Does the Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank score (ATAR) predict academic performance in a podiatry course?

Stephanie Russell, George Murley, Matthew Oates, Xia Li, Anita Raspovic


Introduction: Universities within Australia use the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) score to guide student selection into degrees. This process assumes that students with higher ATAR scores are more capable of the academic requirements of tertiary study. This study investigated whether ATAR predicted grades in individual subjects within a university podiatry course. To our knowledge, this research is novel within this discipline in Australia.

Methods: The academic records of four intake cohorts into the podiatry program (2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012; total n = 328) were retrospectively analysed. Whether student ATAR scores predicted grades achieved in each subject was examined using multiple linear regression analysis, with secondary schooling type, entry type, gender, socioeconomic status and year of course commencement considered as potential covariates.

Results: Higher ATAR score was predictive of stronger academic performance in 21 of 29 podiatry subjects, although the strength of the relationship varied from weak to moderate across year level of subject and subject type. The strongest associations were in second year bioscience subjects for Microbiology (r = 0.54, 95% CI: 0.32–0.77), Normal and Pathological Movement (r = 0.52, 95% CI: 0.35–0.66) and Human Bioscience B (r = 0.50, 95% CI: 0.32–0.69). Three of the six clinical subjects (Podiatric Practice A, D and E) did not produce statistically significant associations. 

Conclusion: This study identified that ATAR score moderately predicted grades of biosciences subjects, however it did not predict grades in clinical subjects. Provision of academic support targeted at bioscience subjects may be useful to improve the performance of students with lower ATAR scores. 



Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank; ATAR score; podiatry; podiatry education; secondary education; university education; tertiary education; school admission criteria; academic success; academic performance

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