Course Planning and Option Selection
Why are course options important?
Selecting subjects for next year’s study is an important decision. To assist in this process, the 2024 Course Handbook is available for online consultation. This handbook addresses and provides the answers to many questions that students and parents/guardians commonly have about choosing a course of study.
The handbook has a wealth of information for parents and students regarding option selection, including:
- National and International Qualifications Pathways
- The introduction to the new curriculum for Form 5 students (Pre-Q) and what is required
- The Dual Pathway system available at Auckland Grammar School – CIE and NCEA
- An overview of the curriculum and flow chart
- Pre-requisites for passing Form 5 and 6
- University Entrance requirements
- General guidelines of students choosing options
- Form-level specific course planning advice and guidelines
- Specific option choices for all year levels
- Where will my subjects take me?
- Detailed descriptions for all subjects and courses available at Auckland Grammar School, including pre-requisites, course content descriptions and outlines, methods of assessment, course equipment and costs and pathways for further study
General guidelines for students choosing options
- Take care over making your choices
- Research your options and discuss your proposed option selections with your teachers and parents and other people who can give you good advice. Student Services and Vocational and Assisted Learning Department staff can help you and subject teachers can also help
- Do not choose a subject because your friends are taking it – choose subjects based on your strengths, interests and possible tertiary and career pathways
- Be realistic about your abilities. Generally, it is not advisable to continue with a subject if you are not achieving sound results at your current level of study, as subject difficulty increases incrementally each year
- Select subjects that you are interested in and in which you expect to succeed. Entry to Form 6 and Form 7 and to tertiary courses will depend upon the grades you gain, and it is usually easier to succeed in a subject in which you have an interest
- If you wish to pursue a particular tertiary qualifications or career, find out the Cambridge or NCEA qualifications and grades that you will need for entry and the subjects that you need to study at School. Qualifications and careers advice is available from the Student Services Department
The following is a useful formula to use to help determine your course choice:
Ability + Interest + Tertiary Study and Career Pathways = Course Choice
Every student in Form 5 must select Pre-Q courses (except for a selected cohort predominantly from 4P and 4R) who will study a tailored NCEA Level 1 course). Every student in Form 6 must sit either Cambridge AS Level or NCEA Level 2 courses and examinations.
Every student in Form 7 must sit either Cambridge AS/A Level courses and examinations or NCEA Level 3 courses and examinations. With the exception of students selected to be accelerated in Mathematics, students cannot study courses above their form level.
It may also be possible to study a subject at a level below your own form level. For example, a Form 7 student who struggled with NCEA Level 2 in Form 6, might need to do a mix of NCEA Level 2 and 3 courses. Permission for ‘multi-level’ study must be obtained from the relevant form-level Dean.
Plan your course ahead, and pay particular attention subject pathways and prerequisites. Ensure that the particular combination of subjects you wish to take is available under the present option structure for each of the remaining years you will be at School. Do not choose to do two subjects which only appear on the same option line at a later stage.
Accounting, Art History, Business Studies, Classical Studies, Earth and Space Science, Economics, Geography, History and Media Studies can be commenced at any level. Music, Physical Education and Visual Arts can be commenced at any level, provided students are able and gain the approval of the appropriate Head of Department. Other subjects have prerequisites of prior study so it is essential that students check subject and course prerequisites carefully.
Note that the inclusion of a subject in any option line on the option choices forms is not a guarantee that there will actually be a class, as sometimes not enough students choose the subject in a particular option line to justify allocating staff, and the School is not always able to allocate teachers to staff all classes in all option lines.
The option structure is a School policy matter, decided upon by the Headmaster and senior staff, and changed only after much careful thought and debate. While the option line structure is carefully designed to enable the vast majority of students to be able to select their preferred options and the School endeavours to make all options available to students (subject to prerequisites being met), there are inevitably restrictions which means that not all students are able to select their preferred combination of subjects (especially when their preferred subjects only have one class operating).
