VCE Applied Computing Notes by Mark Kelly

Information Processing and Management

VCAA Exam Post Mortem


VCE IT Exam Post Mortem

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 writing or marking of this examination.
Extracts from exams are all Copyright © VCAA, and are used with permission.
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.

Questions look like this.
My suggested answers look like this.
My editorial ramblings look like this.
Examiners' report comments look like this.
Explanations of answers look like this.

Other VCE IT Exam Post Mortems to enjoy

IPM / ITA / Informatics / Data Analytics - 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2023

Info Systems / SD - 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2023

Last changed: March 12, 2022 12:29 PM


Let's have a look at the 2001 exam which finished about an hour ago. All comments here are mine alone and reflect nothing about what the examiners may or may not have expected.

On the whole, the exam was pretty easy. No really curly or downright weird questions. The PERTish chart in Q9 was odd, but at least it was readable and not difficult to interpret. Several of my students finished early.

As usual, internet-related questions were common, so it's worth your while become internet-literate if you're doing IPM.

Historical Note: at this early stage of the post mortems I did not include the entire questions; I just paraphrased them.

Question 1

1 mark. Tickbox.


Introducing an email system into an organisation to improve communication would surely be caused by a desire for increased competitiveness.

Tick the first box. As usual, the exam starts with a quick and easy one to settle your nerves.

Some say this answer was not as obvious as I believe, but the other alternatives are much less likely to be the cause, IMHO.


Question 2

2 marks. 6 lines of writing


You are only supposed to do one of the alternatives. Don't do both, because the first answer will be answered and the second one ignored, no matter how brilliant it may have been. You should tick either the Alternative A box or the Alternative B box and answer in the space provided.

Alternative A: describe in detail how an image is placed on the page in a particular web authoring program that you have used.

To place an image in a webpage using Dreamweaver 4, place the cursor where the picture needs to go. Press CTRL+ALT+I or select menu Insert > Image. Use the standard Windows file dialog box to navigate to the picture file and click the "Select" button.

Since the question's instructions specified "describe in detail", you would want to be very detailed and produce a description that could be followed to successfully insert an image. Note that the "particular web authoring program" is named in the answer.

Alternative B: List a software tool you have used and describe two methods of electronic data validation.

Example answer 1: Microsoft Excel 2000.

Method 1: In the Data > Validation menu you can specify what values are allowed in a cell or range (e.g. text, date). A specified message can be made to appear when the cell is selected and if validation rules are broken.

Method 2: A formula could be written to check the contents of another cell. e.g. if the value in cell A1 is not allowed to be negative, this formula in B1 would highlight the error

=if(A1<0,"Error in cell A1","")

Example answer 2: Microsoft Word 2000.

Method 1: By running a spell check, Word finds all words in the document that are not in its dictionary. It will detect typing and spelling errors, unless the error by chance matches a legitimate word (e.g. if you typed "There" instead of "Their", or if you typed "bag" instead of "big".)

Method 2: By running a grammar check, Word will check your writing for grammatical errors such as "They is good". It can also detect possibly poor writing style such as partial sentences or passive voice.


Question 3

2 marks. 4 lines of writing


You are asked to explain two factors that affect the suitability of information for a given purpose.

1. Timeliness: information needs to be available when it's needed, and need to be up to date if it is to be useful. Outdated information will not be useful (e.g. old stock prices)

2. Relevance: if the information has little or nothing to do with what you need to know, it is unsuitable.

You could also mention factors such as level of complexity, clarity, its format, accuracy, completeness, consistency, validity, appropriateness, meaning, appropriateness of genre, etc.


Question 4

1 mark. 2 lines of writing


Explain why using inappropriate desks and chairs can cause health problems for computer users.

Chairs or desks of the wrong height can cause strain to back, arm and leg muscles. Reaching up to a desk that is too high will strain the arms. If the monitor is raised too high, the neck can be strained. If a chair lacks lumbar support, the back can start hurting. If a chair is too high and the user's feet do not touch the ground, discomfort can result.


Question 5

1 mark. 2 lines of writing


What's a social issue arising from a store requiring customers to register personal details over the internet before being able to purchase goods?

