BlogStudyThe Pros and Cons of Dropping Extension Units in Year 12

The Pros and Cons of Dropping Extension Units in Year 12

Extension subjects are some of the most commonly dropped units going into Year 12, and it’s not a surprise.

They’re hard work and self-driven, but they’re also super rewarding and can be well-scaling units.

At the end of the day a lot of students just aren’t up to it or want to focus on their other subjects, and that’s okay!

Making the decision to drop an extension unit is a tough one. So, let me take you through the pros and cons of dropping extension units!

Why Consider Dropping?
Pros and Cons of Dropping Extension Units
Pros and Cons of Keeping Extension Units
How to Make the Decision

Why Consider Dropping?

When it comes to dropping an extension unit there are a lots of different factors to consider, and almost everyone drops for a different reason.

Students tend to consider dropping when they realise something in their school/study life isn’t working as well as they’d like.

It’s good to remember that there’s no one ‘right reason’ to drop a unit.

While there have been some pretty lame ones, most people end up dropping because it’s the right thing for them and their study needs.

Some of the most common reasons students consider dropping an extension unit include:
  • Having too many units (12-13 is usually the most students can realistically take on)
  • Not having enough study time/too much content to study
  • The extension unit is proving too difficult
  • The student is becoming overwhelmed
  • They genuinely don’t enjoy the extension subject
  • They want to focus more on their other studies

All of these (and a whole lot more) are perfectly valid reasons to think about dropping a subject.

A lot of them look at a common factor of having too much on your plate.

However, realising you may want to drop and deciding to actually drop are two very different things.

So, lets look at the pros and cons of dropping and keeping an extension unit.

Dropping Extension Units


Pro #1: Less content to study

Extension subjects require you to be self-driven, meaning there’s a lot of independent learning outside of school.

You may have to teach yourself new concepts and so dropping a unit can make a big change in your study load.

One less unit means a lot of content you no longer need to learn or study, which feeds into other areas like time and stress.

Pro #2: More time

Fewer units means fewer classes, potential free periods and less material to study.

This frees up time for you to focus on other subjects, assignments, etc. and makes it possible for you to spend more time on subjects you want to improve in.

It can also just give a bit of breathing room if you already had a packed schedule.

Pro #3: Reduce stress

There’s a lot of pressure with extension units, so dropping one can massively reduce stress.

It gives you more time to study and relax, but it also gives you a little less to worry about.

This allows you to better manage your time so that you don’t have to stress as much about other subjects.


Con #1: Fewer units

Your ATAR is based on the 10 units you do the best in, so if you only had 11 or 12 units, dropping an extension subject reduces how many ‘spare’ units you have.

These ‘spares’ are usually seen as a buffer zone. You still want to do well, but if you really struggle with maths you can feel safe knowing you have 10 other units you’ll probably do better in.

Dropping an extension unit can leave you with one or no ‘spare’ units.

Con #2: Scaling

It’s true that most extension units scale pretty well.

They’re also a good thing to have as many make you eligible for bonus points in university application.

Dropping an extension unit therefore means you lose these useful benefits and may not have as many ‘well-scaling’ subjects.

Con #3: Regret

I won’t lie; there are students who drop an extension unit and end up regretting it.

There’s no way to know just how you’ll feel once it’s done.

Therefore, it’s always important to make sure that you’re dropping for a good reason to reduce any possible regret.

Keeping Extension Units


Pro #1: Edge in the subject

Doing an extension unit means that all the skills and content you learn is building upon what you already know in the subject.

This can ultimately give you an edge for that subject!

For example, all essay writing skills you develop in Extension 1 English cross over to Advanced English and can give your essays an epic boost. 

Pro #2: Shows commitment

By sticking to the extension unit, you show yourself and everyone around you that you’re willing to put in effort to commit to something.

This shows dedication and is something a lot of teachers will take note of when writing your report and references.