Form 4 Course Planning – advice to current Form 3 students
You should carefully consider the following points before selecting your option subjects:
- Students currently in 3A – 3H are to select two Form 4 options
- Students currently in 3I – 3R are to select one Form 4 option
- If a student currently in 3I – 3R shifts to the 4A – 4H band, he will be asked to select a second option by the Form 4 Dean on Day 1 2023. Conversely, if a student currently in 3A – 3H shifts to the 4I – 4R band, he will be asked which one of his two selected options he would like to study for 2023
- You should choose option subjects in which you are demonstrating ability, have an interest, and which are likely to help you in the future. You need to identify your strengths and interests and think about which subjects you would like to study in the Senior School
- Many subjects offered at Form 5 level and beyond require students to have studied the subject at Form 4 level, so you need to plan your subject pathways carefully. Form 5 subjects which have a prerequisite of having studied the subject in Form 4 include: Art, Engineering, Graphics, Music, French, Japanese, Latin, Spanish and Te Reo Māori
- Detailed descriptions of Form 4 option subjects (including course outlines and pathways to further study) can be found in the Departments and Faculties section of the School website
- Each of these options runs for 6 periods per week
Form 5 Course Planning – advice for current Form 4 students
It is important to understand that although Form 5 School examinations and external qualifications are useful signposts of student ability and achievement, they cannot be used by students to gain entry to tertiary education and are seldom used by Auckland Grammar School students to gain employment.
Rather, Form 5 is an important foundation year for senior academic study and examination results are used primarily as a formal measure of student performance and development and are used to determine a student’s ability to progress to study at Form 6 level. External qualifications, which can be used as ‘tickets’ to tertiary education and employment, are gained at Forms 6 and 7.
You should carefully consider the following points before selecting your subjects:
- You must study six subjects (although students selecting Triple Science are effectively studying seven subjects).
- English and Mathematics are compulsory.
- You should choose as your four options, subjects which you are good at, have an interest, and which are likely to help you in the future. You need to identify your strengths and interests and think about what you may need in your studies beyond School or in the workforce.
- Your course should be broad-based so that you keep your options open for the future. For this reason, you are strongly advised to select both Arts and Sciences subjects. A number of degree courses (BE/BHSc/BPharm) prefer or require applicants to have full A Levels in one or more Science subjects so you need to plan your subject pathways carefully
- For this reason, you are strongly advised to select both Arts and Sciences subjects. A number of degree courses (BE/BHSc/BPharm) prefer or require applicants to have full A Levels in one or more Science subjects, so you need to plan your subject pathways carefully
- To ensure that students do not choose courses with too narrow a focus, these restrictions apply:
- You may choose DAQ or FAQ but not both
- You may choose a maximum of two Commerce subjects (ACQ/BUQ/ECQ)
- Students in 4A – 4D can take Triple Science (STQ and STZ – 3 Sciences (BIQ/CHQ/PHQ) across 2 option lines) or up to two Science subjects
- Students in 4E – 4I can take up to 3 Science subjects (BIQ/CHQ/PHQ), although it is recommended that students select a maximum of two Sciences
- Students in 4J – 4O can take up to two Science subjects (BIQ/CHQ/PHQ)
- Students in 4P and 4R take NCEA Level 1 Science (SCI-L1), English and Mathematics and three option subjects
- You will study five subjects in Form 6, as you start to specialise more.
- NB: Students wishing to study AS Level Science subjects must take Triple Science or specialist Science subjects (BIQ/CHQ/PHQ) in Form 5
- To qualify for the Cambridge Pathway in Form 6 in 2023, you must meet the requirements outlined in the section entitled Passing Form 5 and Form 6 on page 13 of the Course Handbook
Form 6 Course Planning – advice for current Form 5 students
Most students entering Form 6 are commencing a two-year course of study, leading to tertiary study, and so you need to seriously consider your future plans for tertiary study and careers. You also need to carefully plan your two-year programme for Form 6 and Form 7 and be very clear about which qualification you are aiming for, in order to gain tertiary entry and entry to university courses with particular prerequisites.
Your academic programme should include courses that you think you will need to gain admission to tertiary courses or for employment (you may need to consult the Student Services staff for advice and guidance). There should still be opportunities to include subjects in your course which are strengths or that you enjoy and, in fact, if you are not strong at a subject and/or do not enjoy it, you should seriously consider whether will lead to successful tertiary study.
