Australian Tertiary Admission Rank

The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is the primary criterion for entry into undergraduate courses in universities in Australia. It was gradually introduced since 2009-10 and has since replaced the Universities Admission Index (in NSW and ACT), Equivalent National Tertiary Entrance Rank (in VIC), Tertiary Entrance Rank (in ACT) and the Queensland Core Skills Test. It is a number between 0.00 and 99.95 which shows student’s relative position compared to all other students in the age group of 16 to 20 years and not just for the specific cohort or year of passing, ATR of 80.00 denotes that student beings to top 20 percent student within their current age group of 16 to 20 years. ATR is calculated at state level, and NSW and ACT ATR are considered equivalent ATR in all other states. If all student complete schooling then ATAR would be 50.00, but sicne some student quit studying early the average ATAR is 70.00. Admission to universities is granted based on the "selection rank" calculated by each university based own their unique criteria, i.e. selection rank is combination of ATAR and additional points based on universities own criteria used for selecting students such as "personal statement, a questionnaire, a portfolio of work, an audition, an interview or a test".[1][2][3]

The ATAR rank provides an indication of the overall position of the student in relation to the student body for that year across the state. A higher ATAR gives preference to that student for the course to which they wish to enrol in a university of their choice. The ATAR is used by: the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory; the South Australian Tertiary Admissions Centre (SATAC) in South Australia and the Northern Territory; Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre (VTAC) in Victoria; and Tertiary Institutions Service Centre (TISC) in Western Australia. Starting in 2020, the Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre (QTAC) in Queensland will also use and calculate the ATAR.[4] These bodies then allocate positions for the tertiary institutions in their relevant states. All Australian universities, except the private universities use the ATAR for admission, entry to private universities is via direct application.

To calculate ATAR across different subjects within a state, "scaling" is applied. Given the discrepancy of difficulty and competition between the wide ranges of subjects offered as part of secondary school education in Australia, these subjects are normalized against each other by means of some sort of study score scaling. For example, a score of 89 in Psychology might be scaled to 77, while a score of 89 in Physics might be scaled to 84.[5] Details of this scaling are not (easily) available. Individual universities might also have their own scaling systems. Scaled marks are not reported to students.[5] Another example is that being at the 99% percentile for Standard English can only produce a scaled mark of 40 (out of 50) while that same scaled mark can be achieved by being at the 70th percentile for English Extension.[6] In order to calculate the ATAR for HSC students, UAC adjusts students' HSC marks in a process known as scaling. Given the lack of comparability between subjects of different difficulties, the spread of students' marks in each individual subject is adjusted so the mean, the standard deviation and the maximum mark in each course are equivalent. UAC then shifts the mean mark and spread of marks in each subject to equal the mean mark and spread of marks that the students of that one subject attained in all other subjects. Finally, UAC aggregates scores into a single mark out of 500 for each student, and then gives students a percentile ranking in increments of 0.05 based on this aggregate. This percentile ranking is the ATAR.[7][8] In practice, this means that if two students receive the same HSC marks for each subject, but one student takes more higher-scaling subjects, and the other takes more lower-scaling subjects, the student who took higher-scaling subjects would attain a better ATAR.[7] In a 2018 survey, 35.8% of HSC students said they chose one or more subjects because they believed it would help them achieve a higher ATAR.[9]

Most states, though treat each others ATAR equivalent nationwide, but use a different criteria within the state for inclusion of mandatory subjects for the calculation of ATAR or for applying scaling. English is mandatory subject in Victoria for the calculation of ATAR,[10] while english needs to be passed as a subject but is not be a mandatory component of the ATAR in Queensland and Tasmania.[11]


Introduction of ATAREdit

During June 2009, the Federal Minister for Education Julia Gillard announced the removal of Universities Admission Index (UAI) and the introduction of the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, or ATAR, for Year 12 students of 2009 within the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales, and for the rest of the country, excluding Queensland, in 2010.[12] The ATAR was introduced to unify the university entrance system in Australia, where previously each state or territory had its own individual system (UAI in ACT/NSW, TER in SA/NT/WA/TAS, ENTER in Victoria). Now in Queensland, the OP system is planned to change to the ATAR system from 2019.[2]

2016 ATAR errorEdit

In 2016, a computer error allowed 2075 students to receive their ATAR score five days earlier than they were supposed to be announced. External SMS provider for VCAA, Salmat Digital, created an error that allowed students to receive their results by texting VCAA and requesting their scores to be sent to them on the expected release date. This sparked outrage from parents of students who did not receive their scores, citing that they considered it "unfair",[13] as well as concern about some students receiving their results before they were equipped to deal with them (particularly with regards to counselling).

