Which Poly Courses Should My Teen Choose? What Are The Cut-Off Points?

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Is your teen considering entering a polytechnic after this year’s O-Level exams?

For local teens, there are typically three common reasons for choosing a polytechnic over a junior college:

  • The admission criteria for polytechnics is more relaxed compared to JCs. Students only need to use their score for five O-Level subjects to enter a polytechnic, compared to six subjects for a JC. Also, for polytechnics, there are many courses to choose from, with a range of cut-off points or COPs catering for different learners.
  • Some students have highly specific interests, such as computer science or mass communication, and they want to focus only on this.
  • Some students struggle with their second language studies, and this is something that they can avoid entirely at the polytechnics.

Although some parents may still perceive polytechnics as being inferior to JCs, we believe this perception is changing. Based on our personal interactions with parents, we feel that more parents are aware that there are positives for every learning pathway, and success ultimately depends on each individual’s mindset and efforts.

If your teen has decided that they would prefer to enrol in a polytechnic, we hope that you can support their choice. However, with the wide array of choices, how will your teen know what’s suitable? Read on to find out!

Where can I get information on polytechnic cut-off points?

For the most current and accurate information on cut-off points or COPs, always refer to the polytechnics’ official websites. There are five polytechnics in Singapore, and these are:

For easier viewing, you can also refer to community data sources on Tableau Public and Google Sheets. However, please be mindful that these sources are not verified.

Here’s what you should know: The
current information on polytechnic COPs is drawn from the 2023 intake. These numbers were used to provide an entry score range for students who applied in early 2024, during the Joint Admissions Exercise

If your child is taking the O-Level exams this year, they will get their results and apply for courses in 2025. In other words, they will need to check for updated COPs based on the 2024 intake. They should also be aware that the given entry scores are just a guide — the actual entry scores may fluctuate slightly, depending on demand.

In the meantime, teens can use the existing information to shortlist courses and set score targets for themselves.

Which poly courses are the hardest to get into?

Below are the courses with single-digit COPs in 2023:

We can see that Applied Science courses may be harder to get into, especially Biomedical Science courses. 

A word of advice: Use these scores as a guide, but don’t be daunted by them. If your teen is truly interested in a course with a competitive COP, they can check if similar courses are offered by other polytechnics. In particular, Republic Polytechnic tends to have more relaxed entry standards.

Which poly courses are the easiest to get into?

Below are polytechnic courses with COPs of 26 to 28. Note that this was for the 2023 intake:

There’s a good variety of courses listed, covering interests from health and hospitality to infocommunications and engineering. Also, we can see that many of these courses are conducted by Republic Polytechnic — as mentioned before, the COPs here are less stringent.

Even if your teen has missed the mark, all is not lost. There are minimum requirements to be met, but schools can continue to accept students beyond the listed COPs, if there are vacancies. Please check with your polytechnic of interest for more details.

Which poly courses have the least vacancies, and are these courses hard to get into?

These are the courses with less than 40 available spaces, according to the planned intake for 2024:

None of these courses require a single-digit score, and in the case of Tamil Studies, it’s a niche course that few will apply for — that’s why the COP is fairly generous. Therefore, it’s not always the case that a course with a small intake will be difficult to qualify for.

Which poly courses have the most vacancies?

These are the polytechnic courses with the most vacancies, based on the 2023 intake:

For now, nursing courses take in the most students, and the COPs are quite generous. Engineering courses also take in large cohorts, and the COPs are fairly accessible, with options for students at different score levels.

Are poly COPs the main consideration when it comes to choosing courses?

Yes, one way to shortlist courses is to use your teen’s current or expected score and filter accordingly.

However, it’s always best to begin by considering your teen’s area of interest. Generally, the courses in polytechnics will fall under these clusters, although the naming conventions might be slightly different:

  • Applied Sciences
  • Built Environment
  • Business & Management
  • Engineering
  • Health Sciences
  • Hospitality
  • Humanities
  • Infocomm/Information & Digital Technologies
  • Maritime Studies
  • Media & Design

Your teen should research these areas of interest, and browse the courses that seem most enticing without worrying too much about the COPs. For instance, you could ask your teen to select 10 courses that seem exciting, and see what similarities these courses have. Perhaps they fall under the same cluster, or are conducted in a way that appeals to your teen. 

Once your teen can identify what they like, you can then look at the COPs. If a course seems to be highly competitive, your teen can look for similar courses within the five polytechnics that are easier to qualify for. In this way, they will be able to use these COPs to set targets, manage their expectations, and have backup plans in case their first choice doesn’t work out.

Want to chat with other parents about polytechnics? Join the conversation on the KiasuParents forum!