Year 10 High School Survival Guide

Year 10 is the most important year for students to consolidate their conceptual knowledge and skills before the start of Year 11.

In this Year 10 High School Survival Guide, we will outline the common issues faced by Year 10 students, explain what’s required in each subject for academic success, and share the effective study habits of past students.

If students fall behind in Year 10, they will limit their choices for subject selection in Year 11 & 12.

In fact, any Year 10 students who perform poorly in English, Mathematics, or Science will be discouraged by their school in undertaking subjects such as English Advanced, Maths Extension 1, Chemistry, or/and Physics in Year 11.

Staying ahead in Year 10 is clearly crucial!

In this article we discuss:

Let’s look at what Year 10 involves for your child.

An overview of Year 10

What’s expected of students in Year 10

Students must prepare for the following when transitioning into Year 10:

  • They must expect an increase in conceptual difficulty as the modules/topics become more challenging to understand;
  • They must expect an increase in workload as it takes longer for homework completion;
  • They must be more self-directed in their learning;
  • They must assess which subject(s) to continue for their studies in Year 11.

Year 10 students must have a solid grasp of the fundamental concepts of their subjects in preparation for Year 11.

Common issues amongst Year 10 students

Some of the common issues that Year 10 students experience are listed below:

  • Students are unsure which Year 10 subjects they should continue their studies in Year 11 – A large number of students choose the wrong subjects in Year 11 based on their ‘like’ for the subject in Year 10 rather than based on the prerequisite or recommended subjects guidelines outlined in each university course.
  • Students don’t place enough emphasis on understanding key concepts – In Year 10, students learn new topics which require the application of existing knowledge and understanding in more complex ways. If students don’t have a clear understanding of the key concepts required of the course, it is more difficult to meet the learning outcomes. As a result, they often default to memorising a large amount of information.
  • Students do not revise regularly – As students begin to encounter more complex problems, and develop the core skills required for the HSC, they need to revise on a regular basis to develop confidence and demonstrate mastery of the core skills.
  • Students struggle to cope with more homework – Many students underestimate how much homework they should be doing per day for Year 10. In preparation for Stage 6, students should be doing at least 2.5 hours of study per day.
  • Students don’t manage time to adjust for increased workload – It’s very common for students to procrastinate and leave things until the last minute. A large number of students try to prepare for their exams 3 days before the exam date.
  • Student lack self-directed learning – One of the most important skills students learn in high school is self-directed learning. Learning how to research and how to practice skills independently is an essential skill for the HSC and university. Students must develop these skills early on.

Assessing which subjects are right for me

Year 10 is the final opportunity to determine which subjects are the right fit for Year 11. Students who have a clear idea of what subjects they plan to study in Year 11 and 12 are more likely to take Year 10 subjects seriously and therefore be more successful.

As universities are increasingly requiring students to have a minimum HSC result in English and Mathematics for various courses, it’s important for students to decide early in Year 10 which subjects they wish to continue in Year 11. This way, they can maximise their chances of success in key areas and subjects.

Please see the flowcharts below for the minimum competencies required for different levels of English, Mathematics, and Science.


Year 10 Students who wish to study English Advanced or Extension 1 in Year 11 need to demonstrate a high level of competency.

Flowchart: The Progression of English
Flowchart: The Progression of English


Year 10 students studying Mathematics Advanced (5.3) must demonstrate mastery of topics for consideration in Year 11 Mathematics Extension 1 course (3-unit).

Maths Progression Chart
Flowchart: The Progression of Mathematics


Year 10 students studying Science must demonstrate a high level of competency in all of the three modules (The Living World, The Chemical World, The Physical World) in order to be considered for Year 11 Biology, Chemistry or/and Physics.

Note the university courses that require these subjects.

Science Progression Chart
Flowchart: The Progression of Science

In order to demonstrate high competency or mastery of topics in English, Mathematics, and Science, students are expected to dedicate at least 12 to 15 hours of study each week. In addition, Year 10 students continue to receive a significant amount of work from their various subjects. This means that students will need to do a significant amount of homework each night.

Conscientious students will do at least 2.5 hours study per evening.

Understanding Year 10 subjects

Year 10 students will learn the following compulsory subjects:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science

In Year 10, students continue to study the electives they chose from these broad areas:

  • History
  • Geography
  • Creative Arts
  • Human Society and Its Environment
  • Languages
  • Personal Development, Health, and Physical Education (PDHPE)
  • Technological and Applied Studies

Year 10 English

Year 10 English is where students finish Stage 5. Stage 5 has a specific group of learning outcomes set by NESA.

