5 things you need to know before starting A-level 

To do well for A-levels, getting clarity on how to scale the exam with flying colours and minimal stress is key.

The Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education Advanced Level (GCE A-Level) examination is the culmination of a two-year course in Junior College. It is mandatory to clear this examination to enter university courses in Singapore. A-level is considered a milestone examination as it’s from here that the students chart their career path into tertiary universities. The A-level syllabus is vast as it covers two years of Junior college or three years of Millennia Institute. So students, it’s time to pull up your socks!

If the A-level syllabus looks like the formidable Himalayas to you, then you need to keep reading. We will share tips on how you can scale the revision mountain while ensuring you do not slip or miss a step to reach the A-level summit.

Sustenance is the key

Revision is a sustained effort. It does not start a month or two before D-day. If you know this, act upon it. Shake off the lethargy and start revision from Day 1. Look at the bigger picture and start revising topics as and when they are taught in Junior College. Regular revision using flashcards and spider maps will ensure the information is entrenched in your memory. Make notes of key concepts and topics as these will help you closer to the exam when time is of the essence. Clear doubts, if any, with your teachers or peers routinely. In two years of Junior College, there is a deluge of exams and tests. Making revision a part of your daily routine would keep you test-ready. This will boost your confidence and push you to strive better. These are the first steps in ensuring those proverbial socks remain ‘pulled up.

Attempt mock tests

The second step is attempting mock tests closer to the exams. However, taking mock tests doesn’t mean that you have to get all your answers correct. Treat Mock Tests as indicators to know how exam-ready you are. Mark the tough questions and go back and practice these. While attempting the mock tests: 

  • Replicate an actual timed A-level exam environment
  • Analyse your weak and strong subjects

Set realistic goals

Be honest with yourself. You should know that A-Level exams will get you entry into the university of your choice if the scores and ranks are sufficient. So start your preparation with that in mind. Allot more time to revise subjects that are your least favourites. Remember, you may have good and bad study days. Do not get bogged down by the negatives. Stick to a regular study plan and cover each topic diligently. Ensure you go back to revising the notes you made of chapters and concepts earlier. These practices are bound to boost your confidence as examination dates near.

Learn to calculate rank points

The GCE A-level examination grades get converted into Rank Points. You should know how the scores are calculated. Go through the charts below to know how the subjects are graded at GCE A-level:

For H1 and H2 subjects, candidates may also be awarded a Grade S (Sub pass) or Ungraded, both of which indicate that the student has failed to pass the subject. Similarly, students who have failed to pass in H3 level subjects will also have their results shown as Ungraded. Students must also note that Mother Tongue B is not considered an A-Level subject.

Grades are calculated by adding the total marks secured by a student in various subjects. Marks secured in H1 and H2 are graded between A to U. Now each grade, in H1 and H2, is allotted rank points from 0 to 90, the latter being the highest possible score. For example: ‘A’ grade in H1 has 10 points while in H2 it has 20 points. ‘B’ grade in H1 has 8.75 points while H2 has 17.5 points. Check the chart below and you can easily gauge that A is the highest while U is the lowest. 

Keep the above chart ready as we take you through some score calculation examples based on the subject combination.

Finally, know what happens after A-level

Once the A-Levels examination results are declared, you can choose to either pursue a degree or consider a gap year and get on-the-job experience before deciding on an education path. If you have decided on the former, you have two options: a local or private university. In Singapore, there are six local universities to choose from: 

  • National University of Singapore (NUS)
  • Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU)
  • Singapore Management University (SMU)
  • Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT)
  • Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)
  • Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) 

However, if you have not met the requirements to enter the six universities listed above, a Singapore-based private university could be a good alternative. Such universities include Curtin Singapore, James Cook University, Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) and Kaplan Higher Education, among others. Alternatively, if Arts is your calling, you can consider taking up a degree programme at the LASALLE College of the Arts or the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA).


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