QTAC Information Sheet

Previous Page Return to Previous Page

Personal Competencies Assessment (PCA)

What is PCA?

The PCA is a written statement that enables you to demonstrate your capacity to successfully complete a tertiary course on the basis of skills, abilities and knowledge gained through life experience.

Who can use the PCA?

The PCA is mainly for people without formal academic or non-formal qualifications. If you feel your formal or non-formal qualifications may be insufficient to gain entry to your preferred courses, you may be able to use the PCA to improve your chances of tertiary selection. As policies regarding the use of PCA vary between institutions, it is important you check with the admissions office of the relevant institution to confirm how they will use PCA for tertiary entrance. Generally, institutions do not allow current Year 12 students to use PCA. If you are under 21, age restrictions may also apply.

What do I need to know before submitting a PCA?

There is a non-refundable fee of $35 to submit a PCA. Not all institutions consider a rank from a PCA, or may only consider a PCA rank under certain conditions. Check with QTAC and the admissions office of the institutions you want to apply to in order to ensure you may use PCA in your circumstance.

You cannot submit a PCA in an application for 2015/2016 Admissions, ie courses that start in Semester 3, 2015 or in 2016. You can still however use PCA in your application for Semester 2, 2015.


How do I indicate in my QTAC application that I want to submit a PCA?

At the ‘Personal Competencies’ page of your online application, indicate ‘Yes’ to the question ‘Do you wish to submit a PCA statement for assessment?’

After you have lodged your QTAC application, print the PCA Cover Sheet. Submit this with your PCA statement, supporting documents and referee reports by the due date. Check the documentation ‘due dates’ for the courses and offer rounds you are applying for. Documents, including PCAs, submitted after the due date may not be assessed in time.

If you have already lodged your application and now wish to add a PCA, you may do so by contacting QTAC on 1300 GO QTAC (1300 467 822).

How do I submit a PCA?

The PCA statement, its supporting documents and referee reports can only be submitted by post or at QTAC’s office in South Brisbane. PCA documents submitted by fax or email will not be accepted.

What are the guidelines for writing a PCA?

Length: A concise and well-written PCA can demonstrate all six PCA categories and all of the indicators listed in the attached Personal Competencies Assessment (PCA) Schedule, in 2500–3000 words (approximately five typed A4 size pages). You must use normal margins, single spacing and font size 12.

Writing less than 2500 words will limit your opportunity to demonstrate the indicators and may therefore limit the rank your PCA can be allocated. Writing substantially more than 3000 words will negatively affect your PCA rank because it demonstrates that you have not developed one of the most important tertiary study skills – the ability to write to guidelines.

Structure: Use the six categories as headings in your PCA statement. Under each heading, write in paragraphs and demonstrate the associated indicators to the best of your ability.

Style and language: Write your statement using formal, written language constructed in sentences and paragraphs. Do not use bullet points or other note forms. Punctuation, spelling, sentence and paragraph structure is important (one of the indicators in the category ‘Interpersonal and Communication Skills’ is ‘Demonstrated ability to write clearly and correctly’). It is appropriate to write your statement using active voice and personal pronouns, for example, ‘I have completed…’

Content: In your written statement demonstrate all the PCA categories and indicators listed in the PCA Schedule, using examples from your life. The six categories are:

  • Tertiary Preparation
  • Tertiary Maturity
  • Independent Learning Strategies
  • Interpersonal and Communication Skills
  • Achievement and Experience
  • Skills and Knowledge

It is not sufficient to simply list or describe an indicator. You must demonstrate it. The key difference between a description and a demonstration is that a demonstration contains proof or evidence of your claims. An example is presented below to help illustrate the difference:

Example Indicator:

From Category 1 – Tertiary Preparation: ‘Evidence of steps taken to overcome knowledge or skills deficits’



‘As I have not studied in 20 years my study skills were quite rusty. I have worked on improving my study skills to ensure that I can cope with the work at university.’


‘As I have not studied in 20 years my study skills were quite rusty so I have completed a six week study skills program offered through Brisbane University (Appendix C: Statement of Attainment). This course concentrated on the use of libraries, database searches and online research. My instructor for this course has provided a referee report (Appendix A) indicating that I was competent in these skills by the conclusion of the course. After completing this course I feel more confident in approaching tertiary study.’

Supporting documents: You can include up to six supporting documents with your PCA. Suitable supporting documents may include copies of certificates or awards. You do not need to submit second copies of documents that you have already provided to QTAC as the PCA assessor can see your whole application.

Label the supporting documents for your PCA and referee reports and attach these to your PCA Cover Sheet and your written PCA statement, with staples. Do not use display booklets or plastic sleeves. Please note that your PCA, supporting documents and referee reports can only be submitted in printed form. Do not submit CDs, DVDs, etc.

Referee reports: Referee reports are used to support your claims. For instance, if you claim in your PCA that you have good time management skills, you might refer to where your referee supports this claim. Please note that you must still write about that skill in your PCA statement – it is not sufficient that your referee has mentioned it.

Supply at least two and no more than four referee reports with your PCA statement. Referee reports must be written, signed, dated and on letterhead. One page in length is usually sufficient. Do not include the contact details of a referee instead of a written referee’s report.

A referee’s report should include:

  • their name, title, and contact details
  • the basis on which they know you
  • examples of your ability to manage time effectively; collect, analyse, organise and use information; and carry a project through to completion
  • examples of your ability to communicate and work with others
  • examples of your achievements, experiences, and competencies that demonstrate your capacity to successfully undertake tertiary study.

