VCE Specialist Mathematics Units 3/4

Note: see the generic maths article for more tips!

Specialist Mathematics is a demanding but rewarding subject in Year 12. It was in fact my favourite subject. If you favour sciences, mathematics and mathematical commerce (as compared to arts, languages, literature and theoretical commerce), I highly recommend you take this subject. It is a very useful subject to do, especially if you intend to do physics, mathematics or actuarial studies in university, or you simply want to keep your options open. The generous scaling bonus for this subject acts as a sort of ‘insurance policy’. For a strong student, in the unlikely circumstance that he messes up the subject, he or she will be rewarded with a greater scaling bonus, i.e. the more mistakes you make, in general the higher your scaling bonus will be. Having this ‘insurance policy’ in place is a good confidence booster. Of course, you should not do a subject you dislike simply for the scaling; you will be miserable for the entire year. But for me, given that mathematics is one of my strong points, specialist maths was the ideal subject and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Specialist Mathematics vs Further Mathematics

For the strong mathematics student, there is always the dilemma of whether he should do the harder time-draining Specialist Maths or the easier and less time-intensive Further Maths. I think this type of student should go for Specialist Maths every time for at least two main reasons.

1. Specialist Maths is forgiving of mistakes. As mentioned before, it has a handy ‘insurance policy’. In contrast, people who do Further are worried about losing 3 marks for the whole year, which puts a lot of stress on them.

2. Specialist Maths is fun. If you are willing to put in the necessary effort, it is a very enjoyable subject.

3. This reason if somewhat redundant because you’re already assumed to be a good maths student. Nevertheless, doing Specialist Maths keeps your options open in university. Otherwise you close off or make it harder to study potential fields like actuarial studies, physics or mathematics.

Learn from my mistakes

While not essential, I strongly suggest that you also take Physics 3/4 to complement this subject. Several of the chapters overlap, so your knowledge of one subject will help you in the other. I had to learn this lesson the hard way because I did not do Physics 3/4 and I had to work hard to catch up on physics-related knowledge that many of my classmates were already familiar with because they did Physics.

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