the home page and apply appropriate conventions. 4 marks

I couldn't be bothered drawing and scanning it.
I have better things to do, like
(a) writing to movie studios to threaten them if they allow Adam Sandler to make another movie, and
(b) shouting at the dog down the street who won't stop playing Metallica CDs at full volume while his owners are at work.

Move the logo to the top.
Move the navbar to top.
Make the heading bigger.
Remove the underlining instruction.

High-scoring designs included a logo in the top-left corner, navigation bar at the top, contact button at either the top or bottom, and the main body of text not underlined.
Many students did not gain full marks as they did not indicate that there should be no underlining in the main body of the text.
Average mark - 2.5/4


Question 6 (5 marks)

An organisation stores its client data on a file server that is kept in a back office. Each night, a backup tape is made. Recently, a staff member became aware that, instead of being taken off site, the backup tape was simply left on a cabinet in the back office where the file server is. The staff member reports this to the head of the organisation.

Backups again? The examiners are back to their backup fixation of previous years.

a. Outline two possible consequences for the organisation if the head of the organisation does not take any action. 2 marks

  • Data loss that could lead to an inability to conduct business - collect due payments, pay creditors, fulfil orders etc.
  • Loss of income due to a loss of data about active orders, debts and payments due.
  • Loss of reputation as a reliable organisational partner or supplier of goods or services.
  • Trouble with the tax office because of lost tax-related documents.
  • Organisational death.

Accepted responses included:

• in the event of a disaster that destroyed the server and the backup tape, there would be no data to recover
• the tape could easily go missing or get stolen, and this could result in a breach of privacy, and a loss of trust, reputation or goodwill
• if the tape went missing there would be no backup if something happened to the data on the servers.
Most students were able to outline one or two possible consequences for the firm if the head of the organisation did not take any action. Student responses that did not obtain full marks did not relate the consequence to the actual backup tape; many referred to the data on the server being destroyed.

Average mark - 1.2/2

b. Recommend an action that the head of the organisation should take to remedy the situation. 1 mark

Assign a person to take the backup tape offsite at the end of each day.


Students were asked to recommend an action that the head of the organisation should take to remedy the situation. Accepted responses stated that the backup tape should be taken off site or locked in the safe, or the head of the organisation should appoint someone as the keeper of the tape and make sure they take it every night after work.

Average mark - 0.8/1

c. Having been alerted to the careless information management practices within the organisation, the head of the organisation decides to investigate further. She discovers that the organisation has no disaster recovery plan.
Explain why she should be concerned about this. 2 marks

The organisation has no preparation for evacuating the building, so people could die in a fire or other disaster.
They would not have a coherent and effective backup scheme from which to recover critical data after a disaster.
They would not be able to restore lost data and return the business to its state before the disaster.
They would probably be unable to generate income, and could go out of business.

Responses to this question indicated that most students understood the value of a disaster recovery plan and why one is needed. Not all students could explain why the head of the organisation should be concerned.
Appropriate student responses could have included:
• if a disaster were to occur there would be no way to recover client data, which would lead to loss of business and income
• if someone steals or tampers with the data, or if the data is lost, the business has no way of getting the data back.
Average mark - 1.2/2



Question 7 (4 marks)

The internet provides access to many hours of video footage on almost any subject. It is easy to download a video and then include it in a website or other online solution.
Discuss the key legal requirements related to this type of activity, including an outline of the circumstances in which the requirements apply and do not apply.

The Australian Copyright Act 1968 requires users of other people's intellectual property to seek permission to use, adapt, or broadcast the IP. It applies to any creative work - printed or electronic - whether or not it has been labelled as copyrighted.
Exceptions to this law include: works that are explicitly declared to be free to use; 'fair use' of a limited portion of the work for research, review or educational purposes; work that is so old that its copyright perriod has expired; works that cannot be otherwise obtained within a reasonable time (e.g. movies whose production companies went out of business decades earlier.)

(8 ruled lines were provided for the answer.)

