VCE Science Electives

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Psychology is a broad discipline that incorporates both the scientific study of human behaviour through biological, psychological and social perspectives and the systematic application of this knowledge to personal and social circumstances in everyday life. VCE psychology allows students to explore how people think, feel and behave through a biopsychosocial approach. The four main broad questions asked in VCE psychology are:

How are behaviour and mental processes shaped?
How do external factors influence behaviour and mental processes?
How does experience affect behaviour and mental processes?
How is wellbeing developed and maintained?

Unit 1 Introduction to Psychology

In this unit, students investigate the structure and functioning of the human brain and the role it plays in the overall functioning of the human nervous system. Students explore brain plasticity and the influence that brain damage may have on a person’s psychological functioning. They consider the complex nature of psychological development, including situations where psychological development may not occur as expected. Students examine the contribution that classical and contemporary studies have made to an understanding of the human brain and its functions, and to the development of different psychological models and theories used to predict and explain the development of thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

Unit 2 Self and Others

In this unit, students investigate how perception of stimuli enables a person to interact with the world around them and how their perception of stimuli can be distorted. They evaluate the role social cognition plays in a person’s attitudes, perception of themselves and relationships with others. Students explore a variety of factors and contexts that can influence the behaviour of an individual and groups. They examine the contribution that classical and contemporary research has made to the understanding of human perception and why individuals and groups behave in specific ways.

Unit 3 The Conscious Self

This unit will focus on how the nervous system enables psychological functioning by examining the different branches of the nervous system and how they enable a person to integrate, coordinate and respond to external and internal stimuli. Students will also examine how biological, psychological and social factors influence nervous system functioning.

Unit 3 will also focus on how people learn and remember. Memory and learning are core components of human identity and students will look at the neural basis of memory and learning and examine the factors that influence learning new behaviours and the storage and retention of information in memory.

Unit 4 Brain, Behaviour and Experience

This unit will examine how levels of consciousness affect mental processes and behaviours by focusing on the relationship between consciousness and thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Students will consider the nature and importance of sleep and analyse the effects of sleep disturbances.

Unit 4 will also focus on what influences mental wellbeing and analyse what it means to be mentally healthy. Students will apply a biopsychosocial framework to analyse mental health and mental disorder. Phobias will be used to examine how biological, psychological and social factors are involved in both the development and management of a mental disorder.

Career Options

Career Counselling, Neuropsychology, Child Psychology, Organisational Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Research, Counselling Psychology, Social Work, Educational Psychology, Sports Psychology, Family Therapy, Teacher, Forensic Psychology.

NOTE: VCE Psychology offered in the Wednesday block is a condensed version of the Unit 1 & 2 course. Students are encouraged to undertake Unit 1 & 2 VCE Psychology in the normal blocks and only elect the VCE (Wed) Psychology if they are unable to elect it within their normal blocks.


In VCE Chemistry students relate the structure of elements and compounds to their properties. They explore the significance of water and learn about organic compounds, which are important in sustaining life and are found in everyday necessities, such as fuels and plastics. Students also learn about the analytical techniques used today in forensic chemistry and to identify and quantify compounds found in mixtures and foods.

Unit 1 How can the diversity of materials be explained?

The development and use of materials for specific purposes is an important human endeavour. In this unit students investigate the chemical properties of a range of materials from metals and salts to polymers and nanomaterials. Using their knowledge of elements and atomic structure students explore and explain the relationships between properties, structure and bonding forces within and between particles that vary in size from the visible, through nanoparticles, to molecules and atoms.

Unit 2 What makes water such a unique chemical?

Water is the most widely used solvent on Earth. In this unit students explore the physical and chemical properties of water, the reactions that occur in water and various methods of water analysis. Students examine the polar nature of a water molecule and the intermolecular forces between water molecules. They explore the relationship between these bonding forces and the physical and chemical properties of water. In this context students investigate solubility, concentration, pH and reactions in water including precipitation, acid-base and redox. Students are introduced to stoichiometry and to analytical techniques and instrumental procedures, and apply these to determine concentrations of different species in water samples, including chemical contaminants.

Unit 3 How can chemical processes be designed to optimise efficiency?

In Area of Study 1 students investigate the sources of energy including transformations and galvanic cells. Students also use the specific heat capacity of water and thermochemical equations to determine energy content of fuels. In Area of Study 2 students explore ways to optimise efficiency and percentage yield of chemical manufacturing processes.

Unit 4 How are organic compounds categorised, analysed and used?

In Area of Study 1 students learn to name and deduce the structure of organic compounds by interpreting data from various spectroscopic methods. In Area of Study 2 students explore the importance of food from a chemical perspective. In Area of Study 3 students design a practical investigation related to content from Unit 3 and/or Unit 4. Career Options Anaesthetist, Physician, Biochemist, Physiotherapist, Geochemist, Pharmacologist, Industrial Chemist, Pharmacist, Medical Practitioner, Psychiatrist, Neurologist, Radiologist, Obstetrician/Gynaecologist, Surgeon, Pathologist, Paediatrician, Ophthalmologist, Biomedical Scientist, Dentist, Research Scientist


In VCE Biology students learn about the various adaptations organisms have in order to stay alive. They will look into cell reproduction and how genetic information is passed on from one generation to the next. Students investigate the immune system and the different ways cells respond to stimuli, evolution and the rise of new species as well as the social and ethical implications of genetic biotechnology. Studying Biology gives students the opportunity to gain an understanding of the nature of life, past and present. Students engage in a range of inquiry tasks that may be self-designed, develop key science skills and interrogate the links between theory, knowledge and practice.

