GCE A Level Syllabus & Exam Format

Understanding the A-Level Examination Format

If you are reading this, it means the time has come to prepare — quite seriously — for the Singapore–Cambridge General Certificate of Education Advanced Level (GCE A-Level) examinations. The stress is palpable. To help take some load off your shoulders, we have made a ‘glance-over’ list that explains the GCE A-Level syllabus and exam format simply.

All information taken from SEAB website

General Paper H1

Students are to appear for two papers — Paper 1 and Paper 2 on the same day at different sittings. 

Paper 1 (59 marks)

In Paper 1, you are expected to write a 500 to 800 words essay. You will get 12 questions pertaining to the topic from a cross-section of issues related to local and global interests/concerns. You must choose and write on just one topic.

The 12 questions in Paper 1 may be set from a cross-section of subjects such as:

  • Economic, political and philosophical topics
  • History, geographical, science and mathematical topics
  • Literature, languages, art and craft
  • General principles, current developments and applications
  • Local and global concerns 

It’s not necessary that all the above topics will feature in the 12 questions. However, students are expected to write a well-thought-out and comprehensive essay on any of the above topics.  

Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes


Paper 2 (50 marks)

This paper consists of one or two comprehensions. Questions will be asked based on these passages. Vocabulary, inferences, summary writing and application of the English language will all be taken into consideration. Questions may be based on two different passages, answers to which may require comparative analysis. The length of text, about 1200 words in all, will be marked by paragraph numbers in the left margin and line numbers in the right margin. 

In Paper 2, students must write answers based on unseen passages. They should be able to read between the lines and write comparative analyses if need be.

Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes 


Project Work H1

About 4 to 5 students work together in a group on a project that will display their various skills and abilities. The groups have 28 weeks to complete the given project. Students are assessed both as members of the group and as individuals. 

Paper 1

Each student in a group must write a 2,500 to 3,000-word written report on the project. The students also need to individually write 500 words of insights and reflections based on the project.

Paper 2

This is an oral presentation where each student in a group must present a part of the project orally to a target audience and get quizzed on it. Clarity of idea and coherence of speech during the presentation is given importance. The group is scored as a team as well.
 

Mathematics H2 

Paper 1 (100 marks)

This paper has Pure Mathematics section comprising 10 to 12 questions, with two questions based on the application of Mathematics in real-world contexts. Each question is 12 marks and students will have to pool in learned concepts and skills from various topics to solve them. 

Duration: 3 hours 

Paper 2 (100 marks)

This paper will have two sections. Section A will consist of 5 to 6 questions based on Pure Mathematics like Algebra, Calculus, Discrete Mathematics, Matrices and Numerical Methods. Section B will consist of 5 to 6 questions based on the Probability and Statistics section of the syllabus. Students need to prepare to solve at least two questions based on real-world contexts. Each question is 12 marks. 

Duration: 3 hours
 

Mathematics H1 

Paper 1 (100 marks)

This 3-hour paper is divided into two sections A and B with a total of 100 marks. Section A is Pure Mathematics worth 40 marks. It has 5 questions of varying lengths and marks. Section B — Probability and Statistics — is 60 marks and will consist of about 6-8 questions. There will be two 12-mark questions in each section which will have problems that will require the students to apply Math in real-world contexts. The students may have to use concepts and skills from more than one topic to solve these questions.

Duration: 3 hours 

Mathematics Syllabus 

  • Functions and Graphs
  • Equations and inequalities 
  • Calculus
  • Integration techniques
  • Sequences and Series*
  • Vectors*
  • Introduction of complex numbers*
  • Maclaurin series*
  • Definite integrals*
  • Differential equations*
  • Probability and Statistics
  • Binomial distribution
  • Normal distribution
  • Sampling
  • Hypothesis testing
  • Correlation and Linear regression
  • Discrete random variables
  • Algebra*
  • Geometry and Trigonometry* 

(* included for H2 Math only)

 

Economics H2 

H2 level of Economics has two papers. Students can use calculators in both papers. Following are the details: 

Paper 1 (60 marks)

This will have two compulsory case studies. Each case study carries 30 marks. About 12 marks for each set of case study questions will be for data response questions, and about 18 marks will be for higher-order questions.

