Back to The Staffroom

New syllabus guide: What's changed in Science?

By Sam Di Sano on 8 February 2019NSWstaffroomSyllabusScienceNew syllabus

In a nutshell

  • Overhaul of curriculum to return the focus to science concepts rather than their context. More science and mathematical content, less social context;
  • A return to learning scientific principles, theories and laws;
  • More practical investigations;
  • Up to 15 hours each year of "depth studies" to allow for research and investigation in more detail;
  • The focus on science history has been diminished, while greater emphasis is being placed on the application of scientific theory.

There is new content in most of the science courses. New ‘inquiry questions’ have been added to encourage debate and in-depth thought. There is also a much-anticipated introduction of an extension course: ‘Investigating Science’. This will focus on skills, methodology and the big philosophical questions surrounding science.

The Physics, Chemistry and Biology syllabuses have a greater emphasis on literacy and numeracy, as well as additional pracs. The content has also been updated in line with our rapidly changing world. Scientific principles and theories have been emphasised as has the application of scientific theory. The new depth studies will allow for a deeper investigation, allowing for consolidation of research skills.

Earth and Environmental Science

There are new modules added to Earth and Environmental Science.

  • Geological mining;
  • Issues of climate science;
  • Mitigation strategies and increased focus on sustainability.


New modules for Biology include:

  • Cells and chemical energy;
  • Investigating extinction events;
  • Investigations surrounding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures;
  • Evidence of past changes in ecosystems;
  • Single Nucleotide Polymorphism;
  • Genetic drift;
  • Disease as a disruption of homeostasis;
  • Pharmaceuticals and the control of infectious diseases;
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ protocols for medicines.


New topics in Chemistry include:

  • New types of notation;
  • The Bohr and Schrodinger models;
  • The Ideal Gas Law;
  • Enthalpy and Hess’s Law;
  • Entropy and Gibbs Free Energy;
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ applications of chemical practices;
  • Calculating the Equilibrium Constant;
  • Analysis of organic compounds.


New topics in Physics include:

  • Analysis of forces and motion in two dimensions using vectors;
  • Standing waves;
  • The Doppler effect;
  • Elementary thermodynamics;
  • Wave and quantum models of light;
  • Study of the Standard Model of matter.

Both Chemistry and Physics have a heavier emphasis on scientific principles and mathematical concepts, which will aid students dramatically in their first year of tertiary science studies.

The new Year 11 and Year 12 courses are divided into four modules and a skills component.  The modules develop knowledge and understanding of core concepts that will be assessed in Year 12 whilst the skills component aims to develop skills at the core of conducting practical and secondary-sourced investigations in science.


The skills component, “Working Scientifically” is woven throughout each syllabus and each module includes a specific focus on some (or all) of the Working Scientifically skills, such as analysing data, planning and conducting investigations or problem-solving. In the skills component, students have the opportunity to design, develop and conduct investigations both individually and collaboratively within the context of the module they are studying.

Science Extension

In an attempt to round out the extension experience, a Science extension has been established focussing on advanced research and practice skills through three school-based assessment tasks covering a scientific research portfolio and report. This course will also be the first to experiment with an online computer based exam and include topics such as:

  • Observing;
  • ‘Inferences and Generalisations’;
  • Scientific Models;
  • Theories and Laws;
  • Scientific Investigations;
  • Technologies;
  • ‘Fact or Fallacy’ and ‘Science and Society’.

Investigating Science

The new Investigating Science course provides students with the opportunity to develop an understanding of the various influences on science and scientific research in the modern world.  Students learn about the development and use of scientific models and the similarities and differences between scientific theories and laws. The interdependent relationship between science and technology is also explored. The course concludes with students exploring the various influences on science and scientific research in the modern world.

New Life Skills courses

Five new Science Life Skills courses focus on the development of the knowledge, understanding and skills of scientific processes in each of the Chemical World, Earth and Space, the Living World, the Physical World and a general Investigating Science Life Skills course, providing students with opportunities to engage in scientific inquiry to make observations, ask questions, gather data and draw conclusions about the world around them.

Liked what you read? Check out more great articles:

New syllabus guide: What's changed in  English

New syllabus guide: What's changed in Maths

New syllabus guide: What's changed in History

Try Atomi for free and receive regular updates from the Staffroom.

Learn More