What counts towards the ATAR?
The ATAR is based on the results from up to six Unit 3 and 4 VCE sequences. The results do not all have to be from the one year. The ATAR is calculated using:
- a student’s best score in any one of the English studies, plus
- the scores of their next best three permissible studies (which together with the English study make the ‘Primary Four’), plus
- up to two ‘increments’, which could be 10 per cent of the scores for any fifth and sixth study which they may have completed, or fixed contributions such as that for completing unscored VCE VET.
If a student has a Primary Four they will get an ATAR. VTAC will use up to six results in calculating the ATAR. If a student has more than six results, the six permissible scores that give the highest ATAR are used.
While studies used in the calculation of the ATAR may be taken over any number of years, the length of time taken to complete VCE studies may be taken into account by institutions.
Vocational Education and Training (VET) programs
VET programs included in the VCE Unit 1 to 4 framework contribute to the ATAR in a similar way to VCE studies.
Scored Unit 3 and 4 VCE VET sequences are scaled and used in the same way as scored VCE Unit 3 and 4 sequences.
Un-scored Unit 3 and 4 VCE VET sequences may contribute to the ATAR as a fifth and/or sixth increment which is calculated from the average of the Primary Four VTAC Scaled Study Scores.
Where VCAA has granted block credit towards the VCE at Units 3 and 4 level for recognised VET or Further Education (VFE) qualifications, these studies are eligible for inclusion as a fifth and/or sixth study increment in the calculation of the ATAR. This increment is calculated as 10% of the fourth study of the Primary Four. However, VCE and VCE VET results will take precedence over VFE block credit results in the calculation of the ATAR. Therefore, VFE block credit can only be used in the calculation of an ATAR if there are fewer than 6 VCE or VCE VET studies available. If there are 6 or more eligible VCE or VCE VET studies available, a VFE block credit result cannot be used.
VFE studies must be at level three or above in the Australian Qualifications Framework.
Approved Higher Education Studies in Schools
Students undertaking an approved Higher Education Study in Year 12 can include the result as an increment in the ATAR (fifth or sixth study, but not both) provided that it is passed; that VCAA co-requisite or prerequisite conditions were met; and study combination restrictions were met. An increment will be awarded for the Higher Education Study, depending on the level of results achieved in the Higher Education Study as follows:
- If the student’s average result over all the Higher Education study units is below 50% no Higher Education increment is given.
- If the student’s average result over all the HE study units is at least 50% but less than 60%, the Higher Education increment will be 3.0.
- If the student’s average result over all the HE study units is at least 60% but less than 70%, the Higher Education increment will be 3.5.
- If the student’s average result over all the HE study units is at least 70% but less than 80%, the Higher Education increment will be 4.0.
- If the student’s average result over all the HE study units is at least 80% but less than 90%, the Higher Education increment will be 4.5.
- If the student’s average result over all the HE study units is at least 90%, the Higher Education increment will be 5.0.
There are some restrictions on how certain combinations of studies may be counted for an ATAR.
In each of the study areas of English, mathematics, history, contemporary Australian studies, information technology, languages and music:
- at most two results can contribute to the Primary Four
- at most three results can contribute to the ATAR, the third being counted as a 10% increment for a fifth or sixth study
This also includes Higher Education studies. So, if an ATAR incorporates a Higher Education study increment from any of the study areas listed above, then at most two VTAC Scaled Study Scores and/or VET increments from that study area may be used.
For a list of VCE subjects grouped into each study area, refer to the VTAC Scaling Guide
There are other specific restrictions where two or more studies have similar content, or where studies have been combined. Nevertheless, within these restrictions, the combination that generates the highest ATAR will be used.
There are no restrictions on the number of VET results that can be counted in the ATAR. However, there are industry area restrictions on VET studies similar to the study area restrictions listed above. There are 26 separate industry areas.
Why are VCE results scaled?
Before students’ Study Scores—for different VCE studies—can be used to calculate each ATAR, VTAC needs to scale them to take into account different levels of competition in different studies. VTAC’s role is to provide a way of ranking students that is fair to students, across the different studies they have taken.
When VTAC receives each Study Score from the VCAA, it is calculated from the total marks the student received for each graded assessment in that study.
Study Scores for all studies are reported on a scale of 0 to 50 with an average score of 30. However, it is not a score out of 50. It is a ranking, or relative position, which shows a student’s performance compared with all other students who took that study in that year. A student with a Study Score of 30 is near the middle of the cohort, or has performed better than about half of all students who took that study in that year. A student with a Study Score of 40 has performed better than about 91% of all students who took that study in that year.