Students were awarded two marks for a discussion of a key legal requirement, one mark for what it applies to and one mark for what it does not apply to. The majority of students could identify one of the key legal requirements and state what it applied to, but many students could not identify what it does not apply to.
An example of a response that would obtain full marks is: Copyright Act - it is a legal requirement to gain permission to use someone else's property (video) on your website. The Copyright Act applies to copyrighted information such as a video on YouTube where viewings are allowed but the work cannot be downloaded. The Copyright Act does not apply in this situation if the video is yours and only you have rights to it. If someone else is in the video, you need their permission to use the video on your website.
Average mark - 2/4

Section B overall - The ERD question was a bit of a dog - rather unrealistic, and it violated 3NF. It will be interesting to see how strict markers will be on the referencing question: will a misplaced comma lose big marks? B5 - the website design question - was a bit confusing. Backups are big in the new exam - A15, A16, A17, A18, A20 and B6 all involve backups for a total of 9 marks so far.


Case study

Insert for Section C - Case study
Please remove from the centre of this book during reading time.

InformUs is a large marketing company in Melbourne. Bill is the manager of the telemarketing department and he is in charge of all the telemarketers in the company.
The telemarketers work between the hours of 5 pm and 8 pm, when more people are likely to be at home. They travel to the office in the late afternoon, log in to the system, download a list of telephone numbers and start making calls to participants to obtain their opinions on various products. Each participant's responses are written on a paper copy of the survey by the telemarketer.
Bill is finding it very difficult to attract and retain telemarketers for the company. He believes that this is because many potential telemarketers do not want to travel into the city each evening for only a few hours' work.
At a recent managers' meeting, Bill discussed the problem with Mary, the manager of the marketing department. She suggested that Bill look into allowing his staff to work from home via the internet as a way of making it more appealing and to attract and retain telemarketers.
Bill has put together a proposal for setting up a new system that will allow his telemarketers to work from home.
Bill's proposed new system has four main parts:
• Telemarketers who choose to work from home will be given a laptop, a headset and a high-speed broadband connection of at least 12 Mbps for their home internet.
• At the start of each shift, the telemarketer will remotely log in to the company network as a virtual private network (VPN) client and access their list of telephone numbers to call.
• Telemarketers will make telephone calls using a voice over internet protocol (VoIP) system through the company network.
• The information collected by the telemarketers will be entered straight into a database via a web-based user interface. The database will be stored on the InformUs file server.
During his research for his proposal, Bill formed a hypothesis: ‘If the telemarketers were allowed to work from home, they would have greater levels of satisfaction. This would lead to higher retention levels (fewer people leaving the company) and fewer sick days being taken. Overall, the telemarketing department would perform better and this would be good for the company.'
To get approval for his proposed new system, Bill must demonstrate to the Board of Directors that his hypothesis is well informed and correct. His supervisor has told him that he must have a report regarding his proposal ready for the Board by 23 December. The report will be placed on the company's VPN for the Board to access and will be password protected.
To test his hypothesis, Bill must collect data about whether the telemarketers would prefer to work from home. To do this, he decides to undertake an online survey of all the telemarketers.
VCE Informatics exam 2016

VCE Informatics exam 2016



In case you were interested, this data is genuine and the actual report can be downloaded.

Instructions for Section C

Please remove from the centre of this book during reading time.

Use the case study provided in the insert to answer the questions in this section. Answers must apply to the case study.
Answer all questions in the spaces provided.

Answer all questions in the spaces provided.



Question 1 (6 marks)

There is a lot to be done to prepare his report and Bill has a deadline to meet. He decides to prepare a plan to help him manage this project. He works out the main tasks and estimates how long each will take:
a. Prepare an online survey for the telemarketers, (one day)
b. Telemarketers respond to the online survey, (seven days)
c. Organise and manipulate the survey data, (three days)
d. Search online sources for relevant research data, (two days)
e. Manipulate and interpret all the data for the report, (three days)
f. Create the report, (two days)

Using the task list above, construct a Gantt chart for Bill on the grid below. Show the durations and the dependencies, and take into account the following:
• Bill does not work on weekends.
• Bill wants to start the project on 5 December and finish the project as soon as possible.
• Bill can carry out Task D while Task B is happening.

VCE Informatics exam 2016

VCE Informatics exam 2016

Click the thumbnail above to see the Gantt full-sized.

Download the GanttProject source file.

Straightforward enough. It was good to see the clear explanation of which tasks could be concurrent.

