Singapore-Cambridge GCE Ordinary Level

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The Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level (or Singapore-Cambridge GCE O-Level) is a GCE Ordinary Level examination held annually in Singapore and is jointly conducted by the Ministry of Education (MOE), Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) and the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES).[1] Students are graded in the bands ranging from A to F and each band has a respective grade point, a lower grade point indicates better performance (e.g. A1 band equates to 1 grade point). The number at the end of each grade corresponds to the grade point that they receive (i.e. A1 = 1, A2 = 2, B3 = 3, B4 = 4, C5 = 5, C6 = 6, D7 = 7 E8 = 8, F9 = 9).[2] To pass an individual O-Level subject, a student must score at least C6 (6 grade points) or above. The highest grade a student can attain is A1 (1 grade point). [3]

Despite the engagement of an identical examination board as partnering authority, the Singapore-Cambridge GCE Ordinary Level examination has no relation to the British GCSE examinations, having de-linked since 2006 when the Ministry of Education (MOE) took over the management of its national examination. This is owing to the stark differences in the development of the respective education systems in the two countries.[4] Nevertheless, the qualification is recognised internationally as equivalent to the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), taken by international candidates including Singaporean students who take the exam as private candidates, as well as the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) examination taken by students in the United Kingdom.[5]

The national examination is taken by secondary school students at the end of their fourth year (for Express stream) or fifth year (for Normal Academic stream), and is open to private candidates. Recent studies show that approximately 30,000 candidates take the Singapore-Cambridge GCE O-Level exams annually.[6]

In 2019, MOE announced that the last year of assessment for the Singapore-Cambridge GCE O-Levels will be in 2026. From 2027, all Secondary 4 (equivalent to Grade 10) students will sit for the new Singapore-Cambridge Secondary Education Certificate (SEC), which combines the former O-Levels, N-Levels and NT-Levels certificates into a single certificate. This is in alignment with the removal of streaming in secondary schools from 2024, which previously separated O-Level, N-Level and NT-Level candidates into the Express Stream, Normal (Academic) Stream and Normal (Technical) Stream respectively, in efforts to improve social mobility within the country.[7]

Syllabus[edit]

Examined subjects taken in English and international languages are set and marked by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES), with the standards and grading for the subjects determined by SEAB and MOE in consultation with the Cambridge Assessment International Examinations (CIE), a subsidiary of UCLES. Localised subjects, including Mother Tongue subjects such as Chinese, Malay and Tamil and Combined Humanities (Social Studies) are set, marked and graded locally by the Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE).[8][4]

After the examination, standard papers (excluding the specified localised papers) are sent to Cambridge Assessment International Examinations (CIE) board (in Britain) for marking. For localised papers, the personal details of the student are omitted with the use of the Integrated Examination System where bar-code labels are used. Local teachers would not be able to recognise scripts from students of his or her own school as the candidates' names are neither written on the papers nor printed on the labels, hence preventing malpractice of teachers.[9]

Grades[edit]

Candidates are graded based on their performance relative to the cohort. A grade in one GCE exam subject consists of a number and an accompanying letter. In descending order of achievement, the grades are: A (1,2), B (3,4), C (5,6), D7, E8, and F9.[3] This means students are graded in the bands from A to F, and each band is given a respective grade, higher or better the performance lower the respective grade, ie. A1 band has 1 grade point. Other respective grade points are A2 band = 2 grade points, B1 = 3, B2 = 4, C1 = 5, C2 = 6, D = 7, E = 8, F = 9. A grade of C2 band (6 grade points) or better is considered an O-Level pass. Obtaining a pass in one or more subjects will lead to a Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education (Ordinary Level). Candidates whose subject(s) are denoted as 'Absent'—should they be absent from any component(s) for the subject—will not have the subject listed on the certificate; this is likewise for those who obtain an F9, though it will appear on the result slip.[10]

The grades of the five or six subjects (depending on the scoring system used) taken are added to give an aggregate score known as L1R5 (one language subject and five relevant subjects), or EL1R2B2, which is a separate aggregate scoring system used for polytechnic admission. The score is calculated by adding up the numeral of each grade. For example, a candidate who scores a grade of A1 in six subjects will have an L1R5 score of six.

