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Dos and don’ts of HSC subject selection

How do you choose your HSC subjects for years 11 and 12?
Starting uni seems so far away - yet here you are choosing your HSC subjects so that you can achieve an ATAR and apply to do a degree at uni. So how do you make the right choices for you? And should you worry about subject scaling?

Before you dive into the following advice, remember: this is one of the few times in your schooling life where you have choice - choice in what you learn, what you will dedicate yourself to, and what will be the stepping stones to achieving your goals after high school. 

The HSC is a long road - and it's the right balance of hard work, dedication and enthusiasm that will help you succeed. Apply to this to any HSC subject, and you will give yourself the best chance possible. 

Do pursue your interests

The best place to start when choosing your HSC subjects is to take a look at what you enjoy most and do well in. When you're going to spend so much time studying over the next couple of years, you want to be interested in what you're learning. This is a good indicator of your potential to achieve strong marks in your HSC as well as helping you determine future career paths and courses that may suit your skills and interests. 

Don't choose a subject because you think it scales well 

While it's natural to want to give yourself the best chance of achieving a high ATAR, it's a myth to think that certain subjects will guarantee this. 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'. In short, try not to think about the ATAR when choosing your subjects and instead focus on what will allow you to achieve a mark that reflects your best ability. To understand more about the ATAR and how subject scaling works, visit our 'ATAR explained' page. 

Do check the assumed knowledge for your shortlisted courses 

If you are stuck on subjects, work backwards and take a look at which careers and study areas you are interested in, and which degrees support those options. We have a range of professional, specialist, liberal, combined and double degrees at the University of Sydney to prepare you for your future. Make a shortlist of courses and check out what the 'assumed knowledge' is for each of them, as this reflects a level of knowledge you are expected to have when you start that degree. While you can still gain admission into a course without the assumed knowledge, and bring yourself up to speed with a bridging course, these subjects typically reflect the skills and knowledge you will build on once you start your course. 

Don't forget maths

A prerequisite is different to assumed knowledge - as you must complete any prerequisites in order be eligible for an offer into a course at the University of Sydney. Mathematics is a prerequisite for several of our courses, 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. Learn more about our mathematics course prerequisites and related courses.

Do talk to your parents, career advisers and teachers

What you pursue for 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 to you. 

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

Your choice of HSC subjects is ultimately to help you achieve your goals - whatever they may be. It is not a finite decision that will guarantee a certain career path or limit your ability to pursue others - there is always a way to get to where you want to go - selecting your HSC subjects is just the first step.  

6 March 2018

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