Changes from UAIEdit

The shift to ATAR means that the ranks most students receiving a UAI would increase by a small amount (although this would not present as any advantage as cutoffs would subsequently increase), while the maximum rank in NSW/ACT would change from a UAI of 100 to an ATAR of 99.95.[14] Queensland will not shift to the ATAR system because it uses a different system and ranking scale, the Overall Position; however, conversion tables to or from the ATAR are available.[15]

ATAR detailsEdit

Calculation of ATAREdit

The ATAR is a percentile score given between "less than 30" up to 99.95 (in a minimum increment of 0.05) which denotes a student's ranking relative to their peers upon completion of their secondary education. For example, an ATAR score of 99.0 means that the student performed better than 99% of their peers, and ranks lower than 0.95% of peers (as the maximum score is 99.95). "Peers" is not the body of students receiving an ATAR that year, but a notional body of persons who might be qualified to receive an ATAR – as a result, the median ATAR score is well above 50.00. For example, the median ATAR score for 2014 was 68.95.[16]

The ATAR score is derived from a single aggregate score that is the sum of English and the next three highest scoring subjects that the student has completed at a year 12 standard added with 10% of the sum of the weakest two subjects if the student has elected to study further subjects. The maximum number of subjects used in the calculation of the aggregate score cannot surpass six (four subjects contributing their full amount, and the last two contributing 10% of their respective score), therefore additional subjects completed in excess will re-order the scores used in the determination of the ATAR such that the lowest scores beyond the six will be ignored entirely. Certain subjects (such as university-level courses for high achievers) may also have restrictions such that they may only be used as one of the lowest two contributing scores, or mandated to be one of the top four contributing scores (such as compulsory English subjects).[17][18]

Each completed year 12 subject marks that contributes to the ATAR calculation is referred to as a "study score", which is a normalized score between 0 and 50 for a study undertaken at a year 12 level (with integer increments). This is similar to the percentile ranking featured in the ATAR score itself.

Usage of ATAR by universitiesEdit

This score is used by university and tertiary education programs as a clear and intuitive ranking to select prospective applicants for their programs, though other means may be used in combination (such as the UMAT for undergraduate-entry medical studies, or interviewing candidates that meet an ATAR score threshold).

Victoria ATAREdit

In Victoria ATAR is derived from mapping a student's aggregate score to the national averages. A student's aggregate score can be calculated using the following formula:


Where   is their English scaled study score,   is the sum of their three best scaled study scores excluding English, and   is the sum of their next best two study scores. Because ATAR is ranked on averages, a new table is published each year for mapping aggregate scores to ATAR (e.g. 159.8 aggregate = 90.00 ATAR in 2013).[10]

Queensland ATAREdit

Queensland Transitioned from OP to ATAR in 2019, with the 2020 cohort to be the first to graduate through the ATAR system in Queensland. ATAR is calculated from the best 5 subjects, that must be considered an ATAR subject. English must be passed, but not necessarily included in the total. There is inter-subject scaling, being based on scaling from other states. Tertiary institutions may also offer various bonuses.[19]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "ATAR 2020 - QTAC". Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  2. ^ a b "OP score to go in Queensland in 2018; replaced by Australian Tertiary Admission Rank system". 25 August 2015. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  3. ^ "Know ATAR". Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  4. ^ "This is my year - QTAC". Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  5. ^ a b "UAC ATAR".
  6. ^ "Matrix All about scaling".
  7. ^ a b "Report on the Scaling of the 2018 NSW Higher School Certificate" (PDF). Universities Admissions Centre. May 2019. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  8. ^ "Can you game the ATAR?". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 9 February 2020.
  9. ^ "Gaming the ATAR - huge numbers of school kids are trying to do it". Australian Financial Review. 29 May 2018. Retrieved 9 February 2020.
  10. ^ a b "How is ATAR Calculated? -". 21 August 2014. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
  11. ^ "New tertiary entrance rank". 18 January 2017. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  12. ^ "ACT adopts national student ranking system". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 10 June 2009. Retrieved 16 December 2010.
  13. ^ Rania Spooner, Henrietta Cook, Bianca Hall and Timna Jacks (8 December 2016). "Fear and worry as VCE results are issued days early". The Age. Retrieved 26 December 2016.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) - UAC Archived 12 November 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ "2012 Australian Year 12 Conversion Table". Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre (QTAC). 2012. Archived from the original on 4 May 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2013. Note: This site gives the 2012 conversion table, which is approximate. The 2013 conversion table is likely to be slightly different.
  16. ^ According to the Universities Admissions Centre which administers ATAR-based tertiary entry for NSW and the ACT. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 March 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ "Victoria: How the ATAR is calculated". 13 December 2010. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  18. ^ "NSW: ATAR calculation". Archived from the original on 18 May 2016. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  19. ^ "ATAR 2020".