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Calculate ATAR

How to estimate your ATAR

Study tips
Published 28 Oct, 2021  ·  4-minute read

The period between finishing your Year 12 exams and receiving your results can be excruciating.

After all, it feels like you’re waiting for the number that will determine your entire future (helpful hint: it probably won’t).

And sure, patience is a virtue. But ain’t nobody got time for that – not if there’s a reasonable way to estimate your ATAR in advance. Besides, the sooner you know what your ATAR might be – even if it’s an educated guess – the sooner you can work out which university programs you can get into.

First things first:

How is the ATAR calculated?

In Queensland, ATARs are calculated by the Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre (or QTAC – you’ve probably heard of them once or twice).

The calculation is based on the best grades you achieve across either:

  • 5 general subjects, or
  • 4 general subjects plus 1 applied subject or a VET qualification (Certificate III or higher).

Either way, one of your subjects must be an English subject – English, English as an Additional Language, English and Literature Extension, Essential English, or Literature – and you must achieve a grade of C or higher in this subject.

Keep in mind that your ATAR can’t factor in general English subjects AND an applied English subject, though it’s fine to have multiple general English subjects (e.g. both English and Literature). This is also true for maths subjects – your ATAR could use your grades from both Specialist Mathematics and Mathematics Methods, but not General Mathematics and Essential Mathematics.

What does this mean for estimating your ATAR?

Well, if you’ve completed 6 general subjects, for example, you can leave out the subject you’ve done the least well in. It’s like a free pass.

However, keep in mind that some subjects scale more favourably than others. If your “worst” 2 subjects are quite close in score, it’s worth including them both when calculating your ATAR – the one that looks lower in theory might actually bump up your ATAR more than the other. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

How to estimate your ATAR

So, here’s the catch. Your ATAR is a ranking. To accurately calculate your ATAR, you’d need to predict not just your own final results but everyone’s final results. Maybe you have a decent idea where you fall in your own school group, but it’s harder to guess your position across the whole state.

Some websites offer ATAR calculators, but we don’t recommend relying on these – the state’s overall performance this year could be wildly different from the years these calculators use to estimate your ATAR, which means the prediction you get could be significantly higher or lower than your actual result.

Luckily, what you can estimate is your final Year 12 score, which will then be used to calculate your ATAR.

The trick here is thinking about your assessment scores (which you already know) compared to your exam scores (which you don’t). This is where some intuition comes in. How confident and comfortable did you feel during the exams? Do you tend to thrive under test conditions, or do you usually do better in assessments?

Based on what you know about yourself, you might estimate that your exam scores will be slightly lower than, slightly higher than, or around the same as your assessment marks. You can then combine these exam predictions with your assessment grades to estimate your final result.

Remember: in Queensland, most general subject marks are 75% assessment and 25% final exams. The exceptions are maths and science subjects, which are 50/50.

Example 1: Ancient History

You’ve scored 84, 89 and 95 on your assessments. You’ve always preferred project work, research and prepared essays, so you estimate that you might score a slightly lower 80 in your exam. By dividing each of your scores by 4, you calculate your likely final mark as follows:

Assessment Score /100 Final mark contribution
Assessment 1 84 21 / 25
Assessment 2 88 22 / 25
Assessment 3 96 24 / 25
External exam 80 20 / 25
TOTAL   87 / 100

You expect around 87 for your Ancient History score.

Example 2: General Mathematics

Your total school marks from all assessments come to 82. However, you know you perform quite well under pressure – and you really focused on revising your maths during the last month before the exam. The questions all made sense to you, and you left the exam feeling quietly confident. You optimistically estimate an 86. Then, you divide both scores by 2 to get a final estimate.

Assessment Score /100 Final mark contribution
Internal assessment 82 41 / 50
External assessment 86 43 / 50
TOTAL   84 / 100

You expect around 84 for your General Mathematics score.

So, what now?

If you’ve got estimated final scores for all your subjects, you may be able to ask your school for advice on what ATAR to expect. Teachers who have seen many Year 12 cohorts come and go might have a keen intuition about where your scores could land you. But, again, we must stress to take any guesses with a grain of salt – even your wisest teacher isn’t omniscient.

The unfortunate truth is that you can’t know for sure what your ATAR will be until that fateful morning arrives.

The last word

Trying to estimate your ATAR will always come with a risk of disappointment or the chance of a pleasant surprise. It’s impossible to predict your exact exam results, and you can never know if your year group is going to dramatically overperform or underperform compared to previous year groups.

But if you really need to scratch that itch before official results are released, making some educated guesses about your final scores can help you get an idea of where you might land – and hopefully alleviate some of your anxiety.

Just don’t put all your eggs in one basket based on your prediction. Consider what your backup options will be if your final result doesn’t quite meet your expectations.

Learn more about ATARs in general with our complete guide

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