Congratulations on finishing your O Levels! Now that you have received your O Level results and are keen to apply to a Junior College, here is a guide on how to choose your JC Subject Combination. Life will not be easy in a Junior College.
Here are some factors you should consider:
- University Admission Criteria
- Indicative Grade Profile
- Ability to score well
- H1, H2 or H3
- Common Subject Combinations
- Hybrid Combinations
During your orientation in JC, the first few days in your new School that will be your second home, you will be brought to a few lectures that will introduce you to the Junior College life.
One of them will be talking about your Junior College Subject Combination – the subjects that you will be taking for the A Levels.
Before you enter Junior College, you should already have a rough idea of what subjects you would like to take in JC, at a much higher level than in O Levels. (See: JC or Poly?)
Most students choose subjects that they already did well in the O Levels, as their JC Subject Combination. For those students who are still clueless, here are some pointers to consider before making your decision:
1. University Admission Criteria
The big picture you should be looking at when you choose your Junior College subject combination is the Course you are aiming for in University.
If you are aiming for Science courses (e.g. Engineering, Life Science), all courses require H2 Math and one, if not two H2 Sciences as a prerequisite (e.g H2 Physics/H2 Biology and H2 Chemistry).
If you took a particular subject in A Levels and did relatively well, you can be exempted from certain introductory modules in your University course.
Similarly, certain courses allow you to take Bridging Courses/modules if you did not take the subject or did not do well enough in it. (e.g. taking a Chemistry introductory module for a Biomedical Engineering major).
However, courses that offer bridging modules for students who did not take the subject is almost uncountable. Most courses are oversubscribed (e.g Computer Science/Engineering) are really popular, and the University will almost always allocate the slots only to students that have met the subject prerequisites.
Hence, if you already have a specific course in mind, make sure you take up the necessary subjects or replace others. This will allow you to not only have a head start on the syllabus in university, but most importantly, ensures that you will be eligible for the course.
Some university courses are considered as general degrees, such as Life Sciences or Economics, and have a wide variety of career prospects. You may possibly end up doing something completely unrelated from your degree, such as entering Business with a Science degree.
For more specialised courses like Law or Medicine, you will be working in those fields upon graduation. Therefore, be sure that it is what you want to do especially given the rigour of those courses and its competitiveness.
2. Minimum Rank Points/ Indicative Grade ProfileFor each course, the indicative grade profile for the 10th and 90th percentile are given (provided by NUS/NTU/SMU) as an indicator for the people that are admitted into the course for the previous AY (Academic Year). The representative grade profile can also be calculated to give the rank points required.
For the purpose of the IGP, Grade C is assumed for both General Paper (GP) and Project Work (PW) in determining the grade profiles. Certain courses may require grades higher than Grade C for GP.
The table below shows the weightage and grade range for H1 and H2 subjects, H3 subjects are scored with a different grading system:
For students who take 4 H2s, their worst H2 grade is downgraded and treated as a H1 subject.
For competitive courses such as Medicine, Law or Dentistry requires straight A’s (AAA/A) as well as an interview selection.
Those keen in applying for Scholarships should also bear in mind that your grades must be excellent, usually at least around 87.5 UAS, to be even considered for scholarships. This applies especially to bond free scholarships like the Nanyang Scholarship offered by NTU. (See: market tuition rates, 2019)
3. Ability to Score well
Seeing the Indicative Grade Profiles provided by NUS, many students might feel dejected that they might be unable to enter their dream course.
Ultimately, your chances of being admitted to courses are based on your rank points. If you have 90 rank points and you meet some subject prerequisites, you will definitely be able to enter into the course of your choice.
I know of peers that took BCME and went into NUS and SMU Law, PCME students that went into Medicine. Students should choose subject combinations based on how well they did for O Levels, rather than for passion. For example, if you did not score well for Physics, it would be unwise to pick H2 Physics again for JC. (See: How much does a Tutor Cost?)
