Six things to consider when selecting HSC subjects

Sally PayneSally Payne
Associate Dean of Studies

Are students entering their final two years of schooling preparing well and choosing subjects that fit their career aspirations and strengths? With HSC subject selection in progress (or recently completed in some schools) across NSW, year 10 students and their parents may be struggling with the decisions they are making around what to select for the final years of study at school. Here are six things to consider when selecting subjects and sources of information to help with that process.

1. The NSW Education Standards Authority has requirements that students must meet to receive their HSC[1]:

• a preliminary pattern of study that includes at least 12 units, and
• a final HSC pattern of study that includes at least 10 units.

In addition, both patterns of study must include at least:

• 6 units of Board-developed courses
• 2 units of a Board-developed course in English, or English Studies
• 3 courses of 2 or more units (either Board-developed or Board-endorsed Courses)
• 4 subjects.

2. According to the University Admission Centre’s University Entry Requirements 2019 for Year 10 Students, students are advised to select subjects which they enjoy, and to consider whether their subjects will give them eligibility for the HSC and an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR). The ATAR is calculated by universities, either on its own or with other selection criteria, to rank school leavers for entry to their courses. Note however, not all higher education intuitions require an ATAR, as some pathways to university, such as UTS:INSEARCH, take diploma students based on their HSC results.

3. School counsellors, careers advisors and teachers are an excellent source of information and advice on subject section. They are often familiar with the student’s school progress and personal circumstances. Besides offering advice, career advisors also may have access to aptitude tests, quizzes, case studies and industry connections in different fields, to assist in guiding students to areas that suit their strengths and interests.

4. Talking to siblings and older friends can be helpful as they may provide advice, particularly if they have studied similar subjects recently. They can help students identify whether the type of learning, assignments involved and content is likely to appeal. However, be aware that there can be changes in courses, so it’s important to validate if the information from other students remains current.

5. Parents are an invaluable in the subject selection process, as they can help research and guide students to subjects which will prepare their child for a career in a field they are likely to enjoy and succeed in. They may also have friends that work in different industries who can provide insights on career prospects.

6. Careers expos and university open days are also helpful opportunities. Students can speak to course coordinators and university admissions staff about course requirements. This is a good idea if students wish to tailor their subjects to prepare for particular higher education courses which they are interested in. For example, students should know they need to study advanced maths, or extension 1 or 2 maths and physics and/or chemistry for entry to the UTS:INSEARCH Diploma of Engineering. Students can find out this type of information at the open days, expos and online. 

So how does subject selection all come together? Most students consult a range of the resources suggested, and some students will even change their HSC preferences during first few weeks of HSC subject selection.

The most important thing to remember: students know themselves best, and success is more likely if they have selected a range of subjects that highlight their strengths, areas of interest and help them towards achieving their future aspirations.

1. http://educationstandards.nsw.edu.au/wps/portal/nesa/11-12/hsc/subject-selection

Sally Payne, Associate Dean of Studies, UTS:INSEARCH

Prior to becoming the Associate Dean of Studies, Sally was the Program Manager for UTS Foundation Studies and the Diploma of IT where she was responsible for the academic management of the pathway diploma program and of the UTS Foundation Studies program. She is the Chair of the Academic Teaching and Learning committee and leads the Quality Assurance program for UTS:INSEARCH courses. Sally also oversees the scholarship and professional development committee for academic staff and is responsible for the Academic Advisors area and the learning support programs. Sally is also the mother of three children who have completed the HSC in the past six years.

How do you decide which HSC subjects to choose? Two UTS:INSEARCH students, Tony Au & Jessette Garcia give advice. 

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