The Overall Position (OP) is a tertiary entrance rank used in the Australian state of Queensland for selection into universities. Like similar systems used throughout the rest of Australia, the OP shows how well a student has performed in their senior secondary studies compared with all other OP-eligible students in Queensland. The system was introduced in 1992.
The OP is calculated and used similarly to the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) in other states. Instead of being a percentile rank (0.00 - 99.95), however, the OP is a number from 1 to 25, where 1 is the highest and 25 is the lowest. This range of possible results is bell curved so the percentage of students receiving the very highest and very lowest results is much less common than those receiving mid-range OPs. In 2012, 724 students received the highest rank, OP1, according to Minister for Education, Training and Employment John-Paul Langbroek. 55.6% of Queensland high school students were able to obtain an OP in 2012.
The Overall Position ranking is due to be replaced by the ATAR ranking in 2019 in line with other Australian states and territories.
Calculating an Overall Position
OPs are calculated by the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA) for all students who satisfactorily complete the Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE) (or equivalent) and who meet certain other criteria for receiving an OP, such as participating in the Queensland Core Skills Test (QCS Test).
The next level of calculation is to ensure that students are being equally assessed in ability in the school across subjects, and from school to school. Two levels of scaling are applied to ensure that each subject the student sits contributes equally to their OP.
Details can be found here.
Assignment of SAIs
OP calculation commences with the determination at a school-by-school level of Subject Achievement Indicators (SAI's) for each student within each subject in that school.
SAI's are numerical rankings showing how a student has performed relative to other students in the same subject in their school. SAI's are between 400 and 200, with the best-performing student in each subject at their school receiving an SAI of 400 for that subject, and the lowest-achieving student receiving 200.  SAI's are arbitrary figures - an SAI of 400 in any one subject is not comparable as a measure of academic achievement, with an SAI of 400 in any other course.
In allocating SAI's, teachers are advised by the QCAA to group their students in the standard OP grading bands of Very High, High, Satisfactory, Limited and Very Limited Achievement. Ten subranks are allocated within each grading bands, giving teachers a total of 50 possible ranks for each student in that subject. The same rank may be assigned to multiple students. The QCAA advises schools on special provisions for students in small groups or small schools to prevent relative disadvantage in SAI allocation.
SAI's by student and subject are then forwarded by the school to the QCAA, which checks SAI figures then scales them to determine the student's statewide Overall Position within their subject area.
The first level of scaling - within school scaling - is applied to equalise each subject's achievement level within the school. An Overall Achievement Indicator (OAI) is calculated by working out the average of each student's SAIs for their best five authority subjects - those that have been developed and approved by the QCAA.
The second stage of scaling - inter-school scaling - adjusts OAI ranks amongst all schools in the state to compensate for the differences between schools. This is an often misinterpreted stage of the OP calculation process. The QCS test is the only absolute common element between schools, so this is used to determine how well schools are equally assessing students. To ensure a standard level of marking throughout the state, all schools send a selection of student results from each subject, and multiple from each grading band, for verification by a conference of other teachers from around the state, referred to as 'panel'. Students grades are adjusted if need be depending on the outcome of verification.
Assignment of OPs
When all students in Queensland have been ranked and scaled, they are assigned to one of the 25 OP bands.
There is a popular belief that certain subjects (particularly Science- and Maths-based ones) are weighted higher than others in determining Overall Position results. In fact, while vocational subjects are excluded from OP calculations, all authority subjects specified by the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority are weighted equally and any combination can lead into receiving an OP 1 (the highest grade). Although subjects are weighted equally, not all combinations of subjects will cover all the common curricular elements (CCEs, see Queensland Core Skills Test). As the QCS Test is based on these CCEs, students who do not cover all of them in their normal studies can be at a disadvantage to those who do.
It is important to note that this assessment system is now widely regarded as cumbersome and out of date. It is being replaced by the ATAR in 2019.
In order to understand OP ratings, one needs to convert them to the proportion of students that obtained different ratings. This table reflects ratings for 2013:-
|OP Band||% in band||Cumulative|
There are also field positions which depend on the subjects chosen.
|Field A||Advanced english.|
|Field B||Basic english and foreign languages.|
|Field C||Basic mathematics and science.|
|Field D||Advanced mathematics.|
|Field E||Performing arts.|
Different subjects contribute different amounts. For example, Mathematics C contributes 5 to field D, but only 1 to field A, while English contributes 5 to field A, but nothing to Field D.
It appears that students either qualify for a position or do not, based on having done "60 weighted semesters" in the field. The actual calculations are unclear.
When determining tertiary admission, Field Positions on certain fields may be more important than OP ratings.
Students entering Year 11 in 2019 will be assessed under some new system and assigned an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR). The new system will involve an external subject specific exam that will form part of individual student's assessment.
- Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre
- Equivalent National Tertiary Entrance Rank
- University admission
- Tertiary Entrance Rank
- Robyn Ironside (9 July 2012). "Time to scrap the OP score in favour of national rating system, say Queensland educators". The Courier-Mail. Queensland Newspapers. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
- Rebecca Lynch (17 December 2012). "Students find Overall Position one of relief". Queensland Times. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
- Sarah Vogler & Tanya Chilcott (30 July 2013). "OP scores for Queensland schools may be scrapped after review". The Courier Mail. Queensland Newspapers. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
- "Overall Positions (OPs)". Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority. November 2012. Retrieved September 22, 2013.
- "REVIEW OF QUEENSLAND'S OVERALL POSITION CALCULATIONS" (PDF).
- "SAIs and BonSAI". Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority. October 2012. Retrieved September 22, 2013.
- "Calculating Overall Positions (OPs): The basic principles" (PDF). Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority/Queensland Government. December 2011. Retrieved September 22, 2013.
- "OP Myths". Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority. December 2011. Retrieved September 22, 2013.
- "2013 Data summary State Distribution of Overall Positions and Field Positions" (PDF).
- "QCAA Field Positions".
- "Field Position subject weights" (PDF).
- "Field Positions (FPs)". Queensland Studies Authority.
- "Queensland government to scrap OP system for Years 11 and 12".