2009 is the first year MOE introduces the "Refined Promotion Criteria" for N-level students. What it means is to make N-level syllabus closer to O-level. For example, NA math textbook used to be 4 chapters less than Express Math textbook. So by Sec-4, N-level students study 16 chapters less than the Express students. Now the difference is only 2-chapter per year.

Prior to 2009, Sec-4N student entering into Sec-5 always find themselves a far distance away from their counterparts doing Sec-4 Express. Most N-level school teachers will tell their students that they are 3-grades down from their Express counterpart when they go into Sec-5. The 16-chapter gap is too great for them to leap over. This is why only 60% of the Sec-5 student made it to Poly.

For parents, one question naturally comes to mind is: If the difference between N-level and O-level is so narrow, why not pursue the path of O-level instead. Why opt for Normal stream if a student has to study almost as much as an Express student?

Even if the child is not the “study kind”, he needs only to work hard in Sec-1 and Sec-2. Sec-3 is always the hardest year in secondary education, but most school would allow student to repeat. In this manner, the student will still make it to O-level in 5 year.

So, for Normal Academic Students, a better path is:

Sec-1-NA --> Sec-2 Express --> Sec-3 Express --> Repeat Sec-3 if cannot cope --> Sec-4 O-Level

For for Normal Technical Students, a better path is:

Sec-1-NT --> Sec-2 NA --> Sec-3 Express --> Repeat Sec-3 if cannot cope --> Sec-4 O-level

This will work only for students entering into Sec-1 N-level now. To all Sec-1 N-level students, all the best.