But, as Jack from Yesodie noticed, something fishy is going on. With most corporate Gantts, the default setting is that Saturdays and Sundays are non-work days, and the question pointed out that Bill does not work on weekends. So at first I went ahead and set the duration of task B to 7 days - as one would. The problem is that noone said that the telemarketers could not reply to the survey on weekends, so I had a problem: most tasks could not use weekends, but one did. That made the critical path 2 days longer than the space allowed by the examiners in their empty Gantt.

I consulted the GanttProject forum, and found that individual tasks could not be set to different weekend rules. Since I could not find a way to set a single task as weekend-enabled, I had to fudge it by setting the duration of task B to five days - a messy, icky solution.

Doing the chart on the exam paper, it would have been easy to count the days and make different tasks follow different rules.

VCE Informatics exam 2016

Using software made a royal mess out of it. I don't know what the moral of this story is.

I've been pondering it and decided that task B is not actually a task and should not be represented as a task.
Bill is not involved in carrying it out. No resources are assigned to it. It's more of an event that delays task C.
So it should somehow be represented as maybe lag time for task A, or a dummy task - concepts that go far beyond what students are expected to know about project management.

I've decided that if this was a deliberate inclusion, it's a dirty and unfair trick.
If it's an oversight by the writer of the question, it's careless overcomplication.

Tip: when you get a Gantt in future exams, I suggest you lightly colour in the weekends with a pencil or highlighter so you don't forget to treat them with care.

The most common accepted answer was the following.Task D could have started anytime up to S 11.
To score full marks, students needed to indicate all tasks, their duration and predecessors.
Students who did not gain full marks usually extended Task B over the weekend, thinking that Task B could not be completed on weekends.

Informatics exam 2016

Why do they start task D after A? The rules do not say that D is dependent on A! That's weird.

Average mark - 3/6



Question 2 (2 marks)

Data is collected during tasks B and D.
Identify which data is from a primary source and explain why.

Task B - because it is original data generated by the researcher.

The data in task D has been generated by some other entity. Remember that simply finding data does not make it your data, and does not make it primary.

"Explain why" - why what? Explain why it is primary data, why primary data was used, why you identified it?

Very bad wording.

Illiteracy Award

This question was well answered. Most students could identify and explain that the task that contains data was from a primary source was Task B because Bill had collected this data himself.

Average mark - 1.7/2



Question 3 (4 marks)

While Bill is preparing his survey questions for Task A, he has an idea. He should interview some of his telemarketers face-to-face, rather than have them complete the online survey. He could digitally record the interviews and use the recordings to create a multimodal online report, rather than preparing just a text- and image-based report.

Bill thinks it will take a day to digitally record the interviews and he will have to add a day to the time it takes to prepare the multimodal online report. Bill would like his idea to have as little impact as possible on his project's timeline.

a. From your Gantt chart on page 18 [of the printed exam], suggest the best date for Bill to conduct the face-to-face interviews in relation to the other tasks. Explain how your suggestion minimises the impact of the interviews on the overall project timeline.

Suggested date

7 December


By the 7th, he has finished the search for online sources and is idle while telemarketers respond. He can use this slack time for the new task.

'Slack time' is not strictly an examinable term, but I highly recommend you become familiar with the concept.
For the record, slack time is the amount of time by which a task is shorter than a longer concurrent task.

The majority of students could suggest an appropriate date for Bill to conduct his face-to-face interview in relation to the other tasks, but not as many students were able to explain the reason for the suggested time.
Acceptable dates to conduct the face-to-face interviews were 6, 7, 8, 9 or 12, as long as they avoid Task D. This is because Bill is not conducting any other activities at these times.
Average mark - 1.8/3

b. Taking into account your suggested date in part a. and the extra time needed to prepare the multimodal online report, describe the overall impact of Bill's idea on the project timeline.

The project will take one extra day.

The interviews do not affect the end date, but the extra day needed to finish the report pushes the end date back by one day.
Note that the question did not require you to explain your answer. This explanation is just here for your information.
As a rule in exams, don't provide more information than you were asked for.
An exception to this rule is if you suspect the question is ambiguous (e.g. C13) and you have to explain your reasoning to ensure the marker sees the validity of your interpretation.

