ATAR Scaling News Flash: How you play sport now determines your ATAR score


Just imagine tomorrow, there’s an announcement the ATAR will now solely be determined by your ability to play a single sport. 

We always knew Australia was sports mad. Now we have proof.

Not only have we recognised that sport is singularly the most important aspect of Australian life, we have now institutionalised it - in terms of how students are accepted into tertiary studies. Your ATAR will from now on be determined based on how good a sports player you are compared with all other students in Australia. 

At your school you have the choice of playing volleyball, hockey, soccer or table tennis.

You’re determined to become a doctor and you know you need to get a high ATAR to be accepted into a medicine degree at university.

It’s self-evident…

to get a top ATAR you need to play the game you’re best at – so you choose volleyball.

You also understand to get the highest ATAR you have to be the best player compared to other players.

So here’s the thing,

·        it’s not the actual scores your team gets in the volleyball games played against other schools that gives you your ATAR,

·        it’s how you are ranked as a player, not only against other volleyball players at your school,

·        but also your ranking overall against all other students playing any sport – regardless of whether they are playing volleyball, or badminton (which other schools play but isn’t offered at your school), football, hockey, golf, lacrosse etc.

So - not only do you need to be the best volleyball player, you also need to be the best player - period. This is because you’re being compared to all other players no matter what sport, in being judged the best player.

So it goes without saying you’re going to choose volleyball – because you’re complete rubbish at soccer, you can’t run to save yourself so hockey’s out and you need reflexes like a cat for table tennis.

Easy – volleyball it is.

The next question though is tough.

Volleyball has different grades and you now have to consider whether you want to compete in A Grade, B Grade or C Grade volleyball. How do the different grades of volleyball influence your ability to be ranked the best sports player of students in Australia?

You know you’re a reasonable volleyball player but you’re not a superstar – so which grade? The answer is based on thinking through where you are likely to be ranked against other players playing each grade of volleyball.

Sport in Australia is nothing without statistics – so you go and look up the information.


What do the curves say about how well you have to go as a player to get the best scaled ATAR mark?

If you choose to go into C Grade volleyball you need to be the absolute best – ranked at the top 99th percentile of all volleyball players (top 1%) to get a scaled ATAR mark of 45. If you’re average (at the 50th percentile) which means you out-perform 50% of other C Grade volleyball players you will get a scaled ATAR mark of 22.

If, however, you choose A Grade volleyball, you only need to be in the 50th percentile (top 50%) of all volleyball players to get the same study score of 45 as you would if you were the top volleyball C Grade player.

Hmmm, tough. A Grade is after all a lot harder than C Grade.

So think carefully about which grade you want to compete in because it’s all about how well you go against other players that determines whether you’ll get the scaled ATAR mark you need to get into university.

So this raises the question what’s the point of scoring games and how does this relate to your scaled ATAR mark?

Volleyball, hockey, soccer and table tennis are all scored. How otherwise would you work out which teams have won which games? The scores, however across volleyball, hockey, soccer and table tennis (and other sports) can’t be directly compared. The only way to compare is to convert the scores into a scaled mark.

The way the scores are converted into a scaled mark for each player is complex as it needs to ensure all players in Australia, regardless of

·     the game they play and

·     the team they played for (school they go to)

can be compared and ranked against each other as indicated by their scaled ATAR mark.

So what is ATAR scaling and how does it relate to your ATAR score?

In this example and to continue the analogy, different sports have different scoring systems so it’s not possible to compare a score in a soccer game with an AFL football score as they are on different scales.

To compare these scores need to be adjusted, not only to have the same assessment but also to ensure all players are able to be compared regardless of what sport they play and the team they play for.

The ATAR is the assessment of how you as a player are ranked against other players - not influenced by the sport you play or the team you play for. Scaling is used to make sure the assessment is on an equal basis. So it’s not whether a soccer score is scaled more than a table tennis score.

What you need to think about when choosing subjects

Decide which subjects you want to do based on what you’re interested in and what you’re good at.

There’s no point in choosing to play soccer based on the understanding that score is significantly scaled, if you have no soccer playing ability.

Make sure you work out which university degrees you want to apply for and from this determine the required prerequisite subjects.

When you have decided which sport (subject) you’re going to play, you can take the scaling into consideration. In doing this you need to think through how good a player you need to be against other players in that sport (and by extension all other players in all sports). In this you need to determine how likely you are to be rated a sufficiently good player to out rank others and from this to achieve a certain mark. Are you:

  • likely to be the top ranked player in a lower level grade?

  • a mediocre player in a higher level grade? 

In each case what is the likely scaled mark you might achieve?


It’s not about whether or not a subject is scaled, it’s all about studying something you’re good at and your level of competitiveness in doing this. 



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Further information

You can find information about the subject prerequisites for each medicine degree and degrees leading to medicine at all Australian universities in the University Details in the navigation tab (subscription fee applies). You can access this here

The 10 Step Application Guide provides information about how to apply for medicine degrees in Australia.

There is more detailed discussion about options and considerations in securing a place in a medical degree in the FAQ and AMA section.

See the deadline section for summary application deadline information for the most recent month. Detailed monthly deadline information (updated each month and provided in a downloadable format) is also available (access this through the Sign Up button above - a subscription fee of initial $5 then $5 per month applies).

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is a highly credible resource where you can find detailed advice. See either the AMA and FAQ section or follow these links further to the AMA (the AMA also links back to Study Medicine).

There is also helpful information information provided by State Admission Centres (VTAC, UAC etc) as well as universities directly.



Study Medicine information has been compiled from Australian university and other reputable public information sources and therefore is a guide. Authoritative information is provided by the university only. Make sure you obtain information directly from the university before making any decisions. 

The above information is intended to help you understand common medical degree application terms. Remember, information can always change, so ensure you keep up to date by regularly checking directly with the appropriate university.