ATAR changes – student information
From 2025, changes are being made to how the ATAR is calculated. Find out what students need to know.
From 2025, all courses with an HSC examination will be eligible for inclusion in the ATAR calculation. This will now include the following subjects which were previously Category B:
- Business Services
- English Studies
- Entertainment Industry
- Financial Services
- Human Services
- Information and Digital Technology
- Mathematics Standard 1
- Primary Industries
- Retail Services
- Tourism Travel and Events.
This change will come into effect for Year 10 students making subject selection decisions in 2023, who will sit exams and attain an ATAR in 2025. It will not apply to students undertaking accelerated or compressed curriculum in Year 11 in 2024.
Students can choose their subjects knowing that any course with an HSC exam can count towards their ATAR.
The ATAR is one way that universities make decisions about offers to undergraduate study for school leavers.
Universities consider the alignment of HSC courses to undergraduate standards in determining whether a course can be included in an ATAR. To now, this has meant that universities have divided HSC courses into two categories – A and B – with limits on the amount of category B subjects that can be included in an ATAR.
NSW universities recognise that education has changed a lot in the last 20 years. Many category B courses have rigour, complexity, and requirements that are likely to set a student up for success in university study. For this reason, universities have determined to abolish course categorisation.
For example, Electrotechnology and Financial Services have similarities to parts of mathematics, physics, and other subjects, including problem-solving, analysis, and written expression. Students who do well in these courses are likely to have the skills, knowledge, and mindset that would be associated with success in further study at university.
Industry Curriculum Framework courses, Mathematics Standard 1, and English Studies have optional examinations. The results of these examinations can be used to calculate a student's performance relative to their peers in determining an ATAR.
The subjects students choose to study in Years 11 and 12 should match their interests, strengths, and future aspirations.
Research shows that students who study a range of subjects tend to do well generally, because they develop a range of skills, knowledge, and capabilities that can be applied to future vocational or higher education, and future employment.
HSC requirements are not affected by this change.
The HSC and the ATAR
The Higher School Certificate(HSC) is the NSW school-leaving credential. It is a certificate that lists a student's performance in the subjects they studied and is the highest level of attainment they can reach at school.
To receive the HSC, a student must complete an eligible pattern of study. This includes 2 units of English, 3 courses of 2 or more units, and at least 4 subjects. NESA’s advice for students choosing HSC courses has more information.
HSC results show a student’s performance in each subject, including school assessments and HSC examination results. The band shows the standard they have achieved compared to the band descriptors for that subject. HSC results are comparable in the same course, but not across courses, because the band descriptors for each course are different.
The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is a rank, not a mark, and it’s one way universities decide course offers for school leavers. The ATAR shows a student’s position relative to all students in their age group, regardless of which courses they studied for their HSC. The ATAR is meant to show a students’ readiness for university study.
The ATAR is calculated using scaled results from 2 units of English and a student's next 8 best-examined units in Year 12.
The Universities Admissions Centre has more information on the ATAR.
Calculating an ATAR
Just as raw HSC marks are moderated and aligned to band descriptors by NESA to calculate a final HSC result for each subject, raw HSC marks are scaled by the University Admissions Centre (UAC) to calculate the ATAR.
Scaling is meant to support the fair comparison of students who take very different combinations of courses. The scaling algorithm estimates what a student's marks would have been if all courses had been studied by all students and all courses had the same mark distribution.
UAC publishes a detailed explanation of how an ATAR is calculated.
Subject scaling will continue to apply to all HSC courses with final exams for ATAR calculations.
Only 240-hour VET courses that are part of an Industry Curriculum Framework can contribute to the ATAR, and only if the optional exam has been taken.
There are currently 13 Industry Curriculum Frameworks that can contribute to the ATAR.
If a student takes more than one examinable Industry Curriculum Framework course in their senior years, each course could count towards their ATAR if they sit the examinations.
However, the normal rules still apply – a student's ATAR will be calculated on 2 units of English, plus their results in the next 8 best units. So, if any result in a VET course is in a student's next best 8 units, then it will count.
School-based apprenticeships or traineeships
A school-based apprenticeship or traineeship (SBAT) combines paid work, training and school; as well as an industry-recognised national qualification, a student will gain credit towards the HSC.
If the VET course associated with the SBAT is from an Industry Curriculum Framework, and a student sits the optional examination, then the student's result could count toward their ATAR.
Students should talk to their careers teacher or year advisor for help in answering any questions and understanding their options for courses in Years 11 and 12.