Student responses received a mark if they clearly indicated that the overall impact on the project timeline would be extended by one day.
It was clear from student responses that many students misinterpreted the question; a number of students indicated that there was no change to the timeline as Task B can be completed any time between 6 and 12.
Average mark -0.4 /1




Question 4 (5 marks)

In the online survey, Bill wants to ask his telemarketers why working from home appeals to them.
He prepares three questions:
• How important is saving on travel expenses?
• How important is not wasting time on travelling to work?
• How important is being at home to care for a sick family member?

a. Describe a way Bill could arrange for the responses to these questions to be coded to support manipulation once the survey is closed. 2 marks

Assuming the answers are free-form, open-ended and text-based (i.e. people answer using whatever words they like) - which is the only reason coding of the responses would be necessary - Bill could create a translation list such as:

  • Phrases like "Not much", "Not really", "Hardly at all", "Very little" etc - all get coded as 'Limited extent'
  • Phrases like "Neither one nor the other really", "So-so", "Doesn't really matter much", "Don't care" etc - all get coded as 'Neutral'
  • Phrases like "Very much so", "A lot", "Heaps", "That's a biggie!" etc - all get coded as 'Great Extent'

But why on earth would a survey ask such open-ended questions and make coding necessary?
Logically, it would limit answers to one of the three pre-chosen options.

Most students had an understanding of the ways in which Bill could arrange for the responses to the questions to be coded to support manipulation once the survey is closed. Accepted responses stated the use of a Likert scale (scaled response) with a range of 1 to 5 or the use of radio buttons allowing only one option.

Average mark - 1/2

b. Using the coding method described in part a.

i. describe one technique Bill could use to identify any patterns in the responses to the survey questions 2 marks

He could count the number each coded response appears, and draw a pie chart that graphically shows their relative frequencies.

Responses included:
• Bill can graph the scaled responses with one graph for each question and then see why people want to work from home.
• Bill could use a counting function to count how many of each kind of answer for each question, then graph the counts.
Average mark - 0.5/2

ii. identify the type of pattern Bill could expect to find. 1 mark

A higher occurrence of 'Great Extent' responses for those questions that affect respondents personally and would contribute to their wellbeing?

In other words, all three questions!
I don't know what other sort of pattern he should expect to see.
Maybe he would expect a pattern whereby respondents with no family often say "Limited extent" for the third question??

This question is a bit like the old annoying 'Guess what the examiner's thinking' questions. It's clear the writer of the question had a particular pattern in mind and wanted students to see it too.

The most frequently accepted responses to this question were:
• positive trend as it would identify the things that are most important to the telemarketers
• Bill would likely find a positive response to why the telemarketers want to work from home.
Average mark - 0.4/1



Question 5 (6 marks)

While completing his online search for Task D, Bill has found a report prepared by Deloitte Access Economics. Data sets 1 and 2 in the insert show two tables from that report that Bill would like to use in his report to support his hypothesis.

a. State two variables in Bill's hypothesis regarding the telemarketers. 2 marks
1. (Independent variable) - Telemarketers being allowed to work from home.

2. (Dependent variable) - Choose one of these...

  • greater levels of job satisfaction
  • higher staff retention levels
  • fewer sick days
  • improved performance of the telemarketing department
  • benefit to the company

Any two of:
• place of work
• satisfaction level of employees
• number of employees leaving the company
• number of sick days

Average mark - 1.3/2

b. Identify one item from each data set that supports Bill's hypothesis and explain how it does this. 4 marks.
Item from Data set 1

Any one of these...

  • Improved employee morale (matches Bill's 'job satisfaction' variable)
  • Better retention of experienced staff (matches Bill's 'staff retention' variable)
  • Higher productivity (matches the 'improved performance' variable)

Item from Data set 2

One of these...

  • 85.5% 'great extent' responses to 'improved productivity', which agrees with Bill's 'improved performance' variable
  • 82.5 'great extent' responses to 'increased job satisfaction' which confirms Bill's 'greater levels of job satisfaction' variable.
  • 46% 'great extent' responses to 'decreased sick days' which corresponds with Bill's 'fewer sick days' variable.

