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How ATAR works

How does ATAR work and what does it mean?

Study tips
Published 18 Aug, 2023  ·  3-minute read

Whether you’ve just finished Year 12, you’re about to start or you’re right in the thick of it, you may have some burning questions about how the ATAR works and what it all means.

Luckily, we’ve got all your FAQs covered. Let’s start with the basics:

What is an ATAR?

An ATAR is the rank Australian Year 12 graduates receive at the end of high school. It gives universities and other tertiary education providers a shortcut for understanding how you placed among your peers, so they can quickly determine whether to give you a spot in their programs. That might sound a little ruthless, but your ATAR is also helpful for you – it lets you see at a glance which programs you can get admission into.

What is ATAR out of?

Your ATAR is a ranking from 0 to 99.95. This is determined by the scores you receive in your subjects, which can scale slightly based on the specific subjects you take.

Remember, your ATAR is not a grade out of 100. It’s a ranking. So, an ATAR of 80 means you performed better than 80% of your peers – not that you scored 80/100 overall.

What does ATAR stand for?

ATAR is the acronym for Australian Tertiary Admission Rank. It’s literally the rank that tertiary education institutes in Australia use to decide which students get admission into their programs.

How does ATAR work?

Each state has an organisation responsible for taking all their Year 12 students’ grades and converting them into ATARs for the year group. In Queensland, it’s up to the Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre (QTAC) to handle this.

Find out more about how ATAR is calculated

Does Year 11 go towards your ATAR?

In Queensland, your ATAR is calculated based on the best grades you achieve across units 3 and 4 of your senior school subjects. So while the grades you get in Year 11 may not go towards your ATAR specifically, the knowledge you learn and retain will certainly contribute to how well you perform in your final assessments and exams. 

High school students learning about ATAR

What does ATAR mean?

Your Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) tells you which university programs you qualify to enter. This provides a quick and simple way to check if you’re likely to gain admission to study for a degree based on how you went in your Year 12 assessments and exams.

Discover what you can study with your ATAR

Note that most programs also have specific prerequisites, such as the subjects you needed to complete in Year 12 and the grades you needed to get in those subjects – it’s not all about you, ATAR.

What if I don’t get the ATAR I need?

There’s almost always another way to get into your dream program – even if your ATAR didn’t quite land where you needed it to.

Can I get into uni without an ATAR?

If you’ve changed your mind about university after studying Year 12 subjects that don’t provide you with an ATAR, don’t panic. There are alternate pathways available to you.

Learn more about getting into uni without an ATAR

What’s a good ATAR?

Ultimately, an ATAR is “good” if it gets you into the degree you want to study. But we know that feeling like you’ve got a good ATAR can be a nice emotional boost after so many months of hard work. Or, if you’re a little disappointed in your final result, a bit of context can help you see the bigger picture.

Learn more about high, low and average ATARs

Uni students sit on the grass studying in the Great Court on UQ's St Lucia campus

Does my ATAR really matter?

Spoiler alert: once you’ve started at uni, your ATAR will soon feel irrelevant. It matters a lot when you’re applying for your first degree straight out of high school, but then it’ll likely never matter again.

Learn more about how important your ATAR really is

Feel confident that you understand everything you need to know about ATAR? Start exploring UQ's undergraduate programs to see what you can study with us.

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