Tens of thousands of Victorian students have found out if "all their hard work has paid off" after ATAR results were released at 7am on December 11.
In the tiny Victorian town of Wycheproof Kate Thompson learnt she was dux of her school, Wycheproof P12 College, when she was presented with a cake bearing her entry score 97.85 written in icing.
The school's youngest students asked if it was her age.
"We are hoping the oldest of our students acts as a source of inspiration for our youngest of students," a Wycheproof P12 College spokesperson said.
More than 45,000 students have received an ATAR with the average rank of 69.31 for the 2023 cohort, a slight drop from 70.33 in 2022.
And 39 students have achieved the highest possible rank of 99.95.
Surprise as results exceed expectations
Warragul year 12 student Hamna Mohamed Fahmi has been named dux of St Paul's Anglican Grammar School in Gippsland after achieving an ATAR of 99.75.
With a dream to study medicine she had a goal of reaching 99 or above to give herself the best chance.
"When I saw my ATAR I was really surprised because I was not expecting it to be that high, so I was screaming and a lot of laughter and tears," she said.
"[My parents] were really happy because it's not just my effort, it's also their effort and contribution too so they are really happy, if not more happy than me!"
Ms Mohamed Fahmi was also pleasantly surprised to receive a perfect study score of 50 in psychology.
"I actually thought it was going to be my bottom subject," she said.
"It was one of my favourite subjects but what made it my best was probably my teacher: he was a really good teacher and he really did care about how I went."
Across the St Paul's Anglican Grammar School's cohort, 14 per cent achieved an ATAR over 90 and 69 per cent received a rank over 70.
Nearby at Gippsland Grammar, Georgia Shell secured dux of 2023 with her ATAR of 97.60.
"When I saw that result I was shocked because I wasn't really expecting it," she said.
"But at the same time I felt a lot of relief and pride because I knew I had worked hard to deserve it."
The Forge Creek local had always associated high ATAR rankings with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, so was surprised given her best subjects were French and PE - with raw scores of 44.
"[French] is considered one of the hardest VCE subjects to take and I poured my heart and soul into it - it's always been my favourite," she said.
Now she hopes her score will be enough to secure a spot studying Arts at the University of Melbourne, to pursue her passion for French and languages.
Gippsland Grammar is celebrating its students' results with 13 per cent achieving an ATAR above 90 and 26 students earning a study score of 40 or above in at least one subject.
Tense wait before results arrive
Melbourne student Ravin Desai studied ten hours per day for five weeks in the lead up to his VCE exams.
He studied English, literature, French, general maths and philosophy as an extension subject.
Mr Desai is going to hit the open road after finding out his entry score before returning in February when he hopes to start a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne.
He needed an ATAR of at least 88 and Mr Desai could relax saying his results were a relief.
The ATAR is not a score out of 100 but a ranking of a student compared to others.
It's calculated to allow universities and tertiary institutions to compare the achievement of students.
The ATAR is calculated by adding the Victorian Tertiary Admission Centre (VTAC) scaled scores of the student's English subject with their three next best performing subjects, and 10 per cent of the fifth and sixth best performing subjects if they are available.
Mr Desai knows there's "always other options" at universities with lower entry scores and has seen how students tailored their dream career path in spite of a disappointing ATAR.
He was confident in his ability to clear the entry score hurdle but said VCE exams didn't assess how interesting or innovative the student's ideas were.
"It's just how much you can memorise. If you can memorise a lot then you'll do well but if you can't, you're not going to," he said.
The long wait for ATAR results cast a solemn mood over his friendship group when the topic arose, he said.
"It's the elephant in the room, no one wants to bring it up."
But the tension broke when the results rolled in.
"I think everyone will be happy on the day and afterwards we can just move on," he said.
Options available and results 'not everything'
Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan said she was thinking of the 57,601 students waiting for their VCE result.
"Your VCE is a big deal, but it's not everything. Trust me: I got a B in politics," she said in a Facebook post.
"Your results today don't have to define your future, so if you didn't get what you'd hoped for, don't panic.
"Whether it's uni or TAFE or something else entirely, there are so many doors open to you, no matter what.
"Above all, I really hope you're proud of what you've achieved this year. I am."
Deputy Premier and Education Minister Ben Carroll also congratulated all those completing secondary school.
"Remember this is just one step in your life and educational journey and that there are all kinds of options available to you," he said on X.
"A big thank you to all the teachers and families for their support!"
The Geelong College dux Agnes Ambrose received a whopping 99.90 ATAR and couldn't be happier.
She's celebrating over dinner with her parents after hearing the results. She wants to thank them for their help and support.
"They didn't put any pressure on me but they tried to support and help me with the stress,"
"The stress is all over," she said.
"Next year will be fun."
Year 12 students can find their scores through the VCE Results and ATAR website online or app.
After receiving their results students have until 4pm on December 13 to update their tertiary course preferences, if they are applying.
The first round of tertiary offers is in December, followed by further rounds in January and February.