ATAR changes – School leader and teacher Information

Changes are being made to how the ATAR is calculated. As school leaders and teachers, find out what you 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:

  • Automotive
  • Business Services
  • Construction
  • Electrotechnology
  • English Studies
  • Entertainment Industry
  • Financial Services
  • Hospitality
  • 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.

Decisions taken by the school regarding subject offerings, timetabling, and resourcing remain the responsibility of the school leadership in line with current policies.

The ATAR is one of several ways universities can decide to make offers for admission into undergraduate study. It is used almost exclusively for school leavers transitioning directly into higher education.

The changes have occurred because:

  • Universities have recognised that education has changed a lot in the last 20 years.
  • Many category B courses have the rigour, complexity, and requirements comparable to more traditionally ‘academic’ courses and are likely to set a student up for success at university study.
  • Universities have decided that their previous process of categorising HSC-eligible courses, as either category A or B for the purposes of ATAR, is no longer needed or useful for courses that have an HSC exam.

Resourcing decisions at school

Schools retain responsibility for and oversight of their course offerings and resourcing decisions.

It is possible that, as a result of these changes, student preferences for desired courses may change. Schools should aim to provide a broad curriculum that meets the needs and interests of all students. This may mean looking outside the school to provide options for some students.

Principals should continue to consider working with other schools or external providers of HSC curriculum, particularly in the VET space, to provide the breadth of curriculum to meet their students’ needs and maximise available resources.

HSC requirements

This change will not have any effect on the requirements for the HSC. It is an adjustment to the subjects that can be included in the ATAR, used by universities to consider offers for student entry into undergraduate study.

Other secondary reforms

The NSW Government is reforming the curriculum following reviews into school curriculum and vocational education and training. ATAR reform was recommended by the reviews. However, the ATAR is a university admissions mechanism and not an in-school process.

The new curriculum is being developed by the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) according to the Curriculum Reform timeline.

The department will support public schools through the NSW Curriculum Reform. To follow the latest professional learning, resources and support for teachers and leaders add Keep up to date – Curriculum K-12 to your favourites.

Choosing a pattern of study

Students should be supported to choose subjects that they are good at, have interest in and which support their career goals.

Schools should provide students with high-quality career information and advice that will allow students to make well-informed decisions about their pattern of study. Students should be made aware of the time commitments to various courses including things such as major projects, homework and work placement requirements in VET courses.

A school's overarching career learning program should include:

  • preparation for senior subject selection
  • developing a pathways plan ( Information about pathways planning, and the tools to support that planning) by students to inform their senior subject selection
  • input from a wide range of sources such as employers, university and vocational training providers, subject teachers, NESA, UAC, Careers NSW, student alumni, career taster programs, timetabled career lessons, workplace visits and work experience, attendance at career and job expos, and websites such as myfuture.

This broad range of information sources will help students to create and use a plan to help guide their decision-making, including for senior school subjects, in a way that suits them and their goals.

Advice for students

Students should be assured that there are many pathways to achieving their career goals, and that it is normal for people to change throughout their life and schooling. To make good decisions about senior subject selection, students should be given clear advice around any impact of their subject selections on their post-school destinations.

Advice provided to students must be tailored to support the student’s pathways planning. Students with a clear idea of their post-school destination may need advice as to whether their proposed pattern of study supports that outcome, or whether they should consider alternatives.

Students without a clearly identified career goal should be supported to choose a range of subjects that meet their interests and abilities, and given advice about what that pattern of study could lead to after school.

Skills at school provides information regarding patterns of study that can support a student’s interest in a particular course or industry area, including opportunities to undertake a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship.

Students should be aware that while there is some flexibility in changing subjects over the duration of Stage 6, it is limited. It is best to put effort into developing a pathways plan that can be used as the basis for good subject selection decision-making in Years 9 and 10.

Further information

Support will be offered to teachers throughout 2023, aligned with other important reform activities.


  • Teaching and learning

Business Unit:

  • Skills and Pathways
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