Customer Privacy. If the transaction is not carried out over a secure link, others may see sensitive information like credit card numbers passing through the internet and the information may be exploited. Even on a secure link, if the staff at the shop misuse customer information, the customer's privacy is invaded.


Question 6

2 parts: 2+1 marks

Two tick boxes, two lines of writing


A tutoring business lets school students employ someone to help them, either at home or elsewhere, for $28 an hour. Tutors are sent a weekly email with an attached file telling them what their appointments are for the coming week.

6a) There are two boxes, each containing a list of possible input data items for a business information system. You had to tick the item in each list that would be the least essential.

On the student data side, obviously for this case study, the tutor needs to know the student's name and address. The subject is necessary because tutors probably could teach more than one subject. When the appointment is scheduled is also vital. The only one left is the gender of the student.

Pedantic note: Languages have "genders." Humans have "sex." Yeah. Stop giggling. That's why people say "gender", I suppose. ;-)

On the tutor data side, one would logically need all the fields (including email address since information is sent by email) except "Other employers" which would not be useful for organising tutorials.


  • Name of student
  • Address of student
  • Gender of student (not essential)
  • Subject required
  • Time and duration of appointment
  • Name of tutor
  • Subject Tutored
  • Other employer(s) (not essential)
  • Pay rate
  • Email address
  • Postal address


6b) What other output, apart from the email, would tutors expect to receive on a regular basis?

Since they are getting paid for their work, they would expect regular statements of their work and earnings. Perhaps the system can also print cheques for payment.


Question 7

1 mark. 2 lines of writing


A business has developed a software solution to calculate the time worked by employees. Two types of documentation have been specified for the solution: one for the person managing the system and another for the employees who will enter their work times.

You are asked to explain the difference between the two types of documentation.

The system manager's documentation would be describe the entire system, from data entry to processing, storage and output. It would be longer, more detailed and contain more technical detail of how the system works.

The employees' documentation would be short, clear, simple and dedicated solely to explaining the data input procedures.


Question 8

1 mark. 2 lines of writing


Explain the term Project Management. (Hey: couldn't get a shorter question; it's not very simple though!)

Project Management is a model of the steps required to successfully handle a big and complex job involving many people and actions from beginning to end. It describes project analysis, design, development, implementation and closure. It does not describe how a product is produced, but it guides a team through the steps needed to produce it.

Obviously this is a very cut down discussion of Project Management, but in 2 lines and 2 minutes, what else can you do? If anything, my answer is too long anyway!


Question 9

3 parts: 1+1+1 marks. 2+1+1 lines of writing


You are given a diagram that looks rather like a Clayton's PERT chart: the PERT chart you have when you're not having a PERT chart. It's an odd beastie, that's for sure. I quote the exam questions exactly. The case study is:

A college committee organising a VCE social is changing to an online booking and recording system. This diagram shows some tasks and the timeline associated with the development of the online system.

PERT chart

"Note: only weekdays included" (thank heaven, after last year's mess on the Gantt chart!)

9a) "If the design team cannot agree on the steps involved in testing and the task takes two extra days what impact will this have on the critical path of the project?"

It must be referring to the top left box "Write the steps...". That task is on a path on its lonesome, taking 5 days. The alternative, concurrent path, "Identify...(2) " + "Advertise (10)" + "Select (5)" adds up to 17 days before the two paths converge again at the mysterious empty box. In other words, there are 12 slack days for the top left task. If the "Write the steps" tasks now takes 7 days, it is still TEN DAYS shorter than the longer path below (i.e. 10 days' slack), so the short answer is NO IMPACT.

9b) "What task would be shown in the empty box?"

Well, it's a no-brainer. Everything before the empty box is about setting up testing. Everything after it is about fixing errors that were found by testing. What's missing? TESTING!

9c) "What is the maximum number of days the task "select testers" could take if the critical path cannot be changed?"

Since "Select testers" is on the critical path (it is part of the longest path from beginning to end), the easy answer is FIVE DAYS (i.e. no change, since any change to the task would change the critical path.) It's a bit of a trick question!

Thank Dog this question was much more reasonable than last year's! You're a lucky bunch of Vegemites compared to the kids who were the IPM 2000 guinea pigs.