What this means is that the middle student in any study will have a Study Score of about 30.
However, Study Scores don’t consider how academically strong the other students were in the study and therefore how difficult it was to achieve the middle ranking.
For tertiary selection, students need to be ranked in a way that is fair to students across all the different studies they have taken. This involves taking into consideration how academically strong the other students were in each study and how difficult it was to achieve the middle ranking in each study.
Where the academic competition in a study is higher, Study Scores have to be adjusted upwards, otherwise students doing that study would be unfairly disadvantaged.
Similarly, in a study where the academic competition is lower, the Study Scores have to be adjusted downwards, otherwise students doing that study would be unfairly advantaged.
Scaling ensures that it is possible for students to attain a high ATAR regardless of the combination of studies they undertake.
This is not always well understood and many students believe that to achieve their best possible ATAR they need to choose studies that are scaled up. This is not true and may even work against them.
If a student chooses a study that they are not very good at simply because it will be scaled up, the Study Score they receive will be a lot lower than what they would expect in a study they are good at and that interests them. Yes, the score will be scaled up, but from a lower Study Score. It is unlikely that the VTAC Scaled Study Score would be any higher than if they had chosen a more suitable study, even one that is scaled down.
The way to ensure that a student achieves the best ATAR is to choose studies according to what interests them, what they are good at, and what studies they need for future study.
The calculation of the ATAR is a complicated process, but it is the fairest system developed by experts which allows students to undertake the studies they want and enables tertiary institutions to compare students who have completed different combinations of VCE studies. The use of the ATAR ensures that all studies are treated equally and provides students with a common score for tertiary selection across Australia.
How does scaling work?
VTAC adjusts the Study Scores for each study to take account of how strong the students were in the study and how difficult it was to achieve the middle ranking. The strength of competition in each study is measured by how well the students performed in all their other studies.
In each study, the Study Scores are adjusted so that the overall level of scores in that study matches the scores obtained by the same group of students in all of their studies.
For example, in Australian Politics in 2018 the average Study Score was 30, but the students who took Australian Politics averaged 32 for all their studies (including Australian Politics). This shows that the students who did Australian Politics in 2018 were of above average strength in their other studies. Therefore, the scaling process adjusted the Study Scores upwards so that the average VTAC Scaled Study Score for Australian Politics was set at 32.
The 2018 Business Management students averaged 26 in all their studies (including Business Management). So, the scaling process adjusted the Study Scores downwards so that the average VTAC Scaled Study Score for Business Management was 26.
In some studies the scaling process produces VTAC Scaled Study Scores that are greater than 50. They can go as high as 55. However, the minimum VTAC Scaled Study Score cannot go below zero.
VCE studies are always scaled in the year in which they were undertaken.
This may not necessarily be in the year in which a student receives their ATAR. Scaled scores from previous years may contribute to the ATAR just as studies from the current year do.
This scaling process is carried out each year for each VCE study and VCE VET program for which there is a Study Score. There are no predetermined outcomes—the adjustments are based on the performance of students each year. Nevertheless, the process is very stable and there is little difference in the scaled VTAC Scaled Study Scores from year to year.
Previous VCE studies
VCE studies are always scaled in the year in which they were undertaken. This might be from an earlier year than the year in which a student receives their ATAR.
Mathematics and Languages
VCE mathematics studies are designed to cater for students of differing abilities and interests. Specialist Mathematics is the most difficult, followed by Mathematical Methods and then by Further Mathematics.
To ensure that students undertaking the more difficult mathematics studies are not disadvantaged, 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.
Languages other than English
As a result of government policy to encourage the study of languages other than English (LOTE), each LOTE is adjusted by adding up to five to the initial VTAC Scaled Study Score. All students of a LOTE receive an adjustment, but it is not a uniform adjustment. For VTAC Scaled Study Scores at or close to the average, the adjustment is five, but the adjustment decreases as the score moves away from the average. It is important to remember that the additional points are added to the VTAC Scaled Study Score and therefore contribute to the aggregate—they are not added directly to the ATAR. However, because they increase the aggregate they therefore increase the ATAR accordingly.
How is the ATAR calculated?
The following process is used to calculate each student’s ATAR.
All Study Scores are scaled to adjust for the fact that it is more difficult to obtain a high Study Score in some studies than others. This is NOT because some studies are inherently harder than others. This IS because some studies attract a more competitive cohort of students than others. Once they have been scaled, they are referred to as VTAC Scaled Study Scores.
