Tips for achieving your ATAR goal
Getting a high ATAR is no mean feat. It takes a lot of hard work, and at times the challenge can feel overwhelming. Although it’s not the be-all and end-all (there are always other options), getting a high ATAR can mean you’ll have more choice when it comes to selecting a course and taking your next step into tertiary education and medical school. And there are some easy, simple and practical things you can be doing right now that will make a huge difference to the way you study, and therefore, your marks.
Firstly, let’s understand what the ATAR is. The ATAR (which stands for the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank), is a rank, not a mark. It is a number between 0.00 and 99.95 that indicates a student’s position relative to all other students in that age group, in their state. So, for example, if you achieve an ATAR of 90 in NSW, you are in the top 10 per cent of all students in your age group in NSW.
Universities use ATAR rankings as admissions criteria for their courses. Most universities also look at what subjects you’ve studied, so it’s a good idea to look at university course requirements when selecting your subjects for Year 11 and 12. Subjects are also scaled using the mean scores and distribution marks of that subject - so subjects such as Mathematics Extension and Physics traditionally scale well because of this. If you’re unsure about what subjects to take, it’s always wise to speak to your school careers advisor.
Once you’ve selected your subjects and you’re on your way to getting your ATAR, here are some practical tips to help you achieve the best mark you can get.
1. Routine is everything
Establish a routine by setting aside time each day for study and revision and stick to it. Try to start and finish at the same time each day, which will help you have some stability in your day. Make sure you don't finish too late at night, either - sleep is key to memory and focus!
2. Create a study environment that fosters productivity
We know how tempting it is to have a quick scroll through Instagram (which, let's face it, is never quick), or turn on Netflix to 'have on in the background' when you're meant to be studying. Set up your study space away from the TV and other distractions and make sure the space is well lit and ventilated, to keep you feeling fresh and focused. Everyone studies best in their own way; decide how you study best and go with that.
3. Set a timetable.
Get super organised with a study timetable (you can download a free one here)! You should plan to cover all your subjects in an organised way, allotting the appropriate time for each subject without becoming overwhelmed.
4. Set a goal and reward yourself
Set yourself a goal for your study session (e.g. to finish your draft essay) and after you’ve achieved that goal, reward yourself. It might be something small, like playing some music, or maybe you could spend time with friends or go out and get a coffee.
5. Start study early
Mariam Al Asaad, an Australian student who graduated last year with an ATAR of 97.6, says she saved herself a huge amount of time in Year 12 by starting study early.
“In Year 10, I asked my teachers which parts of the Year 10 syllabus will also appear in Year 12. I highlighted those parts, and made sure that I learned them really well in Year 10. This trick has allowed me to save at least 20 hours’ worth of study for each Year 12 subject.”
Mariam used her holiday time to write notes for one syllabus dot point for each subject each day, which she says only took her 15 minutes for each subject.
“By doing so you will save so much time during the term which will allow you to do assessment tasks, learn your notes and will give you so much time to relax.”
If you don’t start things in Year 10, that’s ok - just don’t leave things until the last minute. Be prepared, don’t cram. Cramming = stress. Don’t wait until two days before your exam to prepare and attempt to learn an entire chapter or term. Break the material into smaller, manageable chunks and your future self will thank you.
6. Test yourself and test yourself again.
Ask your parents or family members to quiz you on what you have learnt, use draft questions from books, past assessments, or major exam papers. You can never do too many practice tests!
7. Look after yourself
Drink plenty of water, and eat healthy foods. Your body and your mind will thank you for it. Keep sugary foods to a minimum and make sure you get enough sleep each night (8-10 hours is recommended). Regular physical exercise makes you feel great, boosts your energy and helps you relax.
8. Ask for help when you need it
Remember, no question is a silly question. Support is available, whether it’s from your teachers, parents, friends or online study support services, such as Studiosity. If you also need support with the medical school admissions process check out this timeline and access these free resources.
Sophia Gardner is the Student Experience Manager at Studiosity, an online study support service providing 24/7 personalised study help to students around the globe.