• Want to help us with this year's BoS Trials?
    Let us know before 30 June. See this thread for details
  • Looking for HSC notes and resources?
    Check out our Notes & Resources page

"Can I get a decent ATAR with these subjects?" (1 Viewer)


Feb 11, 2011
Mare Crisium
Due to the number of threads that come up every year on this topic, I have decided to sticky this classic BoS post for all the 2013ers to see. Aerath often posted this thread for all the new HSC students, so I think it is good to keep the tradition alive.

In my opinion, this is one of the best threads on the site and a must read for all students who are new to the HSC. Just a bit of background on the author, wendybird sat the HSC in 2009 and achieved an ATAR of 99.95. To my knowledge, she is currently starting at Harvard.

Original thread: http://community.boredofstudies.org...-I-get-a-decent-ATAR-with-these-subjects-quot

Wendybird said:
Can we just standardise this already?

(Foolish) Q: Can I get X ATAR with Y subject combination?

(Obvious) A:YES! You can get ANY ATAR with ANY subject combination!


Young Grasshoppers,

Whether you're in Yr 11 or Yr 12, the question always comes up of subject choices. I should know - I was in the same boat, plus my sister is currently in Yr 11, and my mother is like nagging me to offer "wise counsel" (ha!).

The advice I want to give is this:

1. Choose the subjects that you enjoy and that you are good at. You've heard this ad nauseum, but the advice still holds true. Your teachers are RIGHT.

Follow your own desires and interests, not your parent's, not your friend's, not because your favourite teacher is teaching that subject (for all you know he/she might LEAVE! - happened to me), and NOT because of the scaling.

Often the subjects you like WILL be the subject you're good at. Excellent, well that's a no brainer. Choose it!

Sometimes you might be good/great! at a subject but not love, love it. For year 11s - I'd say do it anyway - you might find it useful and you might develop a love for it. But if you're good at something, then you really should consider doing it. For year 12s, keep it if it's one of your top subjects and if it doesn't take too much time from other subjects. You might just want to do it anyway, especially if you find it no sweat to do well in it.

But if you hate it, but are good at it (seriously, this situation doesn't really arise that often tbh. We do tend to like the things we're really good at) then I'd advise you to look at the costs and benefits of doing that subject. If you're really loathing it then maybe its time to say kthxbye.

So why choose the subjects you like?

Well the logic is pretty obvious. If you like something, then working for it won't feel like work (hence your HSC life will feel easier). Also, you'll actually WANT to do the work (hence you will be more productive). And the more you work, the better you will be at that subject. It's a self perpetuating cycle of positive results all round.

2. Keep your options OPEN.

This advice is particularly relevant to Yr 11s. You realise that ALL subjects (except for subjects that you can only pick up in Yr 12 such as 4U maths, 4U English, History X, languages X. etc) REQUIRE that you do the Preliminary course right?

So. If you suddenly decide during the Yr 11/12 summer holidays that you're really, REALLY into Geography and would love to sit that particular 3 hr exam for the HSC, even if you haven't done the prelim course - well sorry buddy, but no cigar. It ain't happening.

I reccommend using Yr 11 to broaden the scope of what you can do in Yr 12.

- Take on as many units during Yr 11 as you can. Because Yr 11 results don't influence Yr 12 ones, you can AFFORD to take the risk.

- Taking more units (ie. more subjects) mean that you can better figure out what you like or don't like, you're good at or not good at. Yr 11 as an exploration period, and a time where you can start figuring out your Yr 12 set of tailored subjects is so helpful. Yr 11 is the time to try new things, because they might just pay off.

- Cover a broad range of subject areas in Yr 11. I don't personally think that Yr 11 is the ideal time to "specialise" right away. Yes, of course do what you love. Hence, if you KNOW that you don't like/are not cut out for a particular subject then just don't do it.

(ie. me and Latin, nuh-uh. It was never meant to be.)

But DO keep in mind the future. I made sure I had a science, I had the highest level of maths, highest level of english, and some social sciences in Yr 11.

I didn't have a specific use for either Maths or Science (Chem as the case was) but I did them "just in case" I changed my mind about my university degree and did something where 3U maths was a pre-requisite.

You might even be applying for scholarships or overseas universities - in which case often you WILL need to have covered a certain range of subject areas (usually English, Maths, Science, Social science).

You might change from your ambitions of playing in a rock band to wanting to be a Med student.

Basically, keep your options open, keep all doors open and bridges intact.

The strategy then is to have your bases covered, and then, in Yr 12, to drop as need be, or as you start finalising your Uni plans, or start really strongly getting a sense of what you feel would "count" or not count for the ATAR.

3. Specialising.

This point applies more to Yr 12s then. So I said to choose what you like and are good at and also to keep your options open in Yr 11.

That means you'll probably head into Yr 12 with more units that you actually need.

That means (YAY!) you'll probably have the awesome experience of dropping your units one by one, and seeing your free periods increase bit by bit. (Trust me, it's an awesome feeling). Unless of course you're much more workaholic than me and actually enjoy doing 16 units. (Yes I had that many at one point between Yr 11 and 12).