Students were asked to identify one item from each data set that supports Bill's hypothesis and explain how it does this.
Data set 1:
Student responses that identified better retention of experienced staff, higher productivity or improved employee morale obtained a mark; if they linked the item to Bill's hypothesis they obtained full marks.
Data set 2:
Student responses that identified increased job satisfaction (or decreased sick days), improved productivity or increased morale obtained a mark; if they linked the item to Bills hypothesis they obtained full marks.
Average mark - 2.2/4




Time for an editorial break:

Well, thrillseekers, we're five questions into section C, and I'm now wondering if this is really a 'Computing' exam at all.
It's smelling much like a Business Management exam.

The new course seems to have left behind many of the things for which kids used to enrol in IT.
There's precious little computing going on.
I don't like what this is likely to do to future enrolments.

But anyhoo, let's press on...




Question 6 (3 marks)

Bill is concerned that a table of figures might not communicate his message to the Board of Directors.

Describe another way for Bill to present Data set 1 in his multimodal online report. As part of your description, indicate how he might take advantage of the digital recordings and/or online presentations to highlight an item relating to his hypothesis in his multimodal online report.

  • A chart/graph.
  • An animated display of the data.
  • An infographic, with links from each datum to a video or recording.
  • A video of cute kittens playing with stuffed mice labelled with the data.
  • A film of Elle MacPherson and Chris Hemsworth relaxing on a beach and reading the data aloud.

I'll let you decide which would be most effective.
I'm guessing the markers will be looking for anything with action, sound, music, video.

The majority of student responses that gained marks for this question linked how both digital recordings and online presentations could highlight an item relating to Bill's hypothesis in his multimodal online report.
High-scoring answers suggested that Bill could use a graph to display a visual representation of the data that has been collected and an uploaded interview, either audio or video; they also indicated an advantage of the online aspect of the multimodal solution.
Average mark - 1.3/3




Question 7 (2 marks)

Mary, the marketing manager, has come up with an idea to help cut costs. She has proposed that her online marketing department use email to contact InformUs' participants rather than the telemarketing department calling participants individually.
Under Mary's plan, participants would complete a survey online and the results would be saved to the cloud rather than on the database on InformUs' file server.

Explain one benefit of minimising risk for the InformUs information management strategy that Mary's proposal would have.

To begin with, I don't understand the question.
It is asking how the proposal will minimise risk to the strategy?
Or is it asking for a benefit of minimising risk?

Or is it clumsily asking for a benefit of cloud storage over local database storage?

And which particular 'strategy' is the question referring to? The existing strategy of phoning participants from the city call centre? The proposed strategy of telemarketers phoning participants from their homes and sending data via the VPN?
And can a strategy even face risks, like an information management system does?

I don't know how students interpreted the question. I particularly feel sorry for the ESL kids trying to work out what on earth it means.

Here's an answer:

One benefit of minimising risk for the information management strategy is that having less risk will make the strategy safer.

There. I think that does it. Two marks, please.

When students find a question ambiguous or confusing, I advise them to try to read the examiner's mind and work out what the semantically-deficient question was probably trying to ask.
If that doesn't work, answer both potential meanings, for example, "If the question is asking X then my answer is Y. But if the question is asking Q then my answer is Z."

In this case, however, I can't even confidently guess what the examiner is trying to say. It's a double-headed failure.
If there's a marker out there who can explain this to me, I'll meet you in the alley behind VCAA headquarters at midnight.

Illiteracy AwardDog's Breakfast Award

I'm guessing the answer will turn out to be something like

Cloud storage is offsite, so it can't be damaged by local disaster.

This question required students to explain one benefit of minimising risk if Mary were to save the online survey to the cloud. Many students read this as asking what are the advantages of a cloud solution and proceeded to describe the advantages of cloud computing for Mary. These students did not gain any marks.
Students who gained marks explained that the benefits included if something were to go wrong with InformUS's server the survey data would still be safe, or external sources would not have access to InformUS's server via the survey thus reducing the risk of InformUS being hacked.
Average mark - 0.9/2

Bill has completed his multimodal online report for the Board of Directors. The Board has agreed to Bill's original proposal for the telemarketers to work from home and call survey participants individually.

[Click here to skip a pedantic quibble]

If the board agrees to Bill's original proposal, does it mean that Bill had a second proposal?
Or does it mean the board agreed to Bill's (one and only) proposal rather than Mary's proposal, which came after (Bill's) original proposal?
Is "original" necessary or meaningful?

