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ATAR only a part of the equation to score a seat at law school

A new admissions test has been touted as a gateway for a ‘new mix’ of students at the University of New South Wales.

user iconMelissa Coade 20 January 2017 Corporate Counsel
ATAR only a part of the equation to score a seat at law school
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For the first time last September, those vying for a spot to study undergraduate law at UNSW have had to sit a two-hour entry test.

The law school confirmed that 289 applicants received offers to study law at UNSW in 2017 based on their ATAR and performance in the Law Admissions Test (LAT). This year the law school made a total of 303 main round offers to students for its dual undergraduate law program.

The LAT is a written examination that specifically tests critical thinking, logical reasoning and analysis.


Introduced last year, the examination was designed to offer a more “rounded” perspective of students’ skills and suitability. The process is the first of its kind for Australian school-leavers wanting to get their foot in the undergraduate door for law.

UNSW law dean Professor George Williams said that one year since introducing the new entry-system, a broader range of students now have a genuine opportunity to study law at the university.

He added that earlier indications suggest the chance to study law is more open to those experiencing educational disadvantage.

“The LAT was introduced to provide a genuine opportunity for highly qualified applicants from diverse backgrounds, who may not have previously met our selection rank cut-offs, to have the chance to prove their suitability for our law programs. And that is exactly what our initial analysis shows it has done,” Professor Williams said.

UNSW modelled its LAT after the competitive UMAT application process that would-be doctors must pass to gain entry into medicine.

The law school spent five years working in conjunction with the Australian Council for Educational Research to develop the exam, which included researching the entry process employed by other law schools in the UK and US.

“We also consulted with schools and employers about the students being selected for law and the validity of the ATAR alone as a measure of success in our law programs,” Professor Williams said.

Overall, Professor Williams said that the quality of law students in the 2017 cohort had not diminished but rather comprised a “different mix” from years past.

He added that the law school planned review and refine the LAT admissions process for 2018.  

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