Woman and her daughter in front of a laptop discussing how is the ATAR calculated

How is the ATAR calculated and what’s a selection rank?

With exams over the ATAR rank waiting game has begun. It won’t be long until the 20 January rolls around delivering the goods – your child’s ATAR. Once your child has their ATAR they can finalise any big decisions that still need to be made before uni starts in February. In the meantime, discover how the ATAR is calculated and what a selection rank is. We’re here to help demystify the university entrance score – the ATAR!

What an ATAR is

First things first. ATAR stands for Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank. It’s the number between zero and 99.95. Your child get it following final exams. It tells them where they rank in their year group. The ATAR also predicts your child’s first-year performance at university. Your child can learn more about getting an ATAR and into uni here.

How is the ATAR calculated?

So, how is the ATAR calculated, exactly? Firstly, it’s important to know that HSC marks and ATAR scores are very different. For one, they are calculated separately. HSC marks are a measure of your child’s performance against bands. While the ATAR ranks your child among their entire age group of 16 to 20-year-olds in New South Wales. So, the ATAR is your child’s position.

Secondly, the calculation of the ATAR only includes courses developed by the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA). Your child can choose a subject that isn’t on NESA’s list of ATAR courses, but the ATAR calculation won’t include it.

NESA provides the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) with your child’s raw, unbanded HSC marks. Then, the ATAR is based on an aggregate of scaled marks in their 10 units of ATAR courses. So there are several separate elements. They comprise:

  • your child’s best two units of English
  • your child’s best eight units from remaining units (including no more than two units of Category B courses for those of you playing from home. You can read more about ATAR courses here).

So, for your child to qualify for an ATAR they must complete at least four subjects. That’s because an aggregate may be based on fewer subjects that are worth more units – such as English Advanced, English Extension 1 and 2, and Mathematics Extension 1 and 2.

Next, let’s take a look at scaling.

How scaling works

Did you know that HSC students complete around 27,000 different patterns of study? Since there are so many combinations of courses studied, scaling is necessary to fairly decide on ATARs. Scaling helps to standardise students’ HSC course results. Scaling means that the pattern of study students chose doesn’t give them an advantage or disadvantage. Courses are scaled so the mean and distribution of marks in a course are consistent with the mean and distribution across all HSC subjects studied.

So, what has scaling got to do with the ATAR? Well, UAC uses your child’s scaled marks to calculate the ATAR – not the HSC marks. Their position in the course and the scaled mean for that course influences your child’s scaled mark. So if they score highly in a subject where most other students do well academically, the scaling reflects that. Scaling works to remove differences in the average academic ability of the students between courses. Your child’s scaled mark shows how well they have done in comparison with other students who have done the same course.

What is a selection rank?

A selection rank is an ATAR score plus any adjustments Charles Sturt makes. There could be a number of reasons for adjustments. For example, the location of their school impacted your child’s performance in their HSC subjects. Or eligibility for Educational Access Schemes. It’s important to note that selection adjustments don’t change the ATAR. What adjustments can change is the selection rank for a particular course at university. So, if your child doesn’t get the ATAR they need for entry to the course they really want, that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t qualify for admission to that course. That’s because of adjustment factors, such as hardship or other personal circumstances.

Important stuff to know about the selection rank:

  • adjustments don’t change your child’s ATAR – they change their selection rank
  • your child’s selection rank is their ATAR plus any adjustments Charles Sturt makes
  • we’ll automatically adjust your child’s ATAR if they’re eligible for location adjustments like regional bonus points
  • a minimum ATAR may be a requirement before your child can have their selection rank adjusted – chat to us if you have any questions.

Have questions about ATARs or need some help?

If you or your child have questions about the ATAR or need some help deciding on the best admission pathway for their ideal course, we’re here to help. Get in touch.