Students choose either Cambridge AS Level subjects or NCEA Level 2 subjects. The only students with a ‘mixed’ course will be those studying a predominantly Cambridge course who:
- Are studying a subject that is not available at Cambridge AS Level in Form 6. You will study an NCEA Level 2 course in these subjects
- Are weak in English and select NCEA Level 2 English or ESOL, in order to maximise the likelihood of gaining Literacy for University Entrance
To ensure that students do not choose courses with too narrow a focus, these restrictions apply:
- You may choose GRX or PDX but not both at AS Level
- You may only choose two Commerce subjects
- For 2023 you may only choose one of DEX or PYX but not both at AS Level, or only two of DES, PTG, and PHO at NCEA Level 2
Students who are in 5A-5J:
- Most students will study Cambridge AS courses in Form 6, however, if you are not likely to meet the entrance criteria for AS Level courses, you may want to consider changing to the NCEA Pathway
- Note the following:
- NCEA Level 2 is a ‘standalone’ qualification. You do not have to complete NCEA Level 1 in order to study NCEA Level 2 subjects
- Your Pre-Q studies will have prepared you to cope with NCEA Level 2 study
- Remember, however, that ‘D’ grades in AS do generate 30 points towards the 120 points needed for general New Zealand University Entrance
If you decide to study a Cambridge AS course you will need to carefully consider which subjects you choose:
- You must study five subjects including English/ESOL, which is compulsory
- If you are currently studying AS Mathematics you are recommended to select A Level Mathematics for Form 6, although this is not compulsory
- If you are intending to study Mathematics and one or more Science subjects, you should be achieving marks of at least 70% in these subjects at Pre-Q level, if you are to cope with AS Level courses
- Japanese, Latin and Te Reo are not available as AS subjects in Form 6, however at this stage, they are available as NCEA Level 2 courses (and at AS Level for Japanese in Form 7 and NCEA Level 3 for Latin and Te Reo Māori in Form 7)
- In Form 6, you must achieve a Literacy Standard for University Entrance. This is an ‘E’ grade or better in AS English Literature or AS Language and Literature. If English is one of your weaker subjects, your best option may well be to study NCEA Level 2 English or ESOL, to maximise the likelihood of gaining the University Entrance Literacy requirement (you must gain 5 credits in Reading and 5 credits in Writing for University Entrance). Note that a number of overseas universities have higher English/Literacy entrance requirements
- A number of degree courses (BE/BHSc/BPharm) require applicants to have full A Levels in one or more Science subjects and many overseas universities require at least three full A Levels for entrance purposes
Students who are in 5K-5R:
- NCEA is likely to be most appropriate qualifications pathway for 2023
- You must study five subjects (English/ESOL is compulsory and four options)
- If you do not earn entry to Form 6 you will remain in Form 5, your course of study will be determined in consultation with your Dean
- If you are motivated and are achieving very good results you may select a Cambridge AS Level course. However, you will need to meet the entrance criteria for AS Level courses outlined in the section entitled Passing Form 5 and Form 6 on page 13 of the Course Handbook, and you need to be aware that many AS Level courses are very challenging
Form 7 Course Planning – advice for current Form 6 students
This will be your final year at secondary school. Your main academic objective is to ensure that you achieve the qualifications necessary, in the appropriate subjects, to gain entrance to tertiary courses or employment in your chosen field.
The sections in the Course Handbook on University Entrance, tertiary course availability, and subject prerequisites are essential reading. You should consult Student Services staff, your Dean, the Associate Headmaster – Academic, Dr Etty, or relevant university websites and liaison officers, if you need further information or advice.
The Departments and Faculties section of the School website has more detailed information on tertiary entrance requirements and prerequisites.
This year in Form 6 you are doing either a predominantly Cambridge AS Level course or an NCEA Level 2 course. Accordingly, the information below is divided into two sections:
1) Students who are studying the Cambridge Pathway:
- The majority of students will continue on the Cambridge pathway, doing AS and A Level courses, however, a number of students will have underperformed at AS Level in Form 6. You must decide whether you are going to continue on the Cambridge Pathway or change to NCEA Level 3 and in cases of very poor performance you will not be able to continue on the Cambridge Pathway. You will need to gain a minimum of three D grades in your final AS examinations in order to do a Cambridge course in Form 7.
