HSC Subject Selection: How To Choose The Right Subjects

Picking subjects is always a tough decision to make and has a massive impact on your HSC experience. You will often hear that you should pick subjects with high scaling or possibly miss out on doing subjects you enjoy. This article will focus on helping you approach these questions and hopefully make the decision making process easier for you.


How many HSC subjects can you choose?

In year 11 you will be able to choose either 12 or 13 units worth of subjects. Most subjects will be worth 2 units with extension subjects being worth 1 unit. There isn’t much of a difference between choosing 12 and 13 units. Year 11 is a time to experiment as you don’t have to continue with all your subjects, so take the time to choose subjects that you may want to give a try. When moving to Year 12, you can take either 10 or 12 units. Depending on the school, you may be able to take more units but this is not advisable as there will be a significant amount of classes. In terms of choosing between 10 and 12 units, 12 units is usually safer as you will have an extra subject to rely upon incase you don’t perform well in one of the subjects you choose. However, if you are confident in the subjects you have chosen, 10 units is beneficial as it allows you to save a lot of time. 

What is HSC Scaling?

Scaling is a complex term and you will often hear that some subjects have better scaling than others. Scaling is essentially a method to adjust for difficult subjects. For example if we take Math Extension 2 and Math Advanced, we know that Math Extension 2 is much more difficult. It is much easier to score a 90% in an Advanced test, compared to an Extension 2 test. As a result, scaling comes into play such that you can score much lower (65%) in the Extension 2 test and still get a 90% equivalent in the advanced test. This is the reason that people choose higher scaling subjects as the raw marks required to get a good HSC score is lower. However this is a ‘double-edged sword’ as the content is much harder in these higher scaling subjects. 

This is why choosing higher scaling subjects should depend on a variety of factors. If you are a person that often makes silly mistakes, but has a good understanding of harder concepts, higher scaling subjects may be a better choice. However if you feel uncomfortable with the difficulty it may end up harming you as you would have to dedicate a large amount of time to improve your understanding of these topics. 

Essentially, the takeaway message should be that you shouldn’t pick a subject purely because it has high scaling, as if you aren’t comfortable with the difficulty, it can end up being harmful. 

Do What You Enjoy!

My number 1 advice is to always pick subjects that you enjoy doing. It is quite common to see many students prioritising higher scaling subjects over what they actually enjoy. This is important as you are much more likely to perform better when you enjoy what you are studying. During my HSC, I ended up choosing physics over biology as I thought that physics would have better scaling. However due to not enjoying the subject matter in physics, I often found it hard and demotivating to study for the subject which reflected in my results as physics was the subject I performed the worst in. The motivation to study can have a massive impact on your performance within the subject so before considering any other factors pick what you enjoy!

Should you Pick Math/English Extension Subjects?

Extension subjects begin in Year 11 with the option to take Extension 2 subjects once Year 12 begins. 

Within maths the main premise is that Extension subjects are harder than standard and advanced maths but also scale better. It is important to be honest with yourself and evaluate your skill level before choosing which level of maths to study. Every level of maths is quite a significant jump upwards in terms of difficulty so it is important not to exceed your capabilities. However if you feel confident in your maths abilities, doing Extension subjects can contribute significantly to your atar. 

English is different to maths in the sense that doing Extension subjects is not necessarily an increase in difficulty. Many students have stated that they found advanced English to be harder than Extension 1. Extension 2 English is also different as it has a larger focus on completing a major work instead of standard tests. Picking Extension 1 or 2 English is definitely different to maths and is dependent on the individual. Year 11 is often a good year to trial Extension 1 English to see if it is a subject you would like to continue into year 12. You can also consider a HSC english tutor for additional support in achieving your desired marks. 

Avoid Peer Pressure

Avoid choosing subjects purely due to your friends choosing the same subject. This can cause you to take subjects that you do not enjoy which is detrimental as I have stated above. Even if you were to choose the same subjects as your friends, there is a chance that you may not even end up in the same class. Being in a different class to your friends is also an opportunity to make new friends with similar interests. It also gets rid of possible interactions. It is definitely understandable to want to do the same subjects as your friends but in the long run it may end up being a harmful decision. 

Check Prerequisites for University Courses 

Certain university courses require you to do certain subjects in Year 12 so ensure that you are doing adequate subjects to enter the course of your choice in university.

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