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  • Writer's pictureSandra Lee

What is ATAR? A Comprehensive Guide for 2023 [For Parents & Students]

ATAR stands for Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank. Used as a ranking system for university admissions, it has become synonymous with Year 12 students across Australia. But what exactly is it and what happens if you don't get the ATAR score you want? Read on to find out more!


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Sandra Lee



Sandra is the founder of Cloud Tuition, University of Queensland Biomedical Science graduate and an experienced primary and high school educator with over ten years of tutoring expertise. With a passion for education, she is driven by the mission to help Australian school students get better access to quality tutoring support.

"Thinking back to when I was a student, I wish I knew more about what my Year 12 results meant! It would've definitely helped me relax more about trying to get into the course I was interested in. So if you're like me back then, this ATAR guide is for you!" – Sandra Lee


Table of Contents


What is the ATAR system all about?

Introduced in 2009, the ATAR system was designed to unify the university entrance system across Australia. Before its introduction, each state and territory had its unique system. For example, Queensland students previously received an overall position or ‘OP’ subsequent to graduating Year 12 to use for university applications.

Today, ATAR scores are used Australia-wide as percentile rankings that evaluate a student's academic achievements in relation to their peers. It's a number between 0 and 99.95, indicating a student's position among their cohort. Importantly, the ATAR score is not a mark but a rank, showcasing how a student performed compared to others.

How are ATARs calculated?

While the specifics can vary between states, ATAR calculations are based off a scaling system which adjusts your raw scores based on the senior subjects that you've chosen to study. Each student's marks undergo a process of review, moderation and scaling to determine their performance relative to their peers. The aggregate of all marks is then used to assign the ATAR.

ATAR scaling systems are used to take into account the differences in difficulty between subjects.

Here's a free QLD/QCE ATAR calculator for students based in Queensland aligned to 2020-2022 data. For VCE students, use Monash's free ATAR calculator based on last year's VTAC data. We've also input example raw subject scores into each calculator to show you how the scaling may work in your state.

Example ATAR calculation using QLD/QCE ATAR calculator
Example ATAR calculation (QLD/QCE) showing subject scaling and aggregated ATAR

Example ATAR calculation using VIC/VCE ATAR calculator
Example ATAR calculation (VIC/VCE) showing subject scaling and aggregated ATAR

What is the average ATAR?

ATAR scores range from 0 to 99.95 and are percentile-based. Note that while the lowest possible ATAR score is a rank of 0, students will receive a notice that they ranked below 30 instead.

While an ATAR score of 80+ is generally considered to be a good ATAR score, the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre reported that the average ATAR score in 2022 within Victoria was 70.33. This appears to be the norm across all states in Australia.

"An ATAR score of 80 means that a student performed better than 80% of their peers and is in the top 20%"

Are ATAR scores important?

While a high ATAR score is helpful for university admissions and it broadens a student’s options for tertiary education, it is not the be-all and end-all. Universities will use the rankings to offer places to students for courses but those that pursue university via a different program can still enter the course they desire by applying later on.

"A low ATAR score isn't the end! I recommend looking into undergraduate pathways at the university you're interested in." – Sandra Lee

What can I do if my ATAR score is too low for the program that I want?

If you have received a low ATAR score, you can still apply for your dream course once you get to university. Don't fret at all!

Through an undergraduate pathway, the University of Queensland has stated that students can apply and transfer their studies to a different program after completing one full year of student (8 courses / 16 units). At that point, your grade point average (GPA) will be used to determine your rank instead. In addition, credits from the courses that you’ve completed may be eligible for transfer to your new program.

"Your GPA (Grade Point Average) in university is an average across the scores that you receive in each course that you've completed." – Sandra Lee

A final comment on ATAR results

While ATAR scores can help you to feel confident in your university applications, it’s totally normal to feel nervous or disappointed about your ATAR results. But, after high school, there are so many different paths that you can take to bring you to where you want to be. As long as you are passionate, determined and continue to work hard, you’ll ultimately find great success and fulfilment in whatever you do. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself!

Are you a Year 11 student looking for subject support in Year 12?

Contact us online and one of our tutors will help address any concerns that you may have about your senior subjects.



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