Getting your head around an ATAR
Parents with children entering secondary level and students preparing for future careers will find themselves confronted with the acronym ATAR.
But just what is an ATAR and what does it mean?
ATAR stands for Australian Tertiary Admission Rank and is a student ranking system for many undergraduate-entry university programs in Australia.
It is based on ranking a student’s achievements in relation to other students and is not a mark or score out of 100.
Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre, VTAC, administers student applications for tertiary courses, scholarships, special schemes and TAFES, solely for the use of tertiary institutions.
The institutions use the ranking to compare overall achievements of students who have completed various combinations of Victorian Certificate of Education studies.
VTAC uses VCE student results issued by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority to calculate an ATAR.
A general message from various education experts is that gaining an ATAR, while representing a mainstream way for students to gain places in tertiary institutions and a student-ranking tool, is far from reflective of ability, skill or intellect of a person maturing from childhood into adulthood.
There are many issues or circumstances, such as illness, family upheaval, socio-economic environment, unforeseen distractions or lack of maturity that might lead to a student failing to reach a desired ATAR ranking.
Many of the experts are quick to say therefore, that in a modern Australia, it is not the only way to access tertiary education.
Some institutions offer alternative ‘pathways’ that assess student suitability based on a methodology that might include extra courses or applications and interviews that zero in on an individual’s personal qualities, experience and-or motivation.
Some TAFE and other courses and traineeships also provide ‘credit’ stepping-stones to undergraduate degrees.
A general take-home message when scanning the web for educated views on the issue is that if a VCE student wants to pursue tertiary studies as soon as they finish secondary schooling, they should try to get the ranking required for their course.
But if they do not, it is not the end of the world.