What is the ATAR? What you need to know (2024)

January 25, 2024Klein E

What is the ATAR?

ATAR, short for "Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank", is a percentile ranking used by universities in Australia that shows how well a student achieved in Year 12 relative to other students in their cohort (ie. VCE or HSC).

This score (or rank) varies between 0 and 99.95 and in increments of 0.05. An ATAR of 80.00 means that a student is in the top 20% of their cohort while an ATAR of 99.00 means a student is in the top 1% of their cohort and so on.

The ATAR has been adopted in Australia for use by universities to assess which students to make offers to for admission to a particular tertiary course (hence Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank).

What is the highest ATAR score you can get?

The highest ATAR that you can achieve is 99.95, which indicates that a student out performed 99.95% of students in their cohort.

What is the average ATAR score?

Typically, the average ATAR is usually around 70.00. This may seem counterintuitive, ie. why isn't it closer to 50.00? This is skewed higher due to students leaving school early and not achieving an ATAR, which pushes the average ATAR needle higher.

What is a good ATAR score?

What is considered a "good" ATAR is subjective and will vary student to student. What is considered a good ATAR to a student will likely depend on:

  • a student's academic record and ambitions compared to the score they finish Year 12 with, including the score relative to their peers; and
  • what tertiary course a student wants to do post-year 12 and the minimum ATAR required to do that course at their ideal university.

What is the lowest ATAR score you can get?

The ATAR spectrum ranges from 0 and 99.95, meaning a student can score 0. However, all scores below 30 are reported to students simply as "less than 30".

How is the ATAR calculated?

The ATAR calculation involves a comprehensive process that varies depending on Year 12 curriculum (ie. HSC, VCE, QCE, SACE, WACE, TCE, IB etc.).

Each State/Territory has its own method for calculating the ATAR, but generally the approach is the same - when a student finishes all of their Year 12 subjects, their respective marks for those subjects go through a process of review, moderation and scaling to accurately determine where that student performed relative to their peers. Generally speaking, a student's marks will be considered, moderated and scaled based on:

  • how that student's school performed relative to other schools (to adjust for differences in how a school may grade or how difficult internal assessments were); and
  • the relative difficulty of the subject completed and the 'strength of competition' in those subjects (you can refer to VTAC for more information about how scaling works).

Once this process has been complete, the aggregate of all of the student's marks is calculated. Every student is then positioned based on their aggregate relative to their peers and a final rank (the ATAR) is issued to the student.

For example

In Victoria, ATAR is calculated based on a student's aggregate which is calculated by:

  1. taking the student's top 4 scaled scores (which must include an English or equivalent); and
  2. 10% of each of the student's fifth and sixth scaled study scores (if they completed 5 or 6 subjects).

Worked example of study scores being scaled and aggregated to calculate a student's ATAR.

Why is the ATAR important?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. As we have already discussed, the ATAR is used by universities to determine which students to offer a place in their university to and in what order. So, if your ambition is to go to university, including a particular university and course, achieving the minimum ATAR usually required to be admitted to that course is important.

The ATAR requirements for university courses are generally determined based on the popularity of the courses ie. demand and supply. The more demand there is for a course the higher the ATAR cut-off will be for that course. In the last few years, COVID has seen international student arrivals fall, which has reduced demand and the ATAR requirements for many courses.

That said, universities now recognise that not everyone suited to do a course will come from the usual pathway of getting a certain ATAR or higher. Accordingly, most universities offer 'alternate pathways' for students who did not achieve a particular ATAR to still be admitted to study a course.

How do I achieve the ATAR I need?

Learnmate provides a wealth of resources to help, including the guide How to Get the ATAR You Need as well as over 600 experienced tutors ready to assist.

A Final Word on ATARs

While the ATAR may seem daunting for now, its importance diminishes as you progress through university and into your career. Remember, alternate pathways and opportunities are always available.

Ready to Achieve Your Learning Goals? Whether you're seeking to excel in VCE, HSC, IB, or any other Year 12 curriculum, experienced tutors are just a click away on Learnmate. Dive into our rich pool of resources and expert advice, and start making strides towards your potential.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. How is the ATAR calculated?

The ATAR is a percentile ranking that compares students' overall academic achievements. It's calculated from an aggregate of scaled scores in eligible subjects, designed to rank students for university admission.

2. What's the role of subject scaling in determining the ATAR?

Subject scaling adjusts scores to account for differences in subject difficulty and student cohort abilities, ensuring that students are neither advantaged nor disadvantaged by their subject choices. It is scaled subject scores that are used to determine a student's aggregate score and ATAR.

3. How do universities use ATAR scores alongside other criteria?

Universities use ATAR scores (sometimes in conjunction with other elements like interviews, portfolios, and personal statements) to construct a view of an applicant's capabilities and to determine admission to tertiary courses.

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Klein E

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