Now keeping in mind that you only need 10 units, if you have more than that then be cognizant of what you think will count or not count.

If you only have 10 units then I hope you've thought carefully about WHAT those 10 units are (please refer to points 1 and 2 in that regard).

Specialising means to really refine your subject choices. You probably don't want to do 16 units. And if you've accelerated subjects like me, you're feeling even more chilled about the amount of units you want to do. I think 11 is a good workload. But hey, I know 99.95ers with 13 or even 14 Unit workloads for Yr 12. (Note - I said workload, not overall amount of units. As in they were doing 14Units at the same time - no acceleration. Whereas I was lucky to have spread out a bit with acceleration).

The process of specialising is like this.

- You should have ditched what you actually hate or are not good at by Yr 11.
- You should have a pretty good idea of what you're great at and love by Yr 12.
- In Yr 12, you first ditch what your worst subject is (ie. it's NOT a subject that you're good at, there are no prospects of you liking the subject any more or getting that much better at it, and you know that it just won't count because its so far behind your other units).
- This will free up time for you to concentrate on other subjects and you should see an improvement in the others.
- Then you might want to ditch what is irrelevant or "won't count". You might be pretty good at it, but you might be SO much better at everything else that it's kind of pointless - AND you know you won't need this subject (because you should have a pretty good idea of degrees by Yr 12).

For example, I began by ditching Economics - I was good at it, but I didn't see the point in 16 units. I then ditched Chemistry (in Yr 12, Term 1) because it was my worst subject (though I was still ranked highly and was getting great marks), and I knew that a 93 (my average I think) in Chem was not going to hold up against a 98 (my average) in English or Modern History. Also I knew for a fact I had no interest in Med.

4. But what about my ATAR?!

What I recommend you do, is to go to SAM (personal favourite, use whichever other one you prefer) put in:

1. Your subjects and CURRENT marks (be realistic if not pessimistic here).
--> So that you can see what kind of ATAR you're looking at given your CURRENT assessment situation. (You do know to put /100 for 2U subjects and /50 for 1U subjets right? So if you're averaging 70% per assessment, I'd put 70/100 for a 2U subject.)

That will tell you if you're ALREADY meeting your ATAR aims. Observe carefully what subjects given the current situation will or won't count, and consider that. Perhaps a subject that does not and probably WILL not count is simply wasting your time - in which case you might want to drop it.

2. Your subjects and the mark you NEED (this is where you might want to be optimistic, and this is where if in the first senario your current marks aren't going to get you to your desired ATAR).

--> Here you can see exactly WHAT effort in what subject is required to get you what ATAR. Fiddle around, change numbers around, etc.

The question of your ATAR also concerns your specialised set of subjects. You should have specialised so that your best 10 units are the 10 units you have (if you're a 10 unit person), or at least you're 100% aware of what your best 10 units are.

I cannot say it enough:

Check. Out. SAM.

Figure out what might or might not count, try out numbers.

5. Now ABOUT scaling.

Look, it's true. You CAN get any ATAR with any subject combination.
I covered my bases and did maths and science (and a language for that matter). But I KNEW beyond a shadow of a doubt that my strengths lay in the humanities. Therefore I did the maximum units of humanities I could.

What happened for me was that my humanities were so strong that NO Maths or Science (well I dropped Chem so obviously it wasn't going to count), was calculated in my ATAR AT ALL.

What counted for me was:
Business Studies (98)
4 Units of English ( 97 and 49s I think)
Modern History and History Extension (98, 49)
Philosophy Distinction course (HD, though I think it scaled to a 97/98 this year).

So humanities kids, you're fine. Maths kids/science ppl, you're fine too. Honestly, the combination DOES NOT MATTER.

It's HOW YOU DO that matters.

A 98 in Business Studies will probably outweigh a 90 in Physics. No amount of insane scaling is going to change that.

ALSO think about the amount of EFFORT that you might have to put into Physics if you weren't naturally gifted at Physics. It entirely counterbalances any "scaling" benefits it might have.

Once again, do what you like and are good at. It will pay off if you end up doing your BEST in those subjects.

The whole point of scaling is NOT to trip ppl up or to invent a crazy system of rules. It's to allow FREEDOM of CHOICE. To make ALL and ANY subject selection equitable, so that a particular strategy does not confer advantages or disadvantages.

Let scaling take care of itself. Choose your subjects not according to scaling, but to your idea of how well you can perform in a given subject.
Last edited by a moderator:

Ben W95

New Member
Oct 13, 2013

Problem with choosing the subjects that you're interested in though:

My school offered none.
I mean, I found Ancient History interesting, but the work was just horrible. I just like knowing about Ancient wars and so forth.
Business Studies I feel is the only one of my subjects relevant to what I want to do (something involving information technology), and Legal Studies helps for a few things here and there. Ultimately I've found my last two years INCREDIBLY boring, content wise.


Dec 26, 2013
Wowies... I've always thought the top mark for a humanities based course would be 99.85

Users Who Are Viewing This Thread (Users: 0, Guests: 1)