Question 10

2 parts: 2+2 marks. 2 labels + 4 lines of writing


"The list of positions in a large multinational company in Australia include(s) department heads, store managers, sales assistants, a state manager and a national manger." Shame about the (grammatical error)!

10a) "Complete the organisational chart above to show the management structure for Victoria only, by placing one management position listed above in each blank level of the diagram.

You'd first mentally sort the positions by hierarchy:

  • national manger
  • state manager
  • store managers
  • department heads (within each store)
  • sales assistants

Above "Store manager" would be the STATE MANAGER, since we are told to only look at Victoria and to ignore the national manager.

Below the "Store manager" would be the DEPARTMENT HEADS

Easy as that! This is an easy exam so far!

10b) The company produces a report for each store providing the total sales by department for the current week, the previous week and the year so far. A copy of the report for the relevant store is given to the store manager and each department head. Explain how each of these people would use the report (2 marks - 4 lines)

The store manager [tactical management level] would use the report to see how individual departments were performing and help plan tactical changes to departments. The manager could support (or scare) the department head into better results; or praise (or reward) the department head for his/her good results. The manager could reorganise resources and training to aid departments that were underperforming and inspect high-performing departments to learn their secrets of success. The store manager's changes would be aimed at improving department heads' implementation of the company's goals.

The department head [operational managment level] would use the report to better manage the day-to-day operation of the department; discover whether workers were performing well or poorly and adjust how workers were supervised or resourced. The department head's changes would be practical changes at a worker level.


Question 11

2 parts: 1+2 marks. 1+3 lines of writing


Can anyone explain why this question was divided in (i) and (ii) where other questions were divided into (a) and (b) etc? Methinks the VCAA need a style guide!

"Give one form (type) of information that may be provided over the Internet and describe the technical aspects to be considered in providing the information."

"(i) Form"

(choose any of these...)

  • Textual
  • Graphical
  • Numerical
  • Aural (sound)

"(ii) Description of technical aspects to be considered"

(Pick one of the following)

Textual: typeface (will the user have the same font as the webpage creator and see what the creator intended?), fontsize (if the user has a different screen resolution, the font will appear in very different sizes)

Graphical: can the user's browser display the graphics used by the creator (e.g. PNG)? How long will the graphic take to download? How much of the screen will it take up? Will it appear properly if the user has different numbers of displayable colours on his/her video card/monitor? If it is animated, does it show smoothly or jerkily due to bandwidth restrictions?

Numerical: (no relevant technical aspects that I can think of)

Aural: Does the user have the necessary plugin or browser support for playing the sound? How long does it take to download? Does the user's soundcard play MIDI files with the same instruments as the creator's soundcard?


Question 12

2 marks. 4 lines of writing


A school has 50 computers that are loaned to students. The school is concerned that some are requiring excessive repairs and has asked you to develop an information system to monitor the loans and maintenance. Describe what you would do in the design phase.

In the design phase I would choose the hardware and software needed to produce the required output. I would plan the fields and tables required for a database to record loan and maintenance events. I would design the input and output formats of the system. I would decide how the system would be tested to ensure it was working properly. I could design the data flow plan with a data flow diagram. I could plan processes with a flowchart or Nassi-Shneiderman chart.


Question 13

3 marks. 6 lines of writing


The table below shows some records maintained by a company and the people who have access to them.

Financial records Accountant and finance department staff
Personnel contact details and employment history Personnel manager and staff
Stock lists All staff

Choose one type of record and describe strategies to ensure the security of the data and integrity of the information

First, interpret the question. For computer lovers, "records" in the question does not mean "records" as in a database (a collection of related fields). It just means "recordings of information". Second: the records match the users: read across from left to right.

Notice how the records are in decreasing order of security.

Choose from:

1. Network passwords so only authorised employees can enter the system

2. Application passwords so only authorised users can enter the database and read/change the data they are entitled to access and/or change

3. Regular and documented backups to protect data from loss

4. Physical security (locks, bars, locked floppy drives, ID-card operated doors) to prevent outsiders entering restricted areas or accessing computers

5. Encryption of data to prevent unauthorised people reading data even if they can access it.

Question 14

2 parts, part A divided into 3 parts (3+2 marks)

6 lines + 4 lines of writing


An organisation sells art and craft supplies, and is divided into departments. One person in each department has been given responsibility of overseeing the development of webages which will display products, prices and staff contact information. The system administrator has suggested students from local schools be engaged to develop the pages. Each department has been assigned students from a different school. It is expected that the students will work at times that suit them and that the pages will be developed independently.

a) Explain three weaknesses in this approach

  1. Pages might not be ready when they are required - if they ever appear
  2. Each page will look different, lending a messy appearance to the site
  3. The students' skill levels may not be up to the professional job expected of an organisation

b) Who would you suggest tests the solution and why would you choose this person?