Duration: 2 hours 15 minutes

Paper 2 (75 marks)

This paper has essays. Students will answer three essay questions, of which one must be from Section A, one from Section B and one from either Section A or B. Section A: Three essay questions are set based on microeconomics. Candidates must answer at least one question from this section. Section B will have three essay questions based on macroeconomics. Students must answer at least one question from this section. All three questions in all three sections carry 25 marks each.

Duration: 2 hours 15 minutes

 

Economics H1 

Students are expected to understand fundamental economic concepts and are expected to use the tools and methods of analysis used by economists. They should be able to use these tools to explain and analyse economic issues. They are expected to read a variety of books to understand the changing economic activities and policies at the national and international levels. Here’s what the exam format looks like: 

Paper 1 (90 marks)

This paper includes two compulsory case studies. Each case study, which carries 45 marks each (50 percent of the total marks), will have two to three pages of data presented in textual, numerical or graphical form. About 18 marks for each set of case study questions will be for data response questions, and about 27 marks will be for higher-order questions. Students must answer all the questions. Use of calculators is allowed.

Duration: 3 hours

Economics Syllabus 

Both H1 and H2 Economics have similar syllabus in terms of breadth. For H1, the syllabus consists of: 

  • The Central Economic Problem
  • Markets
  • Market Failure
  • The National Economy

H2 covers the topics above but in greater detail and depth. For example

  • The Central Economic Problem discusses the rational decision-making process by economic agents; Weighs costs and benefits in decision-making; Recognising trade-offs; Recognising intended and unintended consequences etc
  • Markets will discuss income elasticity of demand in relation to normal and inferior goods; Cross elasticity of demand in relation to complements and substitutes; there are detailed chapters on Firms and Decisions and Market Failure.
  • The National and International Economy has detailed sections on Globalisation and the International Economy.

 

Physics H2 

In all, there are four papers for Physics H2. Students must appear for all four. Knowledge of Mathematics including Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry, Vectors and Graphs is needed for this subject. 

Paper 1 (30 marks)

This paper is in the format of multiple-choice questions with 4 options, worth 30 marks. 

Duration: 1 hour

Paper 2 (80 marks)

This will consist of structured questions. It will also include a couple of data-based questions. Students will need to integrate their knowledge and understanding from different areas of the syllabus to solve these. Answers are to be written in the Question Paper itself.

Duration: 2 hours 

Paper 3 (80 marks)

This paper has two sections and will have longer structured questions requiring students to integrate knowledge and understanding from different areas of the syllabus. While Section A will be worth 60 marks, it will consist of structured questions. In Section B, students will have to answer one 20-mark question out of the two given.

Duration: 2 hours 

Paper 4 (55 marks)

This is a practical exam, and students will be assessed based on planning, manipulation, measurement and observation. Presentation of data and observations, analysis, conclusions and evaluation will be given importance.

Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes
 

Physics H1

In all, there are two papers for Physics H1. Students must appear for all two. Knowledge of Mathematics including Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry, Vectors and Graphs is needed for this subject. 

Paper 1 (30 marks)

This paper is in the format of multiple-choice questions with 4 options, worth 30 marks. 

Duration: 1 hour

Paper 2 (80 marks)

This paper will consist of structured questions in two sections, answers for which are to be written in the question paper itself.

Duration: 2 hours 

 

Physics Syllabus 

  • Measurements
  • Kinematics
  • Dynamics
  • Forces
  • Work, Energy and Power
  • Motion in a Circle and Orbit
  • Motion in a Circle*
  • Gravitational Field*
  • Temperature and Ideal Gases*
  • First Law of Thermodynamics*
  • Oscillations*
  • Wave Motion*
  • Superposition*
  • Electric Fields*
  • Current of Electricity
  • D.C. Circuits
  • Electromagnetism
  • Electromagnetic Induction*
  • Alternating Current*
  • Quantum Physics*
  • Nuclear Physics 

(* included for H2 Physics only)

 

Chemistry H2

Students appearing for Chemistry must know how to handle, apply and evaluate data according to the questions asked. There are four papers in this subject. Let’s look at the exam format: 

Paper 1 (30 marks)

This will have 30 multiple-choice questions with 4 options to choose from. As many as eight questions may have multiple levels of completion.

Duration: 1 hour

Paper 2 (75 marks)

The answers to this exam are to be written in the question paper itself. Structured questions will be asked, aimed at evaluating a student’s higher-order thinking skills. A student’s ability to integrate and correlate information from various topics will be put to test.