Subjects[edit]

Admission to Junior college is based on the results of L1R5 subjects, i e. One first language subject (L1) and 5 relevant subjects (R1). Aggregate lower grade points is considered better result, i.e. grade point 1 is higher/better than grade point 2.[11]

Special and Express students[edit]

All Special and Express stream students are required to take a minimum of six subjects, but are allowed to take up to a maximum of nine. Students who wish to take ten subjects must obtain permission from the Ministry of Education. All Special and Express students must take the following subjects:[9]

  • English Language, including listening comprehension and an oral examination
  • Mathematics
  • Mother Tongue, including listening comprehension and an oral examination (except for students taking NTIL and other non-mainstream languages)
(Second Language or Literature may be taken by foreign students in lieu of Mother Tongue such as Japanese, Indonesian and Arabic)
  • Combined Humanities (Compulsory Social Studies with either Elective Geography, History or Literature in English, Chinese, Malay or Tamil).
  • Science (Physics, Chemistry, Biology)
    • Pure Science (includes a science practical exam for candidates); and/or
    • Combined Science (combinations of any two science subjects listed above, considered as one subject)

Elective Subjects[edit]

  • Additional Mathematics
  • Principles of Accounts (POA)
  • Applied Subjects (Electronics, Computing, Drama and Exercise and Sports Science)
  • Nutrition and Food Science/ Food and Nutrition ( F&N)
  • Design and Technology
  • Art
  • Music
  • Applied Subjects (Biotechnology, Design Studies, Media Studies, Computer Science) (only for selected schools authorised to offer the subjects)
  • Pure Humanities (Geography, History, Literature in English/Chinese/Malay/Tamil)
  • Religious Knowledge (Bible Knowledge, Islamic Law)
  • Higher Mother Tongue
  • Foreign Languages (3rd Languages: Malay (Special Programme), Chinese (Special Programme), French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Arabic, Burmese, Thai, Indonesian)
  • Economics and Business Studies (only for selected schools authorised to offer the subject)

Normal (Academic) students[edit]

Students in the Normal (Academic) stream take four to seven subjects including:

  • English Language (includes listening comprehension and an oral examination)
  • Mathematics (Elementary Mathematics)
  • Mother Tongue (includes listening comprehension and an oral examination)
(Second Language or Literature may be taken by foreign students in lieu of Mother Tongue such as Japanese, Indonesian and Arabic)
  • Combined Humanities (Compulsory Social Studies with either Elective Geography, History or Literature in English, Chinese, Malay or Tamil).
  • Combined Science (combinations of any two science subjects (Biology, Chemistry & Physics), considered as one subject)

Elective Subjects[edit]

  • Additional Mathematics
  • Principles of Accounts
  • Design and Technology
  • Food and Nutrition
  • Art
  • Music
  • Foreign Languages (3rd Languages Malay, French, German, Japanese, Arabic, Burmese, Thai, Indonesian)

Mother Tongue[edit]

The Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) is the examining authority for Mother Tongue subjects. The Mother Tongue paper is different from the other papers, in that it includes a "Mid-Year Examination" for written papers (i.e. Papers 1 and 2), taken on the first Monday of the June school holidays. The Oral and Listening Comprehension papers are usually taken in July, and the results for Mother Tongue are subsequently released in August. However, the candidate may opt to re-take the paper in October/November along with the other papers that the candidate has registered for, though an additional fee is payable. The November re-assessment only covers the written examinations; no re-assessment is available for the Oral and Listening Comprehension component of the examination.

The best result of the two assessments is reflected in the result slip which will be released in January the following year. In addition to the grade, it will also show the candidate's performance in the Oral/Aural Examination as Distinction (highest), Merit, Pass or Ungraded.

