Choosing School Subjects

In most schools in Australia, students choose elective subjects. It is important to think carefully when making decisions about your school subjects. There are several factors to consider such as success, enjoyment, balance, career goals and self-awareness.


There are four main considerations when choosing elective school subjects.

  1. Choose subjects that, with appropriate effort, you are likely to achieve success. It is important to achieve the best possible results from your school subjects as this will keep more options open in the future.
  2. Select subjects you will enjoy. You are more likely to do well when you enjoy the subjects you are studying.
  3. Choose subjects with your career goals in mind, particularly in the senior secondary years.
  4. Choose subjects from a variety of learning areas to get a balanced academic programme. Studying subjects in a range of faculty areas will help you to:
    • Keep your options for the future open
    • Discover what subject areas you really enjoy and why
    • Learn about your subject strengths
    • Have a balanced academic programme

Choosing subjects from a variety of learning areas is important because the school years are a time for learning, exploring and preparing for the future. By exploring a broad range of subject areas, you will be in a better position to make informed choices in preparation for your future.

School Subjects and Career Goals

Often the school subjects that students choose can influence the range of further education and training courses available immediately after leaving school. In turn, the further education and training courses that students complete influence their initial career options. Therefore, when choosing school subjects it is important to look ahead and think about the general career direction you may wish to follow.

The importance of choosing subjects with career goals in mind varies, depending on whether you are in the middle school years, the early years of secondary school or the senior years of secondary school.

The Middle Years and Early Secondary School Years 

Schools do not usually allow students in the middle years or early secondary school years to drop subjects that are frequently prerequisites (i.e., essential) or assumed knowledge to get into specific further education courses at university or TAFE. It is usually mandatory for all students in the middle and early secondary school years to study English, Science and Maths. These subjects are required for entry into many further education courses as well as for entry into apprenticeships. How well you perform in a subject can also influence the courses you may be eligible for immediately after finishing school. For example, a student who achieves a poor result in Year 10 Maths may struggle to pass study the correct Maths subjects to get into a university course in Engineering.

For students who are interested in a career in visual or performing arts or design, or students who would like to gain an apprenticeship, there are some school subjects that may be beneficial.

Subjects for Visual and Performing Arts and Design Courses

For students who have an interest in studying visual or performing arts courses or design courses at TAFE or univeristy, studying related subjects throughout the middle and secondary school years may help build the skills to be considered for entry into creative courses at TAFE, university or private colleges. Entry into visual or performing arts and design courses is usually based on a combination of school results an one or more of:

  • A portfolio of recent work
  • An audition
  • Completion of a design or creative task
  • Suitability interview

Subjects for Apprenticeships

To improve the chances of gaining an apprenticeship, it is important that students show commitment to the apprenticeship area of interest. One way to do this is to study school subjects related to the apprenticeship area that you wish to pursue.

For example:

  • For students interested in becoming a Chef, it may be helpful to study subjects such as Food and Nutrition and VET Hospitality.
  • For students interested in an apprenticeship in the Construction industry, it may be helpful to study woodwork subjects and VET Construction.

Senior Secondary School Years 

Students going into the final years of secondary school can regard subject choice from several different perspectives:

  • Choosing subjects that are prerequisites for courses you wish to apply for.
  • Choosing school subjects that will help you when they get to university or TAFE. For example, Biology is not usually a prerequisite for entry into Medicine, but it may be helpful when studying medicine at university.
  • Selecting subjects to sample a particular career field. For example, Accounting is not a prerequisite subject for a business or commerce degree but it will give an idea of what it might be like to study some aspects of Accounting at TAFE or university.
  • Selecting subjects that will enhance employment prospects. For example, studying a Vocational Education and Training Course related to an apprenticeship career goal may improve the likelihood of securing an apprenticeship.

Subjects for University Entrance

When choosing school subjects, students you should keep in mind the requirements for the senior secondary school certificate in your state or territory. At the same time, you need to study and pass prerequisite subjects or assumed knowledge subjects and achieve the best ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank) or OP you can to give you the best chance of getting into your preferred university course and meet any special requirements. You can find out prerequisite subjects, assumed knowledge subjects, indicative ATAR or OP scores and special requirements from sources such as course information on university websites, or tertiary admissions guides for each state or territory.