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Dos and don’ts of HSC subject selection

Start your journey early
It's time to start thinking about your future career and planning what elective subjects to study in Year 11 and 12. Learn about scaling, get advice on how to make the right decisions and start planning early.

Do pursue your interests

It is important to think about what subjects you enjoy and do well in when choosing your HSC subjects. You will spend a lot of time studying these subjects over the next few years so having an interest in what you are learning will increase your enjoyment, and you will be more likely to achieve strong marks. Your interests will also help guide you to possible career paths and courses to study at uni.

Don't choose subjects because you think they scale well

It's normal to want to give yourself the best chance of getting a high ATAR, but, it is a myth that certain subjects will guarantee it.

Firstly, it's important to understand how HSC subject scaling works. UAC scales subjects according to the performance of all students that year, not whether they think a course is ‘hard’ or ‘easy’. Try not to think about the ATAR when choosing your subjects and instead focus on what subjects will allow you to achieve a mark that best reflects your ability.

Visit ATAR explained to learn more about subject scaling and how the ATAR is calculated.

Do check the assumed knowledge for your shortlisted courses 

If you are stuck on subjects, work backwards and take a look at which study areas you are interested in. Use My Course Guide to create a shortlist of courses and check the assumed knowledge of each degree.

Assumed knowledge is the expected level of understanding you should have when you start a degree. While you can still get into a course without the assumed knowledge (ie, doing a bridging course), it is best to have some experience in that subject, and you will know that you enjoy it.

Don't forget maths

A prerequisite is different from assumed knowledge, you must complete any prerequisites in order be eligible for an offer into a course.

We have mathematics prerequisites for several of our degrees, including agriculture, economics, commerce, engineering and IT, health, medicine, psychology, pharmacy, veterinary science and science. 

To be eligible for admission into these courses, you will need to achieve at least a Band 4 in the NSW HSC Mathematics (not General Mathematics) or equivalent. If you are considering any of these options at uni, we'd recommend taking maths for your HSC or equivalent. Choose a level of maths that aligns with your ability and future plans.

Do talk to your parents, career advisers and teachers

What you pursue in your HSC is entirely up to you, but your parents, career advisers and teachers may be able to give you some advice. 

Talk to your teachers about the HSC syllabus for the subjects you're considering, and for advice on which level best suits your abilities, particularly with regards to maths and English. 

Speaking with those who know you and your interests well can help you navigate the options available.

Remember, you're choosing HSC subjects, not the rest of your life!

Your HSC subjects can help you achieve your goals, but they do not limit you to a particular career path or stop you from pursuing others.

There is always a way to get to where you want to go selecting your HSC subjects is just the first step.

Last updated: 3 June 2020

6 March 2018

Year 10 Guide

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Current student

Deirdre Mair

Deidre Mair

Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor of Design in Architecture

HSC subjects: English, Mathematics, Chemistry, Latin and French.

“Mathematics was my most crucial subject for prior knowledge because I've continued to use it throughout my degree.”