ATAR explained: Everything you need to know about the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank

The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is an important marker in a Year 12 student’s life. But what is it exactly? And why does it bear so much weight on the future of young Australians (newsflash: it doesn’t have to!). In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about ATAR.

What is the ATAR?

The ATAR is a number between 10.00 and 99.95 that indicates a student’s ranking relative to all other learned in their age group (i.e., 16- to 20-year-olds) in Australia. It’s a ranking, not a score. That means that an ATAR of 80, for example, doesn’t mean that you got 80 in marks; it signifies that you’re in the top 20% of the relevant population.

Universities use the ATAR as a basis to select students for admission to their courses, along with other criteria like interviews, tests, portfolios, auditions, etc. It’s treated as a predictor of your first-year performance at a higher education school.

Why is the ATAR important?

The main purpose of the ATAR is to determine admission to universities. Schools sometimes set minimum ATARs, and only those who achieve this percentile can apply to the university or program. This limit is often set because universities believe that this is the minimum requirement to succeed in the course or the school, but it’s also sometimes applied to maintain the elite academic status of an institution or to control the imbalance of supply and demand for certain degrees.

It’s important to remember that just because a student has the minimum ATAR doesn’t mean that he or she secures a place in a university or program. Adversely, some universities accept students who fail to meet the minimum ATAR requirement due to adjustments or other exceptional qualifications.

How is the ATAR calculated?

The ATAR is based on a student’s course rank, raw HSC (Higher School Certificate) marks and performance in various assessment tasks for certain subjects in a particular year. It’s calculated from an aggregate that adds together a student’s:

  • highest scaled study score in one of the English studies (English, English Language, English as an Additional Language or Literature)
  • highest scaled study scores for three additional permissible studies
  • 10% of the scaled study scores for the fifth and sixth permissible studies

Students are then ranked in order of their aggregate, with a percentage rank assigned to distribute them over a 100-point scale. This percentage is converted to the ATAR score, which now represents the percentage of the population that you outperformed.

What is a good ATAR score?

The definition of a “good” ATAR score is subjective, because it depends on the goals and needs of the student in relation to their studies. The highest ATAR score one can achieve is 99.95 and the lowest is 0.00 (though all scores below 30 are simply reported as “less than 30”).

The average ATAR is around 70.00. This rank is skewed higher because it considers the cohort of students who may leave school early and not achieve an ATAR.

What to do if your ATAR is low

Your ATAR score doesn’t define your potential. At the end of the day, it’s just a number. Just because your ATAR is low doesn’t mean that you can’t move on with your education. Minimum scores vary between courses and institutions, and just because you may not have reached the cut-off of your dream program doesn’t mean that you can’t find similarly excellent options.

A low ATAR isn’t the end. You still have plenty of options available—let’s explore what you can do if your score is lower than you expected.

Explore alternative options

Don’t stop if you don’t get into your desired university or course. You may be eligible for up to five adjustment factors (especially if you did well in English or maths) and get yourself in. Otherwise, you may seek out alternatives, i.e., similar schools or programs that may be able to accommodate your ATAR. You can also enter into a related course with a lower ATAR requirement, then later apply to transfer to your preferred program.

Find support

Your family and friends will know what you’re going through, so find support and guidance from them. If you’d like outside opinions, you may get help from career advisers who can help you make informed decisions about your next steps so that you can still work towards your educational and career goals.

Consider pathways

There are multiple other pathways into university, such as diplomas, certificates, associate degrees and foundation programs. Services like Pathways to Uni (P2U) can provide you with a bridging course between high school and university as a pathway to a degree.

P2U is dedicated to supporting students who need extra help and support during that crucial first year after high school. Our student advisers are ready to provide you with personalised guidance to help you get on the right track for your future.

If your ATAR isn’t as high as you’d wanted, contact P2U to know more about your available pathways to university!

Share the Post:

Related Posts

Book a free session

Sign-up Form (A/B Test)

Book a free session

Sign-up Form (A/B Test)