With effect from 2007, the use of approved electronic handheld dictionaries in O-Level Mother Tongue and Higher Mother Tongue composition examinations (Paper 1) has been allowed.[12]

Social Studies[edit]

Social Studies, the compulsory subject of the two components in Combined Humanities, is used as an implicit study of National Education. The last Social Studies syllabus for GCE N and O Level was revised in 2016. There are two sections in the national examination namely, Source-based Case Study (SBCS) and Structured Response Questions (SRQ). For the SBCS section, students are required to examine and evaluate sources pertaining to three Social Studies Issues (1) Governance and Citizenship (2) Living a Diverse Society (3) Being Part of a Globalised World. For the SRQ section, students are also required to offer suggestions to address societal concerns arising from the three issues. Apart from the government schools, specialised private institutions offers Social Studies lessons to help students develop knowledge and skills required to master the subject.

School-based Science Practical Assessment[edit]

Pure Science subjects (Physics, Chemistry and Biology) include the School-based Science Practical Assessment (SPA) for school candidates. It assesses candidates' competence in science practical skills over an appropriate period of time that the candidates is offering the subject, and forms 20% of the overall mark for the subject. While the questions are set by the Ministry of Education, the assessment is scheduled, carried out and marked by the school before submitting the scripts to the MOE. The scores for the assessment are kept confidential and are never disclosed to the candidates. The assessment is grouped into three skill sets:

Skill set 1 – Performing and Observing
Skill set 2 – Analysing
Skill set 3 – Planning

Each candidate is to be assessed only twice for each of skill sets 1 and 2 and only once for skill set 3.[13]

In 2018, the revision of the O Level Science Syllabus will see the SPA Component being phased out and replaced by the previous one-time Practical Examinations again.[14]

List of subjects examined[edit]

Cambridge Subjects

Subject Code Subject Language medium Notes
1128 [1] English Language English
1135 [2] Arabic as a 3rd Language Arabic For school candidates only.
1136 [3] Indonesian as a 3rd Language Indonesian For school candidates only.
2049 [4] Religious Studies (Bible Knowledge) English For private candidates only.
2065 [5] Literature in English English
2174 [6] History English
2236 [7] Geography English
2267 [8] Combined Humanities English
2272 [9] Humanities (Social Studies, Geography) English Offered from 2018 to replace Combined Humanities syllabus 2267.
2273 [10] Humanities (Social Studies, History) English Offered from 2018 to replace Combined Humanities syllabus 2267.
2274 [11] Humanities (Social Studies, Literature in English) English Offered from 2018 to replace Combined Humanities syllabus 2267.
2275 [12] Humanities (Social Studies, Literature in Chinese) English Offered from 2018 to replace Combined Humanities syllabus 2267.
2276 [13] Humanities (Social Studies, Literature in Malay) English Offered from 2018 to replace Combined Humanities syllabus 2267.
2277 [14] Humanities (Social Studies, Literature in Tamil) English Offered from 2018 to replace Combined Humanities syllabus 2267.
3012 [15] French French
3028 [16] German German
3034 [17] Spanish Spanish For school candidates only.
3186 [18] Arabic Arabic For private candidates only.
3194 [19] Hindi Hindi
3196 [20] Urdu Urdu
3199 [21] Gujarati Gujarati
3203 [22] Panjabi Panjabi
3215 [23] Bengali Bengali
3249 [24] Burmese Burmese
3260 [25] Thai Thai
3261 [26] Japanese Japanese
4048 [27] Mathematics English Last year of examination in 2022.
5076 [28] Science (Physics, Chemistry) English
5077 [29] Science (Physics, Biology) English
5078 [30] Science (Chemistry, Biology) English
6063 [31] Electronics English New subject from 2018. For school candidates only.
6085 [32] Music English For school candidates only.
6086 [33] Higher Music English For school candidates only.
6087 [34] Food and Nutrition English For school candidates only. Last year of examination in 2021.
6091 [35] Physics English Revised syllabus from 2018.
6092 [36] Chemistry English Revised syllabus from 2018.
6093 [37] Biology English Revised syllabus from 2018.
6123 [38] Art English For school candidates only.
6124 [39] Higher Art English For school candidates only.
7051 [40] Design and Technology English For school candidates only.
7155 [41] Computing English New subject from 2018. For school candidates only.
7175 [42] Principles of Accounts English Last year of examination in 2021 for the current batches of 5 Normal Academic students.
4049 [51] Additional Mathematics English New syllabus from 2021 for 4 Express and future 5 Normal Academic students.
7087 [52] Principles of Accounts English New syllabus from 2021 for 4 Express and 5 Normal Academic students.
4052 [53] Mathematics English New syllabus from 2023. (Information will be available soon)
6097 [54] Nutrition & Food Science (Food and Nutrition) English New syllabus from 2022.

