Based on results of the PSLE, students undergo secondary education in either the "Special", "Express", "Normal Academic" or "Normal Technical" course.
Both Special and Express are 4-year courses leading up to a Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education (GCE) "Ordinary"—"O" level examination. The difference between Special and Express is that in the Special course, mother tongue language (English and mother tongue) are taught at a higher level (Higher Mother Tongue) and thus more difficult. A Third Foreign Language - namely French, German and Japanese - can be taken in addition to the mother tongue, or to replace it. This seems especially popular with students who are struggling with their mother tongues. Non-Chinese students may also study Chinese Language, while non-Malay students are given the opportunity to take up Malay Language as a Third Language.
Normal is a 4-year course leading up to a Singapore-Cambridge GCE "Normal"—"N" Level examination, with the possibility of a fifth year followed by a Singapore-Cambridge GCE "Ordinary"—"O" Level examination. "Normal" is split into "Normal (Academic)" and "Normal (Technical)"; in the latter students take more subjects that are technical in nature, such as Design and Technology, while in the former students are geared towards an eventual sitting of the GCE "O" Level examination and normally take subjects such as Principles of Accounting. In 2004, MOE announced that selected students in the Normal course would have flexibility to sit for the Singapore-Cambridge GCE "Ordinary"—"O" Level examination direct, without having to sit for the Singapore-Cambridge GCE "Normal"—"N" Level examination.
With exception of schools offering the Integrated Programme which leads up either to the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma or Singapore-Cambridge GCE "A" Levels examinations directly, most students in secondary schools are typically streamed into a wide range of course combinations at the end of their second year, making the total number of subject they have to sit for in "O" level ranging between six to ten subjects with English Language, Mother Tongue or Higher Mother Tongue Language, Mathematics, one Science and one Humanities Elective being compulsory and inclusive. The subject taken varies, and several new subjects such as Computing and Theatre Studies & Drama are being introduced in tandem with the MOE's revised curriculum and encouragement of broad-based and passion-driven learning.
Co-curricular activities is compulsory at the secondary level, where all pupils must participate in at least one core CCA, and participation is graded together with other achievements, such as Leadership, throughout the four years of Secondary education in a scoring system known as LEAPS which stands for Leadership, Enrichment, Achievement, Participation and Service. There are numerous CCAs offered at the secondary level depending on the school, and each student is judged based in these areas within his or her CCA. Competitions are regularly organised so that students can have an objective to work towards, and in the case of musical and performing arts groups, to showcase talents.
Most schools commonly follow the kind of grading system awarded at the Singapore-Cambridge GCE "O" level examination, for which a student sits for at the end of four or five years of secondary education, sitting for at least 6 subjects. The level of achievement in each subject is indicated by the grade obtained: A1 & A2 (Distinctions), B3 & B4 (Merit), C5 & C6 (Credit/Pass), D7 (Sub-Pass), E8 or F9, with A1 being the highest achievable grade and F9 the lowest.
A student's overall academic performance is measured through several points scoring system (such as the L1R5, L1B5 and L1R4 scoring system) depending on which type of post-secondary institution a student is intending to apply for. Each grade has a point value respective to it, for example, with grade A1 being 1 point, A2 being 2 points, and B3 being 3 points. Thus, the fewer the points obtained, the better the score. For example, in the L1R5 scoring system, the student's L1 or first language (either English or Higher Mother Tongue Language) and R5 or relevant 5 subjects (which must include at least one from the Science & Mathematics group, one from the Humanities group, and excluding subjects such as Religious Studies and CCA). Consequently, an L1R5 score of 6 points is considered to be the best score attainable for entrance to a Junior College.
For non-major examinations, several schools use a Mean Subject Grade (MSG) scoring system, while schools running the Integrated Programme (IP) normally use the Grade Point Assessment (GPA) scoring system.
The Secondary Education is a very important stage in the education path of every student. It is the stage where specialisation begins, where students begin to specialise in selected subjects of their choice. It is with these specialisations that the students are able to gain in-depth knowledge with regards to their subjects in the post-secondary curriculum.