Informatics VCAA Sample Exam Answers

In 2016 VCAA published a set of sample questions (version 2, April 2016) using the new 2016-2019 exam format. 

These are some sample answers – no accuracy or authority is implied or guaranteed.
Updates are guaranteed, though, as I revisit questions.

My comments will be in red.
Suggested answers will be in blue.

Rather than me spending 2 hours reproducing the sample exam paper, download it from the VCAA site or with the following local link: it-informatics-specs-samp_2

Note the new exam format – make sure you read the case study before starting section C!


Section A – Multiple-choice questions (20 marks)

A3. B and C are also partially correct. While forms primarily acquire information, they can also deliver information to a lesser extent. 

A12. A nice tricky one. Since the AGENCIES data would not be stored in the PROPERTIES table, it would have to be foreign to the PROPERTIES table.

A13. Finally, a good question to tease out the difference between evaluation and testing. Option D is clearly testing. Option C – interviewing – is not really efficient, even if the information gained were useful. The correct option does an efficient survey, and is clearly well past the development stage of the PSM.

A15. I approve of the style of question that has options with two parts . Students need to consider that both parts of an option are feasible – and it lets the examiner cram in more key knowledge into a limited space. The same applies to question A17. 

A19. Why add numbers for points 1,3 and 4 if they are never referred to in the question or answer? Another example of irrelevant clutter and fluff.

A20. Firstly, AFAIK no VCAA exam before has been allowed to use a negative question, such as, “Which option is NOT correct?” Such questions tend to be confusing, especially to ESL students. Why are they starting now?
Secondly, examining such a punctilious and pedantic legal point is hardly a test of deep VCE IT knowledge. By all means examine the meaty and relevant parts of legislation, but please don’t pick the aspects of them that are so rarefied that they suffocate students.
If you want to detect the top 5% of students in the state, there are better ways of doing it than testing them on dry legislative sub-clauses.

Section B – Short-answer questions (30 marks)


B1a. Design A  – The “If not, why not?” question delves into the main question: why people are not buying as much feed. It also allows free-form qualitative responses that elicit deep and unrestricted information. Respondents can explain why they have not been buying Kip’s feed – including reasons that Kip could never even have anticipated if he had only created closed, quantitative questions. 

Design B – Strongly-validated, fixed-answer questions will be valid (if not necessarily accurate). Responses cannot be left blank. Simple data entry might encourage more customers to provide feedback.

B1b. Design B. Quantitative data is (usually) numeric or limited in its range of valid responses. All of the data input controls in Design B only allow the entry of pre-determined responses. Design A’s Q4 allows qualitative data to be entered, which is not quantitative.

B2a. Many to Many. (Explanation – one driver can drive many trains. A train could be driven by many drivers.)




  • Requirement 1 – The “M” next to station and “1” next to track in the question clearly indicate the cardinality shown on the red line with the “1” and infinity symbols. Crow’s foot notation uses the three-forked ending (which resembles a crow’s foot, hence the name). I provided both the crow’s foot and the infinity symbol to keep everyone happy. 
    VCAA ERDs are also supposed to annotate the line with a description of the relationship between the entities… rather redundant, I reckon, but you can’t do much about that… except complain endlessly. 
  • Requirement 2 – The added legend clearly shows which fields are key in each table.
  • Requirement 3 – the green descriptions describe data types.

NOTE: I gave the answer to requirement 3 as I expected the examiners would want. I would, however, strongly argue that “MetroRegional” is not really Boolean since its answer isn’t true or false. It would have to be character (“M”/”R”) or string/text (“Metro”/”Regional”). To be truly Boolean it would be called “Metro?” and the answer is true (it is metro) or false (it is not metro).

B3a. If the number of types were truly limited, she would best use a set of radio buttons (if there were only a handful of types). For a larger number of types, use a drop-down list / combo box. The radio buttons are better because all options are visible and easy to click. The list or combo box allows a larger number of options to be hidden until selected, thus saving space onscreen. A text box would not be recommended.

The question makes it vague by saying “and so on”. This implies that the list could be large or endless. It would have been better to specify a specific number of types and let students decide based on that information. Note how my answer gives its reasoning so – if it’s not what the marker was expecting – students can still receive credit for sensible but unexpected answers.

B3b. The fact that the housing type can be enumerated (given a fixed number within a limited range of valid values) it can be statistically counted using a database or spreadsheet function, such as COUNTIF, or selected using a query, filter, or even just by sorting by Melanie.

B4a. I don’t have the time or energy to mock this up here. The key points used for marking (1 mark per dotpoint) would likely be:

  • Small, thumb-nailed images onscreen that are linked to high res images that will be displayed when clicked.
  • The necessary descriptive data would be shown under the picture as text.
  • The page will have navigational icons and/or text links with anchor text that is relevant to the four galleries.
  • The page will have underlined hyperlinks to the external sites in a self-contained “Links” section.

