(Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank)

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.


Many people have missed out on the ATAR they needed to get into a course at university. This may seem to be the end of the world for some students. But there are viable alternatives to get into university.

Some alternatives may include attending TAFE (studying in a degree link program or a Tertiary Prep Course) or enrolling in a different university or enrolling in a Diploma course within a private tertiary college and then applying for university a year later upon graduating. Some universities run their own private tertiary colleges and entry may be gained to your university of choice via this method. Some of these alternative methods may be costly. You really need to do your homework.

I frequently advise HSC leavers who have missed out on getting the score needed into their course. I’ve provided them with very specific and detailed strategies to use and often enough the students have gained entry into university despite a lower ATAR. These are strategies I’ve attained over the last 15 years as a career counsellor. They will save you a lot of time, angst and money and it won’t involve you going to TAFE.

Choosing the right pathway and the right university course to achieve your career goal or degree is what’s critical. Getting expert advice from a trained career counsellor is what will help you navigate through the range of options to help you get there faster with the least amount of expense.