HSC Maths Subjects - what's the difference between Maths Advanced, Extension 1 Maths and Extension 2 Maths?

Here are some quick summaries of the HSC maths advanced, extension 1 and extension 2 courses, and a few questions you may want to ask yourself before picking your subjects!

9 months ago   •   5 min read

By KIS Academics
Photo by April Pethybridge / Unsplash

There is no doubt that it can be super stressful when having to decide which maths subjects you want to take for the HSC. Advanced? Extension 1? Extension 2? These subjects may seem super daunting and – quite frankly – rather abstract. If you are at that point in year 10 or year 11 where you are considering your maths subject options, are starting one of these courses and want a quick summary of the content, or want some tricks to acing these subjects, you have most certainly come to the right place! A quick summary of the HSC ATAR system and an ATAR guide can also be useful to job your memory.

If you're still on the fence about which Science or English subject to choose, here's a useful article all about it. Below are some quick summaries of the HSC maths advanced, extension 1 and extension 2 courses, and a few questions you may want to ask yourself before picking your subjects. Comprehensive online courses could also be an option to study HSC maths extensions 1 and 2.

Maths advanced:

If you are on the fence about HSC mathematics, then this is the right course for you! Maths advanced is one of those courses that sits in the middle of extension and standard, meaning that, depending on how much you enjoy it, you always have some wiggle room to change your courses around as you begin the year. Maths advanced is an enjoyable course and is a prerequisite if you want to pick up other maths courses such as extension 1 and extension 2. In year 11 you will learn a variety of topics that often get built upon in year 12 including; functions, trig functions, calculus, exponential and logarithmic functions and statistical analysis. In year 12, you will cover topics including functions, trig functions, calculus, financial maths and statistical analysis. You may have noticed the overlap between the two years of study. This overlap is just because you will be covering more difficult concepts in the same topic of study that builds upon your year 12 knowledge.

Maths extension 1:

This subject was probably my favourite maths subject! Maths extension 1 is a course for both year 11 and year 12, and consists of various topics that not only build upon some areas of your advanced syllabus but also build upon itself! It is super enjoyable in that you begin to go into some abstract concepts such as vectors and proofs, without it getting overly complicated! In year 11 you will learn a variety of topics including; functions, trig functions, calculus and combinatorics. In year 12, you will cover topics including proof, vectors, trig functions, calculus, financial maths and statistical analysis. And if you're looking to learn how to ace Maths extension 1, a crash course could be the way to go!

Maths extension 2:

If you took Year 10 Advanced maths and you really, really enjoy maths, would like a challenge, and love solving complex, abstract problems, maths extension 2 is definitely the course for you! Maths ext2 is notoriously labelled as the ‘hardest HSC course’ and includes some topics from first-year uni maths, so it will definitely prepare you well for uni whilst giving you a nice challenge to chew on! This course is only available in year 12 and requires you to have a solid foundation in both the maths advanced and extension 1 courses, although, it still gives you room to fill in any gaps you may have from the prerequisite courses. The topics that you will cover include proofs, vectors, complex numbers, calculus and mechanics. An important thing to note with this course is that it is worth 2 units therefore if you complete advanced, extension 1 and 2 maths you will be completing 6 units of maths in total during your HSC year. Another thing to note is that when you choose to take ext2, your HSC maths advanced mark will not count toward your ATAR. These among many others might be some things you want to think about when deciding whether you would like to take the course!

In general, here are some things you may want to consider when deciding which maths course you want to pick up:

  • Whether you enjoy maths:
    This is probably one of the most important points that often does not get stressed enough. In senior year you are able to choose the subjects that you want to do, so utilise this opportunity! Choosing subjects that you inherently enjoy and find challenging to a certain extent will motivate you to try your best and continue studying, even when you might not want to! So, before you go ahead and choose a maths course, think about whether you will actually enjoy it and whether it will benefit you in the long run. From personal experience, I can guarantee that choosing a subject because you enjoy it, and for a good reason really does make it easier for you to ace!
  • The prerequisites for your university course:
    This is a smaller point, but an important one nevertheless. At this point in your life, you might have a vague idea of what you want to do, or what university course you would like to enter. Using this information, have a look at the prerequisites for your courses, and decide on whether you would prefer to take the course during high school, or take a bridging course before uni starts. Generally, universities will offer subjects and courses so that you are prepared for your first year, so, if you choose not to complete a subject, then do not panic, because you can always make it up later down the track!

Tips and Tricks:

Maths can be a difficult subject to study, so here are some study tips to help you ace any maths subject you do:

  • Do A LOT of practice questions:​ The best way that you can prepare yourself for any maths exam – including the HSC exams – is by doing as many questions as you can. Try to find as many resources as you can, textbooks, past papers, past HSC papers… By doing a lot of questions, you simultaneously expose yourself to a variety of question types, different approaches, and different question-wording styles, thus making you more prepared for any type of question that the HSC might throw at you.
  • Have a mistakes book: Now, there is not much of a point doing a lot of questions, if you don't learn from the mistakes that you made, right? It is super duper important that you carry something called a ‘mistakes book’ or even just a mistakes sheet. This will have every single question you ever got wrong, how to solve it, and tips on how to reason through similar types of questions. This list becomes really useful pre-exam time, where you can skim through the mistakes that you previously made so that you don't make them again in the test you are about to sit.
  • Test yourself: Testing yourself is one of the best strategies to practice for an exam, so make sure you are completing many timed papers, marking them properly, and placing all the mistakes you made into your mistakes book!
  • Get a tutor! A tutor is always a super helpful addition when you're in high school and struggling with some tough concepts. They've been through it all, they once had to pick their own maths subjects, and they can help you understand some of the more difficult concepts you'll encounter!

Well, that’s it for this guide! I hope this gives you a clearer picture as to the differences between maths advanced, extension 1 and extension 2 while giving you some insight into how to ace these subjects!

Written by KIS Academics Tutor for HSC maths advanced and extension 1, Yasmin Hasan. Yasmin is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Psychology (Hons) at UNSW and has received stellar reviews from her past KIS Academics students. You can view Yasmin’s profile here and request her as a tutor.

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