Extension subjects are some of the most commonly dropped units going into Year 12, and it’s not a surprise. They’re hard work and self-driven, but they’re also super rewarding, giving you an edge on your subjects and a well-scaling unit.

That said, extension subjects are often more condensed, meaning more work in fewer lessons, and you need major self-motivation and time management skills if you want to smash out awesome marks. At the end of the day a lot of students just aren’t up to it or want to focus on their other subjects, and that’s okay!

Making the decision to drop an extension unit is a tough one, and there’s a bunch of different factors to consider on both sides of the argument. Is the scaling worth the stress? Do you love it enough to learn independently?

So the question is; when the going gets tough, should you get going? 

Why Consider of Dropping?

When it comes to dropping an extension unit there are a lots of different factors to consider, and almost everyone drops for a different reason. The one constant is that students tend to consider dropping or do drop when they realise something in their school/study life isn’t working as well as they’d like. It’s good to remember that there’s no one ‘right reason’ to drop a unit, and while there have been some pretty lame ones, most people end up dropping because it’s the right thing for them and their study needs.


Some of the most common reasons students consider dropping an extension unit include;

  • Having too many units (12-13 is usually the most students can realistically take on)
  • Not having enough study time/too much content to study
  • The extension unit is proving too difficult
  • The student is becoming overwhelmed
  • They genuinely don’t enjoy the extension subject
  • They want to focus more on their other studies

All of these (and a whole lot more) are perfectly valid reasons to think about dropping a subject, and a lot of them look at a common factor of having too much on your plate. But realising you may want to drop and deciding to actually drop are two very different things, so lets look at the pros and cons of dropping and keeping an extension unit.

Dropping the Unit

“I regret it for a few days, but I went much better in my other subjects because I dropped it (Extension History).” – Kate, 89.6 ATAR



Less content to study – because extension subjects tend to be self-driven, meaning you have to do a lot of work outside class teaching yourself new concepts, dropping a unit can make a big change in your study load. One less unit means a lot of content you no longer need to learn or study, which feeds into other areas like time and stress.

More time – fewer units means fewer classes, potential free periods and less material to study. This frees up time for you to focus on other subjects, assignments, etc. and makes it possible for you to spend more time on subjects you want to improve in. It can also just give a bit of breathing room if you already had a packed schedule.

Reduce stress – there’s a lot of pressure with extension units, so dropping one can massively reduce stress. It gives you more time to study and relax, but it also gives you a little less to worry about and allows you to better manage your time so that you don’t have to stress as much about other subjects.


Fewer units – your ATAR is based on the 10 units you do the best in, so if you only had 11 or 12 units, dropping an extension subject reduces how many ‘spare’ units you have. These ‘spares’ are usually seen as a buffer zone – you still want to do well, but if you really struggle with maths you can feel safe knowing you have 10 other units you’ll probably do better in. Dropping an extension unit can leave you with one or no ‘spare’ units.

Scaling – it’s true that most extension units scale pretty well, and they’re a good thing to have on your HSC results as many make you eligible for bonus points in university application. Dropping an extension unit therefore means you lose these useful benefits and may not have as many ‘good scaling’ subjects.

Regret – I won’t lie; there are students who drop an extension unit and end up regretting it. There’s no way to know just how you’ll feel once it’s done, so it’s always important to make sure that you’re dropping for a good reason to reduce the possibility of regretting your choice.

Keeping the Unit

“My teacher wouldn’t let me drop Extension 1 English, which was actually a good thing because otherwise I would have quit for a bad reason.” – Maddi, 98.00 ATAR



Edge in the subject – doing an extension unit means that all the skills and content you learn is building upon what you already know in the subject, which really gives you an edge for that subject! For example, all essay writing skills you develop in Extension 1 English cross over to Advanced English and can give your essays an epic boost. 

Shows commitment – by sticking to the extension unit you show yourself and everyone around you that you’re willing to put in the hard yard when you commit to something. This shows dedication and is something a lot of teachers will take note of when writing your end of year reports and references.

HSC results – having an extension unit generally does help out with ATARs because extension subjects tend to scale quite well. This can really boost your HSC results, plus it gives you an extra ‘spare’ unit to fall back on just in case.


Have to change something – if you’re considering dropping because you’re too stressed, don’t have enough time or seem to have too much content to study then keeping the unit means you’ll have to make some changes. Check out some of our articles on writing study notes, making effective to-do lists and the 7 study styles for ideas on what to try!

Time management – keeping an extension unit does mean that you’re still going to have a lot of content to cover independently, so now’s the time to really think about how you organise yourself. You have to start looking critically at your time management skills and accept that you may need to put in the extra hours to do well.

Situation may not improve – sometimes whatever it is that’s making you consider dropping an extension unit just doesn’t go away. If it’s the topic you find dull, you don’t get along with your teacher or you have having to write more essays, there’s not much you can do about it. In some cases keeping your extension unit just means you have to grin and bear it.

Making The Decision

Having read the pros and cons of both dropping and keeping an extension unit, now is really the time to work out how you’re going to make your decision. There are some students who read the lists and can straight away choose to drop or keep an extension unit, but for most of us it’s a lot harder than that.

Figuring out whether or not the good outweighs the bad can be tricky, so we’ve come up with a helpful quiz to set you on the right path. Answer true or false to each of these statements, then tally up how many ‘true’ answers you have at the end.

Statement TRUE FALSE
I don’t enjoy the subject/topic. T F
I find the unit really difficult to understand. T F
I get consistently poor marks. T F
I dislike the teacher/their style of teaching. T F
I have trouble with self-directed study (teaching myself) T F
I don’t have enough time to study all my subjects. T F
I have too many subjects to study. T F
I wish I could focus more on my other subjects. T F
I dread working on extension coursework. T F
I don’t like going to my extension classes. T F

Here are our recommendations based on how many statements you said ‘true’ to.

1-3 True = Stick it out. See what you can do to solve the problem for yourself (improve your study skills, work on time management, talk to your teacher, etc.). Sometimes the best thing is to soldier on, and you’ll thank yourself in the end.

4-7 True = Consider dropping. Clearly the extension unit is having a negative effect on you, so sit down and think about what you can do to deal with the statements you answered ‘true’ to. Try to organise to sit down with your subject teacher or co-ordinator and get some advice on your specific worries and how they can help you deal with it.

8-10 True = Dropping is probably best for you. If you’re marking off the majority of the statements as true then the unit is really damaging your personal and learning experience. If you’re deadest on keeping the unit then now’s the time to sit down with your teacher and/or co-ordinator and outline the problems so you can get some major help on sorting them out. Otherwise, you’ll probably take a massive load off your shoulders if you just drop the unit and focus your energy elsewhere.


At the end of the day the decision to keep or drop an extension subject is entirely yours, so do what feels right to you. Of course it’s important to think it through and make sure your reasons are legitimate and not just “I got one bad mark.”, but the right reason for one student is different to the right reason for another student. As they say – “You do you.”.


Maddison Leach completed her HSC in 2014, achieving an ATAR of 98.00 and Band 6 in all her subjects. Having tutored privately for two years before joining Art of Smart, she enjoys helping students through the academic and other aspects of school life, even though it sometimes makes her feel old. Maddison has had a passion for writing since her early teens, having had several short stories published before joining the world of blogging. She’s currently studying a Bachelor of Design at the University of Technology Sydney and spends most of her time trying not to get caught sketching people on trains.