Advice from the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA)

Choosing the most appropriate level of mathematics in Years 11 & 12

When developing syllabuses for Years 11 and 12, the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) considers what students do when they leave high school. 

For mathematics, NESA has three different courses of study for Year 11 students, and five different courses for Year 12 students. The range of courses means that students can assess the content of the courses and select the one (or more) that provide the best mathematics background for their future needs and aspirations.

The Universities Admissions Centre (UAC), which is responsible for the scaling processes used for the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR), advises that students shouldn't choose courses based on what they believe are the likely effects of scaling.

Choices should be based on "interests, demonstrated abilities and the value of courses for future career plans".

The Preliminary Mathematics General course and the  HSC Mathematics General 2 and General 1 courses provide students with the opportunity to develop appropriate understanding and competence in aspects of mathematics for a range of vocational pathways, in careers or in further training.

Study of the HSC Mathematics General 2 course can provide students with a strong foundation for university courses in the humanities, nursing and paramedical sciences.

NESA recommends the Mathematics ('2 Unit') course as the most appropriate basis for further studies in mathematics in tertiary courses such as in the life sciences, business, finance, technology and education. For students who require substantial mathematics at a tertiary level, NESA recommends that they undertake one or both of the Stage 6 Mathematics Extension courses.

The Mathematics Extension 1 course provides students with the opportunity to develop thorough understanding and competence in aspects of mathematics for further studies in mathematics itself, and in such areas as physics, chemistry, engineering, statistics, and computer science.

Students of outstanding mathematical ability should also consider undertaking the Mathematics Extension 2 course. This course provides a strong basis for a wide range of useful applications of mathematics, as well as a strong foundation for the further specialised study of the subject.


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