What Subjects Should You Choose in Year 11 & 12?

June 1, 2021Klein E

It’s getting to that time of the year again: semester one is over and everyone is ready for winter break, a time to hibernate before the second long haul. For year 10s, semester two will be especially crucial as you start making some big choices based on what you want to do next year. The. Struggle. Is. REAL.

Reality check:

I’m going to make a big disclaimer right now: whatever you end up choosing, it won’t determine your whole future. What you do in year 11 won’t even necessarily determine what you’ll do in year 12, for that matter. Most schools have trial periods and cut-off dates where you can change your subjects and swap things around, so there’s no need to panic. When I was in year 11, I did psychology, English Language, legal studies, philosophy, biology and maths methods. By term two of year 12, I was no longer doing methods or biology and picked up further maths. While I was still not much of a maths nut, this suited me far better and I never regretted making this decision. So keep that in mind – VCE/SACE/WACE/HSCise actually quite flexible and nothing’s ever set in stone.

The Battle of the Englishes:

The first thing to consider is which English you’re going to choose, as this is a requirement for your ATAR. Not all schools will provide all three – general, language and literature –  and some may require you to do literature and/or language as an additional elective on top of general. But if you’re lucky like I was, you’ll have some choice.

The most popular option is English general. This is basically an advanced version of what you’ve been doing from years 7 to 10, including text response and analysis and maybe a few creative pieces. It might be tempting to stick to this without a thought because it’s what you know, it’s safe and everyone else is doing it. But, if your school is generous enough to provide all three, it’s important to consider the other branches too. Are you more science-oriented than bookish? Are you like me – someone, who loves reading and creative writing but preferred to do this in my own free time? Someone who is fascinated by language and its constant evolution? Then the English Language is for you. Or are you more of a fan of the classics and poetry, interested in exploring why writers write what they write? Then look towards literature.

Now, time for the rest:

After you’ve sorted English, you’ve got four more spaces to fill out. Some of you are already doing a year 11 subject, meaning you’ll get to complete six subjects by the end of year 12 instead of four or five. This also means you’ve already got a taste of VCE/SACE/WACE/HSC. Are you enjoying it? For that matter, which year 10 subjects and electives are you also enjoying? Maybe do other subjects that complement what you love doing now. For instance, biology and psychology go well hand-in-hand, especially unit 2 bio with unit 3 psych. If you love humanities, do a couple of subjects from this field that pique your interest. Doing physics? There’s a chance you’re going to want to throw some maths in there too.

Contrarily, you might want to mix it up. My older sister did a combo of almost all the domains – maths, science, English, technology and art – and finished with outstanding results. If you’re multifaceted like her, then you might choose to do the same. It’ll create the perfect balance so that you don’t get bored doing the same thing all the time. Stretch your brain and test your wide range of abilities; universities and prospective employers love well-rounded people.

Be resourceful and do some research:

My school had yearly subject expos to help students decide. Info about the subjects on offer are put on display and relevant teachers talk to interested students about what’s involved. If your school does something similar, take advantage! You might learn of a subject you haven’t even heard of yet or don’t know much about – a subject that’s actually perfect for you. You can also go online and check out study designs to see what you’ll be in for before you lock in your decision. It can’t hurt!

If your school doesn’t provide a certain subject, there is an alternative. I did philosophy with the Distance Education Centre of Victoria and had a very satisyfing experience. Depending on whether you attend a public or private school, it might cost you and your parents extra, but it’ll be worth it and you won’t be missing out. (Keep in mind: distance education requires an ability to work independently and efficient means to communicate digitally).

Take prerequisites into account:

You know how I said before that your subject choices won’t affect your future beyond high school? Well, I’m gonna be a little self-contradictory here (but only a little). If you’re very focused, certain that you want to be a crazy scientist or go into a medical degree after year 12, then it’s important to find out what subjects you need to complete in order to get into university. The majority of courses these days only ask that you complete English, but there are some specialised pathways – especially in science – that have additional prereqs.

Don’t stress if this is the case and you’ve deviated a little; there are always ways around these kind of things. I know a friend who wanted to go into science and knew she had to do methods but didn’t do it. Now her uni course is just a little extended to make up for this but she’s still doing what she wants to do.

Your subjects, YOUR choice:

Whatever you end up choosing, just remember, it’s up to you and no one else. I’ve spouted this cliché time and time again: you must follow your heart! We’ve all done it at some point, but try not to let your knowledge that a certain teacher will be taking this class, or that your friend is doing that one, sway you. What do you want to do? What are you passionate about? What’s captured your interest?

I understand that, for many of you, having parents with certain expectations is a reality. It’s hard when they have a certain vision for you, one that doesn’t mirror your own. Try have a discussion with them; tell them why you want to go on a different path, what you think you’ll get out of it that their selection won’t (hint: happiness!). At the very, very least, make a compromise so you’re not completely put off for the next two years.

Doing what you love rather than what you think you should do will be a thousand times more beneficial. Year 11 and 12 cops a lot of negativity. Yes, it’s a lot of work and can be stressful at times. But you can also choose to look at it as a time to discover your own passions and attractions, to discover something about yourself. Take a giant slurp because the world is your oyster!


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Klein E

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