REVEALED: Roma’s top 5 ATAR students share secrets to success
The senior cohort of 2020 has faced trials and trials and tribulations unheard of since any other year in living memory, but Roma’s Year 12 students have been able to pull through, with many receiving impressively high ATAR results.
In the first year of the new system, the Western Star is aware of five students who have received an ATAR of more than 95.00.
Teachers couldn’t predict who would get what ATAR because the system was very new and they didn’t have any previous data to compare with, but many students were surprised at how well they performed.
How the ATAR is calculated
The ATAR replaces Queensland’s old Overall Position (OP) rank, which was a 25-point score plotted along a bell curve.
Students would complete at least five ‘authority subjects’ and their marks would be ranked against other students.
Those rankings, alongside the school’s overall Queensland Core Skills test (QCS) result, would be weighted against other students in the state.
But the new ATAR system is very different, bringing Queensland in line with every other state and territory.
The QCS test has been replaced by external exams for each subject, and the final rank is plotted on a 2000-point scale.
Vocational and ‘applied’ (roughly the ‘non-OP subjects’) can also count towards a student’s ATAR rank.
Each subject has three internal assessment pieces and one external assessment that are eventually used to rank each ATAR-eligible student into a percentile.
For example, an ATAR 74.55 student has achieved higher than 74.55 per cent of Queensland students.
More information on ATAR calculations can be found here.
5. Natalie Buitendag (95.10) - St John’s
Natalie was one of many students who received an ‘ATAR intelligible’ notification online before her score was released.
She assumed it was a mistake because her friends had told her about the situation beforehand, but when Natalie sighted her real ATAR score for the first time, she was very surprised.
“I was very surprised, I didn’t expect it to be so high,” she said.
“I suppose also with the new system, it was impossible to predict what we were going to get.”
She studied the subjects of English, Mathematical Methods (formerly Maths B), and Study of Religion. Natalie also studied Biology, Chemistry, and Specialist Mathematics (formerly Maths C) as her electives.
While she received a very high ATAR, she doesn’t believe she was much different from other students, pinning her secret to success on picking subjects she was interested in, and putting in the work.
“Just doing the best I could was all there really was to it,” she said.
Her advice to future Year 12 students if for them to try their best and pick subjects they enjoy.
She was accepted into a biomedical science degree at the University of Queensland on December 23, and will start her studies in the new year.
4. Chelsea Weyman-Jones (96.85) - St John’s
Chelsea was at the gym one morning when she got a text from a friend telling her that the ATARs had been released.
She thought they would be coming through so much later and wasn’t mentally prepared to see the result.
“When I first saw my ATAR, I overlooked it because I was expecting to get much lower,” Chelsea said.
“When I read that I got the grade I got, I was beyond excited.”
While she kept her ‘hopes low’, she was thrilled to see her impressive ATAR score when it was released.
She studied English, Math Methods, Specialist Maths, Study of Religion, Physics and Biology and got an ATAR of 96.85.
While Chelsea believes the ‘secret to success’ is different for everybody, she pins her achievements down to staying motivated.
“It’s really hard spending hours for yourself looking at your books,” she said.
“Just looking at that end goal.”
Her advice to future students is to organise your study tools early in the year, study well ahead of time, and try not to lose motivation.
She was accepted into a double degree of engineering and biotechnology at UQ and received her offer on December 23.
“I’ve always had a passion for biomedical engineering,” she said.
“I just hope to be a part of making a better future - that’s a lot of engineer’s hopes and dreams.”
3. Mitch Eddie (97.55) - Roma State College
Mitch has achieved many incredible things throughout his high school life, such as winning the dux award for Years 8 and 12, being chosen as Arcadia house captain, and the subject award for Math Methods and Physics.
Now he’s achieved the highest ATAR for Roma State College’s first cohort in the new system.
“The night before the ATAR score was released, I didn’t sleep very much at all. I was a bit anxious waiting for it,” he said.
“I was happy with it.”
He studied English, Math Methods, Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Physical Education.
While students had to do a big chunk of their learning online, Mitch actually found it easier to be able to study at his own pace.
He said his secret to success is trying really hard and not having any regrets at the end of it.
Mitch has been offered to do a Bachelor of Science at the University of Queensland, although he said his high ATAR has opened more doors for him.
2. Dhanushya ‘Livi’ Tennakoon (98.20) - St John’s
When Livi came to Australia one year ago, she had to adapt to a radically different education system than what she was used to in Sri Lanka, but her incredible dedication to her studies has landed her with the second highest ATAR of any student in Roma.
And while she said she ‘freaked out’ when she got the ‘ATAR intelligible’ notice, her and her parents were really happy to see her 98.20 score when it came through.
She studied a science-heavy curriculum of English, Math Methods, Religion & Ethics, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.
“I was like really delighted because I wanted to study medicine and they want a very high ATAR,” Livi said.
“For me, I did work very hard. I prepared for my lessons before they were taught so I had a good understanding of it, before my teacher taught it.”
Livi made the most of every resource she had so she could get used to the Australian education system and update her knowledge to meet the standards.
She even mentored other students in her subjects to help her retain knowledge.
Her advice to future students is to minimise distractions and keep a track of your learning.
“My parents and my teachers were really big support,” she said.
“They were really behind everything.”
While she has also gotten offers from UQ and Griffith, Livi wants to study at James Cook University in Townsville to do medicine.
1. Sarah Upton (98.40) - St John’s
Sarah’s passion for learning, hard work, and innovative thinking has scored her the highest ATAR of any school student in Roma in 2020.
The straight-A student was very nervous in the lead up to receiving her results, but was relieved as soon as she saw what she got.
“All my hard work paid off,” she said.
“Definitely impressed, it was better than I thought I would do.”
Her Year 12 subjects were English, Math Methods, Specialist Maths, Study of Religion, Chemistry, and Physics.
“A quote that I live by is ‘you get out what you put it’,” she said.
“I really believe if you put the effort in you can get anywhere in life.
“I have a passion for learning, finding new things, thinking critically.”
St John’s Catholic College staff and Sarah’s friends helped keep her motivated during her schooling journey and she’s happy that they kept cheering her on to achieve her amazing feats.
She achieved subject awards for English, Specialist Maths, Study of Religion, Chemistry, and Physics, as well as the dux award.
Now Sarah’s been accepted into a Bachelor of Engineering at UQ and is considering going into mechatronics or chemical engineering.