Should I be using an ATAR Calculator?

15 days ago   •   3 min read

By Michaela Spiteri


As you near the end of your final year 12 exams, the ATAR becomes a closer reality. Like many, you might have come across the old trusty ATAR calculator: an online tool that predicts your final ATAR based on your expected marks in each subject you are studying.

There is much speculation around the popular tool… what actually is an ATAR calculator? How do they work? Where does the data come from? Are they even accurate? Which calculator should I be using?

We are here to debunk a few of these questions, considering whether the ATAR calculator is a useful tool to use as you approach the ATAR release date.  

What actually is an ATAR calculator?

An ATAR calculator is an online tool that predicts your final ATAR based on expected marks. While there are many calculators on the market, most have two simple functions:

  1. Calculating your ATAR from either your HSC or VCE marks
  2. Calculating the marks needed to obtain your desired ATAR

In each case, the numbers are based on data from previous cohorts and are therefore only estimations. Importantly, the ATAR calculator is not a crystal ball that perfectly predicts your ATAR nor your future. Although the tool is useful to provide some clarity about where you are sitting, ATAR calculators should only be used as a rough guide.

How do they work?

When using the calculator, you can enter your subjects and the marks you expect (or wish) to obtain. The calculator will then simply generate a predicted ATAR.

Alternatively, you can start with your ATAR goal and work backwards, entering the marks you believe are attainable and comparing those to target marks that generate your ATAR goal.

If you are using the tool prior to completing exams, it is important that you focus on strengthening the subjects that need improvement. The calculator can be very helpful in realising that incremental improvements in each subject can significantly boost your ATAR overall.

The data?

The calculations come from historical data based on previous scaling reports. Many calculators will use the data from the previous year to estimate the ATAR you would have received in that year with your current results. With this in mind, you must remember that scaling changes each year based on the performance of the cohort in a given subject.

Another factor that adds to the ambiguity is that you don’t yet know your external exam marks when you are punching the numbers into the calc (as you receive these external marks on the same day as the ATAR release). External marks are obviously based on how you perform on the day so they may very well be higher or lower than your current internal marks. Since you are predicting those external marks, the data obviously won’t be bang on.

So, the calculator will not produce a perfectly accurate result but it will definitely give you some indication that lies in the ballpark of your final ATAR.

Which calculator should I be using?

As you have likely discovered by now, there are many calculators out there, some of which might generate slightly different results (even if that is only 0.5 of a point). Since 0.5 can indeed determine whether or not you make it into your dream university course, it might be useful to use a few different calculators and compare the results. A comparison will help give you a more accurate indication of your possible ATAR. You can try our ATAR calculator here at KIS!

What to do with all of this?

As you continue to punch those numbers in, it is important that you do not remain complacent, even if the calculator indicates that you’ve got this in the bag. In the same breath, do not let it stress you out if the calculator indicates that more work is needed to receive your desired ATAR.

Remember, the valuable time you spend entering (or stressing about) marks can be used to actually study for your subjects to boost your ATAR. While the ATAR calculator might help to motivate you and set individual subject goals, it has no use unless you actually use that motivation to study and improve your results.

If you do feel you need help with how to study for a particular subject, you can book a free 30 minute study skills consultation with us.

When approaching your final exams it is so essential that you strike a balance. These final exams do not mean that you have to put all other aspects of your life on hold. In fact, exercise, socialising and good sleep is exactly what your brain needs to process all of that information that you have so tirelessly crammed in! In taking the time for yourself and practicing mindfulness, you could choose to make a ritual - stick to that ritual, even on exam days. That ritual might be taking your dog for a walk or simply making your morning coffee.

So, you can continue to use the ATAR calculator but remember that its calculations are by no means perfect. There are many variables at play. Although helpful in offering some sense of guidance, the calculator is only there to provide a general indication of your results. Keep focused on what you have control over. After all, your mindset and study efforts are the things that will translate to your final ATAR.



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