Everything you need to know about ATARDecember 15, 2021
The ATAR is a rank, not a score. It’s designed specifically to assist some tertiary institutions in selecting applicants for some courses.
The ATAR is only one tool used for selection into tertiary courses and is not used by all courses.
Universities use the ATAR to select students for some courses.Credit:Eddie Jim
What is the ATAR?
The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is an overall percentile rank reflecting a student’s year 12 achievement compared to the other students in their given year.
The ATAR allows tertiary institutions to competitively rank students who have completed different combinations of VCE studies. It is calculated by VTAC solely for use by institutions for admission into some tertiary courses.
The ATAR is reported as a number between 0.00 and 99.95 with increments of 0.05. A student with an ATAR of 75.00 has achieved VCE results above 75 per cent of the year 12 age group.
What the ATAR isn’t
The ATAR is not a reflection of you as a person, and there’s no pass or fail ATAR. Everyone who receives an ATAR has passed the VCE. The ATAR is simply a rank that is used by institutions for some of their courses. In most cases, the ATAR is only one of many criteria and factors considered as part of the selection process.
How to qualify for an ATAR
To qualify for an ATAR through VTAC, a student must:
- Qualify for the VCE
- Achieve study scores in at least four permissible unit 3 and 4 VCE studies, including one from the English group
Is my ATAR relevant interstate?
Yes. Each state recognises the ATAR of other states as equivalent. This is achieved by the states using a similar methodology and a statistical cross-checking process.
What is a notional ATAR?
Notional ATARs are used to rank applicants who:
- Have another qualification obtained in Victoria, such as the International Baccalaureate (an ATAR is only calculated for IB students who complete the GAT);
- Have previous Victorian year 12 results (other than VCE results);
- Complete at least one unit 3 and 4 study outside of a January to December timetable; and,
- Have interstate studies.
A notional ATAR is treated the same as a normal ATAR, the “notional” label simply indicates that the ATAR was obtained in a slightly different way. For course selection and all other purposes they are treated as equivalent.
What if I do VCAL?
VCAL students do not receive an ATAR and can therefore only immediately apply for courses that don’t use the ATAR to select students for entry (see the “Pathways” information on the VTAC website for information on other opportunities).
For many students, the receiving the ATAR represents the culmination of their school life.Credit:Matt Davidson
Calculating your aggregate
Before producing your ATAR, VTAC must first calculate your aggregate. Your aggregate is produced as a sum of your primary four studies and a maximum of two available (and permissible) increments.
Subject to the rules and restrictions that follow, up to six studies can be used in calculating your aggregate. They may include:
- VCE unit 3 and 4 sequences
- Vocational Education and Training (VET) programs with unit 3 and 4 sequences
- VE3 (external VET) studies, and
- One approved higher education study
However, only some of these types of study can be included in your primary four, others can only be used as increments.
If you have more than six results, only the six permissible results that give the highest ATAR are used.
Any studies not used for the ATAR still remain visible to selection officers on your application and can be used to meet course prerequisites.
These are the four studies that are counted first in the calculation of your aggregate. Your primary four is the sum of: Your VTAC scaled study score in one of English, English (EAL), Literature or English Language; and, the next highest three permissible scaled study scores.
Year 12 students and teachers at Marymede Catholic College in South Morang celebrate the completion of this year’s VCE English exam.Credit:Eddie Jim
If you’ve completed more than four studies, a maximum of two increments can be added to your primary four during the calculation of your aggregate.
Increments could be:
- 10 per cent of a fifth or sixth permissible scaled score;
- A permissible unscored VCE VET or VE3 increment;
- A permissible higher education study increment;
- Year 12 credit for studies completed interstate; and,
- An increment for legitimate one year students.
Rules and restrictions
For the calculation of an aggregate, rules and restrictions apply to the inclusion of:
- Studies from the same study area grouping;
- Equivalent studies;
- Scored and unscored VCE VET studies;
- VE3 block credit; and,
- Approved higher education studies.
Study area groupings
There are restrictions to how many studies from the same study area grouping can contribute to your aggregate. This is to ensure diversity in your VCE program. Study area groupings include VCE, VCE VET and higher education studies and are listed below.
Study area group restrictions are:
- At most, two results from the same study area grouping can be included in the calculation of the primary four;
- At most, three results from the same study area grouping can contribute to the calculation of your aggregate; and,
- If you have unscored VCE VET results, these can only be used in the calculation of your aggregate after all scored results in the same study area grouping have been used.
List of study area groupings
Some study area groupings are listed below. VCE, VCE VET and higher education studies may be a part of each grouping. To check which studies are included in each grouping visit vtac.edu.au/studyareagroupings
- English studies
- History studies
- Information Technology studies
- Languages (other than English)
- Mathematics studies
Studies with significant overlap between them are considered equivalent. Consult with your school when choosing your VCE program to ensure you are not studying equivalent units. For further information, refer to the VCAA’s VCE and VCAL Administrative Handbook.
However, if circumstances result in you studying equivalent units, only one of these units can be included in the calculation of your aggregate. This will be the unit with the highest permissible contribution to your aggregate. Example equivalent combinations follow.
- English and English as an Additional Language.
- The same language in any combination of: first language; second language; second language advanced; language, culture and society; or VET study.
