ATAR or IB – What should you choose?

ATAR or IB – What should you choose?

It’s that time of year when year twelve are graduating, year eleven are preparing for their final year and year ten are getting ready to enter one of the programs available to them. Many high school students are at crossroads as to what pathway they should take; ATAR or IB. This is not an easy decision to make. You need to consider your strengths, what you will enjoy more and what you hope to get out of the program. This article will guide you through essential knowledge about the two, very different programs.


ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) is the standard measure of a student’s overall academic achievement in relation to other students in the country. Each state has a slightly different variation of the program (HSC, VCE, QTAC). This system is unique to  Australia. 

Students in year 12 take the ATAR course. The year 11 preliminary course accompanies this. The final ATAR does not consider marks from the preliminary course. Students who excel can take the preliminary course in year 10. This allows for the final year course to be studied for longer.

The only subject that is compulsory to receive an ATAR is English, worth 2 units. Subjects of your liking can fill the remaining 8 units (a total of 10 goes towards your ATAR). All subjects are offered at a standard level and advanced level. Because of such varying levels of difficulty, each subject is scaled. Your final mark is compared with other students to produce your final ATAR. 


IB (International Baccalaureate Diploma Program) is an international education system. This system was founded in Switzerland and is used around the world. Almost all universities and colleges accept the diploma which spans over two years. 

The IB has very structured subjects. You must choose six subjects, three at standard level and the other three at high level; English, maths, a foreign language, a science, a society subject and a chosen subject. The program requires three independent research projects/essays in addition to these six subjects.

This program does not scale it’s marks.


  • The IB is good for international study while the ATAR is better if you plan to study in Australia. Having said this, it is not impossible to study abroad with an ATAR. 
  • ATAR allows you to study subjects you are good at and enjoy. It also provides an opportunity to specialise. IB gives a more rounded education which is helpful in achieving prerequisites for universities internationally. 
  • ATAR is what most people will take in Australia. If you thrive with a good study network and love to bounce ideas off others, this is a great option for you. IB will have fewer people taking it, this equates to more personal student teacher ratios. 
  • ATAR is one year long which puts more stress on that year but less stress on year 11. IB requires a strong focus in year 11 and less stress in year 12. This is because it is graded over 2 years.

Check out how to write effective study notes here

To learn more about the IB system, click here


what do you want to be when you grow up? and, which do you think you’ll choose?

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