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


When 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).

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. Scores are usually based on the number of places available in the course and its level of difficulty.

How does it work?

If 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 example, specialist courses like music or medicine may include interviews, auditions or additional testing.

If 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.

If 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. You may need to consider another pathway. For more information, read our article What to do if you didn’t get the ATAR required for your course.

How is your ATAR or ATAR-equivalent score calculated? 

To be eligible for an ATAR or ATAR-equivalent score, you will need to:

  • study a certain number of units and
  • choose from a particular list of subjects.  

This varies by state or territory. Your school will be able to tell you what the system is in your state.

Combining your marks/grades for each subject calculates your ATAR score. Every state and territory does this differently. For example, NSW uses the Higher School Certificate and Victoria uses the Victorian Certificate of Education.

Your ATAR or ATAR-equivalent score matters if you want access to a specific course or have more choice of courses. However, you should always choose a university course based on the job you want when you finish studying. 

Choosing a course based purely on your ATAR is not a good way to determine your suitability for the course.

These tools can help you: