How to achieve a 99 ATAR

January 11, 2023Learnmate

This blog provides a data driven insight into what it takes to achieve a high ATAR by exploring a handful of habits, strategies and approaches that former students employed to achieve their ATAR goal.

Before we start, let’s ensure we understand what the ATAR, or “Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank”, is. The ATAR is a percentile ranking that ranks students relative to other students in a cohort (ie. VCE or HSC). Students who complete Year 12 are issued a number (ie. 80.00, 95.15, 99.85) in increments of 0.05.  This number effectively states the percentage of the student’s cohort that a student performed better than. In other words, if you aim to achieve an ATAR of 99 or above, you are aiming do better than 99% of your peers.

For a more in-depth explanation of the ATAR and how it works, read Learnmate’s blog titled “What is the ATAR?”.

Achieving a 99+ ATAR

At Learnmate, we’re data-driven. We don’t want to provide students with the same tired advice, ideas and anecdotes you have heard 1,000 times before or seen on Tik Tok. So we surveyed Learnmate’s former students and tutors to identify what each of them did day-to-day, including:

  • study habits
  • study-life balance
  • sleep and eating habits
  • extra-curricular activities
  • extra-support received

Having compiled the data, we sorted the participants and their answers by ATAR; essentially, who did what and what did they achieve.  And here’s what the data tells us about the top 3 habits, strategies and approaches they took in Year 12.

Put in the hours

There is no escaping a year of hard work. Unfortunately for those looking to this blog for shortcuts, we’re sorry to tell you that year 12 is a marathon and not a sprint. It is a year of consistent commitment, dedication and effort.

As Thomas Jefferson famously said:

I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.

Unsurprisingly, our data showed a high correlation between the number of hours a student studied on weeknights and the weekend and the ATAR result they received. Almost every participant who achieved an ATAR above 90 ensured that they completed extra study on school nights, with 80% of students who achieved a 99+ consistently doing over 2 hours per night and over 4 hours on weekends.

Suffice it to say Year 12 requires a consistent effort throughout the year if you want to outperform 99% of your cohort. Simply put, you probably need to put in more effort than them to achieve a better result.

For information how they spent their time studying, it was clear that hard work needs to be directed in the right way, which we cover in more detail below.

Effective study habits

While there is no escaping a year of hard work, you need to ensure that your hard work is directed in the right way. For the highest achievers, the path to success involved going beyond just note preparation and rote learning to working on your exam technique well ahead of assessment time.

So, what does this look like? Well, while most students all ensured they prepared a concise set of notes for their subjects and understood them well, students who achieved an ATAR of 99+ had one thing in common – they completed practice exams for their subjects. And, as your ATAR is the product of your performance across all your subjects, 88% of those students ensured they completed practice exams for all their subjects, Unsurprisingly, the fewer practice exams a student completed and the fewer subjects they maintained this practice for, the lower their ATAR was.

From our data, it is clear that practice exams – particularly official exams set in prior years – provide the best bedrock for success at exam time. And this makes complete sense - practice exams help you to understand how examiners would and have assessed students previously, they allow you to discover patterns in questions and answers, and to refine your technique to ensure you complete exams within the allocated time. Practice makes perfect.

Identify and address weaknesses

While the saying goes that "practice makes perfect", everyone has a subject, topic or other miscellaneous trait or behaviour that could be improved. Whether that’s a particular subject, a specific topic or unit in Maths Methods or an issue such as suboptimal sleep patterns or exam anxiety. Although it may be difficult and uncomfortable at first, recognising and being aware of areas for improvement can be highly rewarding at exam time.

For instance, do you notice that your mind is wondering in certain subjects? Perhaps your energy levels are low and you’re struggling to get enough sleep. Or perhaps you are putting in the hours but it’s not paying dividends or you struggle to finish exams on time.

One way to address what you are experiencing is to reach out to others who have overcome what you are going through before or have experience with it. This may be a friend, your teachers or a tutor who can help you with specific strategies to improve and overcome anything which may prevent you from achieving your full potential.

Our data showed that a significant proportion of the highest performers all sought help during year 12 and didn’t ‘go it alone’. Specifically, 70% of students who achieved a 99+ ATAR had 1 or more tutors for Year 12 and 66% sought outside of class support from their teachers.

Help is always available, we just need to ask for it. We encourage everyone, not just those aiming for the highest results to be self-aware and self-assess to ensure you have the support you need to be your best.


We hope this blog has provided you with some tips on how to achieve your ATAR goal. Whatever your ATAR goal, we highly recommend reading the guide for thoughts, tips and strategies to help you achieve your goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What study techniques are recommended for high ATAR achievers?

Effective study techniques include active learning, regular revision, and practice exams to consolidate knowledge and improve exam performance.

2. How important is subject selection in aiming for a high ATAR?

Choosing subjects that align with one's strengths and interests is crucial, as passion and aptitude can significantly enhance performance and enjoyment.

3. What role does mentorship or tutoring play in attaining a high ATAR?

Personalised guidance from mentors or tutors can provide targeted support, clarify complex concepts, and improve study strategies. Studies have also shown that tutoring is an effective support sought by the highest achieving students.

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