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The facts about your child's ATAR/OP

Girl wearing backpack holding textbooksNot only does December mark the end of the year, Christmas and summer holidays — it is also the month for Year 12 final results! Students in Victoria and New South Wales can expect to receive their Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) on 15 and 18 December respectively, while Queensland students will be notified of their Overall Position (OP) on 20 December. With these dates rapidly approaching, it’s likely you’ll have a few questions about your child’s final results and where they lead.

How are ATARs/OPs calculated?

Both the ATAR and OP are ranks that show where your child sits in relation to the rest of their Year 12 state cohort. Students in New South Wales and Victoria are awarded an ATAR, which is a percentile rating from 0.00 to 99.95. If a student is awarded an ATAR of 80.00 it means that they performed better than 80 per cent of their cohort and are in the top 20 per cent of students. In Queensland, students are placed in one of 25 OP bands, with OP1 being the highest and OP25 the lowest. In New South Wales and Victoria, ATARs are calculated based on a combination of results from work completed at school, as well as the student’s performance in HSC or VCE exams. In Queensland, students do not take state-wide exams for each subject and results are based entirely on assessment completed as part of the subject at school. The Queensland Core Skills (QCS) test, completed by all students in the state, is used to scale results between different subjects and schools.

Where can they lead?

ATARs and OPs are used for admission into tertiary study. If your child’s score is at or above the cut-off score for their course of interest, they will receive an offer (provided they meet the prerequisites for the course). If your child’s score doesn’t make the cut-off for their first preference, they will then be considered for their second, third, fourth preference and so on until they are eligible for an offer.

What if my child’s score is too low?

If your child’s ATAR or OP is not quite what they hoped, they should consider alternative pathways. Their school career adviser is the best point of contact, as are advisers at institutions of interest. There are various pathways on offer, such as starting out in a lower qualification (a diploma from the VET sector, for instance) or applying to a lower-demand university. Even if your child’s score is lower than the cut-off score from the previous year for their desired course, they should still keep it as a preference as cut-off scores do change between years.

What if it's really high?

If your child’s ATAR or OP is in the top range of students, then it’s time to celebrate! A high score increases the likelihood that they’ll receive an offer for their first preference, but again there is no guarantee as cut-offs change each year. If your child sold him or herself short during the application stage, they may want to reconsider some of the courses they may have dismissed originally; however, it’s important to keep in mind that a high score doesn’t mean they have to pursue a degree in an area such as medicine or law.

What if they want to take a gap year?

Students planning on taking a gap year should still apply for their course of interest as though they were beginning it the following year. They can then just defer their offer by one year once they receive their offer in January. If they change their mind about study during their gap year, there is no commitment to the course — they can simply choose not to re-enrol and will face no financial penalty apart from the application fee.

If you’re worried about your child’s productivity during a gap year, you might suggest that they do some travel, volunteer in their community or take on a full-time job to boost their savings.

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