Bill has completed his multimodal online report for the Board of Directors. The Board has agreed to Bill's proposal for the telemarketers to work from home and call survey participants individually.

or, probably better...

Bill has completed his multimodal online report for the Board of Directors. The Board has agreed to Bill's proposal rather than Mary's. Telemarketers will work from home and call survey participants individually.

This version would at least acknowledge the death and disappearance of Mary's (significantly better) proposal.

I wish VCAA would hire an English teacher to proof-read their IT exams for clarity.
I'm available, VCAA. Call me. I'll do it for free, just to stop the torture of poor innocent students and teachers.

[End of pedantic quibble]

Since Bill's proposal will go ahead, he has hired Minh, a web applications developer, to create the web-based user interface that the telemarketers will use and a database to store the survey responses they enter.




Question 8 (6 marks)

Minh's first task is to construct a user flow diagram. She has drawn the user flow diagram shown on page 25 [of the printed exam] but has not included any data protection requirements.
In the spaces provided on page 25, identify where two different types of security control should be provided for data protection. For each security control:
• describe where the security control should be placed and draw a line to it

Why describe its location and draw a line to it. Surely one or the other would be sufficient?

• state the type of control required
• briefly explain why it is needed.

"Security control" is a new piece of study design jargon. It appears in U4O2 KK11 - "physical and software security controls for preventing unauthorised access to data and information and for minimising the loss of data accessed by authorised and unauthorised users."

The glossary in the study design adds:

Physical security controls are the equipment and procedures used to assist in the protection of information systems and the files created, communicated and stored by individuals and organisations.
Equipment controls include

  • zoned security strategies,
  • barrier techniques and
  • biometrics.

Physical procedures include

  • backing up,
  • shredding confdential documents and
  • checking authorisation credentials.

About Software security controls the glossary says...

Software security controls are the software and procedures used to assist in the protection of information systems and the files created, communicated and stored by individuals and organisations.
These include

  • user names and passwords,
  • access logs and
  • audit trails,
  • access restrictions,
  • encryption,
  • firewalls and system protection, and
  • security protocols such as Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).

So - thanks, study design! That's useful. But where do we stick this key knowledge (KK) in this question?

I was going to start with 'encryption' before employee login, but the case study says users are connected to the database via VPN, so encryption is already taken care of. Is it not? Should it be added to the UFD? I have no idea. Would students get credit for adding 'encryption' as a security control?

I'm guessing the examiners want one physical control and one software control, since the study design designates them so. That might help to guide one's thinking...

Backups are conspicuously absent, so we can toss that physical control in after the data has been collected.

Now, looking for a software control...

Security control 1


After employee login

Type of control

Access log


Store a record of the employee's login so future crimes or errors can be traced to a user.

Security control 2


After survey is complete

Type of control



Copy the data to an offsite location in case the original is damaged or destroyed.

VCE Informatics exam 2016

VCAA has said that there will be no prescribed format for UFDs.
So, I'm curious whether this diagram will quietly become an unofficially-official template for UFDs in exams.
Or will the next exam UFD be very different in structure/appearance/format?
I await with bated breath to find out.

But if VCAA ever examines students on the detailed nature of the arrows, shapes, shading, underlining, or structure of an unpublished, unofficial and arbitrary UFD format that they've invented in a back room just for an exam, I will be mightily cross.
If they want to examine students on a diagram's intricate formatting details, they must create a canonical style guide, as they did with their ERD.

Remember that - unlike the study design - VCAA exams are not themselves part of the examinable canon.
They may develop a tradition and precedent (as the style of pseudocode has become in SD exams), but exams cannot define new key knowledge or make a particular formatting style choice official.

And it's unfair when they try to do that.
See the sitemap/storyboard question A9 above to see what I mean.

Students were asked to describe where the security control should be placed and draw a line to it, state the type of control required and briefly explain why it is needed.
Security controls that were accepted included:
• at log-in page - username and password, three password tries and then locked out, use of CAPTCHA
• telemarketers' phone list - encryption
• survey questions - encryption
• participants' details - encryption, SSL.
Each response required an explanation to as to why the security control was needed.
Students who left the 'where' section blank and drew an arrow to where the security control was needed, or who did not draw an arrow, could not obtain full marks.
Average mark - 2.8/6




Question 9 (4 marks)

Minh starts designing the web pages that form the user interface. She has started with the survey questions' page. One question at a time will be displayed and the telemarketer will enter the participant's response.

