At this point in the year, the question on everybody’s lips is the same – what’s my ATAR going to be? Here to provide the answer comes every student’s favourite post-exam resource: the Matrix ATAR calculator. But hold on a sec. There’s another question that needs asking: just how accurate is the Matrix ATAR calculator? Thankfully, that’s one we can help you out with.
How the ATAR calculator works
The first thing to consider is just how the calculator does its calculating. Let’s have a quick refresher on what exactly the ATAR is. Basically, your ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) is a number between 0.00 and 99.95 telling you where you rank in terms of exam results of your entire year group (statewide).
This means that if, for example, you have an ATAR of 75, 25 per cent of students in your year will have, on average, higher marks than you. What’s also taken into account in this calculation is scaling. The net result of all this – your ATAR – is what Matrix is trying to work out for you.
All you need to do is plug your final exam results into the calculator and it will give you back its estimate of what your final ATAR will look like. Because your final exam results will be scaled and your internal school ones won’t, you’ve got to use your final exam results or else the estimate won’t have a very good chance of being close.
Does the ATAR calculator work?
It… sort of does.
We won’t go into the nuts and bolts of how scaling works, but the basic premise is that a subject is scaled in terms of value according to how well the students taking that subject that year do in their other subjects. The key phrase there being “that year”.
The scaling data changes every year and is only released at the same time as the ATAR results. As a result, ATAR calculators are relying on old data to make their calculations. The estimate you get from them is what your ATAR would have been had you been graduating with those results last year.
Take your result with a pinch of salt
The scaling is unlikely to change enormously each year, so the estimate you get from the calculator is probably going to be close enough to what your final ATAR will look like. But at the end of the day, it’s just that – an estimate. Unfortunately, there’s no way you can say with complete certainty that the number generated by the calculator is going to end up being the number you get in December.
That said, there’s no harm in using the calculator to get a general idea of what your ATAR might end up looking like. And if you are going to use one, the Matrix calculator is probably the best one out there. So long as you can take the estimate with a pinch of salt and not get too attached to it, you should be fine.
At the end of the day, you don’t have too long to wait until the real thing comes along after your exams, but if you really can’t escape the ATAR anxiety, fire up the Matrix calculator. Remember that the number you’ll see on the screen is just a guess and not the real thing, and you’re good to go.
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