Guide: Secondary 3 Subject Combination Exercise

secondary 3 subject combination Secondary 2 streaming sec 2 affect future find home tuition singapore

Not sure which subjects/subject combination to choose? 

How to choose the best Subject Combination for Sec 3 to score at the O Levels? Not sure how Secondary 3 Subject Combination in Secondary School affect your future?

All these important information are just skimmed through during the Parent-teacher briefing for the Secondary 2 Streaming Exercise

What you may not know is that your Secondary 3 Subject Combination will determine your Future. 

In this article, we are going into detail how your Subject Combination greatly affects You:

  1. Subject Prerequisites for JC/Poly/University
  2. Limited Career path/Job prospects due to Subject Combination
  3. Recommended Subject Combinations

Subject Prerequisites

Regardless of how well your child does for the O Levels, their Future (Career Path) is determined by their Secondary 3 Subject Combination. 

So, how to choose Subject Combination for Sec 3?

Due to subject prerequisites, they might be limited to only certain Courses in Polytechnic, Junior College (JC) Subject Combinations, and also University courses. (See: JC or Poly?)


(a) Polytechnic

For Polytechnic, students have to obtain minimum grade for relevant subjects in O Levels to be able to apply to certain courses. 

Relevant subjects are subjects directly related to the course – e.g Maths and Physics for Engineering courses. 

If you did not take the relevant subjects for the O Levels which are needed for your preferred course, you will be unable to enter.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic - Subject Prerequisites for taking Courses. Secondary 2 Streaming affect Polytechnic courses, home tuition singapore, home tutor, tuition agency singapore
Image adapted from Ngee Ann Polytechnic - Course Entry Requirements

From above, you can see different courses use different ELR2B2 types for their cut-off points (COP). These ELR2B2 aggregate types have different relevant subjects attached for calculation – ELR2B2-C relevant subjects are for Sciences, whereas ELR2B2-B is for Arts/Humanities courses.

If somehow you decide you want to jump to an Applied Sciences course from Arts stream in Secondary school, it would be almost impossible since you have no background in Science. 

Hence, you have to choose your Subject Combinations in Secondary 3 wisely. At this point if you think your child requires any help in their studies, you can start looking for Home Tuition. (See: market tuition rates, 2019)

You have to get good grades (A1-B4) for relevant subjects to be able to meet the COP for the courses – Ngee Ann Poly’s courses are quite competitive, having quite a low COP.


(b) Junior College

For Junior Colleges, students may be limited to certain subject combinations, or be forced to take a hybrid combination. 

Reason being their Secondary 3 Subject Combination does not meet subject prerequisites.

Eunoia Junior College - Subject Prerequisites for taking H2 subjects. Secondary 2 Streaming affect JC subject combinations, home tuition singapore, home tutor, tuition agency singapore
Image adapted from Eunoia Junior College - Subject Combinations

For JC, students have to obtain minimum B3 for Pure subjects, A1 for Combined subjects, to be able to take up H2 subjects in Junior College. 

– For example: you have to get A1 in Combined (Phy/Chem) to be able to take H2 Chemistry in JC. Some Junior Colleges are more lenient on this, allowing up to B3 for Combined to take up H2 Sciences (Yishun-Innova Junior College, Pioneer Junior College etc).

For students that intend to go to JC after O Levels, it is definitely wiser to take Pure subjects – instead of Combined.

It is often said, “Combined Chemistry is Level 1, Pure Chemistry is Level 2, H2 Chemistry is Level 10.” 

By taking Combined subjects and going to JC, you have to bridge a very big gap in foundation – all while juggling your other H2 subjects within the short 2 years in Junior College. (See: How taking Combined Science Almost Ruined My Future)


(c) University

If you think entry to Singapore’s Autonomous Universities (NUS/NTU/SMU) is only affected by their results in their tertiary education – A Levels UAP/Polytechnic GPA, think again.

Universities such as NUS and NTU all have Subject Prerequisites for their courses that go back to as for as O Levels.

Above is NTU’s subject requirements that may disqualify some students. This is especially applicable for students that took Combined Science/Humanities as their Secondary 3 Subject Combination and went to JC.

If you have just met the bare minimum COP for the course – GPA/IGP, it might come down to what subject combinations you pick that determines who gets into the course.


Types of Stream – Art/Science

Your Subject Combination in Secondary 3 also largely determines your future career path/job prospects. Most people are either streamed into the Arts or Science stream, with the smarter ones taking both Arts & Science.

