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  • Writer's pictureSandra Lee

Which QCE Maths Subject Should I Choose? Senior Maths Explained!

Updated: Jul 6, 2023

Not sure which Maths subject to study in Year 11 and 12? Whether it's Essential, General, Specialist Mathematics or Mathematical Methods, we're here to help you make the right decision!



Mathematics has always been considered a core subject at school since it teaches students important life skills and prepares them for their future careers. From Years 1 to 10, students have learned to pick up the basics of Maths and build a foundational understanding of how mathematics can apply to real life.


Now, as our Year 10 students head into their senior years of schooling and begin to think about what they will study or do after highschool, the Australian Curriculum has provided four senior secondary Maths subjects to choose from:

  • Essential Mathematics (formerly known as Prevocational Maths)

  • General Mathematics (formerly known as Mathematics A)

  • Mathematical Methods (formerly known as Mathematics B)

  • Specialist Mathematics (formerly known as Mathematics C)


Choosing the correct QCE Maths subject will be important depending on whether a student wishes to receive an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) which is necessary for university.


Student holding a pencil while completing a multiple choice test

Overview of QCE Maths Subjects

In the table below, internal assessment relates to assessment provided and designed by a student's own school whereas students must sit external assessment provided and marked by the QCAA at the end of Year 12. External assessments assess all content outlined in Units 3 and 4 of a subject's outline (content covered in Year 12).

QCE Maths

Recommended For

Essential Mathematics


This is an 'Applied' subject. May contribute to ATAR*


Subject Outline:

  • Unit 1: Numbers, Data & Graphs

  • Unit 2: Money, Travel & Data

  • Unit 3: Measurement, Scales & Data

  • Unit 4: Graphs, Chance & Loans

Students looking for a less challenging Maths subject that focuses on practical life skills such as managing money, understanding loans, measurement, time and probability.


Internal assessment only (100%). No external exams.


Career paths include the general workforce, trades or TAFE courses.


See full QCAA syllabus here.

General Mathematics


This is a 'General' subject. Contributes to ATAR**


Subject Outline:

  • Unit 1: Money, Measurement & Relations

  • Unit 2: Applied Trigonometry, Algebra, Matrices & Univariate Data

  • Unit 3: Bivariate Data, Sequences, Change & Earth Geometry

  • Unit 4: Investing & Networking

​Students looking to gain a more concrete understanding of both practical and theoretical mathematical skills in areas such as trigonometry, algebra, data analysis, geometry, loans and investments. Calculus is not assessed in General Maths.


Internal (50%) and external assessment (50%) required.


Career paths include the technical trades, aviation, health science, tourism, hospitality, administrative roles, managerial roles and more.


See full QCAA syllabus here.

Mathematical Methods


This is a 'General' subject. Contributes to ATAR**


Subject Outline:

  • Unit 1: Algebra, Statistics & Functions

  • Unit 2: Calculus & Further Functions

  • Unit 3: Further Calculus

  • Unit 4: Further Functions & Statistics

​Students looking to gain high level skills in problem-solving skills, abstract thinking and communication through understanding of calculus, algebra, functions and statistics.


Internal (50%) and external assessment (50%) required.


Career paths include engineering, medicine, business, science, mining, mathematics, finance, economics, computer science, psychology and more.


See full QCAA syllabus here.

Specialist Mathematics


This is a 'General' subject. Contributes to ATAR**


Subject Outline:

  • Unit 1: Combinatorics, Vectors & Proof

  • Unit 2: Complex Numbers, Trigonometry, Functions & Matrices

  • Unit 3: Mathematical Induction, Further Vectors, Matrices & Complex Numbers

  • Unit 4: Further Calculus & Statistical Inference

​Students looking to gain a deeper and more advanced understanding of specialised concepts related to engineering and science.


Students may choose to study both Specialist Mathematics and Mathematical Methods together during their senior years.


Internal (50%) and external assessment (50%) required.


Career paths include further study in mathematics, science, statistics, medicine, computer science, engineering, finance and economics.


What is the meaning of 'Applied' and 'General'?

  • *Only one 'Applied' ATAR subject may count towards an ATAR calculation.

ATAR calculations take into consideration a student's top five senior subjects (out of a possible six that they may be studying). Therefore, if a student has chosen to study an applied subject, their results can in fact contribute to their ATAR score if it is one of their top five subjects.

  • **All general subjects will contribute ATAR calculations unless it is ranked last in the student's results

All general subjects allow students to follow a pathway into tertiary study and are therefore essential for ATAR. However, since only the top five senior subjects will be considered for a student's ATAR score, a general subject will still not contribute to the score if it ranked last in the student's results.


Altogether, this means that a student looking to receive their QCE and later go down the ATAR pathway may have either:

​A total of 5 General subjects contribute to their ATAR score

​A total of 4 General subjects + 1 Applied subject contribute to their ATAR score

What Maths subject should I choose?

If you are still unsure about which Maths subject to choose, we advise that you seek out your school career counsellor for more information or a familiar teacher that you know and trust. In addition, if you are currently a student or your child is about to head into Year 11, refer to your university course of interest to see if a certain Mathematics pre-requisite is required. In most cases, universities also provide bridging courses that you can study over the summer holiday right before university begins the following year.


University of Queensland Bridging Courses

For example, UQ College offers short but intensive 4-week bridging courses for Mathematical Methods, Physics, Chemistry or Biology if you need to obtain a pre-requisite for your chosen university course. However, please note that these courses each come at a cost of $1,500 per course.


Find more information about the 2022 Dates for UQ's bridging program.



Book a free lesson with one of our online tutors to get the support you need

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