Elective Classes in High School – Choosing Year 11 and 12 Subjects

Year 10 can be daunting for a lot of people. You’re half-way through your high school journey, assessment is getting more serious and most importantly, Year 11 and 12 subject selection in Term 3 and 4. Knowing that you have to do the same 6 subjects for the next 2 years AND that those subjects will help determine your ATAR and potential future careers is a scary package.

When I was in school, I ended up choosing English, Maths B (now called Maths Methods), Biology, Chemistry, Economics and Music which gives me a diverse understanding of the different elective areas and I used thinking steps to help me choose these subjects. I hope the advice that I used can be useful to you in picking the subjects that will give you the most success and fun in your last 2 years of schooling!

Why Are Electives Important In High School

Regardless of what career pathways you’re interested in, it’s important to choose elective subjects that relate to what you’re considering. Even if they aren’t prerequisites for the degree you’re interested in, exploring those subjects further can help you gain a better understanding of whether you’re genuinely interested in going forward with it as a career and can give you an extra “edge” if you eventually study it in university.

Also, you should always check what elective requirements you need for certain degrees. You can find this information by going to university websites and travelling to the degrees you’re interested in. All universities are slightly different with their requirements but this is a general guide of suggestions and common requirements you often need.

Electives For STEM pathways

For STEM related degrees, many universities require you to do Math Methods as a requirement as well as General English so those are essential. Without these subjects, most universities won’t accept you. In terms of recommended subjects for science, I’d recommend one or even two science electives based on what sciences you’re interested in as some universities such as UQ require one science not including Psychology.

With technology fields, ICT or Technology electives aren’t prerequisites but definitely recommended to choose anyways and with Engineering and Maths, some universities require you to do Specialist Maths as well as Methods so choosing it as one of your 4 free elective spots (with English and Methods taking one spot each) would be useful in the long-run.

Electives For Humanities pathways

Depending on whether you’re looking at creative arts or more theoretical arts such as history, it’s important to cater to what you’re interested in. Luckily, the only elective requirement you need is any ATAR English subject whether that be General English, Literature, English Extension or EAL. For creative arts like drama, music and art, you’re required to go through an audition process or submit a portfolio of your work, so choosing those subjects in high school can help you improve your skills and even become a part of your portfolio or acting resumé after school.

Electives for Pathways in Classical Arts

Classical arts, such as history and languages do not have any special perquisites but doing Modern history, Ancient history or even both  in school can help you to develop essential research and analytical skills and starting to learn the language before university can be a big help and expand your horizons.

Electives for Business or Law

Business and Law are both interesting to talk about in terms of elective subjects as usually subjects such as Legal Studies, Economics and Accounting are only available in Year 11 and 12. This means you may have never done anything like this before, and it can be hard to know what to expect.

If you’re looking towards business or law as a career, it’s important to choose these electives if they are offered at your school. They will expose you to the field  and help you confirm whether it’s what you really want to do.

In terms of prerequisites for university, English is still a must for both law and business. However, depending on where you wish to study,  some universities require Maths Methods specifically or just any one ATAR maths subject so in order to keep your university options open, it would be useful to choose Math Methods.

Electives for Education

Although there is no specific education elective in school, future teachers need a few subjects up their belt. For people looking towards being a primary teacher, you’re required to pick one ATAR English subject, one ATAR Maths subject and one ATAR science subject. For secondary education teachers, some universities offer secondary education as a single degree or as a dual degree with the teaching area you wish to teach whether its science, arts or something else. Regardless of how you wish to take your degree, all secondary teachers are expected to have one ATAR English subject, one ATAR Math subject and 2 subjects to teach. These 2 teaching subjects can include English and or Maths but its important to start thinking about know what subjects you would want to teach as a secondary teacher and select them as part of your subject selection

Electives for Medicine

For many universities, the Doctor of Medicine (also known as “Med school”) is only available as a postgraduate degree meaning you’re first required to undertake an undergraduate Bachelor’s Degree that is usually related to medicine such as Bio-medical Science. Undertaking the UCAT test in Year 12 and getting a great result as well as an ATAR 95 in most cases can grant you what is called “provisional entry” which is automatic acceptance after completion of the Bachelor’s degree.

Before that however, it’s important to choose Maths Methods and Biology as many of the Bachelor degree options Medicine allows are science degrees which require Methods and one science with Biology being the main aspect of medicine and related studies.  As a second elective you could also choose Chemistry as Biochemistry and Pharmacology are also important aspects of medicine but are not compulsory.

What if I don’t know what I want to do as a career or I change my mind?

If you’re unsure as to what you want to do for a career, there is no pressure to know for certain right now. Even people who seem to be sure as to what they want to do in Year 10, may change their mind between now and graduation, and  may even change their mind during their university degree. This is all completely normal. Whether you’re unsure as to what you want to do or you’re worried you might change your mind it’s important to choose a diverse range of subjects and choose subjects that you’ve enjoyed so far and that you’ve excelled in.

Choosing Based on Your Strengths

Not all of your electives will relate towards your career and if you don’t know what you’re planning to do outside of school, thinking about your current strengths and weaknesses is important, especially when ATAR is based on how well you do in the subjects you choose.A first step to figure out what subjects you’re good at is looking at your past subject marks and results. If music or art were your best subjects then it’s probably good to stick with them in Year 11 or 12 even if you’re not interested in pursuing those arts after school. If science was one of your best subjects, it would be a good idea to choose one or even two sciences as part of your electives.  Other than grades, think about the types of assessment you preferred or were good at. Do you like assignments more than exams? Or maybe exams over assignments? If you hate doing assignments for example, then it’s probably not a good idea to choose subjects with a lot of assignments such as History. Since assignments and exams are what you’re marked on, thinking about what type of assessments you’re good at or enjoy is a crucial step to choosing your subjects.

What do you enjoy?

Subjects that you enjoy may not be your best subject but they’re important as doing subjects you enjoy will in turn, make the work in that subject feel more bearable and easier as a result. These subjects can be the subjects you work on while you need a break from your more mentally challenging subjects

“I have one more elective I need to pick but nothing else seems good/interesting”

If this is you, then it can seem difficult to decide what else you want to do. You’ve picked all the subjects you want but it’s still not enough subjects.

In that case, I first recommend having a look at all the new elective options that weren’t available until now. If you enjoy humanities, looking at Legal Studies or Psychology if you’re interested in science. Don’t dismiss them too early as they could be hidden gems that you would have had no idea you enjoy and could be good at and so have a closer look into the subject outline as to what you would be learning or ask a teacher about it.

You could also consider extension subjects in areas that you are interested in such as English Extension or Music extension which count as an additional elective when you also pick standard English or Music.

Hopefully this guide was useful to you in picking your Year 11 and 12 subjects and made this seemingly daunting task a little bit easier. If you’re still unsure as to what to do, you can discuss it with your parents and teachers, and work through your options with your academic personal trainer in order to make the best decisions for you and have the most success possible in your final years at school.