Students should also add frilly bits, like a page heading, information about decoration (e.g. text styling (especially size or heading type, and typeface), colour choices, backgrounds, alignment, borders/lines etc).

B4b. To test the thumbnails, click them and see that the correct big image is displayed.
Or to test the nav links, click each one and check that the right page is loaded.
Or test external links the same way.

B5. Cultural inclusiveness is the practice of allowing people of many different locations, backgrounds, beliefs, religions, political beliefs, histories and past experiences to understand what your information means – and not to be offended by it. 

But as we know, some people are overjoyed to be self-righteously indignant about anything other people may be offended by.

For example, if educating people about the importance of sport to Australians with reference to the AFL Grand Final, you could explain that “AFL” means “Australian Football League” and that many Australians are devoted to one of the official AFL clubs that compete weekly to win the annual Grand Final competition that is a football game that selects the most successful team of the season.

Note the highlighting of the “For example” to make it clear to the marker which part of the question you are currently addressing. The more clearly you show your knowledge, the more likely you are to be rewarded for it.

B6a. “It is harder for an identity thief to steal two pieces of identifying data than just one.” ?

This is a pretty trivial hurdle to an identity thief. Once they get one personal datum, they can usually quickly get several more. 

The question is flawed. It should highlight the differences between the types of the pieces of data – for example, a datum that establishes what a person knows (like a password or secret question), and another that proves what a person owns (like a mobile phone to which a code can be sent).
If the examiners really want to ask about dual-factor authentication, I wish they’d just get to the point.

B6b. Any two of the following:

  • a matching username and password
  • answer to a pre-recorded secret question (e.g. mother’s maiden name, name of first pet)
  • a response to an email sent to a registered email address
  • quoting a unique code sent via SMS to the user’s registered mobile phone number
  • a PIN (personal identification number)

B7. The council worker should ask the dog-owner  to write down her question or statement and ask if it is OK if her contact information is passed to the neighbour.
Out of the dog-owner’s view, the council worker should look up the neighbour’s contact details in the council’s database and send the dog-owner’s question and contact information (if allowed) to the neighbour.

Reason: The worker must not disclose the neighbour’s contact information because councils are subject to the  Victorian Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014, which prevents Victorian government organisations from misusing or unlawfully disclosing citizens’ stored personal information.

B8. Information may change over time (e.g. residential or email address, phone number, credit card details), and stored records will lose integrity and reliability if they don’t reflect timely and accurate data (e.g. important notifications may fail to arrive).

An example can sometimes make it clear what you mean when the right words are vague, or hard to find.

Data can also become redundant (e.g. the customer or employee leaves) and takes up unnecessary space in the data store.

Section C – Case Study (50 marks)

C1a. Purchaser has not entered the required information (solution requirement #2).


  • Get credit card details.
  • Contact credit card supplier to get validation of credit card and log the sale.
  • Store transaction data in database.
  • Prepare tickets.
  • Send tickets using email.

I thought this was probably worth more than 2 marks. It took a bit of reading and logical thinking.

C2a. Ticket cost is not dependent on Cust_ID. To achieve 2NF, non-key fields must be dependent on all of the fields in the key (Cust_ID + Ticket Type).

That was 2 marks hard-earned. Damn, I hate 2NF questions – they are so artificial. If a database is created properly from the start, without multi-field keys, these 2NF problems simply do not occur.

It’s like a zoo wondering how to stop lions escaping and eating the visitors: don’t install a button outside the cage so customers can open the door!

If you are having 2NF problems, you caused them yourself and deserve to be punished.



Table: Ticket Types.
Primary key: TicketType.

TicketType *


How do 3 pieces of information add up to 4 marks? Am I missing something ?


Table: Ticket Purchases.
Primary key: Cust_ID + TicketType.




Again, why use a multi-field key? When creating a table, proper database designers instinctively create a unique single-field key, even if it’s never used later. Also, this question had as many parts to complete as the previous one, but it’s only worth half the marks. Odd.

C3a. I am forced to say what the examiners are expecting: If he uses the email data to send advertising it will help his penguin business, but it exploits the customers. It’s a dilemma because the options are to hamper his business, or to abuse his customers.

Actually it’s not an ethical dilemma. Teachers spend all year telling kids not to try to weasel out of ethical dilemmas by making them legal issues, but this is a legal issue.

  1. The Spam Act would prevent Michael sending unsolicited email without the recipient’s consent, and such consent was not given for advertising purposes.
    (The Spam Act is not listed in the Informatics key knowledge, for some strange reason, but it is in the glossary.)
  2. The Privacy Act (assuming Michael is subject to it – case studies rarely make this clear) prevents personal information being used for a purpose other than the purpose for which the information was originally provided.

If a law forbids an action, it’s no longer an ethical dilemma – it’s a legal obligation.
In this case two laws say so. Grrrr.
Get it right, VCAA.

C3b. It should include a tickbox that purchasers need to select that declares that they agree that their email data may be used by Michael for advertising purposes.