O-Level School Initiated Elective (OSIE) Cambridge Subjects

Subject Code Subject Language medium Notes
2286 [43] Economics English For school and Private candidates
5999 [44] Drama English For school candidates only.
6080 [45] Physical Education English For school candidates only.
7085 [46] Business Studies English For school and Private candidates.

Note: The above electives are applicable only for candidates from schools approved to offer the subjects.

Applied Subjects

Subject Code Subject Language medium Notes
NP04 [47] Biotechnology English For school candidates only.
NP05 [48] Design Studies English For school candidates only.

Note: The above Applied Subjects are applicable only for candidates from schools approved to offer the subjects. Candidates registering for Applied Subjects will be charged subject fees cited by the examining agencies.

Local Subjects Examined in Chinese

Subject Code Subject Language medium Notes
1116 [49] Higher Chinese Chinese
1153 [50] Chinese B Chinese Chinese B is not an O-Level subject.
1160 [51] Chinese Chinese
1166 [52] Chinese (Special Programme) Chinese
2093 [53] Literature in Chinese Chinese

Local Subjects Examined in Malay

Subject Code Subject Language medium Notes
1117 [54] Higher Malay Malay
1133 [55] Malay (Special Programme) Malay
1148 [56] Malay Malay
1151 [57] Malay B Malay Malay B is not an O-Level subject.
2080 [58] Islamic Religious Knowledge Malay For private candidates only.
2238 [59] Literature in Malay Malay Revised syllabus from 2018.

Local Subjects Examined in Tamil

Subject Code Subject Language medium Notes
1147 [60] Higher Tamil Tamil
1152 [61] Tamil B Tamil Tamil B is not an O-Level subject.
1157 [62] Tamil Tamil
2098 [63] Literature in Tamil Tamil

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "GENERAL INFORMATION". Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  2. ^ https://www.seab.gov.sg/docs/default-source/national-examinations/gce-o-level/gce-o-level_result_slip_explanatory_notes.pdf
  3. ^ a b "Explanatory Notes" (PDF).
  4. ^ a b hermes (11 September 2017). "Changes to Britain's GCSE and A-level exams won't affect Singapore students". The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  5. ^ "Ten years of the GCSE". BBC News. 26 August 1998. Retrieved 27 December 2006.
  6. ^ "Release of the 2016 Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education (Ordinary Level) Examination" (PDF). Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  7. ^ "GCE O- and N-Level exams to be replaced by new national common exam in 2027". TODAY. Retrieved 10 January 2024.
  8. ^ "GCE O Level Examination: General Information". Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board. Archived from the original on 8 May 2010. Retrieved 2 June 2010.
  9. ^ a b "INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRIVATE CANDIDATES" (PDF). SEAB. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  10. ^ "INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRIVATE CANDIDATES TAKING SINGAPORE-CAMBRIDGE GCE N(A), N(T), O and/or A-LEVEL EXAMINATION" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 June 2010.
  11. ^ how to calculate l1r5, overmugged.com, accessed 8 August 2023.
  12. ^ "Ministry of Education, Singapore: Education System: Secondary Education: Changes Affecting Special/Express Courses". Archived from the original on 16 May 2010. Retrieved 2 June 2010.
  13. ^ "5072 Syllabus 2010" (PDF). www.seab.gov.sg. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 August 2010. Retrieved 22 December 2021.
  14. ^ "What you need to know about O-Level Physics Practical Examinations". Concept First Physics Tuition. 14 October 2021. Retrieved 25 August 2022.

External links[edit]