Pro #3: HSC results

Having an extension unit generally does help out with ATARs because extension subjects tend to scale quite well.

This can really boost your HSC results, plus it gives you an extra ‘spare’ unit to fall back on just in case.


Con #1: Have to change something

If you’re considering dropping because you’re too stressed, don’t have enough time or seem to have too much content to study, then keeping the unit means you’ll have to make some changes.

Check out some of our articles on writing study notes, making effective to-do lists and the 7 study styles for ideas on what to try!

Con #2: Time management

Keeping an extension unit does mean that you’re still going to have a lot of content to cover independently.

That means now’s the time to really think about how you organise yourself.

You have to start looking critically at your time management skills and accept that you may need to put in the extra hours to do well.

Con #3: Situation may not improve

Sometimes, whatever it is that’s making you consider dropping an extension unit just doesn’t go away.

If it’s the topic you find dull, you don’t get along with your teacher or you have having to write more essays, there’s not much you can do about it.

In some cases keeping your extension unit just means you have to grin and bear it.

How to Make the Decision

Having read the pros and cons of both dropping and keeping an extension unit, now is really the time to work out how you’re going to make your decision.

There are some students who read the lists and can straight away choose to drop or keep an extension unit, but for most of us it’s a lot harder than that.

Figuring out whether or not the good outweighs the bad can be tricky, so we’ve come up with a helpful quiz to set you on the right path.

Answer true or false to each of these statements, then tally up how many ‘true’ answers you have at the end.

Statement TRUE FALSE
I don’t enjoy the subject/topic. T F
I find the unit really difficult to understand. T F
I get consistently poor marks. T F
I dislike the teacher/their style of teaching. T F
I have trouble with self-directed study (teaching myself) T F
I don’t have enough time to study all my subjects. T F
I have too many subjects to study. T F
I wish I could focus more on my other subjects. T F
I dread working on extension coursework. T F
I don’t like going to my extension classes. T F

Here are our recommendations based on your total ‘true’ score

1-3 True

Stick it out. See what you can do to solve the problem for yourself (improve your study skills, work on time management, talk to your teacher, etc.).

Sometimes the best thing is to soldier on, and you’ll thank yourself in the end.

4-7 True

Consider dropping. Clearly the extension unit is having a negative effect on you, so sit down and think about what you can do to deal with the statements you answered ‘true’ to.

Try to organise to sit down with your subject teacher or co-ordinator and get some advice on your specific worries and how they can help you deal with it.

8-10 True

Dropping is probably best for you.

The unit is probably really damaging your personal and learning experience.

If you’re deadest on keeping the unit then now’s the time to sit down with your teacher and/or co-ordinator and outline the problems so you can get some major help on sorting them out.

Otherwise, you’ll probably take a massive load off your shoulders if you just drop the unit and focus your energy elsewhere.

At the end of the day the decision to keep or drop an extension subject is entirely yours, so do what feels right to you.

Of course it’s important to think it through and make sure your reasons are legitimate and not just “I got one bad mark.”, but the right reason for one student is different to the right reason for another student.

Looking for some extra help with your HSC studies?

We pride ourselves on our inspirational HSC coaches and mentors!

We offer tutoring and mentoring for Years K-12 in a variety of subjects, with personalised lessons conducted one-on-one in your home or at our state of the art campus in Hornsby!

To find out more and get started with an inspirational tutor and mentor get in touch today!

Give us a ring on 1300 267 888, email us at [email protected] or check us out on Facebook!

Maddison Leach completed her HSC in 2014, achieving an ATAR of 98.00 and Band 6 in all her subjects. Having tutored privately for two years before joining Art of Smart, she enjoys helping students through the academic and other aspects of school life, even though it sometimes makes her feel old. Maddison has had a passion for writing since her early teens, having had several short stories published before joining the world of blogging. She’s currently studying a Bachelor of Design at the University of Technology Sydney and spends most of her time trying not to get caught sketching people on trains.

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