Duration: 2 hours 

Paper 3 (80 marks)

This paper is split into two sections. Section A, worth 60 marks, comprises 3 to 4 questions, the answers to which are to be given in free response format. Section B has just two questions, of which students are to answer just one, worth 20 marks. A student’s ability to integrate and correlate information from various topics will be put to test.

Duration: 2 hours 

Paper 4 (55 marks)

This is a practical exam, and students will be assessed based on planning, manipulation, measurement and observation. Presentation of data and observations, analysis, conclusions and evaluation will be given importance. 

Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes
 

Chemistry H1

In all, there are two papers for Chemistry H1. Students must appear for all two.

Paper 1 (30 marks)

This paper is in the format of multiple-choice questions with 4 options, worth 30 marks. 

Duration: 1 hour

Paper 2 (80 marks)

This paper is split into two sections and the answers are to be written in the question paper itself. Section A comprises questions that evaluate a student’s higher-order thinking skills. In section B, students will have to choose one out of the two questions given and write a lengthy answer (worth 20 marks) putting to good use the knowledge they have gained studying Chemistry.

Duration: 2 hours 

Chemistry Syllabus 

  • Atomic Structure
  • Chemical Bonding
  • The Gaseous State*
  • Theories of Acids and Bases
  • The Periodic Table
  • The Mole Concept and Stoichiometry
  • Chemical Energetics: Thermochemistry
  • Chemical Energetics: Thermochemistry and Thermodynamics (Gibbs Free Energy and Entropy)*
  • Reaction Kinetics ∙ Chemical Equilibria
  • Chemistry of Aqueous Solutions*
  • Organic Chemistry*
  • Electrochemistry*
  • An Introduction to the Chemistry of Transition Elements*
  • Nanomaterials (only in H1)
  • Polymers (only in H1)
  • Measurements

(* included for H2 Chemistry only)

 

Biology H2

H2 biology has four papers which also include practical examination. 

Paper 1 (30 marks)

This will have 30 multiple-choice questions with 4 options to choose from. As many as eight questions may have multiple levels of completion.

Duration: 1 hour

Paper 2 (100 marks)

This paper will have structured questions aimed at evaluating a student’s higher-order thinking skills. It will also include data-based or comprehension-type questions. A student’s ability to integrate and correlate information from various topics will be put to test.

Duration: 2 hours 

Paper 3 (75 marks)

This paper will consist of long structured questions, including data-based or comprehension-type questions. It will also have one free-response question worth 25 marks. All questions will be based on higher-order skills of analysing and arriving at conclusions. Section A is worth 50 marks and Section B 25 marks. Students will have to answer questions by analysing data, performing calculations, justifying their decisions and conclusions based on information in the stimulus material. Students will have to answer one of the two free-response questions in Section B.

Duration: 2 hours 

Paper 4 (55 marks)

This is a practical exam, and students will be assessed based on planning, manipulation, measurement and observation. Presentation of data and observations, analysis, conclusions and evaluation will be given importance. Paper 4 may also include data handling/interpretation questions that do not require apparatus.

Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes
 

Biology H1

This level has 2 papers with a total of 90 marks.

Paper 1 (30 marks)

This paper is in the format of multiple-choice questions with 4 options, worth 30 marks. 

Duration: 1 hour

Paper 2 (60 marks)

This paper is split into two sections. Section A is worth 45 marks and comprises structured questions that evaluate a student’s higher-order thinking skills. It will also have at least one data-based/ comprehension-type question. In section B, students will have to choose one out of the two free-response questions (worth 15 marks). Students will be assessed on how well they put forth their scientific arguments.

Duration: 2 hours 

Biology Syllabus 

  • The Cell and Biomolecules of Life
  • Genetics and Inheritance
  • Energetics
  • Energy and Equilibrium*
  • Biological Evolution
  • Impact of Climate Change
  • Infectious Diseases*
  • Impact of Climate Change on Animals and Plants*

(* included for H2 Biology only)

 

Geography H2

This subject has two written exams with a total of 196 marks. 

Paper 1 (96 marks)

This paper has structured essay questions with three themes. Each theme/section has two questions, of which one needs to be attempted. Students must answer a total of three questions (32 marks each) from a choice of six questions, arranged in three themes.

Duration: 3 hours

Paper 2 (100 marks)

Students must answer four data response questions comprising five sub-parts. A maximum of two open-ended sub-parts of 9 marks each will be asked.

Duration: 3 hours 


Geography H1

This level has just one paper.