Unit 1 How do living things stay alive?

In this area of study students examine the structure and functioning of cells and how the plasma membrane contributes to survival by controlling the movement of substances into and out of the cell. They learn about the cell membrane, energy transformations and functioning systems in plants and animals. Students examine the structural, physiological and behavioural adaptations of a range of organisms that enable them to survive in a particular habitat and to maintain a viable population size over time. They explore the importance and implications of organising and maintaining biodiversity and examine the nature of an ecosystem in terms of the network of relationships within a community of diverse organisms.

Unit 2 How is the continuity of life maintained?

In this unit students focus on cell reproduction and the transmission of biological information from generation to generation. They examine the main events of the cell cycle in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Students learn about the production of gametes in sexual reproduction through and the differences between asexual and sexual reproduction in terms of the genetic makeup of daughter cells. Students build on their understanding of the nature of genes and the use of genetic language to read and interpret patterns of inheritance and predict outcomes of genetic crosses. They gain an understanding that a characteristic or trait can be due solely to one gene and its alleles, or due to many genes acting together, or is the outcome of genes interacting with external environmental or epigenetic factors.

Unit 3 How do cells maintain life?

Unit 3 looks at cell as a dynamic system of interacting molecules that define life. Students consider base pairing specificity, the binding of enzymes and substrates, the response of receptors to signalling molecules and reactions between antigens and antibodies. Students also study the human immune system and the interactions between its components to provide immunity to a specific disease causing antigen. They study the synthesis, structure and function of nucleic acids and proteins as key molecules in cellular processes. They explore the chemistry of cells by examining the nature of biochemical pathways, their components and energy transformations.

Unit 4 How does life respond and change to challenges over time?

Unit 4 looks at the continual change and challenges to which life on Earth has been subjected. They investigate the relatedness between species and the impact of various change events on a population’s gene pool. In this unit students consider the accumulation of changes over time is considered as a mechanism for biological evolution by natural selection that leads to the rise of new species. Students examine the structural and cognitive trends in the human fossil record and the interrelationships between human biological and cultural evolution. Genetic biotechnology is also explored including the social and ethical implications of manipulating the DNA molecule.

Career Options

Agronomist, Horticulture, Agriculture, Immunologist, Conservation Biologist, Anatomist, Marine Biologist, Biologist, Teacher, Biotechnologist, Viticulturist, Ecologist, Zoologist, Environmental Planner, Forensic Pathologist, Geneticist


VCE Physics provides students with opportunities to explore questions related to the natural and constructed world. The study explores selected areas within the discipline including atomic physics, electricity, fields, mechanics, thermodynamics, quantum physics and waves. Students examine classical and contemporary research, models and theories to understand how knowledge in physics has evolved and continues to evolve in response to new evidence and discoveries. An understanding of the complexities and diversity of physics leads students to appreciate the interconnectedness of the content areas both within physics, and across physics and the other sciences. An important feature of undertaking VCE Physics is the opportunity for students to engage in a range of inquiry tasks that may be self designed, develop key science skills and interrogate the links between theory and practice.

Unit 1 What ideas explain the Physical World?

In this unit students undertake three comprehensive areas of study. These are:
1 How can thermal effects be explained?
This topic investigates thermodynamic principles related to heating and cooling, including concepts of temperature, energy and work.
2 How do electric circuits work? This includes practical investigations of circuits, conceptual models to analyse electricity and electrical safety.
3 What is matter and how is it formed? Students will explore the nature of matter, the origins of atoms, time and space (the big bang theory) and how energy is derived from the nucleus (fission and fusion).

Unit 2 What do experiments reveal about the physical world?

In this unit students will undertake two core areas of study and one detailed study.
1 How can motion be described and explained? This topic covers force, Newton’s laws, centre of mass, momentum, work and energy.
2 Practical Investigation. The students will plan and carry out their own experimental investigation relating to appropriate physics concepts.
3 Detailed study. The students will undertake a detailed study on topics such as stars, the solar system, how objects fly, and nuclear energy as a viable energy source or how musical instruments work.

Unit 3 How do fields explain motion and electricity?

In this unit students explore the importance of energy in explaining and describing the physical world. They examine the production of electricity and its delivery to homes. Students consider the field model as a construct that has enabled an understanding of why objects move when they are not apparently in contact with other objects. Applications of concepts related to fields include the transmission of electricity over large distances and the design and operation of particle accelerators. They explore the interactions, effects and applications of gravitational, electric and magnetic fields. Students use Newton’s laws to investigate motion in one and two dimensions, and are introduced to Einstein’s theories to explain the motion of very fast objects. They consider how developing technologies can challenge existing explanations of the physical world, requiring a review of conceptual models and theories. Students design and undertake investigations involving at least two continuous independent variables.

Unit 4 How can two contradictory models explain both light and matter?

In this unit, students explore the use of wave and particle theories to model the properties of light and matter. They examine how the concept of the wave is used to explain the nature of light and explore its limitations in describing light behaviour. Students further investigate light by using a particle model to explain its behaviour. A wave model is also used to explain the behaviour of matter which enables students to consider the relationship between light and matter. Students learn to think beyond the concepts experienced in everyday life to study the physical world from a new perspective. Students design and undertake investigations involving at least two continuous independent variables. A student designed practical investigation.

Career Options

Aeronautical Engineer, Mechanical Engineer, Airline Pilot, Photonics, Architecture, Radiology, Audio Engineer, Telecommunications, Avionics, Biomechanics, Civil Engineer, Geophysics