Media Releases

What the ATAR tells us about Year 12 students

09 Oct 2019

RECENT analysis of Year 12 student data by the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) reveals some interesting relationships between a students’ performance in their HSC subjects, their ATAR, and their likely success at university.

The data, from the HSC years 2013 to 2017 and the subsequent university commencement years 2014 to 2018, showed that the correlations among marks in different subjects from the same student are strong and positive. 

This means that students tend to perform at a similar level across all their subjects. For example, among students who studied both Chemistry and Economics, there was a strong correlation between their HSC marks in these subjects. This correlation was of the same strength for students who studied Chemistry and PDHPE, and Chemistry and Italian Beginners. All these subjects are from different key learning areas, yet this strong association means that if the students had done well in one subject, they were likely to do well in the other; or if they had done poorly in one, they were likely to do poorly in the other.

This strong relationship in students’ performance across subjects was found throughout all HSC key learning areas, and it supports the idea that students’ academic ability can be demonstrated in different subjects, even when the subjects appear to be very diverse in their contents.

The data also showed that most students tended to self-select subjects that align with their interests and academic ability, and which provide them with appropriate preparation for university, so a student who is strong in humanities subjects would be unlikely to choose science subjects for their HSC, and vice versa. 

These findings suggest that students with a ‘jagged’ profile – those who excel in certain areas while performing badly in others – a group of students some believe are not best served by the ATAR, are rare.

The ATAR, which is calculated using an aggregate of a student’s scaled HSC marks, does not disadvantage certain groups of students. It is a measure of the student’s underlying academic ability and, as previously shown, is a good predictor of the student’s subsequent success at university.

For this reason, the ATAR is a very effective and efficient tool used by universities to select students for admission.

Kim Paino, General Manager, Marketing and Engagement at UAC explains further.

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For further information (media only) email media@uac.edu.au or contact:

Diane Jardine, Communications Officer, UAC on (02) 9752 0775, or
Kim Paino, General Manager, Marketing and Engagement, UAC on (02) 9752 0760 or 0409 155 112.