The ATAR was introduced in NSW and across Australia to standardise university entrance scores for all public universities. The ATAR has replaced the UAI (University Admissions Index) in NSW and other Australian States. It was introduced in late 2009 for the 2010 academic year.
The ATAR is derived from a complex mathematical equation based on several variables that the University Admissions Centre (NSW) uses to give students a rank. This rank is based (amongst other things) on your performance in the HSC. The rank essentially determines if you gain entry into a university course.
A university course cut-off score is not based on how much intelligence you need to undertake the course but simply on supply and demand. If a course in a particular university is very popular the ATAR cut-off score is therefore going to be higher. The same course may be offered in another university for a significantly less ATAR. This may be because the course or the university is not as popular (as seen by prospective students) as the same course in another institution.
Many people ask what is the difference between the courses offered. In some cases very little and in other cases there will be variations. This is where some things can become tricky and guidance is needed by a trained careers counsellor that can help you through the maze of options and provide you with the best alternatives for achieving your career goals.