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Choosing subjects in years 11 and 12

James Davis

Careers Commentator
The subjects you select in your final years of school can affect the degrees you’re eligible for at university.
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If you’re interested in studying a STEM degree at university, it’s very important that you consider your year 11 and 12 subject selection carefully. The subjects you choose now (or don’t choose) can make you eligible or ineligible for many STEM degrees. In this article, we’ll talk about what subject choices you should make depending on what STEM degree you’re interested in.

Commonly required subjects

Methods is a must

Although there are minor differences between degrees and universities, as a general rule, most STEM degrees will require Mathematical Methods as a prerequisite. If mathematics comes easily to you, then you’ll have no trouble doing well in Methods. However, if you find maths hard, it's still really important you choose Methods if you want to keep the door open to a science, tech or engineering degree. You may need to set aside extra time to study or seek tuition, but doing this in high school will not only keep your options open but make your transition into university much easier. You can always change your mind and discontinue Methods at the end of year 11, but it’s very difficult to come back to this level of maths if you stop. 

English

Despite being one of the greatest modern entrepreneurs, Elon Musk isn’t known for his communication skills. While the stereotypical engineer might not be great at articulating themselves, that doesn’t mean it’s not an asset if you can. If you do well in both science and English, continue with the highest level of English you feel comfortable with. If you follow a STEM career you may never write a literary essay again, so take the opportunity to maximise your skills while you can. On the other hand, if you struggle with English or it isn’t your first language, fortunately unlike Methods, STEM degrees accept any English subject. Before you make a decision on which English subject would suit you best, we recommend asking your current English teacher for advice because they know you personally. 

Commonly recommended subjects

Aside from Mathematical Methods and English, there are plenty of other subjects that will help you prepare for a STEM degree. For many mathematics, engineering, computer science and IT degrees, Specialist Mathematics is recommended. While it is rarely a requirement for entry, not doing Specialist in year 12 can mean you’ll need to take an additional maths unit in first-year university. If you’re interested in any sort of engineering degree, the same rule usually applies to both Physics and Chemistry, so we’d highly recommend those subjects too.

If you’re into science, it’s helpful to think about what kind. For example, if biology is up your alley, picking Biology in years 11 and 12 is a natural choice. If you like physics, go to Physics. You get the idea! For sciences that aren’t as clear cut, such as environmental science, picking a good mix of science subjects will prepare you well. Chemistry, for example, is applicable to almost all science degrees, including agricultural science, biochemistry, marine biology, forensic science and more.

Subjects by degree

Here is a summary of subjects typically required or recommended for common STEM degrees.

Bachelor of Science

Typically required:

  • English (any)

  • Mathematical Methods

Typically recommended (at least one of):

  • Biology

  • Chemistry

  • Physics

  • Specialist Mathematics

Bachelor of Mathematics

Typically required:

  • English (any)

  • Mathematical Methods

Typically recommended:

  • Specialist Mathematics

Bachelor of Engineering

Typically required:

  • English (any)

  • Mathematical Methods

Typically recommended:

  • Chemistry

  • Physics

  • Specialist Mathematics

Bachelor of Information Technology/Computer Science

Typically required:

  • English (any)

Typically recommended (at least one of):

  • Mathematical Methods

  • Specialist Mathematics

Final thoughts

If you’re interested in subjects outside of those mentioned in this article, that’s fantastic! Pursuing a diverse range of interests will give you a well-rounded education and keep your options open outside of STEM too. What we hope you take away from this is the importance of completing Mathematical Methods and one or two other maths or science subjects in year 11 and 12. Remember to find a balance between subjects you enjoy and subjects that’ll help with degrees you’re interested in. If those things overlap, even better!