A newly released survey by the University of New South Wales’ Gonski Institute for Education shows that almost half of respondents believe the ATAR is unfair.
Two thirds said that universities’ reliance on the ATAR when considering enrolment applications puts unnecessary pressure on Year 12 students, while 80 per cent of respondents believe that universities should consider students’ ability and talents apart from exam results.
Gonski Institute director Adrian Piccoli said that the survey’s findings support existing research suggesting that ATAR results are not the best or most equitable way to assess student ability.
“There is a growing body of work that shows one off exams, which are supposedly meant to measure a student’s whole of school experience, often do not accurately measure their skills, potential or overall ability,” Piccoli said.
“Like NAPLAN, the HSC scores are used to measure a very narrow range of student abilities which, under the current ATAR system, creates an enormous amount of pressure for all those involved.”
Piccoli added that the current ATAR system places significant pressure on schools.
“Schools are also under pressure to ensure their students achieve high ATAR scores. School ranking tables created from Year 12 exam results effect a school’s reputation and this measure doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality of education available at schools but rather how their students performed in various tests,” he said.
The University Admissions Centre (UAC) has defended the ATAR, arguing that it is an efficient and effective measure of student potential.
UAC’s new report, The Usefulness of the ATAR as a Measure of Academic Achievement and Potential, claims that the ATAR is the best available predictor of students’ university success.
The report identified a correlation between students’ ATAR scores and their grade point averages in the first year of university, as well as their likelihood of passing or failing first year subjects.
“We're really pleased that our analysis shows that the ATAR does work,” UAC general manager of marketing and engagement Kim Paino said.
“It cops a lot of flak but it needs to be seen in the context only of university admission, and even in that as being one very useful tool in a much broader ecosystem of ways in which students prove that they deserve a spot at uni.”
UAC’s report notes that the ATAR is not a perfect measure of the “whole student” and that it is “fair and appropriate” for universities to also take other factors into consideration.