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Selecting subjects for year 11 and 12

By Sarah Separovich on 22 July 2020NSWblogSubject advice

Hello year 10 students! Soon enough, you’ll be making a really important decision, which subjects are you going to study in year 11 and 12? While some of your friends may have their selections ready to go, you might be feeling pretty overwhelmed!

So, here’s a few tips to keep in mind to make your decision that little bit easier...

1. Select subjects that you enjoy

And one more time for those who ignored it, select subjects that you enjoy. Disagree? Just hear us out: you've got two years of hard work ahead of you… two years of classes, homework, assessments and exams. If you don't like the subjects you're studying, it can be so difficult to stay motivated.

When you’re motivated, you’re more likely to engage with the content you’re learning and retain information. And with that, you’re more likely to achieve great marks.

2.  Select subjects that you’ll do well in

With this in mind, it’s also important to think about the subjects you excel in. While you may consider some subjects as ‘fun’ or ‘easy’, it’s important to select subjects that you’ll do well in and will secure you good marks. In the end, your goal is to achieve the highest possible marks, so you have access to a greater range of courses at uni. To do this, you need to carefully consider which subjects will help you get there.

Remember, all subjects are subject to scaling, and while this shouldn’t dictate your decision, it is a point worth considering.

So, it’s important to get a balance of subjects you enjoy and subjects you’ll do well in. Think about this balance when it comes to making your selection!

3. Consider the curriculum of each subject

This sets up our next tip nicely: it’s also important to consider the curriculum of each subject you select. Not all subjects are set out the same way!

Different subjects have different workloads and assessment formats. So, it’s worth considering what your strengths and weaknesses are. If you enjoy practical work, consider taking up a subject that involves a major work, like Design and Technology. If you do well in a team environment, consider Drama, which involves group performances!

To get a better idea of the requirements for each subject, be sure to hop on the education standard authority website for your state (linked at the bottom of this article). There, you’ll find the year 11 and 12 curriculum for each subject along with some further information about what you’ll be studying.

4. Select the highest level of study that you can complete

This is a consideration that a lot of students miss! With English and Maths, there are different streams based on their level of difficulty. Dropping down is easy, but once you select a level of study, you cannot move up. So, it’s best to start with the highest level of study you think you can complete. If it’s too difficult, you can simply move down!

5. Check for any ‘prerequisites’ for your shortlisted uni courses

When selecting your subjects, it’s important to think about what you might want to study at university. If you have a shortlist of undergrad courses that you’re interested in, check to see if they have any prerequisites. To be eligible for admission into courses like Engineering, Law, Commerce, Economics and Science you will need to complete a minimum level of Mathematics:

  • HSC: Mathematics Advanced
  • QCE: Mathematics B
  • SACE and VCE: Mathematical Methods
  • WACE: Mathematics: Methods ATAR

If you know what you want to study at uni, or you have a few courses that you’re considering, be sure to see if they have any prerequisites. If they do, you will want to consider selecting those subjects!

If you don’t know what you want to study at uni, that’s okay too! For this reason, selecting a range of subjects from different disciplines (English, Maths, Sciences, HSIE, Design) might be best. That way, you can develop a range of skills and knowledge.

6. Also consider ‘assumed knowledge’

Different to prerequisites, assumed knowledge is the expected level of understanding you should have when you start a degree. For example, the Chemistry curriculum is assumed knowledge when studying Pharmacy.

While assumed knowledge is not a prerequisite for getting accepted into a course, it’s assumed for a reason. The course will be taught on the understanding that students already have a certain level of knowledge. Without it, you may struggle to keep up with the content! So, we suggest that you look into any of the courses you might be interested in and see if they have assumed knowledge.

With this in mind, a lot of universities offer bridging courses, which can be used to ‘bridge the gap’ in your knowledge. So, if you decide on a tertiary course later on and you aren’t completing the assumed knowledge subject for it in school, you can still do the course you’re interested in!

7. Reach out to a careers advisor

If you have any further questions or just want to talk about your options, send your school’s career advisor an email and set up a meeting! Career advisors have a wealth of knowledge about this exact topic. You can discuss your subject selection, plans for future study and everything in between.

Plus, they can continue to support you throughout the rest of your studies. If you’ve got resources available to you, you may as well make the most of them!


You can also reach out to other people within your support network. Teachers can offer a deeper understanding of the course content, as well as recommend subjects you’d excel in based on your performance. Parents, older siblings and peers in higher grades can also offer valuable advice. By sharing their experiences, you might get some more clarity around what you want to do.

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