You’re done and dusted with O levels, and finally moving on to JC. Well, congratulations for making it! But before you go on, you’ll need to select your JC, as well as choose your JC subject combination.
Your subject combination will determine what you’ll be studying in your duration of JC. It will also determine your class (and resultingly, the friends you make), timetable, and to some extent, your future prospects in university and beyond!
So, how should you make this all-important decision? That’s what we’re here for!
We’ll focus our discussion on the A Level subject combination, since that’s what the majority of JCs in Singapore lead up to. However, for those interested, we do have an article on IB subject combinations too!
Terminology: H1, H2, H3
Before launching into a full-blown explanation of A level subjects, it is useful to clear the air about these terms: H1, H2, and H3.
Basically, they refer to the difficulty level, commitment level, and demands of the subject. ‘H’ stands for ‘higher’, and A Level subjects can be taken at 3 levels:
H1: Less demanding study level, with fewer topics and less depth. Less weightage in rank point calculation.
H2: The level at which most core subjects will be taken. More weightage in rank point calculation.
H3: A higher level for those interested to pursue research or deeper study into a subject. Not included in rank points.
Most JC students will take a combination of H1 and H2 subjects. H3 subjects are optional, often research-based in nature, and reserved only for very capable students with a passion for the subject.
A Level subject combination requirements
Where the A Levels are concerned, the compulsory subjects are:
- Project Work (H1, completed in JC1)
- Mother Tongue (H1, completed in JC1) – students who obtained D7 and above for Higher Chinese are exempt
- General Paper (H1)
The main decision-making comes with choosing the 4 other subjects. The minimum requirement is 3 H2 subjects and 1 H1 subject. But for capable students who challenge themselves with 4 H2 subjects, the poorest performing subject will be taken as H1 during the final A Level score tabulation.
Arts VS Science stream?
Generally, subject combinations fall into either the Arts or Science stream. For all subject combinations, there must be 1 contrasting subject.
For example, if you are in the arts stream, you’ll take 3 humanities subjects, and math. For those in the science stream, students take 2 sciences, math, and 1 humanities subject.
Common Arts Stream combinations:
- HELM (History, Econs, Literature, Math)
- GELM (Geography, Econs, Literature, Math)
Besides the above, you may also replace one of the humanities subjects with other options like Art, Music, China Studies, Drama and Theatre Studies, or English Language and Linguistics. However, taking both History and Geography is quite unheard of as the amount of content and workload for both are very heavy.
Common Science Stream combinations:
- PCME (Physics, Chemistry, Math, Economics)
- BCME (Biology, Chemistry, Math, Economics)
These subject combinations are common as they are considered ‘safe’ – in terms of workload and eligibility for university courses. Similar to the above, you may replace Econs with one of the other humanities subjects. Another subject that you can use as a science subject is Computing.
For those who can’t decide on Arts or Science, you can have the best of both worlds with a hybrid stream. It is possible to take 2 Arts and 2 Science subjects, but with its limitations.
Most schools allocate your form class and timetable based on your subject combination, so students with unique combinations may feel like the ‘odd one out’ in class, with a strange timetable (i.e. long breaks and late classes).
In fact, due to the difficulties of allocating non-overlapping timetables, some schools may not even allow your hybrid subject combination, despite having the classes for these subjects. So, if this is something you are very keen on pursuing, do check with your prospective schools BEFORE applying!
Which stream should you choose?
For many students, choosing between Arts or Science stream is quite easy. If you are unsure, here are some questions you can use to guide your decision:
- Which subjects did you do better in at O Levels?
- Do you prefer MCQ and short answer questions, or writing essays?
- Do you enjoy reading a lot, or learning facts and concepts?
- Which subjects are you more interested in? Which subjects did you enjoy studying more?
- Which subjects will benefit you more in the university course or career path that you hope to move towards? What are the subject requirements for the uni course you are aiming to get into?
The road less travelled: Niche subject options
So far, we’ve touched upon the more common subject combinations, like HELM, GELM, PCME, and BCME. But A Levels also offers some interesting subjects to cater to the varied interests of different students. Here’s a quick overview of some of them, should you be interested to take them up!
Knowledge and Inquiry
KI is a H2 subject that replaces GP. Often seen as an upgraded big brother version of GP, it delves deeper into theories of knowledge and how we construct it across various fields of studies. It can get pretty philosophical, so hold your horses if you decide to take this subject.
H3 is not for everyone. It also doesn’t have any real implications on your aggregate A Level score. The only reason you may want to take it is out of passion, to challenge yourself, or to boost your resume.
As H3 is pretty demanding, usually teachers will only recommend it to students who have already shown a strong performance in that subject. If your teacher suggests it to you, chances are, they think you can do it!
The structure and content of H3 subjects vary across subjects. Some will be more content-heavy versions of their H2 counterparts, while some have a more research and project work edge to it. There are also H3 subjects offered in partnership with universities and research organisations in Singapore.
For most schools, you will need to decide if you want to take up H3 only by the end of JC1, so you’ll have some time to try out your workload without H3 and see if you can cope first. The exception lies in some talent development programmes, where joining the talent programme also means taking up a H3 subject as early as in JC1.
- Are you passionate about this subject?
- Do you enjoy intellectually stimulating challenges?
- Would you want to pursue this subject (or a related one) in further studies?
Your JC subject combination should be a marriage of your abilities and passions. Of course, there are also practical considerations such as workload and timetabling issues. Hopefully, this guide will be of help in your decision-making!
For your convenience, we have also compiled a list of links to each school’s website where they list their subjects and combinations offered. We have organised the schools according to O level cut-off points so you can easily refer to the ones around your score!
Note: ACSI and SJI have been omitted as they are IB schools.
Hwa Chong Institution
Nanyang Junior College
National Junior College
Eunoia Junior College
Victoria Junior College
Dunman High School
River Valley High School
Temasek Junior College
St Andrew’s Junior College
Anderson Serangoon Junior College
Catholic Junior College
Tampines Meridian Junior College
Jurong Pioneer Junior College
Yishun Innova Junior College