Dropping From 12 to 10 Units

With year 11 finishing in a term’s time its important to decide whether you keep your extra unit or whether you drop it.  The argument for doing 10 units or 12 units has many opinions, so hopefully this article will provide you with a concise discussion of the pros and cons of doing either 10 or 12 units for your HSC.


Doing 12 units in the HSC is usually recommend so that you have a buffer zone in case you happen to do terrible on exam day or just an overall poor performance over the whole course. This works because your ATAR is calculated from your best 10 units, so by doing 12 units you have a backup option.

With a backup you can be comforted by the fact that in case you do screw up your atar won’t be harmed too much. An interesting statistic is that most students across NSW do take 12 units and many high achievers (ATARs of 98+) take even up to 13 units. However, it can’t be directly correlated that doing more units means acing your HSC as every student is different and what works for them might not work for you.


Workload and performance concerns highlight the main reasons why students want to drop down to 10 units. Often these reasons are correlated as the student might not be spending enough time on each subject and so marks across all units fall.

By doing 12 units your time management has to be very good in order to ensure that you are studying enough for each subject. Furthermore, many students will find that if there are struggling on one subject they will continue to study for this one subject and neglect the rest. This again results in falling grades across the board.

If this happens to be you, I highly advise you to drop the subject you are struggling in. By doing so you get rid of a massive time suck and you can restructure your studying around fewer subjects. (this plan fails if your struggling subject is English, in that case, you should consider dropping another subject so that you can spend more time on English)


Put simple, with 10 units you have more time to spend on the other subjects which should mean that your marks for these subjects all increase.


Doing 10 units for some is simply too risky as your banking on having a near perfect year in terms of assessments and exams. If you do poorly in one subject then your ATAR is probably going to take a significant hit.


You should probably consider dropping down to 10 units if you:

  1. Feel confident with 10 units. (even then maybe stick to 12 until you get your first year 12 assessments results back.)
  2. If you feel that you’re struggling with 12 units and 1 subject is taking far too much time resulting in a lower focus for your other subjects. Here its probably not wise to reconfigure your studying schedule to try and fix the imbalance, but rather dropping the subject ASAP is going to save you a lot of time and hassle.

Note, if you are leaning towards dropping a subject because you feel more confident with 10 units, you shouldn’t immediately choose the worst scaling subject, especially if you happen to enjoy it. Students should focus on doing the subjects which they enjoy doing as they’ll find themselves doing far better than what they would have done if they chose a subject they didn’t enjoy as much. Instead, rank your subjects on how much you enjoy them and maybe even how relevant they’ll be after high school, then make your decision on which subject to drop.


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