The parents' guide to senior subject choices

With the second half of the school year underway, students will start thinking about their subject choices for the following year. If your child is preparing to enter their final years of school, read on as we answer some of the most common questions about Year 11 and 12 subject selection.

Q: Which subjects are compulsory in Year 11 and 12?

A: In New South Wales and Victoria, English is the only compulsory subject. In Queensland, students must meet literacy and numeracy requirements, which can be satisfied by completing at least one semester of both an English and mathematics subject, although many schools require students to study these subjects for the full four semesters of Years 11 and 12. Across the states, individual schools may also set their own subject requirements for students some will encourage all students to study maths, while some independent and Catholic schools list religious education as a compulsory subject. Students can choose the remainder of their study load as they wish, although schools may also place restrictions on certain studies based on academic progress (high-level maths, for instance).

Q: What if my child wants to do a subject that isn't available at their school?

A: If your child is interested in studying a subject that is not offered at their school, they may be able to complete the subject externally by studying the subject at a nearby school, through external examinations or through distance education. Some subjects may also be available at TAFE institutes and adult education centres. Your child's teachers, year-level coordinator and school career adviser can offer advice.

Q: Will my child need to complete prerequisite subjects for their university course?

A: University courses usually list English as a prerequisite. Courses with further prerequisites studies (or ˜assumed knowledge') include fields such as accounting, engineering, health disciplines and science, which usually list mathematics and/or certain sciences (such as physics, biology and chemistry) as prerequisites. If your child plans to apply for university, they will need to make sure they are eligible to receive an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) or Overall Position (OP) in Queensland by completing the necessary number of approved subjects (10 units of Board Developed Courses in New South Wales, 20 units of Authority subjects in Queensland and at least four Units 3 and 4 sequences in Victoria).

Q: What if my child doesn't know what they want to study after school?

A: If your child is yet to decide on a university course or field of study, it may be beneficial for them to choose a broad range of subjects for Years 11 and 12. For example, they could study a humanities subject, a science, a creative or skills-based subject (such as art or physical education) and a business subject, alongside the standard English and maths. This will prevent them from narrowing down their options too early and gives them more time to determine where their interests lie and what they would like to continue on with at tertiary level. Most importantly, they should choose subjects that they have enjoyed in the past and those in which they have shown some level of success if they hated studying chemistry in Year 10, chances are they won't enjoy it in Years 11 and 12 either.

Q: What if my child changes their mind?

A: If your child decides that a subject isn't for them, they are not required to stick it out for the entire duration of study. They can often pick up a different subject in its place, provided the new subject still fulfils the requirements for the completion of their senior certificate. Depending on the time of year, they may have to wait until the start of the next term or semester to swap subjects. They may also be able to drop a subject entirely, depending on the number of other subjects they are studying and specific policies at their school. If your child is struggling academically, it is best to speak to someone at their school, such as a career or academic adviser, who will be able to help them find a suitable replacement.

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