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General Maths vs. 2 Unit: The Showdown

By Larissa Grinsell on 15 February 2016MathsNSWblog

It’s a story as old as the HSC itself: should I take 2 Unit or General Maths? For those who sit on the threshold between the two, it’s a pretty big gamble. Subject choice can have a solid impact on your marks, readiness for uni, and overall quality of life during the HSC. So, it’s a pretty rocky terrain to navigate.

Let’s do our best.

Here’s 5 things to think about when deciding between General and 2 Unit:

1. Don’t have an ego about it

I’ve heard one too many jokes about General Maths in my day, but the reality is that most of the people taking maths in NSW are sitting this course. There’s nothing embarrassing about taking General. Way too many people rough it out in 2 Unit when they’re really not up to it, and pay the consequences for it in their marks. Not to say don’t give it a good crack, but if 2 Unit is just not working for you, have zero shame in dropping.

Hell, your humble author here took General and came out with a #99ATAR. Who’s laughing now?

2. Think ahead

If you’re looking to head into the world of science, engineering or commerce at uni, the likelihood is that you’ve got years left in the mathematical tundra ahead. In these cases, it’s a really good idea to look at what kind of assumed knowledge there is for your course, and the reality is you’re probably best going in with the highest level of maths possible – aka, 2 Unit or above. If you’re really not up to the challenge at this stage (with a million other HSC subjects and a major work or two), look into possible bridging courses for the Summer holidays to get you prepped for uni. But if I was to give you a recommendation - if you’re going into engineering, science or commerce (economics, finance, accounting etc) then 2 Unit is the way to go.

3. Get your head in the game

Not to inadvertently get the classic High School Musical banger stuck in your head, but you’ve got to seriously consider why you’re taking HSC maths and what you’re hoping to achieve from it. For some, it’s going to be all about maximising marks. You’d think this would mean 2 Unit for sure, but if you manage to nail General, there’s actually surprisingly little difference in the scaling of the two subjects. Anything over around an 85 mark in General only scales marginally lower than a similar mark in 2 Unit, which is ridiculously harder to achieve. Food for thought.

4. Weigh up the work load

Maths is definitely something that can be worked at – the more practice questions, the better you get - but all that practice can suck serious time out of your other subjects. Vampiric maths, not what you want. If you’re managing to keep up with 2 Unit, but it’s harming your other subjects, it might be time to reconsider whether this is the best option for you. The reality is, if you nail 2 Unit it’s not going to mean much if all your other subjects suffer. Sometimes heading into General territory can save you not only a lot of time, but a lot of stress too, and can mean you stay on top of things a lot easier. Naturally, people spend about double the amount of study time on maths than any other subject (except maybe English) so you want to be doing the course that is the right fit, because you’re going to be slaving away for a long time.

5. Do what works for you

They say that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. And look, the HSC doesn’t exactly work like that, but there are definitely subjects that suit you better than others. Here’s the thing: 2 Unit and General use wildly different parts of the brain. 2 Unit is for the logicians out there, the puzzle solvers, the human calculators that see the world in black and white. General is for the more practical among us: the questions can be long and wordy, and are often about everyday situations like paying bills and measuring out ingredients. It’s a whole different ball game. Make no mistake 2 Unit and General are completely different subjects, except for the fact they both deal with numbers. So make sure you are comparing apples with apples.

So, there’s a few things to toss up when considering your mathematical path in life. Better yet, head over to the Atomi videos for General and 2 Unit to familiarise yourself with exactly what the coursework involves for both, and see where your stars align.

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