This permission removes the strictures of both applicable laws.


  • Michael not need to spend money and time buying, installing and maintaining local backup equipment.
  • The data is accessible from any location using any computer with an internet connection.
  • One assumes the cloud provider is better at doing data backups than Michael could ever be.
  • The backups are stored offsite, so they cannot be destroyed by a local disaster, such as attack by riotous angry little penguins.

OK. I know you’re sick of VCE IT exam stuff.
Why not spend some time googling images of “angry penguin”?
And if your mum walks in and asks what on earth you’re up to when you’re supposed to be studying, say “MR KELLY TOLD ME TO DO IT.”

That will make everything better.
(Sorry to mums across Victoria, China, India and other VCE-accredited regions.)

C4b. A local backup gives Michael complete control over the data. Once sent to a cloud storage provider, there is no guarantee that all copies of data are deleted – there may be redundant traces of it remaining on remote servers anywhere in the world.

C4c. It should create some dummy data, and then deliberately destroy, damage or delete it. Then it should follow its DDRP procedures fully and see how much of the dummy data has been recovered.


Variable 1 (independent)The number of visitors

Variable 2 (dependent)The number of penguins

C6. The data only weakly supports the hypothesis. Large increases in visitor numbers from 2013-2015 are not clearly reflected in falling penguin numbers which decline a little over the same time, but not as dramatically as the visitor numbers increase.


Referencing method: Harvard

Reference for source of data set 1:

Does the question want the in-text citation or the reference list entry? I wish they would be clear. All reference styles have both in-text and reference list (bibliography) formats.

In-text citation example:

According to data (UBPP, 2015) penguins numbers were not strongly correlated with visitor numbers. 

Reference list citation example: 

UBPP (20015).  Udiptula Beach Penguin Park Annual Report 2015. Pub. Style Matters.

And what were the relevant page numbers?
And Style Matters is a publisher? The annual report is not a textbook, journal, or novel owned or controlled by Style Matters . Surely Style Matters is just a printer, not a publisher.  
If so, why should the printer get a mention in the references?
This makes no sense to me.


  • Use a spreadsheet or database to sort people by department and count the times each factor was reported by those people.
  • Create a query or filter to select skilled and experienced  people… Volunteer=No AND (DeptNow=Dept5yearsAgo) AND Dept=Ranger …and count the factors most commonly reported by those people.
  • Sort people by Dept and see if any particular dept showed consistency in factors reported.
  • Do a similar thing with volunteers vs paid staff.
  • Create a stacked bar chart of factors, with each bar divided into % of depts reporting that factor. Create another similar chart with the axes reversed – each bar is a department.
  • Use a pivot table in a spreadsheet to change the axes and groupings of fields to reveal patterns.

C9a. Yes, I know milestones are zero duration. The chart below got messed up because there was so little room to fit all the markings using software! I will fix it soon!

gantt finished

(P.S. Annotations added to the Gantt screenshot using MS Powerpoint’s shapes)

C9a-i. Durations are shown by blue bars.
C9a-ii. Dependencies are shown by arrows
C9a-iii. Milestones are detected by looking for zero duration values.



  • Yes, “usable” was mistyped. So – sue me, sweetheart.
  • A lot a hard work for a measly 2 marks!
  • Doing these changes over the top of the original chart on paper would be VERY messy, IMO. How can kids leave their original question C9a Gantt features unerased (for marking purposes) whilst adding changes that shift them about for the following question? Confusing! Go on. Photocopy the question in the sample exam. Do question A, then add the bits required by question B. How does it look? Like an unholy mess of bars and arrows, I’d guess. Can both questions be marked by an examiner?

C10a. Readability. Clarity. Accessibility.

C10b. Design principles for appearance (from the study design) are  alignment, repetition,
contrast, space and balance. Let’s choose contrast since it’s the elephant in the room.

Explanation: Contrast is the difference in colour between two overlapping objects, such as text on a background colour or image.
Design 1 has poor contrast because the black text is similar to the underlying black penguin, making it hard to read. In Design 2, no colour overlaps occur, so readability and contrast are excellent.


Screen structure layout – use invisible tables or DIV tags to position the page objects in their proper places.

Create links – select the text or image that will be the anchor. Go to the object’s properties and enter the relative URL of the page to which the object is linked. (e.g. charts.html)

Incorporate images – select the position where the image should go. Choose Insert > Image from the software menu. Select the image file from a dialogue box. Apply alt text to make the nature of the image clear to search engines and people using screen readers.

C11.  She could count the number of times errors occurred because tasks were tackled in the wrong order, she had slack time, she ran out of time on a task, tasks were delayed because predecessors were not yet finished, resources were not available at the right time,  milestones were not met, and whether the predicted end date of the project was achieved or not.

Overall – It’s only a sample exam, and it’s trying to show the extent to which real exam questions could go, so you can forgive it for being difficult and strenuous. Let’s hope the real exams will be rather more accessible to the average student.