An aggregate is calculated by adding:
- a student’s best VTAC Scaled Study Score in any one of the English studies, plus the VTAC Scaled Study Scores of their next best three permissible studies, plus
- 10 per cent of the VTAC Scaled Study Score for a fifth study (where available), plus
- 10 per cent of the VTAC Scaled Study Score for a sixth study (where available).
As described above, certain other studies (for example approved Higher Education units) may be used for the fifth and sixth contributions to the aggregate in place of a fifth and sixth study. These are described above.
The Scores contributing to the aggregate are subject to the study restrictions described above.
The aggregate is a number between 0 and a value that can reach over 210.
All eligible students are then ranked in order of their aggregate, and a percentage rank is assigned to distribute students as evenly as possible over a 100-point scale.
All students with the same aggregate receive the same percentage rank. If a number of students are tied on a particular Aggregate the number that receives the corresponding percentage rank may increase.
Finally, the percentage rank is converted to an ATAR, which is the estimate of the percentage of the population in the relevant age group that the student outperformed, taking into account the students who have successfully completed VCE as well as those who moved out of Victoria or left school before Year 12.
The ATAR is a number between 0 and 99.95 in intervals of 0.05. The highest rank is 99.95, the next highest 99.90, and so on. The lowest automatically reported rank is 30.00, with ranks below 30.00 being reported as ‘less than 30’.
The complete list of studies and VTAC Scaled Study Scores used in the calculation of each student’s ATAR is included on their ATAR statement.
An ATAR is calculated for all students who have successfully completed VCE in the current year (January to December).
The ATAR is calculated using only VCAA approved studies. These students will have completed at least four scored VCE studies at the Units 3 and 4 level, at least one of which must be from the English group.
A ‘Notional ATAR’ is calculated for any student who differs from the above.
This includes such variations as:
- students completing at least one Unit 3 and 4 study outside of a January to December timetable
- IB students (an ATAR is only calculated for those IB students who complete the GAT)
- students with interstate studies and any other variations.
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.
Interstate use of the ATAR
If a student has applied to institutions in other Australian states they will be considered on the basis of their ATAR. 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.
Interrupted study status
Applicants granted official interrupted study status by the VCAA should seek advice from VTAC about the applicability of rules and provisions described here. In general, the rules that require completion of Units 3 and 4 in the one year may be waived for applicants granted interrupted study status in the studies concerned.
Further VCE study
Students who have previously obtained an ATAR, but have undertaken further study resulting in an additional Study Score or Increment, are eligible to have their ATAR recalculated. The higher of the two will be recorded and reported as their ATAR. Ranking for courses will be based on the highest ATAR achieved. VTAC does, however, inform course selection authorities of all of an applicant’s VCE results—including those not contributing to their ATAR.
Privacy and your ATAR
This is an exciting time of the year. You are celebrating the end of Year 12, have received your ATAR and are looking to begin the course of your dreams early next year.
As you embark on your exciting journey, please note the following words of caution about privacy.
Don’t post any personal information such as your VCE student number, VTAC ID or PIN on social media. Just like your bank details, you don’t want anyone else having access to your course preferences or worse – changing them without your permission.
Not at home for Change of Preference?
Change of preference is an online process so if you can find a computer while overseas or on holiday you are the best person to change your preferences.
If accessing a computer or the internet is not possible, you will need to list an Authorised Nominee or proxy to act on your behalf and change your preferences. If you wish your authorised nominee to make any changes on your behalf you should provide them with written authorisation and your VTAC ID and VTAC PIN.
You can allocate a nominee by going to the personal details tab in your VTAC account and following the links.
Both VTAC and the VCAA provide a range of online enquiry services during the ATAR and change of preference periods. However, be careful. If your enquiry is of a personal nature or will identify personal information about yourself or others (e.g. your student number and PIN) then please use the phone or email enquiry service so your question can be followed up appropriately and confidentially – don’t post it as a comment or message via our social media or on any other forum.
VTAC is bound by and will act in accordance with the Australian Privacy Principles (March 2014) and will ensure that your privacy is protected at all times. Any breaches will be investigated.
Tertiary selection for school leavers
VTAC administers the course application, selection and offer processes, and provides applicant information (including VCE and VCAL results) to tertiary institution selection officers. When selecting students, selection officers largely use information about each applicant’s VCE performance. The information used, and how it is used, varies between institutions and courses.
