Choosing the right VCE subjects is crucial to maximising your chances of success not just in high school, but also in further studies. But what are the right subjects to pick?
How should you go around deciding which subjects are the best for you? In this article, we will go through what you should consider when making these decisions!
Let’s jump right in!
How Many VCE Subjects Should I Do?
#1: Satisfying the VCE requirements
First and foremost, you will want to make sure that by the end of Year 12, you’d have met the requirements for the VCE.
This is a combination of completing a certain number of subjects and subjects which fall under a particular category.
The full guidelines are listed, but we’ll walk you through the most important parts you need to know.
It is important to understand that VCE subjects are usually divided into Units 1, 2, 3 and 4:
- Units 1 and 2 are often taken together, but can be taken separately.
- Units 3 and 4 must be taken together.
Tip: Browse subject study designs to check if this is the case for a subject you are looking into!
At a minimum, you will need to complete 16 Units, which will include:
- 3 sequences of Unit 3 and 4 (i.e. 3 Unit 3 and 4 subjects), AND;
- 3 Units from an English subject, including a sequence of a Unit 3 and 4. English subjects include:
- Bridging English as an Additional Language Units 1 and 2
- Foundation English Units 1 and 2
- English Units 1–4
- English as an Additional Language Units 3 and 4
- English Language Units 1–4
- Literature Units 1–4.
For most people, this means that you complete 4 subjects from Units 1 to 4, which includes at least 1 English subject. Typically, this means, at minimum:
- 4 sets of Unit ½ subjects in Year 11
- 4 sets of Unit ¾ subjects in Year 12
Here are some examples to demonstrate some subject selections that satisfy VCE requirements:
|Unit 1||Unit 2||Units 3 and 4|
|Business Management||Business Management||Business Management|
|Legal Studies||Legal Studies||Legal Studies|
Note: these are requirements by VCAA, the government body that oversees education. For a lot of subjects, schools may require that Units 1 and 2 are completed prior to undertaking Units 3 and 4, so check what your school policies are!
Above is a standard 4 subject pathway. This person decided to stick to the same subjects throughout their VCE, and has made sure to include 1 English subject. This is perfectly fine, and meets all requirements for VCE
|Unit 1||Unit 2||Units 3 and 4|
|English||English Language||English Language|
|Mathematical Methods||Mathematical Methods||Mathematical Methods|
Above is a less conventional pathway where the student has made use of the flexibility offered by VCAA. Regardless, it’s completely fine.
They’ve decided that English isn’t for them, instead swapping English out with English Language and sticking with it.
This student also has two English subjects, in English Language and Literature — this is also ok, and in fact may be recommended for you!
They’ve also chosen Units 3 and 4 for Further Mathematics, despite not having completed Units 1 and 2. This is perfectly permissible. Furthermore, after having tried both Biology Units 1 and Physics Unit 2, the student decided that they preferred Biology.
Considering taking up VCE Biology? Check out our complete breakdown of the VCE Biology Study Design!
In most cases, there are no strict prerequisites for Unit 3 and 4 subjects, and going from Unit 2 Physics to Units 3 and 4 Biology is permissible.
As always, check with your school whether this would be the case for you!
#2: Doing subjects beyond the requirements
Even though you may only need to complete 4 subjects, often students will complete more than 4 subjects.
A major advantage of completing 4+ subjects is that you can increase your ATAR which can help with university admissions. In general, ATAR is calculated using:
- A primary four, meaning your four best Unit 3 and 4 subjects, and;
- Two incremental subjects, meaning the next two best Unit 3 and 4 subjects.
Only 10% of the score from incremental subjects is used in ATAR calculation, so these subjects are less important.
However, any increase is still a good increase, which is why students often complete more than 4 subjects.
Sometimes, extra Unit 3 and 4 subjects can be completed in Year 11 or earlier — this has the added advantage of giving you a first taste of what Unit 3 and 4 is like.
Note: an exception to this are study groupings. Some subjects are part of a “study group.” Only two subjects from a study group can be part of the primary four, and only three overall contribute to ATAR.
Keep in mind that more subjects means more work. Ask yourself if you can commit the time for an extra subject — if it’s a no, it’d a better idea to focus on completing four subjects very well.
#3: Can I start a subject and drop it later?
Yes! If you complete Units 1 and/or 2 of a particular subject, you do not have to complete Units 3 and 4 for that subject.
For example, some people will complete 6 sets of Unit 1 and 2 subjects in Year 11, but only complete 5 sets of Unit ¾ subjects in Year 12.
Likewise, you might try a subject in Year 11, and decide it is not the best subject for you.
What VCE subjects should I pick?
Tip #1: Think About Which VCE Subjects Are Available
A different range of subjects are offered from every school.
If you find that there’s a subject you are interested in, but is not offered by your school, it’s worthwhile to ask your VCE co-ordinators or other relevant staff to see if there are alternative arrangements.
|Subject Areas||General Subjects|
|English||- Bridging English as an Additional Language
- English and English as an Additional Language
- English Language
- Foundation English
|Mathematics||- Foundation Mathematics
- Further Mathematics
- General Mathematics
- Mathematical Methods
- Specialist Mathematics
- Environmental Science
|Humanities||- Australian and Global Politics
- Classical Studies
- Religion and Society
- Texts and Traditions
|Health and Physical Education||- Health and Human Development
- Outdoor and Environmental Studies
- Physical Education
|Performing Arts||- Dance
- Theatre Studies
|Visual Arts||- Art
- Studio Arts
- Visual Communication Design
|Design and Technologies||- Agricultural and Horticultural Studies
- Food Studies
- Product Design and Technology
- Systems Engineering
|Business and Economies||- Accounting
- Business Management
- Industry and Enterprise
- Legal Studies
|Digital Technologies||- Algorithmics (HESS)
- Applied Computing
|Extended Investigation||- Extended Investigation (Covers all subjects)|
Check out the full list of subjects offered by VCAA!