The system adminstrator should test the solution since he/she would understand the technical requirements of the website and notice any shortcomings in the pages supplied. He/she would know what to test for to detect typical problems with webpages. The administrator would also be able to compare the departments' pages and see if they are consistent in style and content.


Question 15

5 parts: 1+1+2+3+1 marks (8 marks total). 2+2+4+6+2 lines of writing


A town has 2 hospitals. Only one of them has an X-ray unit and the hospitals are considering sharing some other facilities wuch as their pharmacies and kitchens. Some doctors work at both hospitals and some patients attend both hospitals. A communications link has been proposed to connect the computer systems in both hospitals.

15a) What would be one of the organisational goals of a hospital in the town?

To provide effective and efficient treatment of patients' illnesses.

The hospitals have decided to set up a common patient admissions and medical history database.

15b) State what data item(s) would allow the hospitals to uniquely identify each patient.

Medicare card number

(In 2001 the Privacy Act was not part of the study design, and I didn't know that organisations were not allowed to use an identifier from another organisation's database to identify an individual)

surname + given name + phone number

(In 2001, databases were not part of the study design either, and I was not so aware that using multiple fields to define a key leaves one vulnerable to Second Normal Form [2NF] normalisation problems)

etc (so long as there is no chance of even million-to-one chances of duplicate identities)

15c) Give two examples of data, other than patient details, that the two hospitals may wish to share.

1. Bookings of X-ray machine usage (it is suggested in the case study)

2. Drugs given to patients by pharmacies (to stop drug-seeking patients)

Bonus: 3. Nutritional requirements of patients (if they share a kitchen)

15d) Name and describe the functions of one active hardware component that would be essential in the network to enable applications and information to be accessed from workstations in the other hospital.

This is an example of a question that separates the B+ from the A+ students...

  • Network card: connects a computer to a network and identifies the data that are intended for that computer
  • Router: screens network traffic to determine whether it is legitimate and where it should go
  • Hubs/Switches: pass data from one network node to its destination
  • Computer (dunno if the examiners would give marks for this one...)
  • File server: manages the network and flow of all communications and data.

The hospital administrators suggest that the database should be read-only for all users and only the data entry clerks in each hospital can change or add records.

15e) State one reason why doctors should not be allowed to change or add data

  • They could unwittingly add patients who are already in the database if they were unaware the patient was already registered.
  • They could illicitly add "phantom" patients, prescribe them narcotics and use their drugs for their own purposes.
  • They would not know the proper procedures for adding patients and make faulty admissions
  • Different doctors treating the same patient may make different entries.


Question 16

3 parts (part a has 2 responses, part b has 1 response, part c has 3 responses). 2+1+3 marks


A company is small, but rapidly growing. In the past, staff have been given an allowance to purchase their own computer equipment. This worked well at first, since staff could select the type of computer they liked best. However, management has become worried that as the company expands, there is no consistency in the technology being bought by the employees. Management and staff have agreed that as from next year the company would buy computers for all staff members.

16a) List two methods that could be used to gather the data needed to enable the company to determine the specifications for the computers to be purchased.

  1. Study the quantities and types of data handled by the computers and determine the specifications to suit the data handled
  2. Record the performance of different hardware types used by different employees compared with their efficiency in processing data
  3. Interview employees about their satisfaction with the processing abilities of their systems

16b) Explain why it is necessary for the company to evaluate a range of solutions before selecting an option.

The company must find the cheapest but most effective solution, and by evaluating a variety of solutions, they should discover the optimal solution. They can uncover weaknesses and strengths in solutions they had previously not known about.

16c) Another company has offered to provide a networked solution. Suggest two changeover procedures that could be considered and justify one of the two alternatives.