First, an applicant must meet minimum tertiary entrance requirements. For higher education courses this is usually satisfactory completion of the VCE, this includes the completion of Units 3 and 4 in one of the VCE English studies in the one year. The same minimum requirement applies for most VET courses; however, it does vary between institutions. For more information about minimum tertiary entrance requirements please see the VTAC website.
Second, an applicant must meet any essential requirements and admission criteria. Students who don’t satisfy the compulsory requirements, including prerequisites, are generally not considered for the course.
The third factor often used in selection is an overall measure of how well an applicant performed in their VCE studies compared with all other VCE students. This measure is called the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) and was developed solely for the purpose of tertiary selection. The ATAR is only calculated for students who have completed their VCE and have met tertiary entrance requirements.
Other factors may be considered in selection. The ATAR is not the only mechanism used for tertiary selection, and it is not used for all VCE applicants. Many courses use a range of additional selection mechanisms such as interviews, performance auditions, assessment of folios and tests such as aptitude tests. Other criteria may include specific performance in prerequisite studies or other studies relevant to the course. Applications for special consideration are also taken into account.
All universities are committed to considering around 20 per cent of applicants on a range of criteria broader than just the ATAR. TAFE institutes and independent tertiary colleges normally use a range of criteria, including the ATAR and interviews, and generally do not select mainly on the ATAR.
Should I change my preferences?
Change of Preference
After the release of VCE results and ATAR, you have the opportunity to reconsider your course preferences prior to the first round of tertiary offers.
The change of preference period allows time for you to consider your options based on your results, as well as to consider your preferences based on feedback from interviews, folio presentations and auditions.
Preferences can be changed as many times as you like, free of charge, up until the closing date.
There is a Change of Preference deadline for VCE (including VCAL) students on 4th January 2021. International VCE applicants have different deadlines, which are outlined on the VTAC website.
Should I change my preferences?
If you decide to change your preferences, make sure you have considered all your options.
Before you decide to make a change, here is a checklist you can follow:
- Check for courses that have been added or cancelled since you lodged your application by using the list on the VTAC website.
- Investigate all of your course options by using VTAC CourseSearch on the VTAC website (vtac.edu.au):
- Filter your search by keyword, institution, qualification level and more
- Check the course entry for last year’s lowest selection rank (where available) to find out whether your results are in the ballpark for consideration this year
- Carefully read the selection criteria to make sure that you meet any prerequisites, and have completed any selection requirements such as submitting a folio or arranging an interview.
- Make sure you save your new preferences before the closing date.
How to change your preferences
To change your preferences, log in to your VTAC account through the VTAC website using your VTAC ID and VTAC PIN and list your preferences in the order in which you wish to take each course, not the order that you think you will be offered a place. Remember, you only get one offer per round, which is from the highest preference that makes you an offer.
If you are happy with your preferences as they are, there is no need to change them.
Forgotten your VTAC PIN? Click on the ‘lost PIN’ link on the front page of the website and follow the prompts.
Can’t remember your VTAC ID? You can request this from the login page.
Changing your preferences between offer rounds
You will have the option of changing your preferences between offer rounds, but it is important to get your preferences right before the January deadline to ensure you maximise your offer potential in the January round. This is because the vast majority of course offers are made in January, and there are no guarantees in future rounds. You might still receive an offer in February, but very popular courses may have filled all of their places in the January round.
What are my options?
After results have been released, you may have questions about what your options are from here.
First things first: don’t panic. If you haven’t received the ATAR you expected, there are other ways to get into the course you always wanted to do.
Talk to your school careers counsellor
They may be able to provide you with some ideas or suggestions that you haven’t thought about. Your careers teacher will be able to offer you some guidance about what to do during change of preference.
Attend one of the many change of preference days offered by VTAC institutions
Many of the institutions participating with VTAC host a range of information and change of preference seminars, workshops and hotlines. These are a great opportunity to see what new courses have been made available and to discuss your course options.
Check out the VTAC website for a complete list later in the year.
Many institutions offer alternative pathways into study programs
If you didn’t do as well as you hoped, there are still options.
If you have a subject that interests you or a preferred course or institution you wish to attend, you can call the institution and chat about pathways into your desired course. For example, an institution may offer a Diploma that could be used to enter an associated Bachelor Degree later down the track.
Pathway programs are designed to be another entry into tertiary study; you can enter from various points and exit when you have achieved your desired goal.