(Please note, if you want to obtain a separate, additional rank for paid employment experience you must submit a separate statement of service. Refer to QTAC’s website or phone QTAC on 1300 GO QTAC [1300 467 822] for details.)

How is my PCA assessed?

Your PCA is assessed according to how well you have used examples from your life experiences to demonstrate the indicators in all six PCA categories. A six point rating scale is used, with zero being the lowest and five the highest. To obtain a five in a category, you must demonstrate all of its indicators to a high standard. Each category is then given a weighting by the institution you are applying to. Institutions, except Queensland University of Technology, use QTAC’s standard weightings. Even so, you should still address the indicators in all six categories to the best of your ability. A QTAC selection rank is allocated according to each institution’s policies and PCA category weightings.

How will institutions use my PCA?

Like any other QTAC selection rank, your PCA rank forms part of your overall application. Institution policies determine what ranks are considered and in which order. While the maximum selection rank allocated to a PCA is 99, some institutions may set a lower cap on this rank.

Remember, minimum entry requirements must still be met. Please check with QTAC and the admissions office of the institution you want to apply to before lodging your QTAC application and PCA as to how you may satisfy the minimum entry requirements for the courses of your interest.

Where can I get help preparing my PCA?

QTAC runs workshops to assist you with writing your PCA. These practical workshops help you learn how to present your statement, understand the personal competency categories and indicators, and examine your own life experiences to identify and demonstrate how you meet the indicators. There is a fee to attend the workshop. To register, please phone QTAC during offices hours on (07) 3858 1298.

Should I sit the Special Tertiary Admissions Test (STAT)?

If you are relying on Alternative Entry you would usually be advised to sit the STAT. The selection rank gained from your STAT score together with your PCA may result in a higher rank than that obtained from either PCA or STAT individually. To obtain more information on STAT and how it may combine with the PCA, contact QTAC and the admissions office of the institutions you want to apply to. 

Personal Competencies Assessment Schedule





Relates to what an applicant has done to ascertain he or she is ready for tertiary study.  Components of tertiary preparation include tertiary awareness, tertiary planning, and the degree to which the applicant's case is well thought out in terms of personal circumstances.  Tertiary preparation is linked to tertiary maturity.

Evidence of knowledge of the course
Evidence of knowledge of course outcomes
Evidence of awareness of the workload inherent in tertiary study and the time required for tertiary study
Demonstrated knowledge of competencies required to function successfully in the tertiary environment
Evidence of steps taken to overcome knowledge or skills deficits
Level of consideration given to the impact of tertiary study on lifestyle
Level of consideration given to resources required to complete the course
Completion of a tertiary preparation program


Relates to awareness of the relationship between tertiary study and personal goals, awareness of the relationship between personal interests and abilities and the course, motivation towards the nominated course or tertiary study in general and capacity to cope with the transition to tertiary study.

Evidence that the course is a chosen goal that the applicant has prepared for
Evidence of commitment to the goal of tertiary study
Evidence of self evaluation and assessment
Level of consideration given to the link between personal interests and abilities and the course
Demonstrated ability to cope with performance demands
Demonstrated ability to adjust or adapt to new situations/environments/demands
Good quality references or other supporting documentation


Relates to the capacity for self-directed study.

Demonstrated ability to prioritise tasks
Demonstrated ability to manage time
Evidence of ability to plan and coordinate activities
Evidence of ability to meet deadlines
Evidence of ability to carry a project through to completion
Evidence of awareness of personally effective techniques for managing stress
Demonstrated ability to work independently and monitor own performance
Evidence of self motivation
Evidence of the application of personally effective learning strategies and/or awareness of learning strategies
Demonstration of research and planning prior to undertaking a significant task or project
Demonstration of a systematic approach in pursuing a significant task or project




Relates to the ability to communicate clearly with others via written, spoken, and/or visual and non-verbal means. The ability to interact with others and work in teams.

Demonstrated ability to write clearly and correctly
Evidence of capacity to reason and express thoughts logically
Evidence of oral communication skills
Evidence of ability to interact effectively with others
Evidence of ability to work effectively in a team


Relates to the degree to which previous achievements and experiences are indicative of likely tertiary success.

Level of attainment in previous formal and non-formal studies
Degree of expertise or achievement demonstrated in technology, trades, crafts, arts, business, management, or administration
Evidence of outstanding achievement in a particular field or endeavour
Evidence of specialist knowledge developed through experience
Nature and extent of experience in a particular field or endeavour


Relates to knowledge, skills, abilities and aptitudes relevant to tertiary study and/or specifically relevant to the nominated course(s).

Demonstrated ability to collect, analyse, and organise information
Demonstrated ability to evaluate and interpret data, values, and issues
Evidence of computer literacy
Demonstrated problem solving skills
Evidence of skills relevant to the nominated course or field
Evidence of knowledge relevant to the nominated course or field
Evidence of completion of an accredited study skills course
Evidence of academic ability


PCA Weightings

(QTAC Standard weightings are used unless specified otherwise as below.)



Tertiary Preparation   

Tertiary Maturity   

Independent Learning Strategies   

Interpersonal & Communication Skills   

Achievement & Experience   

Skills & Knowledge

QTAC standard weightings   

1    4    4    2    5    4

Queensland University of Technology   

0    0    2    6    8    4


This information last updated 23 March 2015.


Top of Page Top of Page