Studying More Than 12 Units In The HSC – Is It Worth It?

By Olivia Widjaja in HSC
14th of May 2018
12 units

Whether you’re in Year 10 and you’re about to choose your subjects, or on that awkward Year 11/Year 12 transition and more Extension subjects are being offered, there are a handful of students who consider doing more than 12 units in the HSC. Many schools discourage doing more than 12 units because only 10 units are going toward your ATAR. However, before making up your mind in taking more than 12 units, consider the following pros and cons.


Pros of Studying >12 Units

Doing more than 12 units can be great as a ‘backup’ just in case you don’t do well in a specific subject in the HSC. Although many teachers say that doing more than 10 units isn’t worth the effort, doing more than 12 units can be almost reassuring that if you don’t do well in a subject, you can still get a good ATAR as long as you do well in 10 units.

As strange as it sounds, it also teaches you how to prioritise better. For example, as an Extension Math and Extension History student, I had to figure out how to create a study schedule (which I loosely follow). I really had to discipline myself to not procrastinate and do more quality study sessions. Taking on more subjects is almost the same as taking on a role in leadership or doing extracurricular activities, except this is more in the academic field, which is why time management is something you learn when you do 13 units.


Cons of Studying >12 Units

Nevertheless, the cons outweigh the pros because even if doing more than 13 units can be used as a ‘backup’, doing 12 units can work the same. Furthermore, doing 13 units means you’re spreading your study time very thinly, meaning that you’re not using your study sessions as effectively since there are more exams to study for. And for those who do two Extension subjects, taking more than 12 units means you have to prioritise these subjects over others, meaning your workload has gotten heavier – especially for those who do a Major Work. As a result, your stress levels increase.

On top of that, you have no study periods. There are a lot of students who claim that they use their study periods to nap, but at least it’s beneficial for you to take a break from studying. On the other hand, study periods are helpful if you desperately need to consult with a teacher (say, you’re not understanding the material or if you’re doing a Major Work and you need to ask about the drafting process).

These are the things you need to keep in mind when picking up a one-unit subject because doing 13 units is quite exhausting.

12 units


Is It Worth It?

A lot of people say it’s not worth it. Many students who started Year 12 with 13 units end up dropping down to 11 units because they can spend more time studying for other subjects and get the study period. Another misconception is that you aren’t able to do well if you do 13 units. To be honest, you can still do well with 13 units as long as you have the discipline to push yourself to decrease the number of procrastination hours and challenge yourself. However, if you’re not willing to put in the hours, then maybe 13 units isn’t for you.


Knowing Your Limitations

So you’re thinking of doing more than 12 units? Know your limits. How long are you willing to study? And when I say study, I don’t mean studying for seven hours. I mean, quality study sessions on top of homework. How organised are you? If you can barely keep yourself organised doing 12 units, then maybe doing more than 12 units isn’t the way to go. One important aspect in doing well is organisation.

Another thing to consider is Major Work. Most students who pick up an extra unit during the Year 11/ Year 12 transition are either picking up 4 units of Math and/or English or Extension History. For those who are picking up 4 Unit English and/or Extension History, are you able to manage your Major Work on top of studying and homework? This is important to consider because Major Works cannot be completed in one night. In Extension II English, it’s a long process of drafting, redrafting and constant communication with your teacher, along with the fact that it’s worth 100%. On the other hand, Extension History is similar, except that you need to be prepared to do copious amounts of research, possibly contacting historians and/or historiographers and study for half-yearly exams, Trials and HSC exams. If completing long-winded projects are exhausting for you, then maybe picking up another unit isn’t recommended.


Why 13 Units?

Ask yourself this: why do you want to do more than 12 units? Personally, when people ask me this, I responded with an “I don’t know.” After reflecting on this question for a long time, I was finally able to find an answer to this question. Considering how I wanted to do Extension Math and English but the school didn’t allow me (more on the fact that I had to do 2 Units of Religion), picking up Extension History was almost like replacing Extension English – I enjoy math as much as I love English but Advanced English was never enough to satisfy this. Considering how I’ve been doing well in Modern History throughout Year 11, Extension History seemed to make sense.

12 units

Really think about this question because it can determine how motivated you are in doing more than 12 units. You shouldn’t be doing 13 units for the glory. I happened to encounter a student who was doing 13 units by picking up Extension II English, and his reason for picking up 4 Unit English was because “there’s always that person in every class that drags you down so I wanted to do that.” On top of that, he stayed in 4 Unit English for a term and a half just so he can say that he did 4 Unit English. This is not the mindset you should be having when picking up another subject. You should be picking up an extra unit because you’re interested in the subject and you’re determined to do well.


Surviving with 13 Units

To be honest, I haven’t gone through a complete year doing 13 units. However, there are some tips that I’ve developed throughout the two terms.



I mentioned this previously, and I’ll mention this again. Organisation is key. You need to figure out how many hours you’ll set in studying for a subject and figure out how you’ll fit your other subjects. Study schedules are great for this. No need to strictly follow it – use it as a guideline as to how long you should spend in studying and taking breaks. For those who do Major Works, setting a timeline as to what you should complete is also extremely beneficial. It makes your Major Work look less intimidating and makes your tasks more doable.


Time management:

This point probably crosses over with organisation, but you need to learn how to prioritise your subjects. If you don’t do well in a specific subject, make sure you give it attention. On top of that, you should be spending more time on your Extension subjects considering how time-consuming they are. You should also figure out how to fit any extracurricular activities, meaning that your procrastination levels need to significantly decrease in order to fit everything in during the week.



I’m a hypocrite for saying this, but sleep is important. A lot of students in general stay up until 2AM because they’re procrastinating. If you do 13 units, you shouldn’t be staying up, considering how heavy your workload is.


Less bragging, more productivity:

This is probably a very simple point, but it is what keeps you determined to do well in your subject. If you constantly complain that you do 13 units, then you’re wasting your time. You may feel like you’re the only person doing 13 units, and although it’s a minority group, there are other people who have done 13 units or are in the same situation as you. Instead of complaining, you should be harnessing your energy in doing other things, such as developing quality study sessions.


Positive mindset:

There will be a lot of teachers who will discourage you from doing 13 units. Coming from personal experience, my Curriculum Coordinator and Year Coordinator have spoken to me and have recommended me to drop a subject. However, if you think you’re doing fine in managing your subjects, no need to drop! Taking on 13 units doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get a good ATAR. It just means you need to invest more time studying and managing other aspects of life.

Personally, this was difficult to write about because you need to have a solid reason as to why you want to do more than 12 units. You shouldn’t be pushing yourself in doing more than 12 units because not a lot of people tend to do more than 10 units, which is understandable considering that’s the number of units that goes into your ATAR. However, you shouldn’t feel discouraged in doing it if your teachers are pressuring you to drop. You just need to be confident in your time management skills because it is quite a heavy workload.

You can hear more from Olivia via her Instagram: @studywithlivia.