  1. Direct conversion
  2. Pilot conversion

(Parallel does not really make sense in this case study.) Thanks to Mark Scott of Billanook for feedback on my answers to this question.


With a direct changeover scheme, the conversion is quick and system improvements can be enjoyed immediately by everyone. Direct conversion is cheaper and less complicated than alternative strategies.


With a phased changeover, parts of the new system can be introduced in stages. In this way, staff will not be overwhelmed by change, and disruptions to the organisation will be reduced if changes are made bit by bit. They could introduce the new workstations first, then phase in the network once the workstations are in place and staff are comfortable with them. By debugging each new part of the system before introducing the next one, system reliabilty is enhanced.


Question 17

4 parts (1+1+4+2 = 8 marks). 2+2+9+4 lines of writing



The Chief Executive Office of a book company has said that the company must always aim to meet the organisation's goal of 'providing customers with a fast, reliable, personalised service.' The South Melbourne store manager believes that an in-store computer facility, where customers can search the company's stocks, will improve customer satisfaction and provide a faster service. The staff at the store have objected to this, saying it will not provide personalised service. Previously, the store's staff would search the company database when a customer made a request for a book.

17a) If the CEO approves a trial of the computer facility, explain one data security or training requirement that will need to be addressed.

Data security: they will need to ensure that customer use of the database could not alter or delete database records.


Training: they would need to train staff so they knew how to show customers how to use the customer database.

17b) Explain why using a computer terminal may not meet the company's goal.

Since one of the company's organisational goals is "personalised" service, it would not be good if the terminal removed the personal staff/customer relationship.

17c) Customer response to the trial has been positive and the CEO wants to install an in-store facility across all stores. Identify and explain in detail one requirement, apart from the cost and requirement answered in part a above, that would need to be considered before implementing the change.

Requirement: Compatibility with existing equipment, health and safety of staff and customers.

17d) Recommend an evaluation strategy for determining the success of the change.

Monitor sales, to see if they increase. Monitor complaints by customers about poor service or inability to find what they want. Review profit statistics over time. Study costs of implementation of terminals and database maintenance.


Question 18

6 marks. 24 lines of writing (a whole page)


More and more organisations are providing access to the Internet from their Local Area Network (LAN) so that employees may use email and the Internet. Discuss the risks this creates for the organisation and some of the strategies that might be adopted to minimise these risks.

This is an interesting style of question: it is more of an essay. Still, you have several things you could have talked about.

1. Viruses - from email or program attachments could infiltrate the server and workstations, destroying data, disclosing data, interfering with normal operations. Strategies would include training of users in the wise handling of attachments, installing and regularly upgrading and running virus and trojan scanners.

2. Hacking from outside - firewalls, either software or hardware, would need to be installed to prevent ne'er do wells trying to break into the organisation's system from the outside.

3. Misuse of resources - staff may spend more time playing online games and searching for pornography than actually working. The organisation could install filters to prevent certain sites being accessed or certain types of text being downloaded. They could monitor emails to check that they were work-related. They would also want to regularly scan network directories to ensure improper material was not being stored on the network.

4. Sexual harassment cases - staff who upset others with sexually-explicit pictures or text downloaded from the internet could cause legal worries for the organisation.

5. Spam - could clog the mailboxes of staff and slow work-related internet operations. Staff would need to be instructed not to sign up for trivial email deliveries, and they would be wise to install email filters to automatically kill-file mail from known spammers.

6. Health and safety - with staff spending more time at their computers, there is increased risk of Occupational Health and Safety issues - RSI, carpal tunnel syndrome, sore necks and eyes etc. The organisation would want to instruct staff in good work practices and provide ergonomic furniture and equipment to avoid later claims for injuries incurred.

7. Costs - the organisation runs the risk of running up large bills for internet access and downloads. They would want to monitor their costs and take action when costs became too high.

8. If the organisation became dependent on internet and email access to do business, technical failure could be catastrophic. They would want to ensure their equipment was reliable, and perhaps have a backup internet connection (even just a dialup modem) for emergencies.

There are probably others I haven't thought of. If you made a point and could justify it, you would be credited with marks.


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Original Content © Mark Kelly 2001
Images and questions are © Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority 2002. Reproduced here with permission for educational purposes.