Matrix Theory Books are designed to help students achieve the complete list of Stage 5 Outcomes:

  1. Responds to and composes increasingly sophisticated and sustained texts for understanding, interpretation, critical analysis, imaginative expression and pleasure;
  2. Effectively uses and critically assesses a wide range of processes, skills, strategies and knowledge for responding to and composing a wide range of texts in different media and technologies;
  3. Selects and uses language forms, features and structures of texts appropriate to a range of purposes, audiences and contexts, describing and explaining their effects on meaning;
  4. Effectively transfers knowledge, skills and understanding of language concepts into new and different contexts;
  5. Thinks imaginatively, creatively, interpretively and critically about information and increasingly complex ideas and arguments to respond to and compose texts in a range of contexts;
  6. Investigates the relationships between and among texts;
  7. Understands and evaluates the diverse ways texts can represent personal and public worlds;
  8. Questions, challenges and evaluates cultural assumptions in texts and their effects on meaning;
  9. Purposefully reflects on, assesses and adapts their individual and collaborative skills with increasing independence and effectiveness.

This means that in Year 10:

  • Students further develop their analytic skills;
  • They learn new techniques, practice analysing them in texts, and begin to discuss how these develop meaning;
  • Students should have learned how to develop arguments logically, they need to consolidate this skill in preparation for Years 11 and 12;
  • Students need to develop their essay skills.

Confidence with essay structure is the key to acing the HSC for English Advanced.

The texts in Year 10 increase in complexity to prepare students for Years 11 and 12:

  • Students will learn to analyse a variety of different types of texts – poetry, fiction, non-fiction, film, and drama;
  • To analyse these students must become increasingly confident discussing literary and poetic techniques using meta-language;
  • Students should be masters at writing P.E.E.L paragraphs; these are the building blocks of Band 6 essays;
  • In Year 10, students should consolidate their knowledge about textual forms, genres, and develop their understanding of literary movements.

The table below outlines the Year 9 and 10 English program at Matrix:

Table: Matrix Year 9 and 10 English Program
Year 9 English Year 10 English
Oct – DecText and representationRhetoric and Persuasion
Feb – AprCritical Film StudiesNarrative Fiction
Apr – JunPoetryModernism
Jul – SepShakespeare and Reception – MacbethShakespeare – Hamlet

Year 10 students will face long responses and essay questions.

Students must be confident answering Year 10 essay questions like this:

Sample Year 10 English Question
“Modernism is an artistic response to a rapidly changing world.”

To what extent is this statement reflected in the Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse and T.S Eliot’s The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock?

In your response, provide and discuss evidence from the texts.

Ace Year 10 English with the Beginner’s Guide to English

Learn how to conquer Year 9 English with our comprehensive Guide. Read it now.


Year 10 Mathematics

Year 10 Mathematics consolidates the complex ideas and methods that lay the foundation for the HSC. In Stage 5, learning is split into 3 streams: 5.1, 5.2, and 5.3.

Mathematics 5.1 and 5.2 students will go into Year 11 and study general Mathematics. Students who study 5.3 will study Mathematics 2 unit Preliminary and Extension 1.

Table: Stage 5 Mathematics
Stage 5.1Financial Mathematics
Linear Relationships
Non-Linear relationships
Area and Surface Area
Numbers of Any Magnitude
Right-Angled Triangles (trigonometry)
Properties of Geometrical Figures
Single Variable Data Analysis
Stage 5.2Financial Mathematics
Ratios and Rates
Algebraic techniques
Linear Relationships
Non-Linear relationships
Area and Surface Area
Right-Angled Triangles (Trigonometry)
Properties of Geometrical Figures
Single Variable Data Analysis
Bivariate Data Analysis
Stage 5.3Ratios and rates
Algebraic techniques
Surds and Indices
Linear Relationships
Non-Linear Relationships
Functions and Other Graphs
Area and Surface Area
Trigonometry and Pythagoras’ Theorem
Properties of Geometrical Figures
Circle Geometry
Single Variable Data Analysis
Bivariate Data Analysis

Students who struggle with the concepts in the table above have two choices:

  1. Put in the work to develop their skills and get on top of the ideas for the unit.
  2. Consider taking General Mathematics.

