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The dos and don’ts of HSC subject selection

By Jana Angeles | 31 July 2019


HSC subject selection can be a daunting task for those currently in Year 10. With the subject choices available depending on your school, you may feel the pressure from your friends, teachers, family and peers about what subjects you want to stick to during the remaining years of your high school life. 

Despite all of this, it’s important to consider the dos and don’ts when selecting your subjects for HSC and accept the fact you may not have a clear picture on what you want to do after high school.

As of 2018, there are currently 76,732 students studying one or more HSC subjects with a predicted 69,383 students expected to complete their HSC this year. With this figure in mind, many of them will pursue a course either at a university, RTO or similar tertiary institution. 

Others may choose to take a break and venture into a gap year where they can work or travel instead. While the HSC may seem like a while away for those in Year 10 at the moment, it’s important to carefully select subjects that align with your goals and make the remaining years of high school enjoyable as possible.

If you need further advice on selecting subjects for HSC, Skillstalk go over some of the dos and don’ts that could help you make decisions effectively and ensure that you choose subjects that currently highlight your strengths and interests. 

The dos of HSC subject selection

students studying

  1. Pick subjects you're passionate about.
  2. Consider your course options when picking your subjects.
  3. Follow the advice from your teachers.
  4. Carefully consider your workload.
  5. Try out the higher level of mathematics or english.

1. Pick subjects you’re passionate about.

Passionate is a strong word but it helps to pick subjects you love to learn about! Subject selection can be overwhelming for some students because it may be difficult to narrow down their choices. 

If you’re not too sure whether or not you’ll like the content for a particular subject, it helps to check the syllabus of your chosen subjects. This can be currently found on the NSW Government’s Education Standards Authority website. In here, you’ll have access to the subject content and what modules you’ll be covering. As a starting point, it’s encouraged you choose subjects you already enjoy and perform well in. 

A handy tool to use when picking subjects according to your personality and interests is the UAC Subject Compass. You’ll have the opportunity to discover what university course options and potential career outcomes that are worth pursuing for yourself.

2. Consider your course options when picking your subjects.

Have you thought about what you want to do after high school already? Have your sights on a particular degree at your dream university? If you’ve answered yes to the following questions, it may be worthwhile checking the prerequisites or the recommended subjects you should be undertaking in your HSC years for your chosen university degree. 

Broad subjects like business studies, ancient history or legal studies involve a lot of writing and are very content-based, making it easy to catch up on the concepts later on in university should you decide to choose a degree which major in these. 

However, technical ones like chemistry, physics or mathematics have difficult concepts that are not as straight-forward, requiring you to think outside of the box when it comes to the assessments and exams. While there are bridging courses available at university, these courses are generally delivered at an accelerated pace, making it difficult to digest the technical content in these subjects. 

It’s recommended that if you are pursuing degrees requiring a lot of technical-know how such as a Bachelor of Medical Science or Bachelor of Pharmacy, be sure to do some of the prerequisite subjects in high school.

If you’re not too sure what you want to do career-wise, it’s recommended that you pick a broad range of subjects so you’re not too restricted in what course you want to pursue after, whether that be at an RTO or university.

3. Follow the advice from your teachers.

You may have recently sat down with your teachers during parent-teacher interviews, discussing your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to a particular subject. It’s important to take the considerations of your teachers on board because chances are, they are aware of what you’re capable of when it comes to a particular subject and your ability to undertake tasks at hand. 

Your teachers can be a helpful resource when it comes to subject selection because they are the ones seeing your progression and are generally helpful when determining if you have the potential to do well or not in an HSC subject. 

4. Carefully consider your workload.

Depending on your school, you may have the opportunity to pursue a VET course or undertake an HSC subject with a major work component. It’s important to consider your options carefully as these subjects may require you to spend a lot of time outside of school undertaking creative projects that require a lot more focus and attention as opposed to subjects that are based on memorising facts. 

It’s encouraged to choose subjects that enable you to balance your workload effectively, helping you avoid the scenario where you spread yourself too thin and be incapable of managing your study priorities.

5. Try out the higher level of mathematics or english.

While selecting subjects that you enjoy is important, it’s also worth putting yourself outside of your comfort zone. English is a compulsory HSC subject and you can either choose from the levels of standard, advanced or extension. 

Assuming that you’ve had a discussion with your teacher about what level of english you should be taking, it’s worth picking a harder level and dropping down a level later if you are struggling with the workload. 

It’s much easier to pick the hardest level first and adjust accordingly to what you can handle. While it’s not compulsory, the same can be applied to mathematics as well. It’s much more difficult to move up a level because the content for both english and mathematics differ across all levels so if you’re unsure what best suits your abilities, try out a higher level before you make the decision of dropping down. 

The don’ts of HSC subject selection

student studying in library

  1. Choose subjects that scale well.
  2. Go against the advice of your teachers.
  3. Pick subjects where you can’t manage the workload.
  4. Choose subjects that seem easy.
  5. Let HSC subject selection determine your future.

1. Choose subjects that scale well.

Scaling changes year on year, however, depending on the subjects, there may be similar trends. Many students may convince themselves that if they choose subjects that are known to “scale” well, they will improve their chances of attaining a much higher ATAR score. 

It’s important to note that scaling is all dependent on your performance in a particular subject. Even if you choose a subject that is known to scale quite well, you may do poorly in it which can greatly affect the outcome of your ATAR. It’s important to not get so caught up in scaling and do subjects that you’re great at and enjoy. 

2. Go against the advice of your teachers.

It’s best to follow the advice of your teachers when it comes to choosing your HSC subjects, but what happens if you go against their subject recommendations? While in the grand scheme of things it may not be a big issue, the impact of doing the wrong level of mathematics or picking a subject like chemistry with hard to understand concepts can be a disservice to you during your HSC years. 

Not understanding the course content of your subjects can discourage you from completing the assessments or even prepare for upcoming exams. Think carefully about going against your teacher’s advice as there may be consequences that follow. 

3. Pick subjects where you can’t manage the workload.

How much time needs to be spent on each HSC subject may not be something you think about, especially if you are a creative person drawn to the more hands-on, artsy type of subjects. 

While visual arts or drama sound appealing, subjects with a major work component may be a detriment to how you manage your time working on your other core subjects. Be sure to choose subjects that provide a great balance and ensure that you follow the recommended guidelines advised by your school when selecting your subjects for HSC.

4. Choose subjects that seem easy.

Choosing subjects that seem easy could not serve you well during your HSC years. It’s important to pick subjects that help you develop your soft skills, as well as challenge you. 

Picking easy subjects could also mean that you may find them boring, discouraging you from attempting the work because the assessments and exams offered are menial and don’t engage you in any way shape or form.

5. Let HSC subject selection determine your future.

You may not have any idea what career path you want to pursue after high school and you’re worried that your HSC subject selection will determine what you need to do in the future. While it may feel like a big decision, this usually isn’t the case. It’s important to be open with your current interests and take it one day at a time. 

Figuring out what you need to do at the time you pick your subjects for HSC can make it a stressful process and while there may be a lot of pressure coming from your family or peers, it’s important to pick subjects you already enjoy instead of having tunnel vision that you need a career path sorted before you undertake HSC.

Considering other options besides university?

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With over 80 nationally-accredited courses to choose from, you can attain a diploma or certificate level qualification within 12 months and take advantage of the flexibility that comes from online learning. Start your course search and expand your skills and knowledge today with Upskilled. 
 
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