For Arts stream, usually they take:
– Double Maths (E/AMaths), Pure Humanities, Combined Humanities, Combined Science
– Double Maths (E/AMaths), Pure Humanities, Combined Humanities, Two Pure Sciences

For Science stream, usually they take:
– Double Maths (E/AMaths), Combined Humanities, Triple Science
– Double Maths (E/AMaths), Combined Humanities, Two Pure Science

For the smarter ones:
– Double Maths, Triple Science, Pure Humanities, Combined Humanities

Career Path/Job Prospects

What O Level Subject Combinations you take in Secondary School, will largely determine what courses or Faculties you can enter in University.

NUS Faculties - Secondary 3 Subject Combination | CocoTutors' Blog, education blog singapore, home tuition, tuition agency, home tutor singapore
Image adapted from NUS - Undergraduate Programmes

Above are different Faculties of NUS. Upon clicking the faculties, you can see all the different courses/majors available. Here, we are going to breakdown the Faculties you are likely able to go based on your Streams:

Arts Stream: Arts & Social Science, Business Administration, Design & Environment, Law, Music.

Science Stream: Arts & Social Sciences, Business & Accountancy, Computing, Dentistry, Design & Environment, Engineering, Law, Medicine, Nursing, Science.

Above all, you can see what job prospect each degree entails by further going into the respective Faculty websites!

Graduate Employment Survery - Secondary 3 Subject Combination | CocoTutors' Blog, education blog singapore, home tuition, tuition agency, home tutor singapore
Image adapted from Digital Senior - Graduate Employment Survey

Getting a degree is important (irrelevant to some), however what’s more important is:

1. What degree – What jobs can you visualise yourself doing with that degree?
2. Job security – How easily replaceable is your skill
3. What value can you bring to society – Society pays according to the value you provide; dentists fix teeth, surgeons save lives and limb vs taxi driver/historians.
How tangible is the value you provide?

The most important point is the (3) on what value you can provide to Society. 

Surely you would not want to go through 16 years of Education to be paid a meagre wage. Make a smarter choice with your Subject Combination!

It is important to be knowledgeable of the above beforehand – if not you will become another grumpy Singaporean that complains of: PAP (government), foreign talents stealing job, low paying job for a degree holder, unable to pay off housing loan, CPF, basically everything.

Recommended Subject Combinations

Here are the Recommended Subject Combinations for Secondary 2 Streaming/Secondary 3/O Level Subject Combination:

– Additional Mathematics is a must – requirement for many university courses to have passed AMaths at O levels, or H1 Math at A Levels – which is equivalent to AMaths. Elementary Mathematics and Additional Mathematics are both very easy to score; questions are exactly the same as past-year papers. (See: 12 Study Tips from A Levels Top Scorer)

– Triple Science or 2 Pure Science, never Combined Science – Combined Science is just a no-no, no matter how you see it. Sure, if you are in NA stream or if you are confirmed to go to Polytechnic. Combined Science is just a bad choice overall for Express and students with plans to go to JC. (See: How taking Combined Science Almost Ruined My Future)

Recommended Subject Combination:

English, Chinese, Elementary Mathematics, Additional Mathematics, Triple Science (Double Pure Science if unable to make it to triple), Combined Humanities.
  • Why Triple Science?
    Taking all 3 Sciences will leave all doors open for you, since most likely 14-16 year olds don’t know what they want to do for the rest of their lives.
    If your Child is unable to cope with one of the Pure Science, they can choose to drop that subject – meaning they will not sit for that subject at the O Levels. This flexibility and freedom is only exercised when taking triple science.
  • Why Pure Phy & Chem over Pure Bio & Chem?
    Physics is considered a much more useful subject in Singapore, based on subject prerequisites for Universities.

How do I prepare my Child for Secondary 2 Streaming?

Lower Secondary (Sec 1 and 2), students are still learning only the basics/foundation of every subject. 

It is incredibly important to build a strong foundation for the core subjects; English, Mathematics, Science, so that they will not have much problems when they start learning the harder content in Upper Secondary or Junior College. 

It is said: “Combined Science is level 1, Pure Chem is level 2, H2 Chem is level 10“. (market tuition rates, 2019)

If your Child is already struggling with the basic foundations, it is time to look for a tutor prepare for the Secondary 2 Streaming Exercise. (Guide on How to Request for Tutors)

Considering getting Home Tuition? Start with a Free Tutor Search now!

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Miriam is part of the team that operates CocoTutors: #1 Home Tuition Agency in Singapore. We connect Parents and students to Tutors, via our tuition-matching system. You can try out our services at ( or by calling +65 9177 9055 directly.

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