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What To Do After The O-Levels In Singapore

A levels

Anxious about your teen having to make a major decision after the O-Level results are released in mid-January?

If your teen has done well for the O-Levels, he or she will have the luxury of choice, and that’s a happy problem for anyone. On the other hand, if your teen has performed below expectations, you will need to support him or her through the disappointment and decision-making process. Whichever situation your teen is in, it pays to remember that our career journeys are not defined by our schooling years — in fact, half of Singaporeans work in jobs unrelated to their degrees!

What will be the most suitable path ahead for your teen? We list the options below.

Option 1: Proceed to the A-Levels or IB

Fact: About 40% of the year’s cohort will choose this option.

If your teen’s goal is to get a degree, statistics have shown that 70 percent of junior college students manage to secure places in our local universities.

Less data is available for International Baccalaureate (IB) graduates, but the National University of Singapore has said that its successful IB applicants have “a mix of mostly 6’s and 7’s in their subjects.”

You can read about the main differences between the A-Level and IB routes here.

Entry to local A-Level and IB programmes is based on the L1R5 score, where L1 refers to the first language (English or Higher Mother Tongue), and R refers to relevant subjects. For teens interested in these programmes, here are the L1R5 cut-off scores for the 2021 intakes:

Based on the above cut-off scores, your teen would need 8 or fewer points to qualify for the two-year IB programme. For two-year A-Level programmes, Raffles Institution and Hwa Chong Institution are the toughest schools to get into. If top schools are out of range, there is a spread of junior colleges with varying entry scores, and one can still qualify for a junior college (or the three-year Millennia Institute programme) with a score of up to 19 or 20 points.

Option 2: Choose a Polytechnic Diploma Course

Fact: About 50% of the year’s cohort will choose this option, and almost half of these students would have qualified for junior college.

If your teen has a specific interest area and prefers hands-on learning, our local polytechnics could provide a more suitable learning environment.

Entry into polytechnics is based on the ELR2B2 score, which refers to an aggregate of English Language or EL, two relevant subjects or R2, and two other best subjects or B2.

To qualify for the five polytechnics in Singapore, applicants must obtain 26 points or better for the net ELR2B2 aggregate score. To check the cut-off scores for specific courses, use the links below:

If your teen wishes to pursue a degree after the diploma programme, here’s what you should know:

  • There is no quota for polytechnic graduates, when it comes to local university places.
  • About 30 percent of local polytechnic graduates make it to one of our six local universities.
  • More students are choosing to take the polytechnic route after the O-Levels.

Option 3: Choose an ITE Course

Fact: About 10% of the year’s cohort will choose this option.

Entry into the ITE’s Higher Nitec courses is based on the English score, plus the score for four other subjects, but there are different permutations that you can read about here. Cut-off scores range from 11 all the way to 39, and there is a wide variety of courses to choose from, including biotechnology, early childhood education, and cyber and network security. (View Higher Nitec courses and their cut-off scores here.)

After completing a Higher Nitec course, students can progress to diploma courses at the ITE or the polytechnics.

In 2020, the ITE shared its data from a study — five percent of 3,500 surveyed ITE graduates (over 10 years) eventually acquired degrees from local public universities, while 10 per cent obtained their degrees from private or overseas universities.

Option 4: Apply to LASALLE or NAFA

For the arts-inclined, LASALLE and the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) offer diploma programmes as well. Here are some things to note:

  • LASALLE’s entry requirements include scoring 25 points or better in four GCE O-Level subjects (excluding English), and a pass in English at Grade C6 or better. 
  • NAFA’s entry requirements include 25 points or better in four GCE O-Level subjects (excluding English).

Option 5: Retake the O-Levels or Enter NS (For Boys)

Perhaps, your teen is considering retaking the O-Levels, either in his or her secondary school or at a private education institution. These are questions to ask your teen:

  • What will you do differently to achieve a better outcome?
  • How will we fund your studies, if you want to enrol in a private institution?
  • Have you considered the 3Rs?
    • Reasons: Why are you retaking your O-Levels?
    • Readiness: How ready are you to retake your O-Levels?
    • Risks: What are the drawbacks to retaking your O-Levels?

Have a heart-to-heart talk with your teen, or rope in a trusted person to do this on your behalf. 

For Singaporean boys, there is an additional option to consider: if your son needs more time to think about his future, he can join the Voluntary Early Enlistment Scheme, which is for local boys who wish to begin full-time National Service before they turn 18.

However, if your teen is absolutely certain that he or she wants to redo the O-Levels, you will need to consult your teen’s secondary school for further advice. If you are unable to convince the school to let your teen have a second shot at the O-Levels, you can enquire with private education institutions in Singapore that offer O-Level courses.

Some private school considerations include:

  • How much are the course fees?
  • How often will classes be held?
  • What is the teacher-to-student ratio?
  • Is the school fully equipped to prepare a student for the O-Levels? For example, do they have all the resources required for science practicals?
  • What is the school’s track record?
  • Is this an environment that my teen will thrive in?

More information on private education institutions can be found on the SkillsFuture SG website.

What can you do as a parent to support your teen during this time? Keep the channels of communication open with your teen, consult your teen’s educators for advice, or rope in loved ones to provide an additional perspective. Ultimately, your teen will have to decide what’s best for his or her immediate future, so your biggest job as a parent will be to let go, and let your teen step up to the task.

To connect with other parents facing the same situation, check out our tertiary education chats to find a suitable conversation to join, or start your own!

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