Media Releases

‘Easy’ subjects don’t maximise the ATAR

23 Apr 2018

REPORTS that high school students are choosing ‘easy’ subjects to maximise their ATAR are misguided, according to the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC).

Our analysis shows that the majority of students who were more capable in mathematics in Year 10 continue to study the higher levels of mathematics in the HSC, and that most students who were less capable in mathematics in Year 10 choose to study the lower levels of mathematics.

When we compared the ATARs of students with similar mathematical ability in Year 10, we found that those students who chose Mathematics General obtained (on average) a similar ATAR to those who chose to study Mathematics.

It is UAC's view that the ATAR is maximised by choosing subjects according to a student's interests, abilities and future plans. UAC regularly communicates this message to students through our publications and digital touch-points, as well as at careers events.

‘Studying particular subjects won't guarantee a student a high ATAR – what really matters is how well the student does compared to everyone else,’ says Kim Paino, UAC’s General Manager of Marketing and Engagement. ‘The best advice for students is to do subjects they enjoy and are good at, rather than choosing subjects because of a misguided belief that they will scale well.’

The NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) new mathematics syllabuses, to be fully implemented by 2020, will, for the first time, provide the opportunity for NESA to supply UAC with information about performance in all mathematics subjects using a common scale. UAC’s Technical Committee on Scaling is exploring how it could best use this additional data to improve the way in which a student’s level of mathematics achievement is reflected in the ATAR in NSW.

‘While care will need to be taken so that these changes maintain the existing parity between all courses, it is our current intention to implement the changes as soon as possible,’ says Dr Rod Yager, Chair of the Technical Committee on Scaling.

For accurate information about the ATAR, visit UAC’s website at or contact UAC.

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For further information (media only) email or contact: 
Raquel Tracy, Communications Officer, UAC on 9752 0775
Kim Paino, General Manager, Marketing and Engagement, UAC on (02) 9752 0760 or 0409 155 112.