Group of Year 11 students jumping in a school corridor

HSC/VCE subjects: what you need to know when choosing your Year 11 subjects

Moving into Year 11, and looking at what might come afterwards, is an adventure. But taking your first step – choosing your HSC/VCE subjects – might be a bit confusing.

What do you really need to know about getting an ATAR, subject scaling, selection rank, prerequisites and recommended studies? Never fear, we’ve got the essential info.

Let’s break it down.

HSC/VCE subjects and getting an ATAR

First up, if you think uni might be on the cards after Year 12, the way most students get in straight after school is with an ATAR. That’s an Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank.

The key word is that little one at the end of the name – the ATAR is a rank, not a mark.

It’s a number between 0.00 and 99.95 that indicates your position among all the students in your age group. So an ATAR of 75.00 would place you in the top 25 per cent of your age group in your state. It doesn’t mean you scored 75 out of 100 in the HSC/VCE.

It’s really important to know that not all Year 11 and 12 subjects count towards an ATAR. So you’ll need to check with your school which subjects do and which don’t, if you want to go into Year 11 with a subject combination that will give you an ATAR.

The good news is your ATAR will be based on your overall performance in your HSC/VCE subjects, not just your marks in one or two subjects. And depending on your subject combination, you may be able to drop a subject in Year 12 and still get an ATAR.

So why are universities interested in your ATAR? Unis use your ATAR score to help ensure the course you want to do is a good fit for you. We want to make sure you’re set up for success!

HSC/VCE subject scaling

There are around 27,000 different course combinations that HSC/VCE students can choose! You don’t need a degree in maths to realise that’s a lot.

So how are students across these combinations – and across different states – compared and ranked fairly?

Answer: scaling.

Scaling takes away the differences between patterns of study. Result? All studies are treated equally in the ATAR calculation.

Scaling means the old myth about having to choose certain courses to get a good ATAR is just that – a myth! No subject will guarantee you a high (or low) ATAR!

In fact, you’re more likely to achieve the ATAR for your chosen uni course if you enjoy what you’re studying at school.

So if you’re artistic, choosing creative subjects would be a good fit. Like doing experiments and blowing things up? Go full steam ahead with your favourite science subjects.

And here’s some more good news: the ATAR isn’t the be all and end all of uni admission.

Selection rank

Let’s talk about a little thing called selection rank.

While your ATAR will tell you how you’ve gone in the HSC/VCE overall compared to other students, your selection rank is your ATAR plus any adjustments made by a university.

And it’s selection rank that Charles Sturt University uses to assess your application for courses.

Think of it like an equation.

ATAR + adjustment factors = selection rank

At Charles Sturt we’ll automatically adjust your selection rank by five points if you have come from a regional, rural or remote school. We can also look at adjusting your selection rank if you aced relevant school subjects or had to deal with setbacks during your school studies.

So, say your preferred course has a minimum selection rank of 80. You get an ATAR of 75 but you studied in a rural school – your selection rank is now 80, meaning you’ll be eligible for consideration to the course!

Our Charles Sturt Advantage early offer program also provides an adjustment to most of our courses – and lots of other benefits. You’ll want to check it out when you get to Year 12.

And if school doesn’t go quite as you plan, we have other admission pathways that can help you get into Charles Sturt.

Prerequisites and recommended studies

Prerequisites are studies some unis specify you must have completed in order to do a particular course. At these unis, you won’t be able to apply for a course if you haven’t studied the prerequisites in high school.

The good news is, at Charles Sturt, most of our degrees don’t have prerequisites.

That means there are no HSC/VCE subjects you absolutely, definitely need to take to apply to most of our courses.

A few courses do have specific requirements, such as completing the University Clinical Aptitude Test if you want to study medicine or dentistry, but most don’t. So you won’t rule yourself out if you end up wanting to study something at uni that you didn’t study at school.

If you do know what you want to study at uni, choosing Year 11 and 12 subjects that align with your course will certainly help you get off to a flying start. These are called ‘recommended studies’ (or sometimes ‘assumed knowledge’) and will give you a general understanding of topics relevant to your uni course.

For example, if you’re thinking about studying a healthcare degree there will be lots of science in the course. So while you don’t have to have studied all science subjects at school to get into these courses at Charles Sturt, if you’ve done a bit of biology, chemistry or physics you’ll probably find your first year of uni a bit easier.

Our top tip for choosing HSC/VCE subjects

Our best advice is to base your HSC/VCE subject choices on your strengths, interests and personality. Our guide for Year 10 students is packed full of tips that will help you choose your Year 11 subjects – and get ideas for careers you might be interested in. Ready to start your adventure? Let’s go!