Year 9 High School Survival Guide

Posted on August 2, 2017 by Patrick Condliffe

Table of Contents

1. An Overview of Year 9
2. Year 8 vs Year 9 – the Differences
3. What is Stage 5
4. NAPLAN in Year 9
5. Understanding Year 9 Subjects
4. Year 9 English
5. Year 9 Mathematics
6. Year 9 Science
7. How to help your Teenager Transition to Year 9 Smoothly


Many parents are unsure of what happens in Year 9 as their child transitions from Year 8.

Year 9 is the first year of Stage 5 where students are expected to start taking a greater ownership of their learning. Students get to pick the elective units that they wish to study – this includes art, drama, languages, economics. They begin the Stage 5 curriculum. In Year 9, the students will begin the Stage 5 curriculum, and as a result, they will sit an important NAPLAN test. This test assesses their literacy and numeracy levels against the Stage 5 standard.

In this guide, we explain why Year 9 is a crucial step on the journey to the HSC; why doing well in Year 9 NAPLAN will ensure students prequalify to sit the HSC; and provide some advice for how to help your child achieve their best in Year 9.

An Overview of Year 9 in High School

What’s expected of students in Year 9

Students must prepare for the following when transitioning into Year 9:

  1. They must expect an increase in subject difficulty as they begin Stage 5
  2. They must expect an increase in homework
  3. They must develop and apply critical thinking skills to solve unseen problems
  4. They must sit the Year 9 NAPLAN assessments

“Year 9 is the first year of Stage 5.”

Common issues amongst Year 9 students:

  1. Students often have poor study practise – It is essential in Year 9 to develop good study habits. Students need to balance extra-curricular activities with study. Bad habits often become ingrained after Year 9.
  2. Students don’t place enough emphasis on understanding key concepts – In Year 10, students learn new topics which require application of existing knowledge and understanding in more complex ways. Without having a clear understanding of the core ideas in their subjects, it is more difficult to meet the learning outcomes.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Plan ahead for NAPLAN – The Year 9 NAPLAN assessment is important. Students who fail to achieve a Band 8 or higher will need to do further testing throughout Years 9 and 10 to ensure they meet the new minimum standards in order to sit the HSC.

Evidently, Year 9 is a very important step on a student’s journeys to HSC success. Let’s look at the changes between Year 8 and Year 9.


Year 8 vs Year 9

In Year 9, students get to select their first electives. For example, your child can decide what languages they want to pursue. They might choose to do Art or Drama. Let’s have a look at what changes between Year 8 and Year 9:

Year 8
Year 9
Consolidate and master Stage 4 concepts before advancing to stage 5 Demonstrate mastery over the Stage 4 concepts

Introduce the Stage 5 concepts and expectations

Begin studying specialised subjects

Subjects are set for study by the School:




Creative Arts

Human Society and its Environments



Technology and Applied Studies

Compulsory subjects are set by NESA:


Maths – Some schools will offer accelerated maths


Students choose their elective subjects from the following categories:

Creative Arts

Human Society and its Environments



Technology and Applied Studies

1.5 hours per day 2-3  Hours per day
No NAPLAN assessment Year 9 NAPLAN assessment

This NAPLAN assessment allows students to pre-qualify for the HSC

Table: Comparing Years 8 and 9


Students will notice a significant increase in the amount of work for their subjects. This means that students will need to do a significant amount of homework each night.

“Conscientious students will do at least 2 hours study per evening.”

This will equate to between at least 10 and 12 hours of study each week! Students should take this into consideration when choosing their elective subjects.

In Year 9,

    • Students begin Stage – This means that students learn new topics and must meet new, more advanced, outcomes and criteria.
    • Existing ideas become more complex – The existing knowledge that students have is applied in more complex ways.
    • Students build upon previous learning – While students learn new things in Year 9, the focus is on consolidating skills to ensure they have mastery of them.
    • Receive more homework – The further a child progresses into high school, the more responsibility they are given for their own learning. For example, in English and History students will be given more research projects that require them to find out information for themselves.
    • Students choose their elective subjects – In Years 7 and 8, schools choose the electives that students study. In Year 9, students must choose the elective subjects they wish to pursue. They must decide if they wish to pursue a specific language or they prefer Design and Technology to Art. It is important that students have detailed discussions about this with their parents and teachers so they can choose what is right for them.
    • Students sit the Year 9 NAPLAN assessments – Students sit the final set of NAPLAN assessments. These are to ensure that your child has strong enough literacy and numeracy for the HSC. The school and the teachers need to know this now, so they can help children who are struggling bring their skills up to speed.


What is Stage 5?

The NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) divides the learning outcomes for students 6 Stages for Kindergarten through to Year 12.

  • Each Stage is comprised of two grades, i.e Stage 5 is comprised of both Years 9 and 10.
  • Each Stage has a specific list of Outcomes. These are the levels of attainment that students should achieve for that Stage.
  • The syllabus is structured so that students consistently accrue and develop skills between Kindergarten and Year 12.
  • We will look at some specific Stage 5 outcomes as we discuss the English and Mathematics syllabuses. More information about Stage 5 can be found on the NESA website.

