Should we scrap the ATAR? What are the alternative options? Experts comment
Published at The Conversation, Wednesday 3 March
There is little evidence to suggest that a more flexible model is more reliable than ATAR
In the US, school leavers often need much more than their school results when applying for university. Many sit standardised admission tests and submit personal statements to multiple universities.
In Australia, students can apply for many courses at once using ATAR, which just re-uses school results. It’s a very efficient system for students and universities, if it selects well. At the higher levels, ATAR robustly predicts course completion. Less than 10% of 90+ ATAR students drop out.
Auditions and specialised aptitude tests are sometimes used, but 95% of 90+ ATAR students are admitted based on secondary school results (which can include more than ATAR).
ATAR can under-state a student’s true potential. But history suggests that for people with ATARs below 60, four or more of every 10 don’t complete.
Universities are offering alternatives to ATAR, from admissions tests to including personal characteristics in admission decisions. About 30% of under-60 ATAR students are admitted based on something other than secondary education.
Unfortunately, universities rarely provide evidence that these alternatives predict success more reliably than ATAR. The higher education regulator needs to check that universities are genuinely helping students make good post-school choices.