what level of hsc english should I take?

“I don’t know which level of HSC English is right for me!”

“I’m worried it’s going to be too much work.”

Are thoughts like these crossing your mind while you decide what level of HSC English to take?

Read on to find out how to make the best choice!

In this post, we are going to share with you advice on what level of HSC English to take and some common misunderstandings when deciding.

What are my options?

English is a compulsory subject in NSW so students must decide which level they will complete.

The different levels of HSC English:

English Studies (Non-ATAR)

This level of HSC English should be undertaken if you DO NOT wish to receive an ATAR because you do not want to go to university when you finish year 12. English Studies does not have an external HSC exam.

It is a category B subject while the other levels of English are category A subjects. You are only allowed to have 2 units of a category B subject in your 10 units of subjects for the HSC.

English Standard

This level of HSC English is a two-unit course, as of the new 2019 syllabus, it shares a common module called Texts and Human Experiences during the HSC with the English Studies, Standard and Advanced courses.

In addition to this, it has three additional modules for the HSC which emphasise particular aspects of shaping meaning and demonstration of the effectiveness of texts for different audiences and purposes.

English Advanced

This level of HSC English is also a two-unit course and alongside the common module for the HSC, it has three additional modules which emphasise particular aspects of shaping meaning and representation, questions of textual integrity, ways in which texts are valued and the demonstration of the effectiveness of texts for different audiences and purposes.

English Extension 1

This level of HSC English is undertaken in both Year 11 and 12, you need to be doing Advanced English in order to also do Extension 1.

This level is an extra unit to English Advanced, so if you do both Advanced and Extension you are doing 3 units of English. In Year 12 students are required to study in this subject at least three prescribed texts for the elective study and at least two related texts.

English Extension 2

This level of HSC English is only completed in Year 12, it involves a major work, a journal of progress and a reflection statement.

English Advanced and English Extension 1 are prerequisites for this level. So if you choose Extension 2, you are doing four units of English which include Advanced and Extension 1.

Common Misunderstanding: Students often think there is an “easy” option. There is no easy option. To do well, all levels of English require time and effort, as they include regular homework, independent research & assessments.

What do I need to know?

There are some things you may not be aware of in regards to studying English for the HSC. Check you know all the course requirements and expectations of each level of English.

Some things to note before deciding:

  • Standard, Advanced & Extension 1 English involve completing external HSC exams at the end of the course.
  • If you elect to receive an ATAR to get into university, in addition to your HSC, then your HSC English result will automatically be counted regardless of your mark.
  • All levels of HSC English require the assessments of reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing and representing.
  • Some tertiary institutions and courses have prerequisites. For example, a university course may require a band 5 in English Standard or Advanced as a minimum.
  • Some tertiary institutions and courses offer bonus points for the different levels of English.

For example at The University of Technology:

What should I think about while deciding?

Life After High School :

Think about what you want to do in the future.

There’s a high level of expectation to have good communication skills both written and verbal, not only at tertiary institutions but also in the workplace. English gives you the opportunity to work on these skills and provides you with knowledge that will benefit you throughout your life.

Also, certain universities and courses may require you to have completed a specific level of HSC English as a pre-requisite, so always check this. It is also worthwhile to research your course to see the kind of work you will be doing. It is likely this work will be related to writing, so it is best to choose the highest level of HSC English that you can.

The higher level of HSC English you do, the more you can improve your communication skills and leave high school confident by having great foundations.


Are you taking on too much or too little?

Everyone has different limitations and capacities, while it is fantastic to expand your capacity, overwhelming yourself can become a real place. Think about the workload of the other subjects you are taking and if you are taking on any major works.

In Year 11 you can figure out more of how much you can manage, so it’s good to take risks and pick something that will challenge you. Challenges are what will grow you and increase your capacity.


The bottom 25% scaled mark in HSC English Advanced = the top 25% scaled mark in HSC English Standard

Yes you read that right. You could be in the bottom 25% for English Advanced, and that mark, when it’s scaled to calculate your ATAR, will be as high as the scaled mark you would get in the top 25% for English Standard.

It’s not much sense to take Standard English, unless you know, you will be in the top 10% of students. Always go for the HIGHER level.

The other reason why you should always go for the high-level subject rather than the lower level, is because you can’t go up but you can drop down! So you can always start with Advanced English, and then drop down to Standard English later.

Still not convinced?

Here is some PROOF:

Below is an extract from Page 44 from University Admission’s Centre Report on Scaling. It shows that ‘Scaled’ Mark that students receive if they are specific ‘percentiles’.

To understand the impact of scaling, we want to look at the last column which provides the scaled mark (out of 50) for students performing in the bottom 25%.

We can see that in English Advanced this = 26.0

Let’s compare this to Standard English. To score an equivalent of 26 in Standard English you would need to be in the Top 25%, where you would score a scaled mark of 26.2…

So this proves that scoring in the bottom 25% per cent in Advanced English is equivalent to the top 25% in Standard when scaling kicks in.

Making your Decision

“I know what my options are but I don’t know which one to choose.”

AIM HIGHER, you can always go back down but it’s not as easy to go up!

You can go from doing Extension, to Advanced, to Standard to Studies, but it’s not so possible to jump from English Studies to English Extension. Likewise it’s difficult moving up from Standard to Advanced. So moral of the story is to:

Choose the highest level you can!

“Don’t ask what’s the least you can do. Ask what’s the most you can bear.” – Tom Bilyeu

Still a bit hesitant and unsure?

Make sure you have done the following:

You’re welcome to ask us too if you have any questions.

The best place to do that is to share your question on the discussion group, as I’m sure many other students will be wondering the same thing. It’s better to ask than to have regrets later!

Looking for a tutor to support you in HSC English?

We pride ourselves on our inspirational coaches and mentors for HSC English!

We offer tutoring and mentoring for Years K-12 in a variety of subjects, with personalised lessons conducted one-on-one in your home or at our state of the art campus in Hornsby!

To find out more and get started with an inspirational tutor and mentor get in touch today! 

Give us a ring on 1300 267 888, email us at info@artofsmart.com.au or check us out on Facebook!

Anna Dvorak graduated from High School last year and is now studying a Bachelor of Communications, majoring in media, arts & production and journalism, at UTS. Alongside studying, Anna works as an Academic Coach & Mentor at Art of Smart while also doing freelance work. She is very passionate about the art of storytelling and helping people fulfil their potential. In her free time, you’ll find Anna working on her craft, reading, watching Netflix, somewhere outside or catching up on sleep.