Media releases

In defence of the ATAR

27 Apr 2018

THE Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) says that hysteria around the ATAR is unhelpful to students and it’s time for an informed discussion of the ATAR and its place in secondary education and entry into university.

Kim Paino, General Manager of Marketing and Engagement at UAC, says:

‘The ATAR is an easy target when there are complex issues involved. It really doesn’t deserve the whipping it gets given that it does exactly what it intends to do – it puts students in a rank order that reflects their position compared to everyone else in the state based on their HSC results. It does one thing and it does it well. The problem is that there is too much focus on it, and the myths around it lead to poor advice and poor decisions.’

‘And if we want to change those poor decisions, there are better ways to do that than by changing the ATAR or scrapping it altogether. If universities need students with particular backgrounds in HSC subjects then the best way they can do that is by making them prerequisites.’

Ms Paino says that UAC spends a lot of time trying to educate students, parents and schools about the ATAR, but the myths persist.

‘We know that perception is a problem, and has been for a very long time. When I did the HSC I remember being warned against taking certain subjects because they’d be “scaled down”. And even if you could maximise your ATAR by choosing certain subjects why would you want to do that if it means dumbing down your education and failing to adequately prepare yourself for university? What is being forgotten in the rush to maximise ATAR is that the ATAR is not the end goal – university is the goal and ATAR is the ticket to get in. Pursuit of ATAR for ATAR’s sake is missing the point. If you want to go to university you should be doing whatever will help you not just get into uni but succeed once you’re there.’

‘Our advice has always been do what you're interested in and what will prepare you for what you want to do at uni. And do it at the level that suits your ability. Doing an easier level because you think that will get you a higher ATAR is not only incorrect (it probably won’t make much difference to your ATAR) but also fails to take account of the fact that unis tend to award more bonus points for the higher level subjects, and you may be setting yourself up for a really hard time in first year at uni.’

‘I know there are uni courses that have very high entry points, and students wanting to do those courses are looking to get the highest ATAR they can. But those students need to know that what they think might be helping them in the short term might work against them in the longer term. If you don’t get the ATAR you need to enter a course straight from school there are other pathways available and you don’t have to compromise your secondary education.’

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