The UAC announced earlier this month that the UAI system will be replaced by the ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank). The conversion of UAI to ATAR aligns NSW’s system of measuring HSC performance for the purpose of university admissions to that of other states. The ATAR will replace all UAI’s, starting with the year 12 students in 2009, and will be a rank-based score out of 99.95 (instead of 100.00).
How will the ATAR affect me? The ATAR is a similar (but not identical) rank-based scale used to differentiate student performance for the purpose of university admissions. Like the UAI, the ATAR is a rank-based index, meaning the same rules of HSC scaling would apply under the ATAR.
Students should remember that just like under the UAI system, it is your rank relative to other HSC students which determine what ATAR / UAI you will receive. That is, based on your aggregate mark (out of 500), your percentile position will be calculated, and this will be directly converted into an ATAR. As a result, the number will change when converting from UAI to ATAR, however your rank remains the same. As a result, university ATAR cut-offs for all courses will be converted to match the previous equivalent rank cut-off.
For example, say Bachelor of Commerce at UNSW has a UAI cut-off of 90.00. Say this translates to a rank cut-off at the 8,800th student from the top rank. The ATAR cut-off would be adjusted to match the rank, and not be converted according to some arbitrary process. E.g. according to UAC’s published UAI to ATAR conversion table, a UAI of 90 converts to an ATAR of 90.80.
Converting from UAI to ATAR score
Read UAC’s full conversion table here.
Because both the UAI and the ATAR are rank-based scores, they are directly comparable to previous years’ UAI scores. So if you have an older brother or sister and want to best them in the HSC, the implementation of the ATAR system won’t affect that! Notice that the highest attainable ATAR is 99.95 (instead of a UAI of 100). As a result, UAI’s near 100 (above 99.7) are converted to a slightly lower ATAR score, and all UAI’s lower than 99.2 are converted to a slightly higher ATAR. For the vast majority of students, this makes their university entrance score look slightly better! However, again we remind you that your rank is not affected by these changes, and therefore the difference in numbers between the ATAR and UAI make no difference to you.
With most students having their HSC trials coming within a week or two, and with the actual HSC exams coming within a few weeks, good exam preparation skills are important if you want to ace your exams! Following are some general & important tips on what you can do to help yourself through this stressful period.
Big tip 1: Don’t let the stress get to you
As students approach the end of year 12, their stress levels approach seemingly unbearable levels (like a limits question in maths!). But as a student in year 12, it’s important not to lose perspective. If you are currently in year 12, we would like to remind you of some bare facts about your current situation:
1. You will survive this, as did all previous year 12 students.
You will get through your exams, regardless of whether you did wonderfully or badly, and your life will continue. Whether you move onto university (which most of you will) or other paths, there’s a whole lifetime of activities, challenges and experiences waiting for you. This leads onto the next point:
2. No matter what you may think, you are overestimating the significance of the HSC.
Think about it this way: after the first 2 weeks of university, no-one would be talking about what UAI or ATAR score you achieved. This probably would end after the first few days! Your ATAR would be so insignificant and inconsequential to your university life and career into the future that when you look back, you would laugh at how stressed and how seriously you took your HSC. Even highly successful students who manage to achieve a 99+ UAI or ATAR would find that their amazing achievement becomes inconsequential when we look at the bigger picture of their entire lives ahead. This leads onto the next fact:
3. Don’t stress if you can’t get the ATAR you need.
Say you need an ATAR of 95+ for your dream course, but from the way things are heading, your chances aren’t too promising. This is no reason to stop trying altogether, or to lose hope either. You should still try your absolute best to maximise your ATAR, but also you should be aware that transferring into your dream course (or your dream university) once you finish your HSC is generally much less competitive than gaining a place outright through getting a high ATAR score.
With all that said, it is important to put in your best efforts in preparing for your exams, because your ATAR will count towards determining whether you get a university transfer.
Big tip 2: Don’t procrastinate This sounds pretty obvious, but procrastination is probably the single biggest problem facing the majority of students. Most students are definitely smart enough to get the high ATAR score they want or need. But the biggest obstacle to most is procrastination. Students need to understand that they need to take things seriously (but not to the point of stressing out: see tip 1) and do the things they need to do. Generally, this means a few things:
1. Start now!
If you know you need to study for a certain exam that is x days away, start now! It is in our human nature to make up excuses like “I will start tomorrow” or “I will start after this weekend” or “Today will definitely be my last day not studying”. Ask yourself this: do you accept the fact that eventually you will need to start? Well if yes, why not now?
2. Plan ahead.
Budgeting for time can be tricky when we have mere weeks or days before a major exam like the trials or the actual HSC. We suggest it is highly important to budget for the time you have left. You should ask yourself: how many days do I have in total? How many days do I NEED for exam A? What about exam B?
Budget your time according to what you think your strengths and weaknesses are. If you are weak in English, spend more time on that, rather than your other subjects. However, never totally neglect any subject. Good time budgeting leads on from the first point of starting now, because once you map out how you can spend the days you have left before your big exam(s), you may realise you need to start right now!
Big tip 3: Study smart! Effective study comes differently for different students: it mainly comes down to personal preference. Some study techniques which work for one student may not work as well for another, but the tip here is to find out what techniques and resources work best for you, and incorporate them in your study.
The obvious way to study is to sit down and read the textbook (for sciences), do many practice exercises and past papers (for maths) and write many practice essays (for English). This works very well on its own, if you can stick to a plan and self-study. However, not all can self-study as effectively as they need to. Below are some suggestions on ways you can improve your self-study:
1. Use your friends to your advantage.
Pick a few friends who are motivated to do well in their exams. Keep in touch with them throughout your study period. Discuss topics in subjects you both do, asking each other questions and making sure your knowledge of each subject is sound and complete.
2. Use the syllabus to your advantage.
Some subjects (like Chemistry, Physics and Biology, as well as some social sciences like Economics) are heavily syllabus-based. A good study technique is to write brief summary notes for each dot-point, going through the entire HSC syllabus yourself before your exams. This is the most complete method of revising those subjects, as exam questions can only be set according to what is contained within the syllabus. 3. Use teachers to your advantage.
Teachers play a bigger role in some subjects more than others. For example, in English, we recommend writing practice essays to cover the broad topics like the main themes in your Area of Study, or module text. Write as many as you can, and have them marked! Ask for feedback from your teachers. Good teachers would be happy to help their students, especially nearing big exams.
Good luck to all students!