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The Usefulness of the ATAR as a Measure of Academic Achievement and Potential: UAC report

01 Oct 2019

Why the ATAR works

Recent research by UAC shows that the ATAR is the best available predictor of university success, as measured by students’ first-year grade-point-average (GPA). The higher the ATAR, the higher the student’s first-year GPA is likely to be.

Further, the ATAR is related to the likelihood of obtaining a failing first-year GPA (defined as less than 4). The higher the ATAR, the less likely the student would get a failing first-year GPA. For example, in our recent study, we found that for students with an ATAR in the 90s, only 8 per cent had a first-year GPA of less than 4. This rate increases as ATAR decreases, such that for students with ATARs in the 70s, 29 per cent would have a failing GPA, and for students with ATARs in the 50s, around half (52 per cent) would have a failing GPA.

Our findings are consistent with other research by the Grattan Institute1 showing the value of the ATAR in predicting success at university. As with all predictors, the ATAR is not perfect. There will be instances where the prediction will ‘miss the mark’. Also, there will be cases where selection based on the ATAR alone would not be optimal. However, this has been acknowledged by institutions for a long time and they have been using alternative mechanisms for selecting students to certain courses like design and the performing arts.

However, for a large number of courses where the fundamental requirement of the student is to possess the right level of academic ability to meet the demands of the course, the ATAR is an effective tool in predicting the likelihood of this outcome.

Download the full report [PDF]