About your ATAR

About your ATAR

Navigating your way to higher education can sometimes feel overwhelming – where do you start? At Macquarie we are here to help you through the journey and maximise your chances of securing a place in your dream degree. The first step is understanding how the system works.

What is the ATAR and what does it mean?

The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is calculated by the Universities Admission Centre (UAC). It is a number between 0 and 99.95 that is used to compare students who have completed different HSC subjects. It ranks your position relative to all the students who started high school the same year as you – so if you get an ATAR of 80 that says you performed better than 80 per cent of your peers, and you are in the top 20 per cent.

How is my ATAR calculated?

Your ATAR is based on the total of your 10 best units of study including English. Your raw marks are ‘scaled’ by UAC so they are comparable with other students then converted to a percentage ¬¬– which becomes your ATAR rank.

What do you mean by ‘scaling’?

UAC came up with the system of scaling as a way of standardising marks from different subject areas to ensure students are not disadvantaged or advantaged by their subject choices. Scaling does not change your ranking within a course, but it modifies your ‘raw’ mark to estimate what you would have scored if every student had studied that subject. Think of it as being the subject equivalent of foreign currency conversion – just as different exchange rates apply when converting money from different countries, different conversion (or scaling) rates apply to different HSC subjects.

Talk to me about bonus points.

Many universities allocate bonus points. While they do not change your ATAR they can push you up the ranking so you qualify for a course with a higher cut-off than your official ATAR. For example if your course requires an ATAR of 87, you could qualify with an ATAR of 83 plus 4 bonus points. The criteria for bonus points varies between universities. At Macquarie University bonus points are given for: 

  • high academic achievement
  • if you’re from rural or regional Australia
  • experiencing educational or social disadvantage that impacted on your HSC
  • sporting or performance commitments that affected your HSC studies
  • completing the Big History MOOC.

Find out more about bonus points.

How can I predict what ATAR I will need for my preferred course?

Each year UAC publishes the lowest ATAR (or cut-offs) of those students admitted in the main round of the previous year, and therefore will not necessarily be the exact score accepted for entry. These cut-offs are dependent on three things – the number of places in a course, the number of people applying for the course and the ATARs of those applicants. The cut-offs do not reflect how smart you have to be to succeed in that degree. Macquarie University’s experience is that ATAR is only one measure of success; indeed students admitted via some non-ATAR criteria have the best results of their cohort in their first year. That is why we offer a variety of entry pathways to Macquarie.

I’ve done the IB. How do I convert my score?

If you’ve received the IB diploma you won’t technically receive an ATAR, but will be given a UAC rank, which is effectively the same thing. This will be based on your IB score out of 45, with a perfect result the equivalent of a UAC rank of 99.95. You can see the UAC conversion table at uac.edu.au/undergraduate/admission/ib.shtml

What is the difference between ATAR and other entry programs?

Many universities understand the ATAR isn’t the total sum of a student. This has led to the opening up of non-ATAR routes to higher education. In 2016 for example, 45 per cent of all undergraduates at Macquarie University were accepted on a non-ATAR basis. That doesn’t mean we lower our standards. Rather we use our entry programs to individually assess a student’s ability to succeed in a particular course. Non-ATAR pathways for undergraduate entry into Macquarie University can be found on our Macquarie Entry page and include three early offer programs:

  • School Recommendation Scheme (SRS) – through this scheme you can receive an early offer to study at Macquarie before you receive your ATAR based on your school’s view of your learning ability and your Year 11 results.
  • The Global Leadership Entry Program (GLEP) – recognises students who are active in their local and wider community, and still maintain good results at school. Not only will you receive an early offer for your course, successful applicants will also have access to our facilities, early access to GLP seminars and events.
  • Academic Entry Program (AEP) – considers a student’s performance in individual subjects and matches their strengths to a degree. We review results for the NSW HSC Board Developed Courses (Category A subjects only) that correspond to select Macquarie degrees and make an early offer dependent on performance in these subjects.

How do I optimise my preferences?

UAC looks at your highest eligible preference. You can list up to five preferences, so follow your number one choice with similar courses either at the same university or a different institution and make sure you have the ultimate fall-back plan with a preference that has a cut-off you think you will achieve. The UAC course cut-offs from the previous year are a good guide in estimating the ATAR you will need to secure a position on your preferred degree course.

How do rounds work?

Like a good boxing match, there are multiple rounds in which you can receive an offer. The main round for school leavers is in late December, when offers are made on the basis of your ATAR. Later rounds happen throughout January and February and are made on the basis of vacancies in courses.

Ahead of the main round however you may have already secured a place through an early offer. The timing of these offers vary, but are normally made from late August for early entry programs, such as the SRS and Macquarie’s GLEP. Another early offer round takes place in December for Macquarie’s Academic Entry Program.

What about banking offers?

While you may be eligible for a particular course through an early entry program, this may not be your dream degree. Don’t worry. You can still get an offer in later rounds and make a choice. And if after you receive your ATAR you have a change of heart about your degree choice, you can change them between rounds.

Students receive one offer per round, but later offers don’t cancel out early offers. If you get your highest eligible preference offer in an early round, you will need to adjust your preferences, or the system won’t make any additional offers in later rounds. You can then choose the offer that appeals most.

What if I really want to hang on for my dream degree?

If you want to hold out for your dream degree, then leave it as your highest eligible preference throughout the various offer rounds – you may still get a late round offer.

If I don’t like what I’m studying can I transfer?

It’s common at university that you will have a change of heart over your chosen career. Macquarie University, like many higher education providers, has a flexible internal transfer program, which means you can start off in one degree, do well and then transfer into another degree if you meet the requirements. This also means if you miss out on your dream degree, you can enrol in a degree with a lower ATAR and then transfer across if you meet the criteria.

How do I get help?

Universities have teams of advisers to help you navigate your way through the red tape and give you the best chance of securing your degree of choice. At Macquarie you can call us on +61 2 9850 6410, drop into Student Connect at the MUSE building on campus, or submit a query online at ask.mq.edu.au. You can also jump on any undergraduate course page and chat live with our advisers. Why not drop in for a campus tour?

What do our students say? 

I went to my first Open Day when I was in Year 10. The moment I set foot on campus, I knew I loved Macquarie. When it turned out that Macquarie offered my dream degree, I started working really hard to achieve the required ATAR for my course at Macquarie. I focused on performing as well as I could in my HSC. On the day that ATARs were released, I was relieved to find out that my ATAR was high enough for my dream course. In my time at Macquarie, I’ve performed even better academically and have thoroughly enjoyed getting involved in competitions, social justice initiatives, and all that university life has to offer.

Rhiannon Bell - Bachelor of Arts, Psychology with Bachelor of Laws

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