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Should you Fast-Track?

By: Nada Elhossiny

By Nada Elhossiny

What is fast-tracking?

In its simplest form, fast-tracking is taking a course from a grade above yours. It is not a conventional route and, like most worthwhile things, it is definitely not easy. Fast-tracking offers a lot of benefits to the students choosing to take that pathway.

Fast-tracking a core course/prerequisite

Fast-tracking a course that is used as a prerequisite for post-secondary requires a lot of thinking beforehand because that mark is submitted and cannot be changed! Make this decision with careful deliberation, and ensure that you have a degree of advanced understanding in the subject.

Effect on Grade 12 year:

Different people fast track for different reasons. However, one of the most common reasons is to make the Grade 12 year slightly easier. This is because you have gotten a course out of the way beforehand, giving you more time to focus on other courses, and if you’re lucky, allowing you to take a spare!

Effect on Grade 11 year:

Naturally, the Grade 11 year will become a little bit more difficult, since you have both Grade 11 and 12 courses at the same time. An individual will also have to learn to prioritize their Grade 12 course (because this is mark submitted to university/college) while maintaining an average they are satisfied with in their Grade 11 courses. Although the Grade 11 year does get harder, it prepares you for the following year and develops your work ethic.

Effect on Grade 10 year:

In my opinion, this is the year that is least affected. Grade 10 courses are significantly easier than Grade 11 courses, allowing you to focus on the Grade 11 course without having to worry as much about your other classes. Taking a Grade 11 course is also a great way to prepare for the following year, as you will begin to develop the study habits needed to ensure success, and will get a feel of what to expect in the coming year.

*It is important to note that post-secondary institutions only care about your final mark in a course -- the year you complete the course does not impact your admission in any way.

Fast-tracking an elective

Another reason that people fast track is to make to make room for a course they would really like to take the following year. To free up their schedule, they take an elective so that they can happily navigate life next year. Not only this, but oftentimes, a student is more interested in taking a course offered to the grade older than theirs, and cannot choose a course that interests them nearly as much at their grade level. If this is the case, then go for it! Take the course you are more interested in (assuming you have the necessary prerequisites), if you have room in your current schedule and are booked next year. This type of fast-tracking is far less risky than the former because it usually only impacts one year, and won’t have a huge effect on post-secondary applications.

Real Student Experiences

Math (Nada): Making the decision to take Functions in Grade 10 was one that took a lot of research, conversations with my parents and with guidance counsellors, and effort. Many people advised against it, but many people supported my decision. In the end, I did what was right for me, mainly to make my Grade 12 year easier, as I knew the courses I planned out would be very difficult and I would need to take spares. Going into the course, I was very excited as I have a passion for mathematics. However, I quickly realized that there is a large gap of knowledge and commitment between Grade 10 and Grade 11 Math. The effort I put in Grade 10 would no longer be enough if I wanted to finish with a similar mark. I decided to allocate a lot more time to the course. Luckily, because my Grade 10 courses were much easier, I was able to do so without causing much disarray in my daily life. As the course progressed, I was able to develop my work habits, meet new people, and understand how to better prepare for my Grade 11 year. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and although there were some difficult days, I don’t regret it for a second! This year, I am taking the Advanced Functions course amongst much more difficult courses. Naturally, I am not able to put as much into math as I would like, however, I am continuing to build on my study habits, and preparing for university in the process.

Jana: I am fast tracking because I wanted to take math during both semesters in Grade 10, since I really enjoy the subject and I thought it would be a great experience to better prepare myself for grade 11. I can’t say that I regret that decision. At first, it was difficult, because I didn’t have any close friends in the class and I didn’t know what to expect. I was slightly intimidated by the older grade and the course in general. But as the year progressed, I developed a lot of close friendships, including with fellow students who fast-tracked. It is a unique experience that creates strong bonds and brings you together. My advice is to fast track a course if you enjoy it and are willing to put in the required effort to succeed, which far exceeds that of the previous years.

Chemistry: (Thu) I wanted to fast track chemistry because it was my favourite subject in Grades 9 and 10. Everyone in my family is good at Chemistry, too. There was a very big jump in difficulty level between Grade 10 and Grade 11. The pace is a lot faster and you learn a lot of new material in a short amount of time so it was stressful, to say the least. However, I met some really great people in that class. It was a fun experience because the atmosphere was really friendly and the Grade 11s were welcoming. I made a lot of new friends who gave me a ton of advice in regards to the future grades and their own experiences. I also learned a lot of important skills in that class, like time management, good study habits, and perseverance (to name a few). If given the chance, I definitely wouldn't change my decision, because Chemistry class, although stressful, was great fun. Taking Grade 11 chemistry in Grade 10 also helped me transition completely from Grade 10 to 11 because although new Grade 11s typically have difficulty keeping up with the new pace, I knew what to expect. I recommend fast-tracking, not necessarily in Chemistry, but in general. Challenge yourself and have fun!

Physics: (Ishleen) My reason for fast-tracking Physics was perhaps a little bit different than everybody else’s. In Grade 9 and 10 Science, Physics was consistently my least favourite of the four sciences (which also includes Chemistry, Biology, and Earth and Space Science), and I intended to get it over with as soon as possible. I wanted to give the subject a final chance before abandoning it for good. The transition from Grade 10 Science to Grade 11 Physics was rather difficult, but I found that having to accommodate for the heavy workload helped me when I began Grade 11. Grade 11 Physics was a fun experience, and I liked Grade 12 Physics even more. The first two years of science merely touch upon the more exciting Physics concepts that you will cover in depth when taking the Physics course. (For those of you that don’t think anything Physics related is exciting, be sure to look out for Gravitational Fields and Quantum Physics). Another great bonus was that I got to know people from the grade above me, thus expanding my circle of friends. All in all, although fast-tracking a subject such as Physics may appear to be daunting, it is an enriching experience that will develop your mental capacity for logic and problem-solving.

English: (Michelle) I fast tracked English so I could focus more on Math and Science courses in Grade 12. English is a very content-heavy and demanding course, and by finishing all of my required English courses in Grade 11, I can replace it with more relaxed or fun courses next year.

Healthcare/Economics (Nada): I was very interested in both courses and knew that if I wanted to take each of them in their respective years, I would have to give up a spare in Grade 12, which I didn’t want to do. With courses like these, you don’t feel a large difference between them and a normal elective course at your grade level, You do, however, get a chance to meet new people! If unsure, I would recommend fast-tracking an elective course over a core course.

What type of student should choose to fast-track?

It is important to realize that fast-tracking will not be easy. You need to be willing to put in the effort and accept the responsibility that comes with making such a decision. If you have a very strong work ethic, are willing to be in a class with people you may have never met, and work at the grade level older than yours, then fast-tracking may be for you! If you are unsure if you want to take the risk and fast-track a core course, I would recommend fast-tracking an elective or choosing not to fast-track at all as you need to be 100% committed! You must have a passion for the subject because the marks that you get could be used for post secondary admission so it is important that the marks reflect your best ability. Additionally, remember to persevere and not to be discouraged if you start off with a lower mark than expected. It is also a good idea to fast track if you plan on taking multiple AP exams, to lighten the workload for Grade 12, as the exams all happen at the same time. If you have any questions about any of these courses, please don’t hesitate to ask me or any of the fast-tracking squad members. It really is a community, so join today!

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