Options to explore after the O-Levels

Entering a JC or a Polytechnic are not the only options.

Amanda Tan

Published: 11 January 2023, 10:03 AM

If you’ve completed your O-Level examinations and are awaiting the release of your results on Jan 12, you might have some questions about the pathways you can explore as you move on to the next phase of your education.

Some may choose to continue their studies in a traditional academic setting, while others may opt for more vocational or technical training.

To see what works best for you, here is a non-exhaustive list of schools you can enrol in and options you can consider:


If you prefer a more experiential learning style, pursuing a diploma in one of the five local polytechnics is an option.

A mix of classroom learning and hands-on experiences, the polytechnic program equips students with skills that are directly relevant to the jobs they are interested in.

In order to be eligible to apply for admission to a local polytechnic, students must meet the minimum entry requirements of at least three GCE O-Level passes, including English Language and Mathematics. Some courses may also require specific O-Level subjects such as Physics or Chemistry.

Scoring at most 26 points or better for the net ELR2B2 aggregate score (i.e. English Language, two relevant subjects and best two other subjects, including CCA bonus points) is also required.

Registration for the Joint Admissions Exercise (JAE) will commence the same day as the official announcement of the O-Level examination results.

Private Education Institution (PEI)

If none of the five polytechnics offer the course of your choice, you can look into PEIs like PSB Academy, The Singapore Institute of Management (SIM), The Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS) and Kaplan Singapore.

Some of the unique courses offered by these schools include a Diploma in FinTech by PSB Academy, a Diploma in International Business by SIM, an International Foundation Diploma in Fashion Design and Marketing by MDIS, and a Diploma in Counselling by Kaplan.

Selected courses are also offered on a part-time basis, should you wish to work at the same time.

However, most PEIs require applicants to hold certain qualifications beyond the O-Level certificate.

For example, to enrol in a Diploma course at PSB Academy, one would first need to acquire a Certificate in Business Management. Similarly, Kaplan requires its students to successfully complete and pass the modules stipulated in the Foundation Diploma programme.

Applications can be submitted directly to the PEIs through their respective portals.

To view the full list of PEIs in Singapore, click here.

Institute of Technical Education (ITE)

Another route would be to undergo either a three-year Higher Nitec course or two-year Nitec course at ITE.

You can choose from a wide range of courses in Engineering, Electronics & Info-comm Technology, Business & Services, Design & Media, Applied & Health Sciences and Hospitality.

Additionally, starting with selected courses in Academic Year (AY) 2022, ITE offers a new curricular structure that allows students to directly graduate with a Higher Nitec qualification after three years of training, instead of four years. 

Under this streamlined programme, students will undertake broad-based foundation courses in the first year, exposing them to fundamental skills needed for the relevant industry sector. During the remaining two years, they will then take more specialised modules.

To be eligible for consideration for admission to the Higher Nitec courses under JAE, applicants must meet the minimum entry requirements.

For AY 2023, ITE will offer 11 three-year Higher Nitec courses: Accounting, AI Applications, Business Information Systems, Cyber & Network Security, Data Engineering, Electronics Engineering, Immersive Applications & Game, IT Systems & Networks, IT Applications Development, and Security System Integration. 

You may apply for admission to these courses through the Joint Intake Exercise (JIE) in December 2022 or January 2023, or the Early Admissions Exercise (EAE) in May 2023. You’ll then be automatically enrolled into the three-year curricular pathway leading to a Higher Nitec qualification.

To view the full list of Higher Nitec and Nitec courses and their respective entry requirements, click here.

Junior College (JC)

If you’re looking for a fast track to a university degree, enrolling in a JC would be the ideal choice.

JCs offer a two-year pre-university program that prepares students for entry into a local or overseas university. It focuses on preparing students for the A Level examination in a more traditional academic setting, with a more rigorous curriculum than polytechnics.

It can be helpful for you to have a general idea of which industry you’d like to pursue in the future, as it can give you more direction and focus during your studies.

When applying, you will need to choose between studying in the Arts or Science stream, and having a clear idea of your career goals can aid in this decision. It can also inform your choice of subject combination within your chosen stream.

You would need to score at most 20 points for the L1R5 to qualify for a place in a JC.

To view the full list of cut-offs for the various JCs, click here.

The tentative application window for JAE is Jan 12 to 17 and you can submit their choices through the JAE Internet System (JAE-IS) using your Singpass or alternatively, the JAE PIN.

Millennia Institute (MI)

If you’re gunning towards acquiring an A-Level certificate but would prefer a longer runway towards university, MI is an alternative.

Beyond offering a three-year pre-university course, MI is also currently the only pre-university centre to offer the Commerce stream apart from the traditional arts and science streams offered by the JCs.

The Commerce stream includes academic subjects Management of Business and Principles of Accounts.

