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It’s very common in your first year at uni to be disappointed with at least some of your marks. No matter how you did in high school, uni can be a very different style of learning – and this will, naturally suit different people to different lengths. Graduating with an ATAR of 90.00 certainly doesn’t mean you’re going to absolutely ace uni – and nor is the opposite true.

But there are some things you should at least think about when it comes to “bad uni marks” and their impact.


Perceptions can be very different.

Now, we’re not trying to be like those people who go, “oh, 35% is still a really great mark – you should be happy!”, because that’s really annoying to hear. If you’re disappointed with your marks, you’re entitled to that – and nothing we say here is likely to make you go “oh wait, I actually aced that unit I failed – go me!”

But we do want to make it clear that expectations for marks at uni should probably a bit different to expectations at high school.

For example, scores in the high 90s at uni are uncommon. Like, very uncommon.

Getting a High Distinction or an H1 for a unit is a really great achievement, and the cut-off for this is usually around 80+ or 85+ (it changes a little from uni to uni).

bad uni marks

One bad unit probably won’t make a huge difference.

So, the main academic measures at uni are GPA (Grade Point Average) and WAM (Weighted Average Mark) – and not all unis use both of these, so don’t stress if you have no idea what they are.

Let’s say you achieved a 70 in all eight of your first-year units. That would, obviously, result in a WAM of 70.00. But what if you flunked one of those units, and just scraped a pass with a score of 50? What impact would that have? Well, in the situation above, your WAM would drop to 67.5 – not a huge drop. And when you consider you still have several years of your degree to go, and the fact that some universities weight first year units less heavily than other units, this becomes even more negligible.

Of course, the issue comes when the lower marks become habit or the norm. If you feel like that might be you, you might like to cast your eyes over a “how to get High Distinctions” guide, such as this one.


Employers are interested in other things.

This isn’t to say that an employer will have absolutely zero interest in your marks, but it’s certainly the case that it’s not the be all and end all of job applications.

Will you get a job just because you have a perfect GPA and an amazing WAM? Nope.

Studying at university level has basically become the norm, and thousands and thousands of students are graduating with tertiary qualifications – many of whom have great marks. What you need to really stand out are “soft skills”. Things that are transferrable between industries and between jobs. And these are things that don’t come across in the neat little confines of WAMs and GPAs.

If you want a helping hand with your university progress, Uni Notes is here to help you unleash your university success!