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Choosing subjects

How to choose what to study in years 11 and 12


The options, it seems, are endless. For many year 10 students, deciding which subjects to take in the final two years of school can be a big headache.

Or, as Rowan Kunz of Art of Smart Education puts it, it can be a bit like, well, eating a doughnut.  

“I could eat this doughnut right now and it would give me an amazing sugar hit, it would taste delicious, but it might have some long-term consequences,” he says. 

“Choosing your subjects is really similar. You can pick a subject and it will feel great at the time, but it can also have some long-term consequences.” 

So, how do you choose the right doughnuts, um, subjects? 

Well, Rowan suggests a four-step decision process that includes considering your passions, future study plans, workload and subject scaling. 

“You want to pick your passions first and choose subjects that you genuinely love,” he says. 

“The second thing is, you need to prioritise the long-term over the short-term, and that means prioritising what you’re going to need for university admission over what might feel easy right now — in other words, prioritising your health over the doughnut.”  

What am I passionate about?

Your first four years of high school will have given you some idea of the subjects you enjoy, and the ones you’re good at. 

So, when it comes to choosing what to study in years 11 and 12, figuring out what you really like and care about is important, according to careers advice website Skillsroad.  

“You’re going to spend loads of time working on the subjects you’ve chosen, and if you’re not really interested in them (or you only chose them because your parents told you to), you won’t put in the work and effort needed to do well.”

Skillsroad also suggests taking the time to think about how your interests might unfold into a career down the track. 

“List all the HSC/VCE/SACE/WACE subjects you enjoy, and see where your passions might overlap with your subject choices.” 

While passions and interests are important, they’re not the only things you should take into account when picking your subjects, says careers site StudyWorkGrow

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

Future study plans 

If you’ve got a dream degree in mind for when you leave school, you already have some of the decision-making done in ensuring you meet the prerequisites for your desired course. You can find these by consulting the Year 10 guides produced by QTAC, UAC and VTAC

Doing the research on course entry requirements now will help to avoid any disappointment down the track.

Choosing what to study in Year 11 and Year 12

“You’ve got to start with the end in mind,” says Art of Smart’s Rowan Kunz. “When you’re picking your subjects, you need to think about, ‘What might I want to do at university?’ You might not know, and that’s okay, but you need to think about what options you want for yourself.” 

In other words, choose your subjects wisely to ensure you don’t limit your options when it comes to university. 

“A lot of [university] courses require mathematics or chemistry, particularly in engineering, commerce and health sciences … so then you can be in a bit of a pickle because you find you can’t study the university subjects you want to study unless you do a bridging course,” Kunz adds. 

“Of course, you can do a bridging course, but it’s sort of like putting on weight and then trying to lose it again – it’s doable, but it’s challenging.” 

Thankfully, universities like ACU provide alternative pathways and entry programs to help you meet the requirements of your chosen course.  

But there’s no doubt that choosing the Year 12 subjects that gel with your future plans will give you the smoothest road to post-school study.  

Consider your workload 

Another thing to take into account when choosing your subjects is workload. 

Your final years of high school will be gruelling at times, and – to go back to the doughnut analogy – you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew. 

On the other hand, you can always drop down from a subject if it gets too much, and that means sometimes it’s best to aim high.

How to choose high school subjects

“While selecting subjects that you enjoy is important, it’s also worth putting yourself outside of your comfort zone,” says online learning site Upskilled.

This is most definitely the case when it comes to compulsory subjects like mathematics and English, which can be taken at varying levels. 

“If you’re unsure what best suits your abilities, it’s worth picking a harder level and dropping down a level later if you are struggling with the workload.” 
 
Another reason to aim high is that Year 10 students don’t often know what they’re capable of. 

“You’re going to grow so much in years 11 and 12,” says Rowan Kunz, “so don’t limit yourself too soon by picking subjects that you think are going to be easier, because the reality is that every subject is going to take work.” 

What about scaling? 

When it comes to subject selection, it can be tempting to pick the ones you think will boost your end results. 

But scaling should be the last thing you consider, according to Skillsroad. 

“Taking subjects you love and are good at above subjects that simply scale well is a better way to guarantee that you’ll put in the hard work and achieve good results.” 

Upskilled’s online guide, ‘The dos and don’ts of subject selection’, advises students that it’s important to “not get so caught up in scaling”. 

“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.” 

Which brings us back to where we started: do what you’re good at, and what you’re passionate about. 

Take advice from teachers and careers advisers. Attend career expos and university events

And, once you’ve chosen your subjects, buckle in for the ride on your final two years of school. Plan well, be curious, have fun and – above all – work hard and do your best. 

Keen to pursue your dream career through study at ACU? Explore your options

Impact brings you compelling stories, inspiring research, and big ideas from ACU. It's about the impact we’re having on our communities, and our Mission in action. It’s a practical resource for career, life and study.

At ACU it’s education, but not as you know it. We stand up for people in need, and causes that matter.

If you have a story idea or just want to say hello, do contact us.

Copyright@ Australian Catholic University 1998-2021 | ABN 15 050 192 660 CRICOS Reg: 00004G