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5 tips for Subject Selection for Year 11 and 12

If you’re in Year 10 at high school in Australia, then you’ll probably be thinking about choosing your senior subjects for Year 11 and 12. It’s not an easy process, but we’ve got 5 tips for Subject Selection for Year 11 and 12 that could help to take some of the pressure off, giving you more headspace to make smart decisions about what you’re going to study.


First things first: what is subject selection?


Essentially, it’s where you get to choose (finally, hooray!) the subjects you would like to study and the ones you’d like to drop. This sounds great in theory, but the process to get there can be a bit more complex.

You get to pick your subjects to help you prepare for life once school is over. It means you can stop studying anything you definitely won’t need, and you can specialise with in-depth learning in some of the areas that interest you. You don’t have enough time to study everything, so you’ll need to pick the subjects that best match your post-school plans.

Your subjects will also impact on the qualifications you get when you leave school. You’ll need to study the right combination of subjects to qualify for a certificate of school completion, and if you want to leave with a VET qualification then you’ll need to meet the criteria for that as well. If you’re thinking about going to university then you may need an ATAR, and if you want to get into a competitive course, then you may need to select subjects which will help you maximise your ATAR.


5 tips for Subject Selection for Year 11 and 12


Tip 1 – what do you have to pick?


Are there any compulsory courses? These could be courses your school is making you take, like physical education, religion, or English. If you’re not sure if there are any compulsory subjects you’ll need to do at your high school, now is the time to check that out.

Get yourself down to the school office or ask your teacher. That way you won’t go ahead and plan 6 subjects you’d like to study, only to have to sacrifice one or two for the compulsory subjects.


Tip 2 – what are you passionate about?


If you love studying a certain subject or you have your heart already set on a career, that’s fantastic. Doing what you love will not only make you happier in both the long and short term, but you’re more likely to do well at it too. So if, for example, you love art, don’t stop doing it in favour of another subject that you think typically scales better, just to boost your overall ATAR score.

You should definitely choose subjects that you enjoy, but be realistic about what the long term opportunities those subjects will give you and maybe compromise on one or two.


Tip 3 – do your research


Before you commit to which subjects you’ll take next year, you really should do some reading. Whether you’re planning on going on to study further, take up an apprenticeship, or start working, you should find out what prospective institutions or employers will need from your high school education. If you’d like to go to university and have even a vague idea about what course you’d like to do, you should find out what the prerequisites are.

For example: if you want to study Engineering, Deakin University would require you to do Maths Methods or Specialist Maths in Years 11 and 12, otherwise you won’t be accepted into the course. Each University has different requirements though, so you might like to check a few and see if there’s a common theme. Teaching and Medicine courses also tend to have strict subject requirements.

You can always use the Subject Selection Calculator to help you work out what may (or may not) be compulsory.

Note: many universities and courses now require you to have English as one of your subjects. We’re also noticing that some universities are increasing their expectations, so you may need Maths as well as English.


Tip 4 – keep your options open


You might love chemistry, physics and maths. And up until now you’ve been doing really well in those subjects too. That’s great; maybe you’ll go on to love those subjects and enter a STEM related career. But you might also decide in Year 12 that you’ve actually had enough of sciences and your passion is taking you down a different route.

Conversely, if you really don’t enjoy maths, but you’re interested in a career in the science or health fields, chances are you’ll need maths, so you may have to suck it up and at least take the baseline option. Either way, it’s definitely worth considering spreading your choices wider and incorporating a few different subjects that’ll give you more flexibility when it comes to choosing universities or careers.

You’ll be amazed how much growing and learning you’ll still do in the next 2 years of high school and beyond. It’s exciting, and giving yourself more scope will ultimately just give you more options and more choices later in life.


Tip 5 – challenge yourself


If you’re looking at doing Maths, English or similar subjects where there are different levels, consider going for the advanced or higher levels. Why not take the easy option?


  • Why would you want to limit yourself? Challenges are a great way to grow and to increase your confidence, and discover what you’re really capable of.
  • At results time you may benefit more in the scaling process and come out with an even higher ATAR than you expected or needed. Once again that could open up new avenues for you to explore.
  • Always aim high. If you’re really struggling with the higher levels (either it’s too stressful or the workload is too much for you), you can always drop down (even in Year 12), but you can’t go up.


Important things to avoid when it comes to subject selection


A few of our recommended don’ts when it comes to subject selection include:

  • Don’t just choose what you think are the easy options; you’re wasting your opportunity to be and to do so much more.
  • Don’t choose subjects to be with your friends or satisfy your parents’ wishes.
  • Don’t choose subjects because you think they’ll scale well or lead to a well-paid career. You might end up hating your time at school and university and putting yourself behind rather than getting ahead.
  • Don’t be unrealistic, e.g. don’t choose chemistry and physics because you love animals and think being a vet would be nice. If you’re not great at those subjects and are a bit squeamish anyway, you really need to find new and realistic ways to pursue your dream of working with animals.




Yes, it’s a big decision, but Subject selection in Year 10 will not define the rest of your life.

So don’t stress about it too much. Give it some thought, do the research and choose subjects that will help you to enjoy your last two years at school.

You can always do bridging courses and find alternative pathways to get you where you want to be. That could be your plan B.

Taking the time now to choose subjects that you’ll enjoy, do well at, and will get you where you want to be faster and with less time spent in struggle-town, will make your life less complicated in the long run. Ultimately, it will be time well spent.


Find out more


Keep an eye out for the updated Subject Selection Handbook coming soon – it will guide you through the decision making process step-by-step, help you learn what motivates you, refine your goals and then work out the best pathways for you.


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