What is the ATAR?
The ATAR, or Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, is a standardised PERCENTILE measure used to rank and compare the academic performance of high school students across Australia. It is a numerical representation of a student’s overall academic achievement at the end of their secondary education (Year 12). For example, if you receive a 95.00 ATAR, it indicates you are in the top 5% of students in your state (and in Australia).
The ATAR is primarily used for university admissions and helps determine a student’s eligibility for various undergraduate programs at Australian universities. While the name might suggest it’s only for tertiary admissions, it plays a broader role in education and beyond.
How does the ATAR work?
The ATAR is a complex calculation that takes into account a student’s performance in the final year of high school (Year 12). It relies heavily on your performance in each subject in Year 12. The subjects you can choose are divided into General subjects, Applied subjects, and Senior External Examination subjects. The ATAR is calculated based on the following key principles:
- Raw Scores: Each student’s performance in their subjects is initially measured using raw scores. These scores reflect the marks or grades they receive in their individual subjects throughout their senior years (Year 12).
- Subject Scaling: Different subjects are scaled differently. Subjects that are perceived as more challenging might receive a higher scaling factor. This means that if you perform well in a more challenging subject, it can have a greater impact on your ATAR. This scaling has two types, including inter-subject (comparison of marks obtained amongst the subjects the student has chosen) and intrasubject scaling (comparison of marks obtained by the student in subjects with marks of other students who have chosen the same subject). The aim of subject scaling is to ensure that students who take more challenging subjects are not unfairly disadvantaged when it comes to calculating their ATAR.
The following links will take you to comprehensive guides breaking down the ATAR for your state:
When do ATARs come out for each state? 📅
ATAR release dates vary from state to state. In Queensland, for example, ATARs are typically released on the official Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre (QTAC) website in December. The specific date may change from year to year, so it’s essential to keep an eye on announcements and prepare accordingly. For the current year 2023, the ATAR’s are released on the following dates for these states:
Queensland: Friday, 15th of December
New South Wales (NSW) and Australian Capital Territory (ACT): Thursday, 14th of December via UAC
Victoria: Monday, 11th of December via VCE
Western Australia: Monday, the 18th of December via SCSA
How is the ATAR used? 🧑🔬⚖️💉
The ATAR serves several vital purposes in the world of education and career planning. Let’s take a closer look at how it’s used:
Tertiary Education Admissions: One of the primary functions of the ATAR is to determine a student’s eligibility for various university courses. Different courses have different ATAR requirements, with competitive programs like medicine, law, and engineering often requiring high ATAR scores.
Course Selection: The ATAR helps students make informed decisions about which courses to apply for. For instance, if you aspire to study medicine, you’ll know that you need a significantly higher ATAR compared to someone interested in a less competitive field.
Scholarship Eligibility: Many scholarships are awarded based on a student’s ATAR. High-achieving students can benefit from scholarships that cover tuition fees, living expenses, or even study-abroad opportunities.
For competitive degrees like Medicine, Dentistry, Law, and Engineering the ATAR cut-off scores can vary with different universities depending on the increasing and decreasing surge of applicants every year. Here are some general ATAR requirements for these popular programs:
- Medicine and Dentistry (typical ATAR cut-off is 99.00): Entering a medical program in is highly competitive all over Australia due to the number of applicants the universities receive. ATAR requirements can be well above 99.00+, and most universities also consider additional factors like UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) scores and interviews. A UCAT score of 3000+ is considered competitive but it should be noted that this does not guarantee you an interview or a place in the medical program of the university.
- Law (typical ATAR cut-off is 90.00): Law programs typically require a competitive ATAR, often in the mid to high 90s. However, some universities may offer alternative entry pathways for students who narrowly miss the ATAR cut-off.
- Engineering (typical ATAR cut-off is 80.00): Engineering programs can have ATAR requirements in the mid to high 80s, though the exact score may vary depending on the university and the specific engineering discipline.
It’s crucial to check the specific ATAR requirements for your desired courses and universities, as they can change from year to year and between institutions. Apart from a competitive ATAR, courses like medicine and dentistry may require you to sit the UCAT, and also complete chemistry and math methods (mathematics advanced) and higher (math specialist or mathematics extension 2) with a grade of ‘C’ or above.
Please refer to the links below to find the entry requirements of the degree of your choice at renowned universities across Australia:
Is getting an ATAR compulsory? 🤔
Obtaining an ATAR is not compulsory. Some students may choose alternative pathways like TAFE or apprenticeships after completing high school. However, the ATAR provides a structured way to access higher education opportunities and is often the preferred route for students who aim to attend university. Whether or not you pursue an ATAR depends on your individual goals and career aspirations.
In conclusion, the ATAR is a significant aspect of the educational landscape in Australia, and it plays a pivotal role in shaping the academic and career paths of students. Understanding how it works, when it’s released, and its various applications is essential for anyone navigating the Australian education system. While the ATAR can be a source of stress and anxiety, it’s important to remember that it’s just one of many pathways to success, and there are alternative options for those who may not achieve their desired ATAR score. The ATAR is a tool that can help students achieve their dreams, but it doesn’t define their worth or potential.
This blog was written by our Chemistry and Biology tutor, Hoshini. You can find her profile here.