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ATAR & TAC's Explained

07 JUL 2021

ATAR & TAC’s Explained

Understanding the ATAR and applications process for Australian Universities as a parent can become confusing, but not to worry! MedView has you covered with this guide to the ATAR and Tertiary Admissions Centres.

What is the ATAR?

ATAR stands for Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank and is a rank of your academic achievement compared to every single Australian student in the same year group.

Every student upon leaving school in Australia receives an ATAR. Each student’s rank reflects a direct, scaled comparison of that student’s performance against that of every other student finishing in Australia in that same year. As such, a student’s ATAR is a percentile score, with the top score being 99.95. It should be noted that even if students complete alternative/international curricula such as the International Baccalaureate or Cambridge CIE, Australian medical schools will convert these scores to an ATAR in attempt to compare all candidates on equal grounds.

In the context of minimum ATAR requirements for medical school, there is no one answer. A general rule for students to follow is that an ATAR exceeding 99.00 is likely to be a competitive score. However, it is at the discretion of each university to place as much weighting as they see fit, on the ATAR. By way of example, The University of Sydney’s program requires its students to obtain a perfect ATAR score of 99.95 to be eligible for admission. Other universities will place greater emphasis on different elements of the process such as the entrance exams (e.g. UCAT), portfolios or interview performance, in which these cases may reflect a lower ATAR score required. For more information on Australian medical school admissions, check out this guide!

ATAR’s from every state are all equivalent (i.e an 80.00 in NSW is the same as an 80.00 in QLD). ATAR’s are calculated and released by each individual state's Tertiary Admissions Centres (TACs).

What is a Tertiary Admissions Centre (TAC)?

Tertiary Admissions Centres (TACs) are organisations that handle university applications on behalf of individual universities. Each state in Australia (Except for Tasmania*) has a TAC that will convert a students final year results to an ATAR and process this information with their application. Below is a list of the TACs for each state:

New South Wales: UAC

South Australia: SATAC

Victoria: VTAC

Western Australia: TISC

Note: The Northern Territory is governed by SATAC and the Australian Capital Territory collaborates with UAC

Why do we have an ATAR?

There are a great number of curriculums offered in Australia from local state streams such as the HSC, VCE, WACE, QCE and SACE to international streams such as the IB and A-Levels. All of these curriculums differ slightly and calculate their own final scores. Therefore, to fairly rank all Australian high school graduates, the ATAR is used.

How is the ATAR Calculated?

All curriculums around Australia include a mixture of internal assessments (tests, assignments and investigations) and external assessments (state-wide examinations). A mixture of these assessments are calculated together to form a final mark or grade for that subject, which is then combined with the rest of your subjects.

TACs use a series of algorithms to ‘scale’ subjects. This ensures that students who take a combination of more complex or intensive subjects where the average mark would be lower than a less content heavy subject, are given a mark that is reflective of their performance.

The scaled scores of a student's top 10 units of ATAR courses are then combined to determine your ranking.

Students will receive an aggregate score whether that be out of 100 for the WACE, 90 for the SACE, 45 for the IB, or something else entirely. No matter which curriculum your child sits, this final score is automatically converted every year into your ATAR. All curriculums around Australia also have variations of scaling and moderation.

Finally, some high schools will encourage the study of certain subjects with “bonus points”. This differs from school to school and having the right insider knowledge here is critical to being successful with your medical application. Book a free consultation with the MedView team to learn more!

ATAR Cutoffs for Medicine
UniversityATAR Cut-Off
Bond University96
Curtin University95
Flinders University95
Griffith University99.75
James Cook UniversityUndisclosed
Monash University90
University of Adelaide95
University of Melbourne90
University of Newcastle94.3
University of New South Wales96
University of Queensland95
University of Sunshine Coast99.6
University of Sydney96
University of Tasmania95.5
University of Western Australia99
Western Sydney University/Charles Sturt95.5

Why is my ATAR low compared to my high school grades?

A students high school marks (their performance) and ATAR (their position) are different measures of achievement and therefore should not be compared. However, if the student is in the middle group of students in all their courses (with marks typically in the late-70s), they may receive an ATAR of around 70.00. Sometimes marks in the 70s can mean a much lower ATAR depending on your courses and their position in those courses.

Does this mean I should only pick ‘hard’ subjects?

Not necessarily. Because all scores are scaled, students need to think about which subjects they will do well in. The higher above the year group average of a subject that they perform, the higher their ATAR will be. Similarly if a student chooses all the hard subjects and is performing in the middle of the pack they (and their ATAR) would benefit more from choosing an ‘easier’ subject where they could be ranked 1st amongst their cohort.

Why do some courses scale better than others?

Courses are scaled using the mean scores and distribution of marks, which indicate the ability of all students studying that course. Courses studied by students who perform well in all their courses will be scaled highly. Courses such as Mathematics and Physics traditionally scale well because of this; however, you need to achieve high marks to gain any benefit from scaling. Find out more scaled subjects for medical school admission by booking a free consultation with the MedView Team.