ATAR in Australia

What is ATAR?

The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is a number that ranges from 0.00 to 99.95 and shows a student’s status in comparison to all other students in their age group (i.e. all 16 to 20-year-olds in NSW). The ATAR is a rank, not a score. If a student receives an ATAR of 80, it does not imply that they scored in the top 80% of their class. It indicates that they are 20% below the top of their age group.

Universities use the ATAR to help them choose candidates for their courses and admission to their institutions.

How is an ATAR calculated?

The ATAR is calculated differently in each state and territory. While they vary in some details, they are based on the same concepts.

A student must take a certain number of subjects to be included in the final calculation. The details vary by state and territory.

In WA, the measure is based on a student’s four ATAR subjects, as well as the student’s ability to communicate in English. In NSW, you must research at least eight ATAR “units” six of which must be Category A, as well as two English units. The “academic rigour” and “depth of knowledge” needed for tertiary studies are classified as Category A units. Math, English, science, and history are among them, as are some arts and physical education topics.

Queensland has historically used an Overall Position rather than an ATAR but will move to an ATAR in 2020.

In most cases, students are graded based on their performance on school tests that contribute to their ATAR. Again, this varies from state to state.

The aim of providing these examples is to demonstrate how difficult it is to create an ATAR and how much it is influenced by local factors, such as the state or territory in which you live.

A raw score for each subject is calculated using the applicable units.

However, keep in mind that an ATAR is a level, so the scores must be re-interpreted as a rank. Each mark must be scaled, which means it must be adjusted so that it can be compared more equally to the marks of other students and subjects.

Scaling considers how competitive a topic is rather than how complicated it is.

One method of scaling considers where a student’s grade in each subject ranks them in comparison to other students in the same school taking the same subject. If a student receives an 85 percent on a subject, but the class average is 90 percent, they will be ranked lower.

Another method of scaling takes into account the number of students who take a subject and their average grades in comparison to other subjects. This is due to the fact that certain subjects have a smaller student population than others.

What is the purpose of ATAR?

The ATAR’s primary aim is to decide who is given a place in a university course. Consider a line. When space is small, the student who is closest to the front of the line has a better chance of getting in.

Some years, there are fewer people in line or more spots available in the course. These factors have an impact on the ATAR needed for admission.

Minimum ATARs are often set by universities, either for a course or for the entire university. As a result, the student can only apply to the university/course if they meet the minimum requirements.

The university may set a minimum because it believes this is the minimum ATAR needed to succeed. It may also be a means of promoting an elite course or university as a whole.

It might be a mix of the two. Again, since this is a queue, achieving the bare minimum does not guarantee a spot.

Universities can and do make changes to their ATAR specifications from time to time. This may be because the student was given special attention – possibly due to sickness – or because the student was given a bonus for learning a language other than English.

By Edward Vo.


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