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Navigating Year 11 and 12 in Australia


Year 11 and 12 in Australia is known as ‘Senior Secondary School’ (or Stage 6). These senior study years serve an important foundation for tertiary education or future career pathways.

Many students and parents worry about the pressure of Year 11 and 12 in Australia. However, senior years at school provide many opportunities for your child to experience fun and balance their wellbeing.

Understanding Year 11 and 12 in Australia

What is the difference between Year 11 and 12 in Australia

It often feels like Year 11 and 12 in Australia are grouped together as your child usually has the same teachers and classes.

In NSW, Year 11 (or Preliminary) courses and marks do not form part of your child’s final ATAR. In Victoria, some but not all VCE VET units provide a study score contributing to their ATAR.

This is different for students who choose to pursue the International Baccalaureate, which counts both year 11 and 12.

To graduate high school and receive a Higher School Certificate (HSC) or Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE), students must successfully complete the requirements for both Year 11 and 12.

What should my child be doing in Year 11 and 12?

Navigating year 11 and 12 in Australia can be overwhelming for students.

Your child may be struggling with:

Choosing their subjects

Choosing subjects for year 11 and 12 can be a daunting family decision. A great starting point is to determine what your child’s plan is after high school.

In Victoria, education changes are replacing the VCE Vocational Major with the VCAL from 2023. This is easier for students who are unsure of their pathway as students can pursue any learning option under one certificate. In NSW, students may wish to consider whether they wish to pursue a trade or TAFE study as part of their senior study or instead of completing year 11 and 12.

year 11 and 12 in australia. woodwork. tradie.

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

If your child is interested in pursuing further education, help them narrow down specific courses. Your child can choose year 11 and 12 subjects according to the prerequisites for university courses they are interested in.

For a guide to choosing HSC subjects, visit here.

Determining extracurricular options

Similar to choosing HSC subjects, having an idea for a potential career path will help your child find relevant extracurricular options at school or in the community.

For example, if your child is interested in medicine or nursing, they may wish to volunteer at the local hospital. If your child is interested in a humanitarian career they may benefit from joining school clubs or attending school networking events.

Rena Tang, Meriden Head Prefect for 2021 and HSC all-round achiever said “Balancing  a study schedule with other cocurricular activities was especially necessary in Year 12, as maintaining cocurricular activities was a way to unwind during the school week.”

Balancing their study and wellbeing

Year 11 and 12 in Australia can be an intense period of study and homework for your child.

Don’t worry, you’re nearly there!

Battling exam stress is common among Australian adolescents.

To help your child deal with exam stress:

Rena also chose to sit with friends at recess and lunch instead of studying alone, and rewarded her hard work with Friday night TV shows in order to stay motivated throughout the year.

 “Your focus should be taking one day at a time. This is how I got rid of unnecessary anxiety and focused on what I could do in the moment,” said Rena.

Remind your child that senior years in high school can be lots of fun!

Fun school events often take place during Year 11 and 12 in Australia.

Amongst the chaos and study your child will be able to attend event(s) such as formal, graduation, awards ceremonies and other events to commemorate their years in high school.

Choosing a school for your child can be difficult, if you wish to receive further information please see Choosing a School NSW 37 or Choosing a School VIC 34.
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