Which high school (HSC) subjects I should do for a particular university degree; Commerce? Law? Medicine? Engineering? Others?


If you are currently in high school and already know which degree you want to do in university, but not sure which subjects you should pick in the HSC to complement the degree, we might be able to share some insights! Below are the subjects which are required or recommended by universities for the four most popular tertiary study areas.



Nearly all Engineering degrees assume you have studied Mathematics Extension 1 (with some having Mathematics Advanced as a prerequisite) and most assume you have finished HSC Physics. It is also highly recommended by them to study HSC Mathematics Extension 2 as well! The level of Mathematics undertaken by engineering students can be very challenging, and having done Extension 2 will build up your foundation for the course. Though it varies between particular streams of engineering, it is also recommended  to study HSC Chemistry, HSC Engineering Studies, HSC Software Design and Development, HSC Information Processes and Technology, and HSC Biology. 



For commerce degrees, there are usually no prerequisite subjects, however most of these degrees will assume you have a solid grasp of English and also have completed Mathematics Advanced. For some universities such as UNSW, you can get bonus marks for doing well in English and Mathematics (Advanced and Extension 1 & 2). Hence, if you think you can do reasonably well in these subjects (you'll need band 4+ to start getting bonus points), it wouldn't be a bad idea to keep them. Additionally, for some other universities such as University of Technology Sydney, you can also get bonus points for doing well in Economics, Business Studies and even some HSC language extension subjects.

When it comes to whether HSC Economics and Business studies are important for your degree, the truth is they'll teach everything at university again. Thus, although it may be helpful at the start that you have done these subjects, it isn't necessary at all. Then again, it doesn't hurt to have some basic foundation laid out.



Many law degrees require you to undertake another degree (e.g. commerce, international studies) with it (i.e. combined law degrees). However, in this post I'll focus on the individual law degree itself (otherwise it'll get too confusing).

Just like commerce, there are no prerequisites. However, it is assumed in most law degrees that you undertook English Advanced.

Another common question is whether HSC Legal Studies would help. Just like with HSC Economics and a commerce degree, it may help you understand the general concepts of law, but everything is taught from scratch again.



For medicine, the only official assumed knowledge in some universities (such as UNSW) is English (Standard). However, it is recommended in basically all universities that you do study HSC Chemistry and I would highly advise this as well given when you will be peered with some of the smartest people in the country; it is medicine! It would also help if you studied HSC Biology, however since it's not an official 'recommended study', you would still be fine if you didn't dissect any kidneys during your school days!

Most universities also do not offer subject bonus points for medicine due to the high competition for this degree.



The purpose of setting pre-requisite subjects for most of these degrees is that the university expects you to have learned the contents of those subjects, and come in with a solid foundation to begin your course work. It is important that you find out for the specific university/degree what the pre-requisite subjects are, and plan your subjects around it. Sure, you can do bridging courses afterwards if you choose a degree without doing one of its prerequisite subjects, but that's additional time, effort and money that can be saved.

Recommended subjects are things you can do to make things easier for your degree; there are certain knowledge or skills they think you should know or develop for the degree. If you have interest in the field/degree you want to study, there is a good chance these subjects may be of interest to you as well.

I hope I have helped you (even if it's just a little bit!) in terms of which HSC subjects would benefit your studies later on in university. Remember to also consider other factors when choosing your subjects (such as your interests and  past results)!


Jack Zheng | N° 12