Why we are not defined by an ATAR


Amid the excitement and media coverage with the release of Year 12 results, another story gathers more recognition each year… “you are not defined by your ATAR”.

The article below from Year13 unpacks that story in a sensible and positive manner. An important read for all parents and students.


With all the pressure to get an ATAR, it can feel like your entire life is revolving around a single number. After a year’s worth of assignments and assessments, it can seem like who you are will become defined solely by how well you rank against everyone else.

Let me tell you the truth though- all the rankings, final marks and percentages don’t have to ability to change anything if you don’t let them. There are aspects of you that can’t be changed by any report card or final exam: your ability to succeed, your kindness, your intelligence, your relationships and your sense of adventure. Here’s why your ATAR won’t change a thing:

  1. Your family and friends won’t care

Your friends and family will still be there regardless of your ATAR; that one ranking doesn’t change who you are to them. Sure, you might have to deal with your entire family asking how you went but once the excitement dies down, you’ll realise that regardless of what you got, it won’t change what people think of you. Even if you think that mum or dad are a little disappointed, at the end of the day that’s their problem, not yours, and no matter what happens they’ll still stick by your side.

  1. It’s not an indicator of your ability to succeed

Turns out your ATAR is by no means a reflection on your ability to succeed. It seems trite to tell you that the ATAR doesn’t matter because right now, it probably feels like it does. But it’s important to know that an ‘embarrassing’ ATAR and even an ‘amazing’ ATAR will not indicate how well you will do in life. Many millionaires didn’t finish high school. Your ability to succeed is determined by your motivation, your drive and your ambitions.

  1. Your ATAR doesn’t define your intelligence

Standardised testing and academic institutions that are built around a one size fits all model make it seem like your school marks are the only measure of your intelligence. When we sit our exams or hand in our assignments, we are all expected to be academically minded and if you can’t write a killer essay in forty minutes or know how to structure a long answer question- then the system tells you you’re not intelligent.

But the truth is, you are good at something and your talents in other areas are just as important as any academic abilities. Don’t let school tell you that you are somehow lesser because your talents can’t be worked out with a formula or marked after a two-hour exam. Don’t let yourself think that because your abilities can’t be measured on a marking rubric, then collated and compared, that they’re not important or that you’re less any intelligent.

  1. It won’t stop you from experiencing amazing opportunities

Your ATAR won’t stop you from travelling the world or packing your bags and camping on the beach. It won’t stop you from learning a new skill or taking a million photos or making memories with your friends. It won’t stop you from getting into uni (there’s so many back doors and alternative pathways) and it’s not going to stop you from landing your dream job later down the line.