Moving from the OP to the ATAR

The structure of Queensland’s education is set for an overhaul in the next year, with the default ranking system shifting from the Overall Position (OP) mark to the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR). With the 2020 changeover date fast approaching, there may be confusion among students and parents about how the ATAR system works. 

The ATAR has been the standard admission pathway to tertiary study around Australia for some time, with Queensland being the last state to move from their own classification structure and adopt the national system. The difference between both is bound to cause some misunderstanding as Queenslanders shift to the national standard – that’s why we’ve produced an OP to ATAR guide that will help you differentiate between these two ranking systems.  

The ATAR is a more precise ranking

The best way to describe an OP is that it is a banded result, while the ATAR is an exact measurement of a student’s ranking in relation to their state or territory’s cohort. Students receive a specific score between 0.00 and 99.95 at increments of 0.05, while the OP system represents a student’s score as their position in a broad band that ranges from OP1 (highest possible band) to OP25 (lowest attainable band). 

Because the OP provides a less defined indication of how an individual’s score compares to others, it does not provide university admissions boards with a clear illustration of who is truly above and well below the cut-off mark for each course. 

The eligibility criteria is different

To have been able to receive an OP at the end of their secondary schooling, Queensland students have had to sit the Queensland Core Skills Test (QCST) in tandem with completing their Year 12 studies. It is a different case with the ATAR – students are required to complete a certain number of units in a combination of compulsory and elective subjects. That being said, the finer points of ATAR eligibility does vary by state. 

Teacher assessment methods will change 

Previously, Queensland teachers have had to meet with their peers to compare, examine, moderate and adjust student assignments and study scores. In the ATAR system, teachers use assessments that have already been pre-verified by their state’s curriculum authority, while the end-of-year exams are moderated and marked by this external authority. 

Speaking of end-of-year exams…

Queenslanders have been fortunate enough to skip the curse of end-of-year exams until now. Rather than sitting the QCST alongside their general studies, students will now need to combine school-based forms of assessment with end-of-year exams in each of their subjects. 

ATAR is more individualised, while the OP is cohort dependent 

A student’s ATAR is a combination of both their school-based and exam results, with 50 per cent of their mark being derived from internal assessments while the other half rests solely on their end-of-year exams. This external assessment can help to offset any ramifications from the performance of the student’s school cohort, so their mark stands as an individual spot in a queue rather than a reflection of their school’s wider effort. 

The Core Skills test element of the OP is measured by cohort, so schools are ranked according to their results in this test. This means that students who are bright but attend a lower achieving school could see their OP mark being dragged down by the performance of their wider cohort. 

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