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May 31, 2020, 01:06:43 pm

Author Topic: How is the ATAR calculated?  (Read 703 times)

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Joseph41

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How is the ATAR calculated?
« on: October 24, 2019, 03:49:05 pm »
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Please note that all of the information in this thread is based on my personal interpretation of publicly available documents. There may be inaccuracies. Please feel free to ask questions! To make a post, you will need to be logged in to your ATAR Notes account. If you don't have one, you can register here.

PART 2: HOW IS THE ATAR CALCULATED?
> Part 1: What is the ATAR?
> Part 3: How does inter-subject scaling work?

Howdy! In this thread, I provided a brief overview of what the ATAR is, its function, and how it looks. In this thread, I want to get into the nitty gritty a little more, considering how the ATAR is calculated in Queensland.

HOW IS THE ATAR CALCULATED?:
As you may know, the ATAR considers your best five subjects, after inter-subject scaling (more on this later). You are welcome to study more than five subjects, but your hypothetical sixth subject, seventh subject and so on will not count toward the ATAR. Even with that in mind, people may choose to study more than five subjects for a whole range of reasons: personal interest, as a university or course pre-requisite, so that they don't have to rely solely on five subjects, due to internal school restrictions, so on so forth.

In mere terms of ATAR calculation, though, we only really care about the top five subjects.

THE TERTIARY ENTRANCE AGGREGATE:
To eventually calculate the ATAR, we need to be able to rank students, basically from best overall QCE performance to worst. Now, to do that fairly, there are a few things we have to consider. For example:

> Different students study different subjects.
> Some subjects are more difficult to rank well in than others.

These are very clear concerns, which is precisely why something called inter-subject scaling exists. I'll explain this in detail in another thread, but let's ignore it for now, and assume that any scores we speak of have already been scaled.

You can think of the aggregate sort of like your "total QCE score": it's just your top five subjects added together. As subject scores are out of 100, the maximum possible aggregate is 500 (again remembering that we only consider the top five subjects). So come the end of Year 12, every eligible QCE student achieve an aggregate. Aggregates aren't usually spoken about, as practically their sole purpose is to find the ATAR.

How does that happen? Every single aggregate across the state is ranked from best to worst. Once we have a clear order, the ATAR - which, remember, is a rank rather than a score - can be derived.

HOW ARE SUBJECT SCORES CALCULATED?:
At this stage, we know that the ATAR is a rank, that the ATAR is based on the top five subjects, and that subject scores are out of 100. But how are those individual subject scores actually calculated? I'll break this down briefly into different types of subjects.

General subjects:
Subject scores come from a combination of internal assessments (administered by your school) and an external assessment. For external assessments, every single student in the state sits the same exam at the same time.

In most cases, subject scores for General Subjects come from:

> three internal assessments; and
> one external assessment.

The weighting of these assessments depends on the subject. In general, internal assessments make up 50% of your total subject score for maths and science subjects, whilst internal assessments make up 75% of your total score for other subjects. This means that the external assessment is worth 50% of your total score for maths and subjects, and 25% of your score for other subjects.

If you have a flick through QCAA's website, you'll be able to find what specifically internal assessments will look like for your subjects.

Applied subjects:
Right off the top, it's important to remember that a maximum of one Applied subject can contribute to the ATAR.

For Applied subjects, assessment is 100% internal - there is no external examination. Usually, this means there will be four internal assessments across the year as opposed to three.

VET qualifications:
As with Applied subjects, a maximum of one VET qualification can contribute to the ATAR.

Subject scores for VET qualifications work a little differently. Irrespective of subject matter or duration of the course, all qualifications of the same "level" will contribute in the same way to the ATAR. So all Certificate III qualifications will contribute the same amount, all Certificate IV qualifications will contribute the same amount, all Diploma qualifications will contribute the same amount, and so on. The Certificate III is the minimum level of qualification that can contribute to the ATAR.

At time of writing, it's not known how much each type of qualification will contribute to the ATAR, but we can logically guess that the "higher" the level, the more it will contribute.

But wait - once we find the score out of 100 for each subject, can we just leave it at that? Wouldn't everybody just choose the "easiest" subjects to "game" the system and get better scores?

This is a valid concern. It's why something called inter-subject scaling exists, which I will explain in depth in another thread. :)
« Last Edit: October 25, 2019, 04:19:07 pm by Joseph41 »

Specialist_maths

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Re: How is the ATAR calculated?
« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2019, 08:37:49 pm »
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In mere terms of ATAR calculation, though, we only really care about the top five subjects.
Sorry Joseph, I know you said you're going to explain the scaling process.. but I feel it's important to jump in and clarify for students that they shouldn't assume to know what their top five subjects are. Eg: a score of 60/100 in one subject may scale higher than an 80/100 in a different subject.

In particular, hard subjects like Mathematical Methods may have a low average mark - and since scaling is all about rankings not scores - the low mark may disguise the true value of the score.
Teacher of 2020 Seniors: Specialist Mathematics + Mathematical Methods
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Joseph41

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Re: How is the ATAR calculated?
« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2019, 09:30:36 pm »
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Sorry Joseph, I know you said you're going to explain the scaling process.. but I feel it's important to jump in and clarify for students that they shouldn't assume to know what their top five subjects are. Eg: a score of 60/100 in one subject may scale higher than an 80/100 in a different subject.

In particular, hard subjects like Mathematical Methods may have a low average mark - and since scaling is all about rankings not scores - the low mark may disguise the true value of the score.

No worries at all, and totally agree. :)