BlogStudySubject Selection for Success in a STEM Degree

Subject Selection for Success in a STEM Degree

Subject selection can help set yourself up for success

It’s easy to look at success and try and find a common denominator, but what’s the trick to getting there?

Whilst it’s true that every successful career is built on a solid foundation of knowledge, I believe it’s consistency and planning that’s the real key to success, which you can achieve by well-considered subject selection!

If I hadn’t spent the time to really think about my subjects in year 10, I would’ve found my first year at University exceedingly difficult.

No matter what pathway you have your sights set on, you can set yourself up for success by getting off on the right foot with your subject selection.

You’ve probably already heard that the subjects you choose in year 11 and for your HSC, should be ones you genuinely enjoy. This rule hasn’t changed. It won’t ever change. Interest in what you’re studying is a huge motivator to study!

This article will set out precisely some of the considerations you should make in the subject selection process, to help make your first year at University in a STEM degree as easy as possible!

Step 1: Build a strong foundation

One subject that is common to every STEM degree is a first-year mathematics course. Maths courses aren’t just for mathematics majors, they’re ubiquitous in STEM degrees.

Mathematics is the language of a scientist. Most universities list their prerequisites and assumed knowledge on their faculty pages.

Remember: Even if you don’t complete any Mathematics at high school, you will still be able to enrol, you’ll just have to complete a bridging course.


The same applies to all other courses. If your course required Chemistry, or another HSC course you didn’t complete, so don’t fret! They’re basically short courses that allow you to catch up!

My goal here is to help make your first year as easy as possible. I cannot more strongly endorse completing at least Mathematics Extension 1 for your HSC.

It is assumed you know all the things covered in this course at most major institutions including UNSW. Here is a passage directly, from UNSW’s first year advice page:

Mathematics 1 is mainly intended for students who did HSC Mathematics Extension 1. You can enrol in Mathematics 1 if your HSC Maths + Extension 1 mark is over 100

For marks lower than this UNSW recommends that you do a Mathematics Bridging Course. 

Step 2: Start Specifying Towards your Goal

Once you have a strong foundation, we need to start looking at what specific subjects will be most helpful for your degree. Here’s a rough summary that might help you:

Interested in?Try:
Anything Bio related: Biomedical Engineering, Medical ScienceBiology
Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, or Mechatronic EngineeringEngineering Studies
Coding/Software EngineeringSoftware Design and Development
Networks/DatabasesInformation Process Technology
Physics and/or MathematicsMathematics Extension 1

Step 3: Fill the rest of your subjects with things you like!

I said at the beginning of this article, to take subjects you like. In case you’re not convinced, let me take a moment to try and convince you!

Is there a subject you’re taking right now, or one you’ve taken in the past that you just despised? Imagine having to take that course for another two years.

Disliking you subject will put you off studying, which will make the exams harder, which will make you more demotivated and hate the subject even more.

It’s a vicious cycle, that you don’t need to put yourself through. Never pick a subject just because you’ve heard it scales well, and don’t pick a subject just because someone else tells you to! That includes me!

I said to strongly consider Mathematics Extension 1, because it will make your first year easier, but if you hate mathematics, don’t take it if you don’t want to!

Want a sneak peek of what to expect in a specific subject? Check out our Guide to Year 11 Biology Module 1: Cells as the Basis of Life to check if the content interests you! We have plenty of other subject module guides that you can search for here

Looking for some extra help with your studies?

We pride ourselves on our inspirational 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!

Vamsi Srinivasan is looking to uncover the next hidden truth of the universe. He was fascinated by the beauty of Physics and Mathematics during his HSC. Now, he’s in his third year of a dual degree in Physics/Computer Science. Vamsi wanted to share his passion for Maths and Physics and has been an Art of Smart coach for the past 3 years. He coaches students in Physics as well as all ranges of HSC Maths from General to Extension 2. In his spare time you can find him watching Tennis or listening to his favourite podcast ‘Hello Internet’.


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