Should you Study Sciences in Year 11 and 12?
Disclaimer: I’m biased. I love science. So if you’re looking to read some serious science-bashing, you probably won’t find it here.
Even though I love sciences, I don’t think everyone should study three sciences for their HSC. We all have different interests, and we all want the HSC to take to different places. That’s cool.
What I aim to do here is weigh up of all the factors you should consider, when you’re working out whether sciences are for you. Here we go.
Science is a collaborative pursuit. So, naturally, I sat down with a fellow science tutor, and together we wrote down what we thought were the advantages and disadvantages of the science subjects as choices for Prelim/HSC study. You’re welcome.
Sciences can be pretty cool. In year 11 and 12, you learn way more than just “the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell”. So. Much. More.
You get a better understanding of how the world works. Take physics for example. You’ll have a better understanding of how that iPhone of yours actually works. Thinking more chemistry? Learn about why radiation is dangerous and how nuclear power-plants are managed safely to avoid, I don’t know, widespread destruction of humanity.
The syllabus is super prescriptive. This means you won’t be in the dark about what you need to learn, and what you’ll be tested on.
No essays. Need I say more?
(NB: A 6-8 mark question in your HSC science exam is the close cousin of the essay, and she can be a bit unpleasant.)
When you study sciences, you don’t just sit there and take in theory. You actually get to DO STUFF. Practical investigations form a large part of the assessable components of the course, and these skills are crucial to excelling in sciences. We also think the diversity is great. Never a dull moment etc etc.
You definitely get to study a wide range of topic areas within your main subject. E.g. in Chemistry, you’ll first look at matter and how it is structured (pretty important for the rest of chemistry!). Then, you’ll traverse reactions, thermodynamics and kinetics (the things that drive reactions), organic chemistry, acids and bases, equilibria, and quantitative chemistry (with various applications). So, it’s pretty diverse. You won’t be bored.
You develop critical thinking skills that can be anywhere. I really, truly, strongly believe that this is one of science’s main advantages. If you don’t know what you want to do when you leave school, it’s perfect. Why? Because whilst you might not use your science-specific knowledge every day when you’re 35 and working full time, chances are you’ll want to be able to weigh up evidence, think for yourself, examine data, make valid judgements and conclusions, use technology effectively, adapt and change your strategies when needed, and think critically about a wide range of problems that probably don’t even exist right now. Do science, and you’ll be rehearsing all of these skills without even realising it.
Scaling. Not the most virtuous of reasons, but still an important consideration if you’re aiming high and frightful ATAR cut offs are your benchmark.
Sciences can be hard. They aren’t a walk in the park.
Sciences needs maths. Especially physics and chemistry, but biology isn’t exempt. If you dislike maths, its integral role in the sciences may grate on you every now and then.
Exams are a big part of assessment, so you must master exam technique to do well. This means practise.
In the coming years, it will become increasingly difficult to memorise your way through sciences. You’re going to find that it isn’t super content heavy in the way that, say, Modern History or Business Studies tend to be. Instead, you’re learning skills. And you need to be able to apply those skills in new contexts. Some students may not love the unpredictability of this.
That said, you still need to master your content. Fundamentals, like cell structure in bio, or use of the periodic table in chemistry, will need to be learned.
In sciences, assessments do tend to be more exam focused. If you’re a lover of the long-term slow burn, i.e. a major work aficionado, the emphasis on exams in sciences might put you off.
Whatever you decide, do what you want to do. Don’t waste two years of your life doing a subject if you really, really dislike it. Why? It will be VERY hard for you to motivate yourself to study and do well. And hey, life’s hard enough!