Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions about how the ATAR works.
It’s a mistake to compare your HSC marks and your ATAR, as they’re different measures of achievement – performance (HSC) and position (ATAR). There’s no general rule for the relationship between these two measures. However, if you are in the middle group of students in all your courses (with marks typically in the mid-70s), you may get an ATAR of around 70.00, which is usually close to the middle ATAR. But sometimes marks in the 70s can mean a much lower ATAR depending on your courses and your position in those courses.
No. You’ll keep your own exam mark and your own assessment rank. When your school’s assessment marks are moderated, you may be given a different assessment mark depending on the exam results of the other students in your course, but you’ll keep your rank. Your exam mark will depend on how well you perform in the exam and is not affected by your assessment rank.
Courses are scaled using the mean scores and distribution of marks, which indicate the ability of the course candidature (ie all students studying that course). Courses such as HSC Mathematics Extension 2 and Physics traditionally scale well because of this. However, you need to achieve high HSC marks to gain any benefit from scaling.
You'll receive an ATAR the first year you satisfy the eligibility requirements.
If you complete additional courses or repeat courses you have completed, your ATAR will be recalculated. Your most recent ATAR is the one used for selection purposes.
No. Only courses developed by the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) – for which there are formal examinations that yield graded assessments – can be included in the calculation of your ATAR. These are called ATAR courses. If you have more than 10 units of ATAR courses, your ATAR will be calculated using your best two scaled units of English and the best eight scaled units from your remaining units. No more than two units of Category B courses can be included.
If you do not satisfactorily complete a course, that course will not count towards meeting your ATAR requirements. If the course is a 2-unit course with an associated extension course in which you are enrolled, the extension course will not count either.
Receiving a mark for a course on your Record of Achievement issued by the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) is an indication that you have satisfactorily completed that course.
No. The 2-unit course can be completed one year and the extension course completed in a later year. If you withdraw from the extension course, the marks from the 2-unit course that you have already completed will be available for inclusion in the calculation of your ATAR.
Up to four units of calculus-based maths can be included in the ATAR calculation. If you study HSC Mathematics Extension 1 you should be aware that it has a different weighting (in terms of units) depending on whether you take Mathematics or HSC Mathematics Extension 2. Read about the calculation of your ATAR.
While most students who achieve an ATAR of 99.95 take at least one extension subject, there are many different patterns of study observed every year. Students present anywhere from 10 to 15 units, some accumulating over two years and some over three years.
In recent years some candidates have achieved an ATAR of 99.95 studying English as a Second Language. Further, some students in the 99.95 group did not study mathematics at all; instead, their study patterns typically consisted of HSC English Extension 1 and languages or HSC English Extension 1, Modern and/or Ancient History and subjects like Business Studies or Studies of Religion II. Remember, students should select subjects in which they are interested and which prepare them for their future careers.
No. Performance bands and scaled marks relate to two distinct processes. The NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) uses raw HSC marks to align performance bands and calculate HSC marks, while UAC uses the same raw HSC marks to undertake the scaling process and calculate the ATAR. Therefore, performance bands and scaled marks cannot affect each other.
Just about any combination of courses can lead to a good ATAR; it all depends on how well a student has done in all their courses in comparison to other students.
Don't choose courses based on what you believe are the likely effects of scaling. Your choices should be based on your interests, demonstrated abilities and the value of courses for future career plans.
No. You cannot assume that simply by studying more units your ATAR will be increased. While students who study more units tend to gain higher ATARs, there are a number of reasons why, such as each student’s interest, motivation, effort and time management.
There are some instances in which your ATAR might be recalculated:
- if the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) provides amended HSC results to UAC
- if you complete additional courses
if you repeat courses you have already completed.
Institutions use your latest ATAR for selection purposes. This could be better or worse than a previous ATAR.
Your aggregate will be recalculated using the new course and your previous courses. Your aggregate may increase or stay the same but it will not decrease. However, since your are being compared with a different age cohort, your ATAR may increase, stay the same or even decrease.
No. UAC does not release ATAR information to schools. ATARs are released only to the individual student and the institutions to which that student has applied.
No. IB Diploma candidates are not eligible to receive an ATAR. You'll receive a UAC rank based on your total IB score.
In addition, students undertaking tertiary preparation programs such as the Tertiary Preparation Certificate (TPC) and Open Foundation don’t receive an ATAR.