My brother graduated in 2005, and he got a UAI and the top UAI you could achieve was 100. When I graduated in 2010, I had an ATAR and the top ATAR you could get was (and still is) 99.95.
Despite the difference, we both slaved away for a year to get a number at the end of the year which could help us into our selected university courses.
Let’s find out how your ATAR calculated from your HSC results and what it means!
So, what is an ATAR and what does it do anyway?
ATARs are tricky little things – like everything NESA has going, there’s always a lot more than meets the eye with the way ATARs work. That’s why it’s fundamental that you understand them fully, especially when it comes to things like scaling and moderation!
What is an ATAR?
An ATAR is an Australian Tertiary Admission RANK. That’s right, it is a RANK, not a mark. Every student receives a rank which tells them where they are positioned (‘ranked’) overall against their Year 7 cohort. This means that there are those who who would not receive an ATAR, but are included for in the ranking.
The ATAR is a number between 0.00 and 99.95 with increments of 0.05. The average is approximately 70.00 as those who did not receive an ATAR are still accounted for.
To put it another way, if you get an ATAR of 70.00, you ranked within the top 30% of all students who took the HSC that year.
Roughly 70,000 students take the HSC each year, which means you performed better than 49,000 (or 70%) of your cohort!
Confusing, I know.
What does an ATAR do?
The ATAR is used by the University Admissions Centre (UAC) to allocate places in courses at universities. It provides a standardised system of how you ranked against someone who completed a completely different combination of courses during the HSC.
How are ATARs calculated?
ATARs are calculated by UAC using a complex formula. It calculates your ATAR based on two components:
- moderated Assessment Marks (before alignment with the standards); and
- total Examination Marks (before alignment with the standards).
Which units will they count in calculating my ATAR?
Your ATAR will be calculated using your:
- best two units of English; and
- best eight units from your remaining units, which can include no more than two units of Category B courses.
What is scaling?
Scaling is the equalising courses to an objective scale. The easiest way to think about it is like an exchange rate: $AUD1.00 does not necessarily equal €1,00 or £1.00. What the exchange rate does is provide a standard ($1.00), and then compares how many Euros or Pounds it is worth. So for example:
- $AUD1.00 = €0,65
- $AUD1.00 = £0.47
Thus, you can see that $AUD1.00 is worth different amounts in different currencies.
This is what scaling does. Scaling compares different marks in different courses. Scaling does not affect your mark; how well you performed in your ranking affects your mark.
What is moderation?
You may have heard one of your friends say ‘They’ll get a better mark because they went to a selective school’ or ‘It doesn’t matter how well they did, they went to X school and that will pull them down’. There is an element of truth in this, but it’s nothing to do with the school itself.
Moderation is the adjustment of your school’s Assessment Marks to a common standardised scale so that the Assessment Marks can be compared with other schools.
For example, if your school marks their assessments harshly so that the average is 54%, and your best friend’s school is quite generous in their marking so that the average is 98%, what moderation would do is look at the difficulty of the examinations, and then the way in which marks are awarded. From that, the marks would be moderated to a common scale.
Wondering why your ATAR is lower than your HSC Results? Read on to Part 3 to find out!
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Elizabeth Goh isn’t a fan of writing about herself in third person, even if she loves writing. Elizabeth decided she didn’t get enough English, History or Legal Studies at Abbotsleigh School for her own HSC in 2010 so she came back to help others survive it with Art of Smart Education. She’s since done a mish-mash of things with her life which includes studying a Bachelor of Arts (Politics and International Relations) with a Bachelor of Laws at Macquarie University, working for NSW Parliament, and fangirling over a Tweet from her favourite singer.