Tips on how to help your child choose their HSC subject list

Student choosing their HSC subjects

Is your teen unsure what HSC subjects they should choose? Find out which subjects would be the best for them and things to consider during subject selection.

One of the biggest hurdles your child will face during their high school years happens at HSC subject selection time. Choosing the right ones can determine how motivated they are and how well they’ll perform come final-year exams. From understanding the requirements of university courses to identifying your child’s strengths and interests, here’s everything you need to know to help them choose wisely.

What you should know about HSC scaling

First, let’s bust some myths. Chances are you’ve heard theories about HSC scaling. Do the hardest HSC subjects guarantee a better ATAR? Do the most popular HSC subjects lead to a lower ATAR? And why scale anyway?

The Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) – responsible for the scaling in NSW – explains it perfectly: “The underlying principle of scaling is that [your child] should be neither advantaged nor disadvantaged by choosing one combination of HSC courses over another.”

By standardising the raw marks that students receive in their HSC exams, scaling ensures that students who study more difficult subjects are not unfairly disadvantaged when compared to those who take easier subjects.

So, subjects considered to be more difficult or have higher-achieving students are given a higher scaling factor, meaning the raw marks of students in those subjects are increased. By the same token, subjects that are deemed to be easier or have lower-achieving students are given a lower scaling factor, meaning raw marks in those subjects are decreased.

The scaled marks are then used to calculate the student’s Australian Tertiary Admission Rank or ATAR. Remember: the ATAR is a rank, not a score out of 100. It measures a student’s overall academic achievement across all their HSC subjects and reflects their position in each. Here’s a comprehensive breakdown about HSC scaling.

The takeaway? No matter which subjects your teen selects, it’s entirely possible to earn high HSC marks and a high ATAR. They’re more likely to excel if they choose subjects they’re actually interested in, not because they “scale well”. There’s no use choosing 4 Unit Maths if they dread numbers.

Six questions to guide your teen towards the right HSC subjects

What are your passions?

When your child is interested, they’re more likely to stay motivated – and that’s what will get them through their final two years at school. Knowing what topics they like – and loathe – can guide them towards choosing subjects they will enjoy – and excel at.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

In the same vein, choosing subjects that align with your child’s strengths can give them a leg up. Identifying their expertise and areas for improvement will help them pick subjects based on confidence and competency. With this approach, you can likely expect better engagement and performance.

What are your career aspirations?

They don’t have to pinpoint an exact job, but knowing what path your teen is likely to take after school will help them identify what skills and knowledge will be relevant to their future – and which HSC subjects will build a strong foundation.

Family helping student choose HSC subjects

Have you considered the prerequisites for your desired university course?

Making informed decisions now can impact your child’s academic pursuits after school. Some university degrees come with subject prerequisites and assumed or recommended knowledge requirements. If your child’s preferred degree does and they don’t study these subjects in Years 11 and 12, being accepted into their desired course can become more challenging.

Have you considered your workload?

Assessing the amount of work required for each subject can determine which ones your child should choose. For instance, students who select Design and Technology, Visual Arts or Society and Culture are required to complete major works or projects which contribute up to 50 per cent of their HSC mark for that course. Typically, these subjects require extra hours of dedication, so they’ll want to factor this into their decisions.

Have you spoken to your teachers or career advisors about subject selection?

Your teen’s teachers will be able to offer valuable insights into their academic strengths as well as identify areas for potential growth. Plus, with their understanding of the HSC syllabus, they’re perfectly placed to match your child’s talents, interests and goals to subjects they’ll succeed in.

There are plenty of helpful resources to make the decision-making process easier. UAC’s Subject Compass tool will match your teen’s interests, skills and ideal career path to the most suitable HSC subjects. You’ll also find detailed information about each subject, including assessment methods and prerequisites for university courses.

Speaking of, attending university Open Days will give your teen a better understanding of the courses available, their prerequisites and the careers they lead to – which can impact their senior subject choices.

So, when it comes time to think about what HSC subjects to choose, encourage them to consider their strengths, passions and aspirations. Picking subjects they love and excel at will increase their chances of HSC success, make for a more fulfilling senior school experience, and shape their future.

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