Some students who receive an ATAR below the advertised minimum ATAR for a course, may still be offered a place.
Other factors are taken into account and they are awarded ‘bonus points’ or adjustment factors which improve their selection ranking.
Selection Rank = Your ATAR + Bonus Points
Your ATAR remains the same even if you get bonus points, only your Selection Rank (SR) changes. If you’re eligible, you will receive different points for different universities and courses.
UAC have a great explanation for how this system works:
For example, course A has six applicants and only three places available. The six applicants have the following selection ranks:
- 99 (ATAR of 99)
- 98 (ATAR of 97 plus 1 bonus point)
- 97 (ATAR of 95 plus 2 bonus points)
- 96 (ATAR of 96)
- 95 (ATAR of 93 plus 2 bonus points)
- 94 (ATAR of 94)
Offers will be made to applicants 1, 2 and 3. Applicant 4 will not receive an offer even though that applicant has an ATAR higher than applicant 3. The cut-off for course A will be 97.
- Between 1 and 5 is the average number of bonus points awarded
- Applying for additional bonus schemes e.g. Elite Athletes and Performers, could increase that number to 10 or more
- Not all courses will award adjustment factors – highly competitive ones such as Medicine and Law are unlikely apply bonus points to applications.
Why do they give them out?
In acknowledgement that some people may have faced obstacles which prevented them from doing as well as they would have without them.
For example, if your mother passed away while you were in Year 11 it would have undoubtedly affected your performance. As these circumstances are outside your control it would be unfair to penalise you, and universities acknowledge that.
Bonus points don’t give a free ride, or lower the bar, they simply acknowledge that not all of us get the same opportunities throughout life.
Students who come from rural areas face barriers in attending events, workshops, experience days, gifted and talented programs, medical specialists and more. They will miss out on opportunities that students in metropolitan areas can access easily, which could have an impact on their ATAR.
A good example is English – if you are studying a play and live in a city, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find a theatre where that play is showing, and be able to see it in person. If you live in a rural area you might only be able to watch the play on a screen.
Sometimes, bonus point schemes recognise that one group of people has been underrepresented in a particular field, and aim to increase the diversity of applicants.
In this case, universities are aware that some groups may face additional barriers, such as unconscious bias, which have affected their ATAR. They may have been encouraged to take easier subjects, and may have fewer role models in their preferred fields.
The truth is that once you’re at university your ATAR becomes largely irrelevant. Once you have graduated, no employer will ask for your ATAR – if they want to see marks they will ask for your university transcripts.
Bonus point schemes simply level the playing field.