Paper 1 (100 marks)

This paper is divided into three sections, A, B and C. Students answer just one compulsory data response question with not more than 5 sub-parts in Sections A and B. These two are worth 25 marks each. Expect one open-ended sub-part worth 8 marks in either of the sections. Students must answer two questions out of four in Section C which will have structured essay questions. Each question carries 25 marks.

Duration: 3 hours

Geography Syllabus 

  • Climate Change and Flooding
  • Urban Change
  • Geographical Investigation
  • Tropical Environments*
  • Development, Economy and Environment*
  • Sustainable Development*

(* included for H2 Geography only)

 

History H2

Paper 1 (100 marks)

This paper assesses students’ knowledge on the topic: Shaping the international order (1945-2000). It’s split into two sections. In Section A, students have to answer the compulsory source-based case study, comprising two sub-questions worth 40 marks. While in Section B, students must write one essay question for each of the two sets. Each is worth 30 marks.

Duration: 3 hours

Paper 2 (100 marks)

The questions are from the topic Making of Independent Southeast Asia (Independence–2000). This paper is split into two sections. In Section A, students must answer the compulsory source-based case study, comprising two sub-questions worth 40 marks. And in section B, students must write one essay question each of the two sets. Each is worth 30 marks.

Duration: 3 hours 


History H1

This examination consists of one paper based on The Cold War and the Modern World (1945–2000). 

Paper 1 (100 marks)

This paper has two sections, A and B. Section A consists of a compulsory source-based case with two sub-questions. Section B has essay questions set on themes. Students must answer one question each out of the two sets of questions asked. Each set is worth 30 marks.

Duration: 3 hours

History Syllabus 

  • Understanding the Cold War, 1945–1991 How did the Cold War impact global developments after 1945?
  • How did the Cold War impact developments in Asia after 1945?
  • How did the Cold War impact the development of the United Nations after 1945?
  • Understanding the global economy, 1945–2000: How did the development of the global economy impact the world?
  • Safeguarding international peace and security: How far has the UN contributed to safeguarding international peace and security?
  • Search for political stability: How successful were Southeast Asian states in maintaining domestic stability?
  • Economic development after independence: How did Southeast Asian economies develop after independence?*
  • The Making of Independent Southeast Asia (Independence–2000): Regional conflicts and cooperation*

(* included for H2 History only)

 

Literature H2

There are written assessments in Literature. However, they are different from other subjects. Students are assessed for their proficiency in the language, knowledge of a particular era in literature, understanding of a writer’s/poet’s viewpoint and more. 

Paper 1 

This paper is Reading Literature. Students must answer one question from each of the three sections. Section A is Poetry. Students must answer one of the two questions asked on two unseen poems. One of the questions will feature a Singaporean poem. Students must use critical comparison. Section B is Prose and students must answer one question from the two sets of the texts of the chosen writers. Section C is Drama. Students must answer one question of the two sets for each text, using analytical skills. 

Duration: 3 hours

Paper 2 or Paper 3 

This is an elective paper. Students can choose if they want to opt for Papers 2 or 3. Paper 2 is period-based, which means the syllabus is based on a period of literary writing. Paper 2 topic is The English Renaissance (1509–1660). Paper 3 focuses on the topic of literary significance — The mind and self in Literature. The students must answer a total of three questions in the elective paper that they have chosen.

Duration: 3 hours

Literature H1

Paper 1 

Candidates will answer one question from each of the three sections. Section A is Poetry. Students must answer one of the two questions asked on two unseen poems. One of the questions will feature a Singaporean poem. Students must use critical comparison. Section B is Prose and students must answer one question from the two sets of the texts of the chosen writers. Section C is Drama. Students must answer one question of the two sets for each text, using analytical skills.

Duration: 3 hours

Literature Syllabus 

  • Poetry includes a range of poetries from a cross-section of poets. Also includes Singaporean poems.
  • Prose: Mary Shelley: Frankenstein (1831 text); F Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby; Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice; Kazuo Ishiguro: An Artist of the Floating World
  • Drama: William Shakespeare: Measure for Measure; George Bernard Shaw: Saint Joan; Arthur Miller: Playing for Time (stage play version); Timberlake Wertenbaker: Our Country’s Good
  • Paper 2 topic is The English Renaissance (1509–1660)
  • Paper 3 topic The mind and self in Literature*

(* included for H2 Literature only)

 

 


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