What Is An ATAR And How Does It Work?

HSC Marks! ATARs! Scaling/Moderation! are only a few of the words that rush through your head when you begin your senior years of high school. Whether you’re the first sibling in your household to go through this process or have an older sibling who has gone through it already, the HSC experience is different for everyone. Amongst others, one way we can help you on this exciting experience is to begin with clarifying what the ATAR is, how it’s calculated and how it is different from your HSC Marks.

ATAR v HSC Marks - what is the difference?

To dispel a common misconception, the ATAR is NOT a mark! Your ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank) is a rank that is based on your position compared to other students in the state. It is a number between 0.00 and 99.95 with increments of 0.05. So, an ATAR of 95.00 means that you are in the top 5% of your group (within the 5th percentile).

However, your HSC mark is based on your performance in your exam and assessments at school. It is the average of the HSC Exam Mark (often referred to as the Raw Mark) and your moderated assessment mark. NESA then aligns this Raw Mark to performance bands and calculates your HSC Mark. That is why it is very important to ensure you are performing well throughout the year and not just focus your efforts at the end.

In Summary:

HSC Marks


Your HSC marks provide information about how well you have performed in each of the courses you have completed.

Your ATAR provides information about where you are positioned overall against other students.

Your HSC marks indicate your performance in the different courses you have studied.

Your ATAR allows you to be compared with students who have completed different combinations of courses.

Your HSC marks are reported against standards.

Your ATAR is a rank not a mark.

Your HSC marks are provided by NESA (the NSW Education Standards Authority).

Your ATAR is provided by UAC (the University Admission Centre).

How is the ATAR calculated?

As students study varying courses across different disciplines, NESA and UAC need to be able to measure each student’s performance amongst their peers. They do so by allocating each student an ATAR. A lot goes into calculating your ATAR but put simply:

  1. HSC Assessment Mark (assessments done throughout the year) and the Exam Raw Mark are added together to give you the HSC Mark. 
  2. Scaling/Moderation is applied to the HSC Mark to convert it to a scaled mark for each subject. 
  3. An aggregate mark out of 500 is then calculated using these scaled marks (your highest 10 units, each unit worth 50). 
  4. Percentiles are then calculated using the aggregate marks. 
  5. Finally an ATAR is generated with increments of 0.05.

The Takeaway?

So what does this all mean? Firstly and most importantly, make sure that you are performing well in all of your school assessments as they carry a significant weight on your overall performance. You must also remember that English is a part of the 10 units that are mandatorily counted towards your ATAR so make sure that you are putting in the necessary efforts to keep your English marks high. The next important thing is to ensure you are not falling behind on all your content as the year progresses. Your ranking in school is as important as the marks you achieve so allocate your study to the subjects you are falling behind on. If you are falling behind and feel as though you need some help, give us a call on 0415 625 525  to see how we can help you unlock your full potential. 

“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”

– Pele

Share This

Related Posts