VCE Informatics exam 2016

"db entry only
both text boxes disabled for user entry"

Again, this will probably confuse at least ESL students who may not associate "db" with "database". And the second sentence is unnecessarily obscure in meaning. The annotation could have more clearly and briefly been written: "These boxes only display text from the database. Users cannot type in these boxes."

Illiteracy Award

a. When answering a survey question, participants will be given a range of options to choose from. Minh is unsure about which of the following data entry methods to use:
• text box
• drop-down menu
• radio buttons

She has been told that the telemarketers must be able to enter responses as quickly as possible. Which one of the three data entry methods should Minh choose? Justify your choice. 3 marks

Data entry method

Radio buttons


All options are visible onscreen, and data entry requires only one mouse click. There is no typing into a textbox, or clicking to activate a menu and then clicking a menu item.

The majority of students were able to correctly identify the correct data entry method as being a drop-down menu or radio buttons. Students then justified their choice. To obtain full marks students could either describe a positive of the chosen option and compare a negative of another of the options, or give two positives of the chosen option. For example, a response might say that radio buttons should be used, because the options can be clearly seen on the screen the whole time and there is only one chosen option. A text box would take more time, as the user has to input their answer, while the drop-down menu shows one option at a time and it takes time to choose the box and read the options.

Average mark - 2.2/3

b. Minh's design also shows an area to be used for navigation buttons.

Based on the user flow diagram shown on page 25 [of the printed exam], identity one button that should be placed in this area and briefly state its purpose. 1 mark

  • "Back" - to return to the previous question in case an error has just been noticed.
  • "Next" - to go to the next question.
  • "Restart" - to return to question 1 in case everything has gone pear-shaped [i.e. totally wrong] and the user needs to start again.
  • "Cancel and logout" to abort the session and return to the login screen.
  • "Cat video" - see a cat saving a child from being attacked by a dog. Its purpose is to entertain post mortem readers and really irritate VCAA which dislikes lightheartedness or levity in any form whatsoever.

OK. Maybe not the last one.
But - go on. Give it a try.

Students needed to identify a navigational, log-out, finish, end or complete button.

Average mark - 0.8/1




Question 10 (2 marks)

Australian postcodes are made up of four digits and there are currently over 3000 postcodes in use. On the participant details' page, the telemarketer has to enter the participant's postcode.

Describe a validation technique Minh could use to ensure a valid postcode is entered by the telemarketer.

Any of these:

1. An existence check - to check that data has actually been entered.
2. A type check - to find whether the data is numeric.
3. Range check - to determine of the data has 4 digits.
4. Range check - search the list of valid postcodes to ensure the data is actually in the list.

Most students were able to identify a validation technique, but not all of them were able to describe why they needed to use it.
Responses that gained marks were:
• range check to ensure the number is in range
• data type check to make sure the postcode is a number
• input mask to only allow certain characters
• an existence check to make sure data is entered.
Many students misread the question and thought that the '3000' referred to Victoria only. In this instance, the student needed to use a range check to gain marks.

Average mark - 1.2/2




Question 11 (2 marks)

For each telephone number that is dialled, the database will first receive a block of data in the following format.

VCE Informatics exam 2016

When setting up the database that will store the survey data, what data type should Minh use for
• Telemarketer ID - string/text.
• Participated? Boolean.

Thank DOG the examiner interpreted Boolean correctly!

Too often people (and exams) assume that ANY question with only two possible answers is "Boolean" and that's not correct.
A Boolean field is one that has can only have a logical true or logical false value. So...

Field Gender ('M' or 'F') ... is NOT Boolean. It would be string, text or character.


Field Male? - (True or False) ... IS Boolean.

Bonus fact: Boolean true/false values are stored numerically. Zero means false, and non-zero (typically 1 or -1) means true.
Boolean is particularly efficient in terms of storage since it may only need one binary bit to store a value. In that way one can store eight Boolean values in the same space needed for one alphanumeric character.

• Telemarketer ID: string or text
• Participated? Boolean (Yes/No, T/F) or integer
Average mark - 1.5/2




Question 12 (2 marks)

After the telemarketer has entered the participant's response, a second block of data will be received.

