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All about ATAR




· All you need to know about ATAR

The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) The ATAR is a rank, not a score. It’s designed specifically to assist some tertiary institutions in selecting applicants for some courses. The ATAR is only one tool used for selection into tertiary courses, and not all courses use the ATAR. 

This selection explains:

  • what the ATAR is 

  • what the ATAR isn’t 

  • how the ATAR is calculated 

  • what scaling is and why we do it 

  • what your aggregate is 

  • rules and restrictions regarding study combinations for how your aggregate is calculated, and 

  • how your aggregate becomes your ATAR

There’s a lot of detail in this section that can be hard to remember, so keep hold of this guide so you can revisit it in Year 11 and 12.

What is the ATAR?

The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is an overall percentile rank reflecting a student’s Year 12 achievement compared to the age group in a given year. The ATAR allows tertiary institutions to competitively rank students who have completed different combinations of VCE studies. It is calculated by VTAC solely for use by institutions for admission into some tertiary courses. The ATAR is reported as a number between 0.00 and 99.95 with increments of 0.05. A student with an ATAR of 75.00 has achieved VCE results above 75 per cent of the Year 12 age group.

What the ATAR isn’t

The ATAR isn’t a reflection of you as a person, and there’s no pass or fail ATAR. Everyone who receives an ATAR has passed the VCE. The ATAR is simply a rank that is used by institutions for some of their courses. In most cases, the ATAR is only one of many criteria and factors considered as part of the selection process.

How to qualify for an ATAR

To qualify for an ATAR through VTAC, a student must: 

  • qualify for the VCE, and 

  • achieve study scores in at least four permissible Unit 3 and 4 VCE studies, including one from the English group

Is my ATAR relevant interstate?

Yes. Each state recognises the ATAR of other states as equivalent. This is achieved by the states by using a similar methodology and a statistical cross-checking process.

What is a notional ATAR?

Notional ATARs are used to rank applicants who: 

» have another qualification obtained in Victoria such as the International Baccalaureate (an ATAR is only calculated for IB students who complete the GAT) 

» have previous Victorian Year 12 results (other than VCE results). » complete at least one Unit 3 and 4 study outside of a January to December timetable 

» have interstate studies A Notional ATAR is treated the same way as a normal ATAR, the ‘notional’ label simply indicates that the ATAR was obtained in a slightly different way. 

For course selection and all other purposes they are treated as equivalent.

Scaling: keeping things fair

In calculating the ATAR, VTAC scales study scores. This ensures fair comparison of students’ achievements over all their studies, regardless of what they have studied

What is scaling?

Scaling adjusts for the fact that it is more difficult to obtain a high VCE study score in some studies than others. This is not because some studies are inherently harder or easier, it is because some studies attract a more competitive cohort of students. Scaling ensures that students are neither advantaged nor disadvantaged based on the studies they choose. All VCE study scores are scaled by VTAC.

Why are study scores scaled?

To select applicants fairly, institutions need an overall measure of the performance of students undertaking the VCE in all studies and in all combinations. Study scores are scaled to consider the different levels of competition in different studies.

When are scores scaled?

VCE studies are always scaled in the year in which you undertook them. This may not necessarily be in the year in which you receive your ATAR.

How study scores are scaled

1. The VCAA collects your assessment results and uses them to calculate your VCE study scores.
2. When VTAC receives your study scores from the VCAA, each study has been standardised. The average score for each study is 30.
3. VTAC looks at the assessment data across all studies to make sure obtaining the average score in one study required the same level of achievement as every other study.
4. When the data demonstrates the overall level of scores across studies doesn’t match, adjustments need to be made. This is the scaling process.
5. If competition in a particular study was higher than the average level of competition across all studies—as indicated by the group of students performing higher in their other studies— study scores need to be adjusted upwards, otherwise students doing that study would be unfairly disadvantaged.
6. Likewise, if competition in a particular study was lower than the average level of competition across all studies—as indicated by the group of students performing lower in their other studies— study scores need to be adjusted downwards, otherwise students doing that study would be unfairly advantaged.
7. Once the study scores have been scaled, they are called scaled study scores. It is these scaled study scores that are used to calculate the ATAR。

Studies with additional scaling rules

The following studies attract additional scaling rules. Unless you like these studies and are good at them, choosing these studies simply because they are treated differently in scaling won’t automatically guarantee you a higher ATAR.


