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How Do I Select the Right Subjects in High School?

How Do I Select the Right Subjects in High School?

Making the right subject choices in high school is a crucial but confusing task for parents and students. The right subjects can boost your academic performance and influence your undergraduate college choices in India or abroad.

There are a number of curricula offered in India, including IGCSE, ICSE, ISC and IB among others. The challenge arises from having to choose subjects within the curriculum’s constraints. Also, subject choices vary among schools following the same curriculum; some IGCSE schools offer coordinated sciences, while others separate the three sciences, allowing you to drop one altogether.

Understanding 1) Your curriculum’s constraints and 2) The subject combinations offered will help you make an informed decision. Here are a few country-specific tips:

1) Studying in India after grade 12:

In India, you have to choose a ‘stream’ or an area of study such as arts, sciences, engineering, commerce, medicine and law. Students will have to declare their ‘stream’ choice at the end of second year of junior college or after grade 12. Some specializations like engineering and medicine require an entrance exam along with the 12th grade national board exam. Usually, subjects within ‘streams’ are predetermined with limited flexibility. Here are some prerequisites for popular streams:

Medical entrance exams like NEET

Physics, chemistry and biology

Engineering entrance exams like JEE

Physics, chemistry and math


Physics, chemistry and biology


Commerce or science subjects with limited focus on humanities subjects


Commerce or science subjects

Liberal Arts

Opt for core subjects

Several universities, including Ashoka University, O. P. Jindal Global University, Flame and Symbiosis are incorporating an international approach in their application process and learning experience. Keep in mind that your grade or marks in the 12th grade board exams is a criteria for acceptance into college, so choose subjects carefully.

2) Studying in the UK after grade 12:

Most colleges in the UK set minimum entry requirements for each course of study. Each course has instructions on subjects prerequisites along with minimum requirements on grade or marks.

For example, a BSc in Management Science from University College London requires math. IBDP students need 38 points with a 6 in HL math and 18 points in three HL subjects. Students from Indian boards will need a 95 percent in the 12th grade board exam. On the other hand, an integrated BSc and MBBS in Medicine from University College London requires 39 points in the IBDP exam with 19 points in three HL subjects including a 6 in biology and chemistry. Students from Indian boards are not eligible to apply. All such specific requirements vary by college and course so you need to check with each course carefully.

3) Studying in the US after grade 12:

US universities emphasize a more holistic education. Students are allowed to change their major of study or decide this by the end of the second year of college. Most universities look for students who are well-rounded, with diverse subjects choices such as English, social studies, math, science, and a foreign language, no matter what they choose as a major. For example, even a student who selects engineering as a major must have taken sufficient courses in history and English to be considered a competitive applicant. All grades between years 9-12 are reported on the transcript and are taken into consideration.

Students cannot pursue professional studies such as medicine or law at the undergraduate level; these can only be studied as post-graduate courses.

4) Studying in Canada after grade 12:

In Canada, the importance of subject selection is university and program-specific. Some universities have flexibility when it comes to academic requirements, whereas competitive programs such as engineering or business have specific prerequisites.

Candidates to the University of Toronto Engineering, for example, are required to provide competitive results in math (including Calculus), chemistry and physics and proof of proficiency in English.

At some universities, if applicants are not able to present a required prerequisite subject, it may be replaced with a SAT Subject test, AP exam, IBDP result or GCE A level.

5) Studying in Australia after grade 12:

Universities in Australia have a minimum entry requirement that is university and program-specific. For a STEM-related degree, for example, relevant science subjects in high school are required. For other non-STEM majors, universities require four or five core subjects including sciences, history and economics and a second language.

6) Studying in Singapore after grade 12:

Subject requirements for Singapore universities depend on the program. For example, if you want to pursue STEM majors at Nanyang Technological University, the highest level of math is crucial. Most courses ask students to meet an overall condition rather than requiring a minimum grade in individual subjects. Whenever possible, opt for the most rigorous core subjects. If English is not the primary language of instruction in school, an English proficiency test may be required.

Sometimes despite best efforts, students are still confused about what subjects to take. Here are some general guidelines that will help:

  1. Do not drop math or science after grade 10 as this will limit your options
  2. Engineering usually requires math and physics throughout high school
  3. Business streams usually require math at the highest possible level, especially in the UK
  4. Most UK colleges require chemistry, math and biology for medicine
  5. For architecture, math and physics are usually required, while an art or design-based subject is useful
  6. For art and design, an arts-based subject or a related project is preferred. Also, you may be required to submit a portfolio, which is university-specific

If you would like help with board and subject selection or have specific questions about whether you are eligible to apply to a particular university with your choice of subjects, then get in touch with us.

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1 Comment

  1. sumanbhai

    Comment totalmars


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