Q&T: Tristian counsels a student disappointed with their ATAR

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3 responses to “Q&T: Tristian counsels a student disappointed with their ATAR

  1. Christ what a lot of bozforric. That sounds like Korean stereo instructions. I’m 62 and matriculated in 1970. Got uni entrance but couldn’t / didn’t go. NO MONEY. No free uni in 1971. So I went and got a shit job that paid heaps – dumping wool bales to send to Japan. Then I got about 25 other shit jobs including office and computer work until I retired. Why would you compare me doing English Lit to every body else who did English Lit and chemistry. Is this to equalise the unequal or unequalise the incomparable. When I did it I passed English. Only marked til they got to 51% and got b’s in everything else. Average intelligence, Meyers Briggs ISTJ.

  2. Hey Tris, it’s worth noting that subjects are not “marked up” or down arbitrarily. The distribution of marks in each subject is adjusted to reflect the standardised results of the groups of students taking each subject. The most obvious example is the adjustment for different maths subjects. Getting an average mark in a university level maths subject warrants a higher rating than getting an average mark in a foundational maths subject.

    So how about Visual Arts vs Chemistry then? The general technique for adjusting each subject is to compare the groups of students doing each subject with respect to their performance in other subjects. So if Chemistry students tend to do better in English, Maths, History, etc than the cohort of students doing Visual Arts, it will have a higher ATAR rating – on average. Note: doing “hard” subjects is only useful if you get a decent result. Getting a high mark in Art will always beat flunking Chemistry with respect to your ATAR, will be more rewarding and less stressful. So all students should do the subjects they feel genuinely interested in, unless they are particularly driven to score the highest ATAR possible and don’t need to enjoy a subject to be motivated. I guess one of the realities of subjects like Visual Arts is that it will appeal to students with a highly creative personality, who may then focus more of their time and energy into that one area, and make less of an effort in the traditional, so-called “academic” subjects. As a result marks in those creative subjects are treated less favourably by ATAR scaling. This may not be an issue for students who want to pursue artistic avenues in further education or work, where they will be more likely judged according to their portfolio of work rather than a general academic ranking. FYI – I used to teach HSC Maths (up to 4-unit) in a NSW public school. I received a first-round offer to study Medicine at Melbourne, but chose instead to do a BA at UNSW majoring in Eng.Lit. and Pure Math. As a result I don’t drive a Mercedes convertible or ski in Switzerland. But I do get to live with a mind expanded by the amazing lecturers I was lucky enough to sit under, including the late Peter Alexander. I reckon it’s a more than fair trade off.

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