VCE Mathematics studies are designed to cater for students of differing abilities and interests. Unlike other studies there is a distinct hierarchy of studies: 

» Specialist Mathematics is the most difficult 

» followed by Mathematical Methods, and then 

» Further Mathematics. 

To ensure that students undertaking the more difficult mathematics studies are not disadvantaged by the level of difficulty, all three mathematics studies are scaled against each other as well as being scaled against all other studies. The higher of the two resulting scales is used for each of the mathematics studies.


As a result of government policy to encourage the study of languages, each language is adjusted up by adding five to the initial VTAC scaled study score average. This does not mean that five points are added to the ATAR. What it does mean is that for study scores at, or close to, the score average of 30, the adjustment is 5. This adjustment is different for each study score and decreases as the study score moves away from 30.

Studies used for the ATAR: rules and restrictions

When selecting VCE studies, be aware of the rules and restrictions about which studies can be included in your aggregate. Your aggregate is then converted to your ATAR.

Calculating your aggregate

Before producing your ATAR, VTAC must first calculate your aggregate. Your aggregate is produced as a sum of your primary four studies and a maximum of two available (and permissible) increments. Subject to the rules and restrictions that follow, up to six studies can be used in calculating your aggregate and they may include: 

» VCE Unit 3 and 4 sequences 

» Vocational Education and Training (VET) programs with Unit 3 and 4 sequences 

» VFE studies, and 

» One approved higher education study 

However, only some of these types of study can be included in your primary four, others can only be used as increments. If you have more than six results, only the six permissible results that give the highest ATAR are used. Any studies not used for the ATAR remain visible to selection officers on your application.

Primary four

These are the four studies that are counted first in the calculation of your aggregate. Your primary four aggregate is the sum of: 

» your VTAC Scaled Study Score in one of English, English (EAL), Literature or English Language, and 

» the next highest three permissible scaled study scores 


If available, a maximum of two increments are added to your primary four during the calculation of your aggregate Increments could be: 

» ten per cent of a fifth or sixth permissible scaled score 

» a permissible unscored VCE or VFE increment 

» a permissible higher education study increment 

» Year 12 credit for studies completed interstate 

» an increment for legitimate one year students

Study area groupings

There are restrictions to how many studies from the same study area grouping can contribute to your aggregate. This is to ensure diversity in your VCE program. Study area groupings include VCE, VCE VET and higher education studies and are listed below. Study area group restrictions are: 

1. At most, two results from the same study area grouping can be included in the calculation of the primary four.
2. At most, three results from the same study area grouping can contribute to the calculation of your aggregate.
3. If you have unscored VCE VET results, these can only be used in the calculation of your aggregate after all scored results in the same study area grouping have been used.
List of study area groupings Some Study area groupings are listed below. VCE, VCE VET and higher education studies may be a part of each grouping. To check which studies are included in each grouping visit: vtac.edu.au/studyareagroupings
» English studies
» Entertainment
» History studies
» Hospitality
» Information Technology studies
» Languages (other than English)
» Mathematics studies
» Music studies

Equivalent studies

Studies with significant overlap between them are considered equivalent. Consult with your school when choosing your VCE program to ensure you are not studying equivalent units. For further information refer to the VCAA’s VCE and VCAL Administrative Handbook. However, if circumstances result in you studying equivalent units, only one of these units can be included in the calculation of your aggregate. This will be the unit with the highest permissible contribution to your aggregate. Example equivalent combinations follow. 

» English and English as an Additional Language. 

» The same language in any combination of: first language; second language; second language advanced; language, culture and society; or VET study. 

» Studies that have been replaced by a revised subject, such as National Politics replaced by Australian Politics, International Politics replaced by Global Politics, Information Technology replaced by Computing, and Food and Technology replaced by Food Studies

From aggregate to ATAR

Once the cohort’s aggregates are calculated they are placed in order on a percentile scale with intervals of 0.05, converting aggregates to ATARs. Your aggregate is the total of your permissible scaled study scores, which can range from 0 to over 210 (in exceptional cases). Your aggregate will be reported on your ATAR statement. Aggregates are then placed in order on a percentile scale. The group of students with the highest aggregates will be assigned the highest ATAR of 99.95. ATARs below 30.00 are reported as ‘less than 30’ on printed ATAR statements, however the actual ATAR is available through the online results service

Why isn’t there an ATAR of 100?

Because the ATAR is a percentile ranking it ranks you against everyone in the Year 12 age group. Your ATAR represents the percentage of people you performed higher than. Therefore, it’s statistically impossible for the students with the highest result to perform better than themselves