- If you have struggled to cope with AS study this year and have achieved low grades, you might be advised to change to an NCEA course. You need to see your Dean to discuss this. Note the following:
- You must achieve a minimum D grade in AS in order to continue on to an A Level course in a subject (and some A Level subjects have higher entry criteria)
- New Zealand universities rank applicants for admission purposes on the basis of their best six-credit points total (see pages 14-16 of the 2023 Course Handbook). Students gaining D and E grades and/or Ungraded results will not achieve a competitive entry score
- NCEA Level 3 is a ‘standalone’ qualification. You do not have to complete NCEA Level 2 in order to study NCEA Level 3 subjects. However, unless you studied Level 2 English, you will need to achieve 80 Level 3 credits and Certificate and University Entrance
- Your AS studies will have prepared you well to cope with NCEA Level 3 study. Remember, however, that E and D grades do generate 20 and 30 points respectively to the 120 points needed for general New Zealand University Entrance
If you decide to complete the Cambridge pathway you will need to carefully consider which subjects you choose and at what level. Note the following:
- You must study four subjects and there are no compulsory subjects. In your ‘free’ option line you will attend structured tutorial periods in the Study Centre which will support your study of AS/A Level subjects
- You will have the opportunity to combine learning in depth by taking A Level subjects, and learning in breadth by taking new AS courses
- You can continue with subjects you studied at AS Level to full A Level or you may select new Form 6 AS subjects. Multi-level study is an important feature of the Cambridge pathway
- The majority of students should choose a combination of AS and A Levels. Be careful not to over-commit yourself Four A Level courses will present a challenging workload and should only be attempted by very able students
- If you have completed A Level Mathematics in Form 6, you have completed a two-year course of study and cannot re-do A Level Mathematics in one year in Form 7. You can, however, select up to four additional A Level subjects in Form 7
- If you are achieving at D grade level in an AS subject, you will find A Level study difficult and you might consider choosing a new AS subject, rather than continuing to A Level
- Achieving good AS grades can produce more points than achieving average results in a full A Level (for example, a ‘B’ in AS Classics and a ‘C’ in AS Physical Education earns a total of 90 points, whereas a ‘D’ in A Level Mathematics earns 60 points)
- In most cases, AS Level subjects provide a very good basis for further study at tertiary level. However, a number of degree courses (BE/BHSc/BPharm) require applicants to have full A Levels in one or more Sciences and/or Mathematics
- If you are intending to apply to overseas universities, you are strongly advised to complete at least three A-Levels
To ensure that students do not choose courses with too narrow a focus, these restrictions apply:
- You may only choose two Commerce subjects
- AS or A Level Graphics or Product Design but not both
Students who are studying the NCEA Pathway course in 2022:
- You must take five subjects in 2023
- There are no compulsory subjects
- You are strongly advised to complete a full five-subject NCEA Level 3 course
- To meet the general New Zealand University Entrance standard for tertiary study you must study at least three university-approved Level 3 subjects and gain 14 credits in each one. Note the following:
- New Zealand Universities rank applicants for admission to all courses on the basis of their best 80 Level 3 credits over a maximum of five subjects
- You may choose a maximum of two of Design, Painting or Photography
- You may choose a maximum of two of Accounting, Business Studies or Economics
- You may choose Mathematics (7MAT) and Statistics (7STA)
It may be possible to change to a Cambridge course; however, this is usually not recommended because:
- You will not be able to study any A Level subjects and so you will need to select Form 6 AS Level subjects; and
- You will struggle to meet the general New Zealand University Entrance standard for tertiary study and gain sufficient subject credits for admission to programmes with limited entry
Note: If you do not meet the Literacy standard required for University Entrance in Form 6, you will have two options to resolve the problem next year:
- You can repeat a Form 6 English or ESOL course.
- You can gain the credits in designated NCEA Level 3 standards that count towards Literacy.
- You can complete a special English short course, which will be held at lunchtimes and after school, leading to NCEA Level 2 internal assessment against appropriate Reading and Writing standards.