JC Or Poly? The Ultimate Guide For Parents

Before your child even receives his or her O-Level results, you must have already thought about where your child will be heading to next.

Gone are the days where a junior college is deemed as the superior choice, compared to a polytechnic. 

Both JCs and polys are great in their own right, and focus on academic learning through fundamentally different approaches.

In this article, let us help you to do a detailed breakdown, so you can have a better insight on the differences between the two options, and which one will suit your child better! 

The Junior College Route

Junior college lasts for two years and students will have to take the A-Level examination at the end of their JC journey.

In JC, students are required to choose between two streams.

Science stream*:

  • Math (H2)
  • Chemistry (H2)
  • Physics/ Biology (H2)
  • Humanities (Economics, Geography, History, Literature, etc…) (H1)
  • General Paper (H1)
  • Project Work (H1)

Arts stream*:

  • Economics (H2)
  • Geography/History (H2)
  • Literature (H2)
  • Math (H1)
  • General Paper (H1)
  • Project Work (H1)

Each H2 subject is worth 20 rank points while each H1 subject is worth 10 rank points. (Click here for a guide to rank points.) 

Local university admission is calculated based on rank points out of 90. 

H2 subjects

‘A’ – 20 rank points

‘B’ – 17.5 rank points

‘C’ – 15 rank points


H1 subjects

‘A’ – 10 rank points

‘B’ – 8.75 rank points

‘C’ – 7.5 rank points

As a rough estimation, most local university courses require 70 rank points and above, with the more prestigious courses like computing, medicine, and law requiring 85 rank points or the full 90 rank points. You can refer to a compiled list here.

* We do want to clarify that the examples given above are typical combinations, but there are also hybrid combinations, H3 subjects, and Knowledge & Inquiry (KI). Do find out more once your child enters their JC.

As for which stream to choose, look further down the road and look at which university course your child intends to enroll in. Certain courses have entry prerequisites or module exemptions for introductory classes if a student does well in the A-Levels.

If teens are leaning towards engineering and science-related courses in the university, they should definitely take the science stream. If they are intending to do more humanities-related courses like psychology or social sciences, they will be better off in the arts stream. 

A word of advice to parents:

While the common perception is that going to medicine or law in university is the ‘gold standard’, these courses are extremely demanding and will require a great deal of commitment and sacrifice.

Students might be better off doing something they are interested in, and becoming the best in their chosen field will help them secure a solid future.

What’s the best thing parents can do for their teens at this phase? Give them the space to explore what they are passionate about!

The Polytechnic Route

Let’s say your child prefers not to go down the JC route and chooses a polytechnic instead. What should we expect?

A polytechnic course will last for three years and students will be graded through their Grade Point Average (GPA), which takes into account their results across all semesters.

In a polytechnic, students are to select their choice of course and will be required to take modules relevant to their course every semester. These modules may be graded based on exams or project work.

Do note that most polytechnics will have an internship opportunity during one of the final-year semesters.

Pros & Cons Of Each Path

Now that we have done a rough breakdown of what to expect from each route, let’s analyse the pros and cons of both options.

JC route:


  • Shorter duration (2 Years)
  • Cheaper school fees
  • Structured student life, similar to secondary school
  • Around 70% of A-Level holders go on to a local university


  • Heavier academic workload
  • Students tend to burn out more
  • Retaining is a possibility
  • Stiff academic competition from Integrated Programme students

Poly route:


  • University-like school environment
  • Internship opportunity
  • Less intense academic load with more emphasis on project work and presentations
  • Large range of courses to choose from
  • Better school infrastructures


  • More expensive school fees ($200-$300 monthly)
  • 3-year timeline
  • More effort to maintain grades (GPA every semester)

We do want to clear up the misconception that going to a polytechnic means your child will not be able to make it to a local university. Nowadays, 1 in 3 university admissions is a poly graduate.

The key deciding factor for students should be which education path suits them best. 

If they already have a strong idea of what they want to do in the future, heading to a polytechnic and specializing in their area of interest might be a lot better for their personal and professional growth. The poly route also gives them the opportunity for internships, which helps them learn real-world skills and network with people in the industry.

However, if students are still unclear about what they would like to do in the future, the two years in JC might be a good buffer for them to sharpen their academic thinking, and put them in the best position to excel at university.

Regardless of whether they head to a JC or poly, students will still need to do well to gain admission to a university — there is no easy route here.

This article is contributed by OVERMUGGED, a student-centric platform that provides free notes and learning materials for O-Level and A-Level students in Singapore. Enjoy 10% off OVERMUGGED’s crash course fees by quoting “KIASU10”!