Most likely outcome would be bad grades for Physics, and in return causing your rank points to be pulled lower. Many students fail to enter Medicine as well, because of scoring B for General Paper (88.75 rank points). This shows how important it is to score well for all your subjects you pick.
4. H1, H2, or H3?
H1 subjects have the least breadth and depth, as well as lesser workload. For H1 subjects like Math and Chemistry, there is a great reduction in syllabus compared to its H2 counterpart.
H2 subjects are more condensed and have a wider scope, which will require more time to cover and makes up the bulk of the JC curriculum. (See: How to Request for Tutors)
Project Work, Mother Tongue
H1 subjects like General Paper and Project Work are compulsory for all students, unless the student takes up Knowledge & Inquiry which can replace General Paper.
Those who did not obtain at least a D7 for their Higher Chinese in O Levels are also required to take H1 Mother Tongue, in which they will sit for the exam at the end of J1.
3 H2’s, 1 H1, and H3?
The most common combination in mainstream JC’s will be 3 H2 and 1 H1. In top JCs like Raffles Institution, most students take up 4 H2s, as they are able to handle the workload. However, in J2, there are still quite a number who drop their H2s to H1 as they find it difficult to cope.
As mentioned before, the worst H2 subject is downgraded to a H1 in the end, so you are not at a losing end by taking 3 H2s.
Do consider if it is worth taking up 4 H2s, especially in top JC’s where people tend to go with the flow. The most common H1 subjects are Economics and Math as they are viewed as less important and has much lesser syllabus.
H3 subjects (including H3 Research) are only offered to those who have outstanding results. It is not computed in the UAS and graded differently. It will be beneficial in terms of scholarships and earning a spot in competitive courses, but only take it if you have exceptional interest in it and are already coping well.
5. Common Subject Combinations in JC
The 2 main streams will be the Arts stream and the Science stream. The contrasting subject in the Arts stream is usually Maths and that for the Science stream is Econs.
Large majority of the students in Science stream will end up taking BCME or PCME, popularly viewed as the “safe choice” that grants eligibility for almost all university courses. (Biology/Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Economics)
For the Arts Stream, the most common JC subject combination would be HELM or GELM (History/Geography, Econs, Literature, Math). Students also can take ELL (English Language and Literature), Arts, or even a 3rd Language.
However, it is not recommended to take both Geography and History together as the content itself would literally kill anyone. It is said that History is divided into International History and SEA History, which SEA History itself contains as much content as the whole of JC Economics.
6. Hybrid Combinations
Some may want to pursue hybrid subject combinations (2 Science, 2 Arts subjects) including a mixture of Arts and Sciences, such as Chemistry, Math, Literature, Economics.
There are also others who take up more uncommon contrasting subjects, such as Knowledge & Inquiry that can be used as a contrasting discipline for both streams. Although certain schools may discourage hybrid combinations, it is better to take up a subject that you have an interest in than going with the flow.
Personally, I took English Language & Linguistics in JC instead of the popular Economics. Despite the cons of having an irregular timetable and lack of a homeroom, I liked the subject and was motivated to do well in it.
However, do check with your JC if your combination is eligible, as there are certain restrictions differing from school to school and some that apply for all. For instance, H2 Computing has a fixed combination of H2 Math, H2 Physics/Chemistry and 1 contrasting Arts subject.
Final Words from A Level Graduate:
Junior college will be a great leap from secondary school. If you had managed to excel in secondary school with minimal effort, do not expect JC to be the same. (See: Neighbourhood or Elite School)
Choose your subject combination wisely, as that is what you will be studying in the short two years leading to the A Levels. JC is like a marathon, work hard consistently throughout the journey and you will be able to do well! (See: 12 Study Tips from 90 Rank Pointer)
(This article was written by our tutor Wang Kaiqing, on Choosing the Right Subject Combination in JC) – See: Sec 3 Subject Combination Exercise