“Stage 5 is where students begin to encounter more complex problems and develop the core skills required for the HSC.”


NAPLAN in High School and Year 9

Parents of students from Australian Primary Schools may already be familiar with NAPLAN (National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy). NAPLAN is a series of assessments throughout the school grades designed to track children’s literacy and numeracy skills. Here’s what you need to know about NAPLAN:

  • NAPLAN is tested in Years 3, 5, 7, and 9.
  • Students sit standardised exams for English and Maths to assess their literacy and numeracy.
  • NAPLAN assesses students to ensure that they meet the minimum standards for each Stage through school.
  • During Year 9, students will have a NAPLAN assessment in May.
  • NAPLAN is marked out of 10 Bands. Students must achieve a Band 8 or higher in their subjects to prequalify for the HSC.
  • The year 9 NAPLAN assessments are important as they are used to see whether students are meeting the minimum standards or not. Students who score band 8 or above will pre-qualify for the HSC (Find out what prequalifying for the HSC means).
  • In the 2017 NAPLAN assessment, only 32% of students achieved a Band 8 or higher in all three subjects – Mathematics, English – Comprehension, and English – Writing.  This means that 68% of students will need to take further tests to prequalify for the HSC.
  • Results from the 2017 NAPLAN assessments can be found here.


For English, students must answer:

  • Spelling questions
  • Grammatical questions
  • Comprehension
  • Write a persuasive text
  • Compose a creative text.

For Mathematics, students must answer questions on:

  • Adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing
  • Geometry
  • Graphs
  • Tables
  • Decimals
  • Fractions.

If you would like to know more about NAPLAN,

Matrix courses cover the skills that are assessed in NAPLAN, and will give your child confidence going into these compulsory exams.

Subjects in Year 9

Year 9 students will learn the following compulsory subjects:

    • English
    • Mathematics
    • Science.

At many schools, students will need to choose their elective subjects. These elective subjects will be drawn from these broad subject areas:

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

It is important for you to have a comprehensive discussion about subject selection with your child and their teachers. They need to think about how these subjects might suit their long-term study goals. They need to find a balance between the practicality, their enjoyment, and their skill-levels for these subjects.

Year 9 English

Year 9 English is where students polish their essay writing skills. Year 9 is the first year of Stage 5 and has a specific set or learning outcomes set by NESA. It’s important to understand that students must demonstrate a high level of competency in Year 9 and 10 English course to be considered for Year 11 English Advanced or Extension 1 course.

The flowchart below illustrates how students with different levels of English competencies will progress to different levels of English.

Matrix Theory Books are designed to help students achieve the complete list of Stage 4 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

In Stage 4 (Year 7 & 8), students:

  • were taught the basics of literary analysis
  • were introduced to the basic understanding of how literary techniques develop meaning
  • practised discussing the meaning generated in texts.

In Stage 5 (Year 9 & 10), students:

  • begin refining their analytic skills.
  • learn new techniques, and they practice discerning them in texts
  • students develop their ability to develop arguments logically
  • need to take the fundamental skills of paragraph structure and apply them to whole essays.

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

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

Year 9
Year 10
Oct – Dec
Text and representation Rhetoric and Persuasion
Feb – Apr
Critical Film Studies Narrative Fiction
Apr – Jun
Poetry Modernism
Jul – Sep
Shakespeare and Reception – Macbeth Shakespeare – Hamlet
Table: Matrix Year 9 and 10 English Program


Students need to be confident enough to answer essay questions like this unaided:

By following a set of clear rules, Imagist poems create new worlds in a way that other poems do not.
To what extent do you agree with this statement? In your response, make reference to TWO Imagist poems.
Storer, E. 1908. ‘Street Magic’                               Pound, E. 1913. ‘In a Station of the Metro’
One night I saw a theatre,                                     The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Faint with foamy sweet,                                        Petals on a wet, black bough.
And crinkled loveliness
Warm in the street’s cold side.
Table: Sample Year 9 English Question

Year 9 Mathematics

Year 9 Mathematics begins engaging with 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.

Maths 5.1 is for students who intend to do Standard Mathematics for the HSC; Mathematics 5.2 is for students who intend to do Mathematics Advanced for the HSC; and Mathematics 5.3 is for students who intend to Mathematics Extension 1.

It’s important to understand that students must demonstrate mastery of topics in Year 9 and 10 Mathematics course to be considered for Year 11 Mathematics Extension 1 course.

The flowchart below illustrates how students with different levels of mathematics competencies will progress to different levels of Mathematics.

Maths Progression Chart

The Mathematics topics that students learn in Stage 5 (year 9 & 10) are outlined below:

Stage 5
Financial 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
Financial 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
Ratios 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
Table: Stage 5 Mathematics


Having a solid grounding in trigonometry will make calculus more accessible. Calculus is a core subject for mathematicss advanced and extension in Years 11 and 12. Students are introduced to indices, surds, and irrational numbers. They will learn to solve equations involving inequality. Year 9 students learn about quadratic equations and apply their algebraic skills to solve them. In addition, students are introduced to trigonometry.

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 8 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.

