What is an ATAR or ATAR-equivalent and what are they used for?

Illustrative representation of What is an ATAR or ATAR-equivalent and what are they used for?

If you have started looking into university courses you may have noticed that most courses have a ‘cut-off score’ listed - this is the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) or an ATAR-equivalent (Queensland uses the Overall Position (OP) system).

What is an ATAR?

The ATAR or ATAR-equivalent is the scoring system used for university entry in Australia.

Universities set their own ATAR cut-off scores for each course they offer. This is usually based on the number of places that are available in the course and the level of difficulty of the course.

How does it work?

  • Your ATAR or ATAR-equivalent score is higher than, or equal to, the cut-off score - you will generally be eligible for entry into the course (some courses will have additional selection criteria to the ATAR for specialist courses like music or medicine).

  • Your ATAR or ATAR-equivalent score is just below the cut-off score - you may still be able to access the course based on additional selection criteria.

  • Your ATAR or ATAR-equivalent score is well below the cut-off score - it is unlikely you will be eligible for direct entry into the course and will need to consider an alternative pathway.

How is your ATAR or ATAR-equivalent score calculated? 

  • You will need to study a certain number of units and choose from a particular list of subjects to be eligible for an ATAR or ATAR-equivalent score.  
  • This varies by state or territory but your school will be able to tell you what the system is in your state.
  • Your marks/grades for these subjects are combined to calculate your ATAR score. This is done differently by each state or territory (for example, NSW uses the Higher School Certificate whilst Victoria uses the Victorian Certificate of Education) but each system is similar to ensure consistency.

While your ATAR or ATAR-equivalent score is important (and a higher score gives you greater choice of course) you should always choose a university course based on the occupation or industry that you want to work in once you finish your studies. 

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