If you are looking to extend yourself, there is also the option to complete a university extension subject. This is something to consider if:
- You are a high-achieving student looking to challenge yourself
- You are looking to experience a taste of uni life
- Are willing to put in effort to reap rewards such as credit for university degrees and contribution to your ATAR
These usually have very strict requirements. So, be sure to read the requirements and also what is required not just of you, but also any relevant staff and guardians.
Look into the requirements for the University of Melbourne extension program.
Tip #2: Consider University and Other Tertiary Prerequisites
You might have the goal of attending university after completing high school.
This is a fantastic thing to strive towards, so it’ll be important to take note of any prerequisites (i.e. subject requirements) for your particular university course.
When you search a university course, they will have a section on entry requirements, which you can browse to see what the specific requirements are
- A study score of 27 in Units 3 and 4 EAL, or a study score of 25 in any other English subject
- A study score of 25 in Units 3 and 4 Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Geography, Mathematical Methods (Any), Specialist Mathematics, Physics or Psychology
This means that you should look to complete at least one subject from each list.
Someone might consider including English and Biology in their subject selection, but Literature and Geography would also be a reasonable combination. Make sure to pay attention to whether the requirement is Unit 3 and 4 or Units 1 and 2 of a particular subject!
Note: A common requirement for university courses is a study score of 25 in Mathematical Methods.
A good safety net if you are unsure about what course you may want to do is to add Mathematical Methods to your subject selection.
Mathematical Methods is by no means an easy subject though, so don’t do this if you know you won’t need it!
Tip #3: Pick subjects you enjoy and are good at
Think about what subjects you did well in in earlier years of school. If you did well in science subjects, then think about VCE subjects such as Biology, Chemistry or Physics.
When you enjoy the subject you are studying, you will be more motivated to study the content and this will lead to better marks and a better ATAR!
The list of subjects is grouped into topics, which you can use to help you decide on a subject you may enjoy.
Tip #4: Don’t pick subjects because someone tells you they are ‘easy’ or ‘scale well’
These are two of the biggest traps in subject selection!
You may be wondering what is the easiest VCE subject? The thing is, There is no objectively correct answer here.
For example, one person might say English Language is easier than Literature because you don’t need to read any novels.
But, a second person might say that English Language is actually harder, because there are a lot of unique words in English Language!
Summary: Ultimately, it comes down to your strengths and weaknesses. In some cases, there are a few subjects which are widely considered to be easier (emphasis on easier!) than another subject – check out our comparison of different Maths subjects for an example of this. Always get a wide range of opinions!
You may also be tempted to ask which subject scales best for VCE, and pick based on that. This is not a good idea!
- Scaling changes each year, so should not be relied upon to get a good ATAR.
- You only benefit from scaling if your raw study score is decent: for example, while it might seem tempting that a raw 20 study score in Specialist Mathematics scales to 28, you might have been able to get a raw 35 study score in Further Mathematics, which would equate to a scaled 33.
Other Tips for Subject Selection
Heed these pointers before jumping into your VCE subject selection!
- Ask friends and staff what their opinions of different subjects are. Get a wide range of opinions in case someone really dislikes a particular subject for example!
- Read up on what different subjects will teach you. A good idea is to skim read the study design for a subject, which will contain the key content that you will cover in class.
- Have back-up plans. You might plan for your entire VCE journey, but if a subject isn’t quite what you expect, have a subject or two in your back pocket that you might decide to complete instead.
- Try to keep your options open, particularly when looking at university courses. You may have a clear idea of what you want to do in university, but people do change their minds, and it’s good to have contingency plans in place.
If you need some support with VCE subject selection, you can get in touch with our Melbourne tutors!
Looking for other VCE resources?
Check out some of our other articles related to the VCE below:
- Everything You Need to Know About Writing a VCE Text Response
- The Ultimate Guide to Studying for Your VCE External Exams Over Your Holiday
- How VCE Subject Scaling Works and How It Can Impact Your ATAR
- VCE Physics Multiple Choice Practice Questions For External Assessment
- How to Ace Your End of Year Exam for VCE Chemistry
- How to Write a VCE Argument Analysis for English
Are you looking for some extra help with navigating VCE subject selection in VIC?
We have an incredible team of VCE tutors and mentors!
We can help you master your VCE subjects and ace your upcoming VCE assessments with personalised lessons conducted one-on-one in your home or online!
We’ve supported over 8,000 students over the last 11 years, and on average our students score mark improvements of over 20%!
To find out more and get started with an inspirational VCE tutor and mentor, get in touch today or give us a ring on 1300 267 888!
Kevin Chen recently completed his Bachelor of Biomedicine at the University of Melbourne. He is now undertaking an Honours year, where he is investigating the rise of hospital superbugs. Kevin lives by the motto “smiles go for miles!”