Australian Curriculums - ATAR vs. IB

Updated: May 22, 2021


ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) is the standard measure of a student's overall academic achievement compared 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.

The ATAR is a course that is taken in year 12 and is accompanied by a preliminary course in year 11. Marks from the preliminary course are not counted towards the final ATAR. For students who excel, the preliminary course can be taken in year 10, allowing for the final year course to either be studied for longer or taken early.

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


IB (International Baccalaureate Diploma Program) is an international education system that was founded in Switzerland but is used around the world. The diploma is accepted by almost all universities and colleges and spans over two years.

Subject wise, the IB is very structured. You must choose six subjects, three at standard level and the other three at a high level; English, maths, a foreign language, a science, a society subject and a chosen subject. There are three independent research projects/essays required in addition to these six subjects.

Nothing is scaled in this program.


  • 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 is graded over 2 years, lessening the stress in year 12 but still requiring a strong focus in year 11.

Chesney Baillie - Editor