VCE Informatics exam 2016

Minh is creating a relational database to store this data. Explain why the data in this format is not in first normal form.

There are multiple question/answer values in the Q/A field, which violates 1NF which requires each field to contain only a single datum.

A nice, easy and straightforward normalisation question.

Students were asked to explain why the data was not in first normal form. Many students were able to identify that that there was relating data in the question field, but not as many students were able to explain that the field cannot contain separate data.

Average mark - 0.7/2




Question 13 (6 marks)

Shane has just started work with InformUs as a receptionist. He has discovered that the telephone numbers that the telemarketers use can be downloaded by anyone logged in to the InformUs network.
Shane is part of a fundraising group for a local homeless shelter. The shelter is trying to build a new hostel for homeless people. He decides to download the company's list of telephone numbers so that he can contact people when he is not working and ask them to donate money to the shelter.

a. Explain an ethical reason why Shane should not use the InformUs list of telephone numbers. 2 marks

The data was collected for a different purpose and the data suppliers did not consent to it being used for fund-raising.

It would be an error to quote the Privacy Act's requirement that data should not be used for a secondary purpose. The question clearly asks for an ethical and not a legal reason.

Students were asked to explain an ethical reason why Shane should not use the InformUs list of telephone numbers. Student responses that gained marks mentioned that Shane was using the data for not what it was intended for, such as 'As this is not the intended purpose of the telephone numbers collated by InformUs and as such taking them and using them for something else even if it is a good cause, can prove an ethical dilemma'.
Students who mentioned that it was breaking privacy laws or was illegal did not obtain any marks.
Average mark - 1/2

b. Shane's manager at InformUs thinks it is a great idea for Shane to use the InformUs list of telephone numbers and, since InformUs does not have a privacy policy, he cannot see anything wrong with Shane doing this.

What two pieces of advice should be given to InformUs about its information management strategies with regard to the use of people's telephone numbers and personal details? Provide reasons to support the advice. 4 marks

OK. Let's get this out of the way. Is InformUs subject to the Privacy Act? Does it turn over more than $3m a year?
I really, really wish exam case studies would make it clear whether the Privacy Act applies or not!
Yes, the case study insert begins by saying that "InformUS is a large marketing company' but this still does not make it obvious whether the Act applies to them.

Students need to be given sufficient relevant information to make appropriate decisions!
Once again, the poor student needs to do the work that the question should have done by saying...

Assuming that InformUs is subject to the Privacy Act 1988 because it turns over more than $3 million a year, InformUs is obliged by the privacy principles to:

1. Create and publicly publish a privacy policy that sets out what data it collects and how it is used.

2. Not use data collected for one purpose for a secondary purpose without the permission of the data provider.

• develop a privacy policy and educate staff about it
• implement a code of conduct
• restrict access to the phone list to only those who require it
• tell participants how their data will be used
• seek permission from participants to use their data.
To gain full marks, the advice given needed to include an action that InformUs should take.
Average mark -2 /4

And - we're done!



Section C summary

Task B in C1 was either unfairly tricky, or carelessly overcomplicated for students. Otherwise, project management was handled quite reasonably.
C7 was a nightmare of incomprehensibility. What on earth was it trying to say and examine? Truly it was a failure of a question.
C8 is concerning if it's aimed to establing a de facto UFD standard for exams. If VCAA wants to set a template as they did with ERD, fine! But do it openly and honestly, not by stealth and later claiming it to be 'traditional'.
Thank the divine Labrador that the exam did not decide to examine students on the messy and artificial problems of 2NF. I hope they forever remember that 2NF problems are completely preventable by using dedicated a key field for each table. Focus on problems that database developers need to avoid in real life, such as 1NF and 3NF.

Well, lads and lassies, we got to the end. Yay! I'm not sure if I'll do it again next year. We shall see.


* Many thanks for Steven Wright for letting me steal his joke.

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Created 10 November 2016

Last changed: November 17, 2017 12:17 PM

Original Content © Mark Kelly 2016
Images and questions are © Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority 2016.
Reproduced here with permission for educational purposes.

Thanks, VCAA!

VCE IT Lecture notes © Mark Kelly