How to choose subjects for Year 11 and 12
Find out how easy senior subject selection can be
Choose subjects that maximise your options
Subject Selection is tricky, but your senior subjects should allow you to prepare for what happens once school is over. In these subjects, you’ll tackle complex topics and learn about an area in-depth, building solid foundations for further study or the workplace.
Each school offers a different range of subjects, depending on the strengths of their teachers and student body, and you’ll only be able to choose a set number of subjects that fit into the senior timetable.
Each state also has different eligibility criteria you’ll need to meet if you want to qualify for an ATAR and Senior Certificate.
According to UAC, in NSW alone each year HSC students study around 27,000 combinations of courses.
If you want an easier way, try the Subject Selection Calculator:
You don’t need to know what you want to do when you ‘grow up’
If you’re one of the many people with no idea, then don’t worry. Instead of trying to choose subjects based around a specific career, choose subjects that meet these three criteria:
7 steps for selecting senior subjects
Which subjects are on offer?
Your school should have given you a list with the available subjects.
How many subjects do you need?
Identify how many subjects or units you need to choose – usually you’ll need five or six as a minimum.
Select any compulsory subjects – If your school insists you take religion or sport add them first.
We strongly recommend all students study English. If you’re doing well in Year 10 English then consider one of the more difficult subjects, if you’re struggling to keep up them you could take the base level or seek out support to raise your marks.
Even if you absolutely hate maths and are terrible at it you should try to take the base level – you’ll need those skills to manage a budget and basic maths is required for just about every job out there.
If you’re doing well, take the more advanced courses because they’ll give you more options down the track.
Find out if there are any prerequisites for degrees in the fields you’re considering.
For example, engineering requires a high level of science and maths competence, and choosing an engineering or design subject could also be helpful. Some universities may require you to have studied a number of sciences before you can start your degree.
Some universities are now requiring the ‘standard’ level of English, so even if the basic level will contribute to your ATAR it may not be enough.
For the remainder, choose subjects you like and are good at. If you have too many them give them all a score out of 10 for the following factors and choose the subjects with the highest overall score:
- How much do you like it?
- How good are your marks?
- Does it give you variety?
- Will it challenge you?
Subject selection and ATAR scaling
Scaling is a process conducted by the people who provide your ATAR, and it allows them to compare scores from different subjects. It’s confusing, and complex, and the aim is to ensure no student is disadvantaged because they chose a ‘harder’ subject.
In a nutshell, it stops very capable students from choosing the easier versions of subjects so they can increase their marks. A subject score of 90 in English Standard is easier to get than a score of 90 in English Advanced, so they have to make an adjustment before they can calculate the ATAR.
The way subjects are scaled changes depending on the cohort because it reflects the strength of the competition in the course, not its difficulty, which means scaling can (and does) give a different outcome each year.
But, (and it’s a big but), you SHOULD NOT be choosing your subjects based on scaling. If you’ve gone through every other variable and still can’t choose between two subjects, then you could consider investigating scaling as a last resort, but only then.
What does all this mean?
- If you’re capable of the work in the harder subject, then take it.
- Choosing an ‘easy’ course doesn’t mean you can’t get a good ATAR – for example, in 2017 a student took Visual Art and had an ATAR of 99.90.
- The scaling doesn’t have a huge impact on your ATAR, but choosing a subject you don’t like because it scales well could…
Need help choosing your subjects?
We’ve designed the Subject Selection Calculator to help you match your subjects with the careers you’re interested in.
It’ll cut through the confusion and make it easier to link subjects with possible career paths, without limiting your options.