HSC 2018: The ATAR system is not evil. It just has an image problem

Dec 18, 2018 by

By David Christie –

Australians believe in fairness and equity and, in universities admissions, the ATAR is a fair and efficient way to select applicants for university.

Yes, there are a myriad pathways to university and all of them are valid and useful, including the ATAR.

But based on some headlines this year, you could be forgiven for thinking that the ATAR is at once evil, irrelevant and past its use-by date. None of this is true.

Phoebe Coles waits anxiously for her ATAR results. She studied  extension mathematics, gained an ATAR of 99.65 and wants to be a doctor.
Phoebe Coles waits anxiously for her ATAR results. She studied extension mathematics, gained an ATAR of 99.65 and wants to be a doctor. Credit:Janie Barrett

The ATAR uses academic merit and potential to achieve at university to provide students with an entry-point to higher learning. Once there, their future is theirs to shape.

With nearly 150 HSC board developed courses, there is great variety for students to choose the subjects they want, but it’s a challenge for universities to allocate places based on results across thousands of different combinations of courses.

The ATAR allows universities to compare the academic performance of all these students and, in so doing, provide a comprehensive ranking tool that shows where students sit at the completion of secondary education.

The ATAR is also an efficient and reliable predictor of first-year success at university.

This is important for universities who have an obligation to spend public money wisely and – one hopes – not set students up for failure.

As an entry point to higher learning, the ATAR does this one job and it does it well.

Source: HSC 2018: The ATAR system is not evil. It just has an image problem

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