Unlike the JCs, MI uses the net aggregate L1R4 result to assess applicants during JAE. To qualify, you would need to score not more than 20.

International Baccalaureate (IB)

If you’re looking to pursue a degree overseas in the near future, taking the IB track would be beneficial.

The IB is a globally recognised pre-university program that is offered at a number of schools in Singapore.

Locally, Anglo Chinese School (ACS) Independent, Anglo Chinese School (ACS) International Singapore, Hwa Chong International School (HCIS) and St. Joseph’s Institution – offer the IB Diploma Programme.

Unlike the A-Level curriculum, IB students choose courses from the following subject groups: studies in language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, sciences, mathematics, and the arts.

Students may opt to study an additional sciences, individuals and societies, or languages course, instead of a course in the arts.

Each subject has internal assessments which are marked by the respective teacher supervisors but moderated by external examiners. Written examinations for the six subjects are mostly taken at the end of the second year of the programme and are externally marked.

The core of the IB programme includes three components – the theory of knowledge (TOK), extended essay (EE) and creativity, activity, service (CAS).

TOK and EE are assessed by coursework which are done under teacher supervision but externally marked. They are awarded individual grades and, collectively, can contribute up to three additional points towards the overall diploma score.

As for CAS, it requires students to engage in a series of different experiences and a community service project. While it does not contribute to the points total, authenticated participation is a requirement for the award of the diploma.

To gain both depth and breadth of knowledge, all students take six subjects: one subject per group and three core elements. Three subjects are taken at Higher Level and three subjects at the Standard Level.

Admission into SJI is primarily via the JAE, using one’s L1R5 aggregate score. Bonus points for CCA and Higher Mother Tongue are applicable for admission. As of 2022, SJI’s cut off is seven points.

For ACS (International), the minimum criteria is an L1R5 of 18 points or less and applicants will have to attend a short oral interview with a senior staff member. 

HCIS’ application window is open throughout the year but applicants will need to sit for an admission test. Thereafter, those shortlisted will sit for a placement test.

Upon completing the IB program, students may be eligible to apply for entry into a local or overseas university.

Art institutions

If you have an aptitude for the arts, you can consider refining those skills by applying to specialised schools like LASALLE College of the Arts or Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA).

The two offer a wide range of diploma programmes in art, design, media and performance.

For LASALLE, applicants are required to have scored at least 25 points or better in four GCE O-Level subjects, excluding English. A pass in English at Grade C6 or better is also needed. 

The deadline for application is Feb 3 and the outcome will be announced by Mar 29.

As for NAFA, the entry requirements vary for the three faculties – Faculty of Art & Design, Faculty of Interdisciplinary Practices and Faculty of Performing Arts and can be viewed on their respective websites.

However, all three faculties require applicants to have an aggregate score of 25 points or better in four GCE ‘O’ Level subjects, excluding English.

Applications for the August 2023 intake are now open till Mar 31.

Upon completion of the diploma course, those who wish to pursue training in the creative arts at a higher level can take on degree courses offered by LASALLE and NAFA’s joint entity – The University of the Arts Singapore (UAS). It is the nation’s first and only arts university supported by the Government. 

To find out more about the schools, you can head down to their open houses. LASALLE’s will take place from 1pm to 6pm on Jan 13, and 11am to 5pm on Jan 14. If you’re interested, you’ll need to RSVP. NAFA’s will take place from Jan 13 to 14, from 11am to 7pm.

Retaking the O-Levels

The 2023 private candidates’ registration exercise for students looking to retake their O-Level exams will take place tentatively between Mar 29 and Apr 7.

Students can register for the exams through SEAB’s Candidates Portal during this time. It is recommended that students check the website regularly for updates and refer to the 2022 registration information document as a guide, as the 2023 document will be published on SEAB’s website around Mar 22.

During the registration period, students will be able to find information about the timelines, eligibility criteria, registration guidelines, procedures, and examination fees for the O-level exams.

It’s important to note that funds in your Edusave and Post-Secondary Education Account (PSEA) cannot be used to pay for examination fees, which are subject to the prevailing GST. Students are encouraged to carefully review all of the available information and make sure they meet the necessary requirements before registering for the exams.

Entering the workforce

Finally, you may choose to enter the workforce directly upon completing your O-Levels.

There are a number of opportunities available for students who are interested in starting their careers right away, including internships, apprenticeships, and part-time or full-time employment.

Students who choose this pathway may find that they are able to gain valuable work experience and start building their careers while continuing their education on a part-time basis.

If you’re considering this pathway, it’s important that you carefully research and weigh your options. You should also consider factors such as your interests and goals, the job market in your chosen field, and the type of experience and skills you are looking to gain.

By taking the time to research and plan your career path, you can make informed decisions about the best way to move forward.

Should you require more in-depth information regarding post-secondary options, you may refer to MOE’s e-booklet.

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