Admissions terms and definitions | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Admissions terms and definitions

When applying for university, you may come across new or unfamiliar terminology. This table provides definitions of commonly used terms to help you understand the admissions process.

All Australian higher education providers follow a common set of terminology and language for entry requirements and admissions. This enables prospective students to compare the admission requirements and processes for all Australian universities in one place, and to make informed decisions on where and how to apply for university based on all the facts.


Admission pathway

Any one of the options available to prospective higher education students that will enable them to meet the entry requirements of their chosen program. For information on USC’s admission pathways visit Pathways to study.

Adjustment factors

Additional points that may be used in combination with an applicant’s Overall Position (OP) or Selection Rank to derive a person’s Course Selection Rank. Adjustments do not change applicants’ OPs or ATARs, but change their Selection Rank for a particular program or programs. Common types of adjustment factors used are:

Advanced standing

A form of credit for any previous learning – see also Credit transfer and Recognition of prior learning


A person who has already lodged an application to study a specific program.

Applicant background

The following groupings are used to help prospective students, family and others easily find the admission information most relevant to their circumstances. The groupings do not themselves determine how an application will be assessed but direct an information seeker to the most useful information.


The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is a ranking from 30 (lowest) to 99.95 (highest) agreed by COAG as a nationally equivalent measure of a person’s relative academic ranking within their complete age cohort in the year they graduated from senior secondary school. (including those who did not complete Year 12 or completed but were not eligible for an ATAR). The ATAR is derived from the scaled scores achieved for senior secondary school subjects. The specific calculation used is different in each state and territory but the result is designed to be nationally equivalent.

Bridging course

A course designed to cover subject knowledge, which assists students to gain knowledge in specialist areas that are a core component of the course. If a course requires a prerequisite in an area that students have not studied or worked with before, a bridging course will help students to bridge the gap in that knowledge and gain admission. For information on USC’s bridging course visit Tertiary Preparation Pathway.

Credit transfer

A process that provides students with agreed and consistent credit outcomes for components of a qualification based on identified equivalence in content and learning outcomes between matched qualifications.

Direct application to provider

Application made to a higher education provider rather than through a tertiary admission centre.

Early Offer

Where an offer of enrolment is made to a recent secondary school student prior to release of OPs or equivalent (eg ATAR, IB). Such offers may be conditional on other requirements being met, such as successful completion of a Secondary School Certificate of Education, satisfactory completion of subject prerequisites or achievement of a specified minimum OP. For information on USC’s early offer scheme visit Early Offer Guarantee.

Enabling course

A course designed to provide students with skills needed for success in further study, to assist in the transition to tertiary education – for example study techniques or English language skills. Successful completion helps prepare a person to be admitted to a program that leads to a higher education award.

Experience based entry scheme

A selection method used by higher education providers to assess and select students who may not have educational qualifications sufficient for an offer of admission to a program but who have other relevant work and life skills and experience that make them a suitable candidate.

International Baccalaureate (IB)

Formerly known as the Integrational Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) an international educational foundation founded in 1968 and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The IB Diploma program is a senior secondary education curriculum and assessment framework offered by some schools as an alternative to the Australian National Curriculum and overseen by state and territory curriculum and assessment authorities. Australian tertiary admission centres convert IB scores to a notional ATAR or QTAC Selection Rank, enabling IB students to be ranked for tertiary entrance alongside their peers.

Offer round/s 

Refers to the series of dates on which offers of higher education places are issued to applicants throughout the year, whether through a tertiary admissions centre or directly by a higher education provider.

Overall Position (OP)

The Overall Position (OP) refers to a Queensland student’s position in a state-wide tertiary entrance rank order based on their overall achievement in senior secondary subjects. It indicates how well a student has done compared to all other OP-eligible students in Queensland. Students are placed in one of 25 OP bands from OP1 (highest) to OP25 (lowest). Queensland students seeking admission to higher education in other states can have their OP converted to an ATAR. Interstate students looking to study in Queensland can have their ATAR converted to a Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre (QTAC) Selection Rank. Queensland will adopt the ATAR instead of the OP for students who commence Year 11 in 2019 and beyond.

OP-related thresholds: (where OP was used to determine eligibility)

Prospective student

A person who is thinking about lodging an application to study a particular program but has not yet done so.

Recognition of prior learning

A process used to assess an individual’s relevant prior learning (including formal, informal and non-formal learning) to determine the credit that may be granted towards completion of a qualification.

School recommendation

A recommendation from a school or other secondary education provider on the abilities of a student.

Selection Rank

The ranking that tertiary admission centres and most universities actually use to assess admission to a program. A person’s course Selection Rank can include their ATAR, OP, any adjustments they are eligible for, other contributions calculated on the basis of work experience or previous non-secondary study, portfolio assessments, results of the Special Tertiary Admissions Test, other supplementary tests, etc.

TAC application 

Application made through a tertiary admission centre, namely QTAC, UAC, VTAC, SATAC, TISC and University of Tasmania, in relation to applications to study in that state.

TAC applications to study at USC are submitted through QTAC.