- Studies that have been replaced by a revised subject, such as National Politics replaced by Australian Politics, International Politics replaced by Global Politics, Information Technology replaced by Computing, and Food and Technology replaced by Food Studies.
VCE VET studies
Scored VCE VET studies are VCE VET unit 3 and 4 sequences with a scored assessment.
When calculating your aggregate, VCE VET unit 3 and 4 sequences with a scored assessment are treated in the same way as other unit 3 and 4 VCE studies.
However, if you choose not to take the scored assessment for a study when it is available, the study cannot be used in the calculation of your aggregate.
Unscored VCE VET studies
Unscored VCE VET studies are VCE VET unit 3 and 4 sequences with no scored assessment available (it cannot be awarded if assessment was available but you chose not to take it).
Since there are no scores available for unscored sequences, VTAC may include the sequence as an increment (the fifth and/or sixth study). The amount of an increment is determined by calculating 10 per cent of the fourth study score of your primary four.
Up to two unscored VCE VET increments may contribute to your aggregate.
VE3 block credit
VE3 studies are VET courses that are not part of the VCE VET program but have been approved for block credit at unit 3 and 4 level by the VCAA.
VE3 studies may count towards your ATAR as an increment (the fifth and/or sixth study). The amount of the increment is determined by calculating 10 per cent of the fourth study score of your primary four.
VCE and VCE VET results will take precedence over VE3 block credit results in the calculation of your aggregate. VE3 block credit can only be used in the calculation of an aggregate if there are fewer than six VCE or VCE VET studies available for calculation. Up to two VE3 increments can contribute to the aggregate.
Approved higher education studies
The VCAA provides for very capable students to undertake an approved higher education study as part of the VCE. The successful completion of a higher education study may be included as an increment (fifth or sixth study) in the calculation of your aggregate.
Higher education studies are explicitly designed for credit towards the VCE and are not available for International Baccalaureate (IB) students.
If the average mark for the higher education study is:
- At least 90 per cent, the increment will be 5.0
- At least 80 per cent but less than 90 per cent, the increment will be 4.5
- At least 70 per cent but less than 80 per cent, the increment will be 4.0
- At least 60 per cent but less than 70 per cent, the increment will be 3.5
- At least 50 per cent but less than 60 per cent, the increment will be 3.0
If the average mark for the higher education study is less than 50, then no increment is available.
Which studies can be used in the primary four?
The primary four consists of:
- The highest VTAC scaled study score in one of English, English (EAL), Literature or English Language, and
- The remaining three highest permissible VTAC scaled study scores
Permissible scaled study scores for the primary four may be from VCE unit 3 and 4 studies or VCE VET unit 3 and 4 sequences with a scored assessment.
At most, two results from the same study area grouping can be included in the calculation of the primary four.
Which studies may be used as increments?
Up to two increments are added to the primary four during the calculation of your aggregate.
Studies that may count as increments
Increments may include:
- VCE unit 3 and 4 studies or scored VCE VET unit 3 and 4 studies –10 per cent of any fifth and/or sixth highest scaled subject score.
- Unscored VCE VET unit 3 and 4 studies – Up to two unscored VCE VET increments. Unscored VET increments are calculated as 10 per cent of the lowest study score of your primary four. An increment is only awarded if no scored assessment was available. It is not awarded if you chose not to take a scored assessment.
- Higher education studies – One higher education study increment (as calculated by the rules listed in this article).
- VE3 increments – Up to two VE3 increments can contribute to the ATAR. VE3 increments are calculated as 10 per cent of the fourth study score of your primary four.
- Year 12 credit for studies completed interstate – Up to two increments, each equal to 10 per cent of the fourth study score of the primary four.
- Legitimate one year – Can only be used as a sixth contribution, equal to the value of the fifth contribution.
Study area grouping restrictions to increments
At most, three results from the same study area grouping can contribute to the calculation of your aggregate (the combination of your primary four and increments).
This means, if you have two studies from the same study area grouping in your primary four, only one study from that study area grouping may be included as an increment.
From aggregate to ATAR
Your aggregate is the total of your permissible scaled study scores, which can range from 0 to over 210 (in exceptional cases). Your aggregate will be reported on your ATAR statement. Aggregates are then placed in order on a percentile scale.
This means that your ATAR represents the percentage of the year 12 age group that have a lower aggregate than you. In other words, an ATAR of 50.00 means that you have performed better than 50 per cent of the year 12 age group.
Interstate use of the ATAR
If a student has applied to institutions in other Australian states they will be considered on the basis of their ATAR. Each state recognises the ATAR of other states as equivalent. This is achieved by the states by using a similar methodology and a statistical cross-checking process.
Interrupted study status
Applicants granted official interrupted study status by the VCAA should seek advice from VTAC about the applicability of rules and provisions in this article. In general, the rules that require completion of units 3 and 4 in the one year may be waived for applicants granted interrupted study status in the studies concerned.
Further VCE study
Students who have previously obtained an ATAR but have undertaken further study resulting in an additional study score or increment are eligible to have their ATAR recalculated.
The higher of the two will be recorded and reported as their ATAR. Ranking for courses will be based on the highest ATAR achieved.
VTAC does, however, inform course selection authorities of all of an applicant’s VCE results, including those not contributing to their ATAR.
Check in with The Age’s VCE results day live blog from 6am on Thursday, December 16.
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