Students must have confidence in these subjects going into Year 11 or they will struggle to keep up. Having a solid grounding in trigonometry will make calculus more accessible. Calculus is a core subject for mathematics advanced and extension in Years 11 and 12. Matrix students these areas comprehensively.

More detailed information about Stage 5 Mathematics can be found on the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) website. At Matrix, students address all of the topics set by NESA in their Year 10 Mathematics Theory Books. Each lesson is designed to ensure students meet the Stage 5 outcomes.

The table below outlines the Year 9 and 10 Mathematics program at Matrix:

Table: Matrix Year 9 and 10 Mathematics Program
Year 9Year 10
Oct – DecAlgebraic Techniques
Quadratic Equations
Feb – AprIndices & Surds
Surface Area
Trigonometric Ratios
Further Trigonometry
Apr – JunQuadratic Equations
Properties of Geometrical Figures
Curve Sketching
Non-Linear Relationships
Jul – SepTrigonometry
Linear Relationships
Simultaneous Equations

Students need to be confident answering questions like this unaided:

Image: Sample Year 10 Mathematics Problem
Image: Sample Year 10 Mathematics Problem

Year 10 Science

Stage 5 Science is taught over two years. The order that students study these disciplines will vary from school to school. In Stage 5 Science, students will have the opportunity to explore the main branches of Science and see which they might like to pursue in the future. Students study basic chemistry, physics, biology, geology, and a topic on space. Typically, chemistry, physics and biology are divided between Year 9 and Year 10, so that students will likely continue their study of these topics in Year 10. Geology and space may be separated, with one being taught in Year 9 and the other in Year 10.

Stage 5 Science is broken down into 5 subject areas:

  • Working Scientifically (Skills),
  • Physical World,
  • Earth and Space,
  • Living World,
  • Chemical World.

More specific information about these Stage 5 topics can be found on the NESA website.

In Years 9 and 10, students study the following topics:

Table: Year 9 and 10 Science Topics
Subject areaYear 9 and 10 Science
BiologyMulti-cellular organisms

Conservation of the environment and sustainability



ChemistryThe Periodic Table

Atomic Structure

Chemical reactions

Practical applications of chemical reactions

Earth and SpaceThe history of scientific models and theories

Plate tectonics

Outline interactions involving the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere

PhysicsEnergy transfer

Wave and particle models

Motion of objects

Introduction to electricity

The Law of Energy Conservation

At the end of Year 10, students will be asked to pick specific Science modules – physics, chemistry, or biology. Year 10 is the opportunity to learn which fields interest them!

More detailed information about Stage 5 Science can be found on the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) website. At Matrix, students address all of the topics set by NESA in their Year 10 Science Theory Books. Each lesson is designed to ensure students meet the Stage 5 outcomes.

The table below outlines the Year 9 and 10 Science program at Matrix:

Table: Matrix Year 9 and 10 Science Program
Year 9Year 10
Oct – DecChemical World:
Chemistry Part 1
Chemical World:
Chemistry Part 2
Feb – AprLiving World:
Biology Part 1
Living World:
Biology Part 2
Apr – JunPhysical World:
Physics Part 1
Physical World:
Physics Part 2
Jul – SepEarth and Space Part 1:
Experimental Science
Earth and Space Part 2:

At the end of Year 10, Matrix runs an Experimental Science course (which both replaces and includes the Space topic). This is aimed at addressing the Skills parts of the syllabus which are formally assessed in Years 11 and 12 but never explicitly taught in schools. This topic covers skills such as designing and evaluating an experiment, assessing types of errors, and analysing results qualitatively or quantitatively through graphs. The skills covered are transferable to all senior science subjects.

Students need to be confident answering questions like this unaided:

Sample Year 10 Science Question
Construct balanced chemical equations for the reactions of the following substances with sulfuric acid.
(i) Sodium hydroxide
(ii) Zinc
(iii) Copper(II) carbonate

Year 10 Science allows students to gain a thorough understanding of fundamental scientific concepts and develop knowledge and skills to prepare students for HSC science subjects.

We hope this article and the links provided are a useful resource in preparing you for what’s to come in Year 10, and in achieving your academic ambitions.


Ace Year 10 Maths

Struggling to get on top of maths? Read our Beginner’s Guide to Year 10 Maths and learn the secrets to acing Maths!



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