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


Students need to be confident answering questions like this unaided,

Image: Sample Year 9 Question

Year 9 Science

Stage 5 (Year 9 & 10) Science is taught over two years. In Year 9, students will study Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and Geology. 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 future. Students also practice experimentation and refine their understanding of the scientific method.

Stage 5 Science is broken down into 5 subject areas:

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

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


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

 Subject area
Year 9 and 10
Multi-cellular organisms
Conservation of the environment and sustainability
The Periodic Table
Atomic Structure
Chemical reactions
Practical applications of chemical reactions
Earth and Space
The history of scientific models and theories
Plate tectonics
Outline interactions involving the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere
Energy transfer
Wave and particle models
Motion of objects
Introduction to electricity
The Law of Energy Conservation
Table: Year 9 and 10 Science Topics


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 8 Mathematics 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.

Year 9
Year 10
Oct – Dec
Chemical World: Chemistry Part 1 Chemical World: Chemistry Part 2
Feb – Apr
Living World: Biology Part 1 Living World: Biology Part 2
Apr – Jun
Physical World: Physics Part 1 Physical World: Physics Part 2
Jul – Sep
Earth and Space Part 1: Earth Experimental Science and
Earth and Space Part 2: Space
Table: Matrix Year 9 and 10 Science Program


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,

Image: Sample Year 9 Science Question


“Year 9 science allows students to gain a thorough understanding of fundamental scientific concepts and develop knowledge and skills to prepare students for the HSC science subjects – Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.”


How to Help Your Teenager Transition to Year 9 Smoothly

Your child’s psychological health during this period is important. The challenges presented by new peers and teachers, as well as course work that has an increased level of difficulty, can place an onerous burden on students. It is important for students to find a balance between studying and actually being a teenager.

“Ensuring your child has good organisational and study habits in Year 9 will help them do well in high school and beyond.”

Helping your child with their study, and communicating with them about what they need to do for school is crucial. Helping them understand what assignments are asking of them and discussing study planning with them will help them stay on top of the increased workload of high school. You don’t want to pressure your child unduly, you need to support them.


How you can help your child:

1. Develop a daily and weekly routine

You will help your child immensely if you can establish a regular routine. This will help them plan their days and remember what they need to do each day.
This can be done by:

    • Waking up or leaving the house at the same time
    • Aiming to have dinner around the same time.


2. Help them get organised!

  • Parents should help students plan out their days according to a daily timetable that considers:
    – When they need to get up
    – How much they need to study
    – When they should study what subjects.
  • Parents should help their children plan a weekly timetable. This should be organised to align with their school timetable.
  • A weekly timetable should include their extra-curricular activities and plan out study time over the weekends.
  • Keep a calendar handy and visible so your child knows what’s coming up! They need to know about the Thursday in March when they have dinner with Nan as much as the Maths test they have in April. This will help them plan!
  • It is important for students to establish study routines early in High School so they have productive study habits as they advance through the grades.


3. Help them set goals

Goal setting is an important skill for children to learn. Goal setting will enable them to aim for a specific achievement and plan towards attaining it. It might be making a specific sports team, or it could be raising their marks in a subject by a specific amount. It is important that children should have a wide range of goals that are not limited to academic achievements.

You can help your child set goals by:

  • Asking them what they wish to achieve in Year 9. Get them to consider a wide range of things – school, sports, extra-curricular activities, personal goals.
  • Help them plan out a practicable timeline. For example, trying to raise their marks from 5/10 in a maths test to 8/10 could be a goal for a term.
  • Make sure they have benchmarks to meet between the start and finish dates. This way you can both keep track of their progress. It is important that you encourage them in this!
  • Celebrate with them when they achieve their goals! You don’t need to reward everything, but you should acknowledge their achievements and show them you are proud of what they have accomplished.


4. Show an interest in their homework

It is important that you know what your child is studying, and be aware of when they need help or are struggling. It is easy to forget how difficult learning can be. You want to help your child with problems before they fall behind their peers. Showing an interest in their homework forces children to try and explain their knowledge to you. While students in high school need to be self-directed and independent, they still need assistance solving complex problems. Some ways to do this are:

  • Asking them what they are doing for various subjects.
  • If they are stuck on a problem get them to explain it to you. Sometimes discussing the issue will give them the solution.
  • Instead of solving the problems for them, work through them with your child. It is important for Year 9 students to complete tasks to deadlines unassisted.
  • Do research with your child. If your child has a research task, show an interest in it. Sit down with them while they research and discuss ideas with them. This will help them develop confidence.


5. Be there to listen

Children need to be able to have frank discussions with their parents. it is important that your child can come to you and ask for help if they are struggling with things. Often children are scared that their parents will be upset that they struggle with a subject. Rather than asking parents for help, they try and hide their issue. This can quickly snowball into a big problem!


6. Build a relationship with the school

Schools are there to help your child. Getting to know you children’s teachers and year coordinator will help you keep track of their progress. Schools often have programs to help struggling students and high-achieving students. Being involved in the school community can be time-consuming, but it also gives your child and you a support network.


We hope this blog and the links provided are a useful resource in preparing you for what’s to come in Year 9, and in achieving your academic ambitions.


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