The Singapore-Cambridge General Certification of Education Advanced Level (GCE 'A' Level) is conducted in Singapore annually. It is an internationally recognized mark of academic achievement. This method of grading students originates from Britain, and is used in most Commonwealth countries. Singapore, being a Commonwealth country, is no exception. The GCE 'A' Levels Examinations were first introduced in 1951 to replace the previously existing certification, the Higher School Certificate (HSC).
After taking the GCE 'A' Levels Examinations, as long as the student manages to attain one passing grade in one of his examined subjects, he will receive a GCE 'A' Level Certificate as prove of his achievements in the GCE 'A' Levels Examinations.
In Singapore, due to the subjects taught being different from the ones taught in Britain, the Ministry of Education (MOE), Singapore joins the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate in organizing and authorizing the GCE 'A' Levels Examinations.
Since 2006, MOE has decided to change its 'A' Level system from the 'AO', 'A' and 'S' paper system to the H1, H2 and H3 system. Please refer to this page for more information (Hyperlink to H1, H2 and H3)
Most students take the GCE 'A' Levels Examinations at the last year end of their Junior College/Centralised Institute education. Thus, they sign up for the examinations through the school and generally have no problems with entering it.
However, for private candidates who wish to take this examination, they have to fulfill the basic requirement of being at least 17 years old on the 1st January of the examination year.
There is also a special requirement for private candidates who are intending to take the practical component of any of the Science subjects during the GCE 'A' Levels Examinations. In order to qualify, they must have taken the chosen Science paper at 'A' Level previously or are currently/going to follow the course of instructions in the chosen subject offered by a private institution or the ITEs.
The grading system for H1 and H2 papers are the same, while H3 papers use a different set of grading systems
Red text denotes grades that are below passing level. S denotes a sub-pass.
Recognition of the GCE 'A' Level Internationally
Most commonwealth countries, including Singapore, Hong Kong, South Africa etc. all take the GCE 'A' Levels Examinations as part of their level of education certification system. However, like Singapore, while they all share the same name as the United Kingdom GCE 'A' Levels Examinations, they differ in content and style based on the subjects taught in the country.
However, the fact remains that many countries in the world use the GCE 'A' Levels Examinations as their level of education certification method, and this has caused it to widely recognized internationally as one of the, if not the most, accepted level of education certification. Many international schools actually choose to use the British GCE 'A' Levels Examinations instead of other certifications of equivalent level because of its international recognition.
Students can also choose to sit the GCE 'A' Levels Examinations on their own accord as private candidates, if their country or school does not offer the GCE 'A' Levels Examinations, at education centres such as British Councils which can be found all around the world. They can choose to take the GCE 'A' Levels Examinations for a wide variety of subjects depending on the country’s offer.
'A' Levels were originally meant to a qualification on one’s education standard. However, they have also become a de facto for university entrance examinations. While some universities may require their applicants to take separate entrance examinations, the GCE 'A' Levels have pretty much become a pre-requisite for anyone who wishes to enter a university, especially those in the United Kingdom. These universities require the applicants to have a minimum set of grades in the GCE 'A' Levels Examinations or other examinations of an equivalent level before they decide whether or not they want to accept the applicant using other factors such as personal conduct, CCA participation etc.
Students often apply for their chosen universities before taking their GCE 'A' Levels Examinations. The teachers will predict the grades of the students based on their experience for the university to consider and the university will consider these set of predicted results before deciding whether the student should be allowed to enter. However, they can sometimes be inaccurate. Thus, most universities set pre-requisites for the students instead. They would want the student to actually obtain a minimum requirement of expected grades before they give the student a place in the university.
For example, a university may insist that the student obtain at least three 'A' level grades of A, B and C before he is allowed to enter the university. Other universities may be stricter, choosing the subjects they want their required grades to be places in. For example, a university may want a student to have grades of A, A and B with physics having the A grade before they allow him in.
In other cases, the grades are converted into scores, such as the UCAS system, where an A grade is 120 points, a B grade is 100 points, a C has the value of 80 points while D is 60 points and so on and so forth. In this case, the university will simply require a minimum score which the applicant must achieve in order to enter the university.
This is much more flexible as it bypasses the fact that somebody may score the required aggregate score under the UCAS system but yet does not achieve enough required grades that is of the same value. For example, a university may require a student to get basic grades of A, C and C. When converted to scores under the UCAS system, it gives us a total of 280 points. However, a student might score B, B and B, giving you a total of 300 points. However, due to the lack of an A grade, the university might not accept you even though you exceeded their expectations using the UCAS system. Of course, there are special cases where the university will give you another chance based on your actual scores.
Students are allowed to choose six universities and select two to be their options when applying for university education under the UCAS system. Out of the choices, one will be the firm choice, where if you get selected to enter it, you will have to stick with it or forfeit your chance of going to a university this year and try again next year. The other is the insurance choice, which requires less expectations from your GCE 'A' Level results, and acts as the backup should you fail to enter the firm choice university.
If a student fails to achieve the minimum scores needed to enter his firm choice university under the UCAS system, he has two options. One is to ask the firm choice university again if they will reconsider his application. If he gets rejected, then he will have to accept his insurance choice university. If both options fail and his score is not even enough to get him to enter his insurance choice university, he will have to go through the UCAS clearing process, where he applies for the courses left available by the various universities spread across the country. If he refuses, he will have to try and apply again next year.