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Singapore-Cambridge GCE Advanced Level

The Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education Advanced Level (or Singapore-Cambridge GCE A-Level) is a GCE Advanced Level examination held annually in Singapore and is conducted jointly by the Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE), Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) and the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES).[1]

The examination is taken by school candidates upon completion of pre-university education at junior colleges, centralised institutes, and Integrated Programmes, and is also open to private candidates. The Singapore-Cambridge GCE Advanced Level examination has been de-linked from the British A-Level examinations since 2002, when the MOE took over the management of the national examination, due to differences in the development of the respective education systems in the two countries.[2]

The Singapore-Cambridge GCE A-Level is recognised internationally by universities as a university entrance examination and employers as a tertiary education certificate.[3]

The standards and grading for the subjects are determined by SEAB and MOE in consultation with the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), a subsidiary of UCLES. Localised subjects, including Mother Tongue subjects such as Chinese, Malay and Tamil are marked locally.


The Singaporean A-level curriculum was revised in 2006 for an enhanced curriculum framework dedicated to the Singapore's education requirement. This is compared to the initial system of ‘AO’, ‘A’ and ‘S’ papers modelled after the United Kingdom education system. It was designed to emphasise multi-disciplinary learning, breadth of learning as well as flexibility, and it aims to prepare students well for the approaches being taken in university education, and for the demands of an innovation-driven world of the 21st century.[4] The Singaporean A-levels differ in exam structure and subject content from GCE A-levels in other countries such as the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Brunei, Seychelles, Pakistan etc.

Under the new curriculum, candidates select subjects from three levels of study, namely Higher 1 (H1), Higher 2 (H2) and Higher 3 (H3). Subjects are divided into knowledge skills and content-based subjects. Knowledge skills subjects include General Paper, Knowledge and Inquiry and Project Work; content-based subjects are divided into languages, humanities and the arts, and mathematics and sciences.[5]

General Paper and Knowledge & InquiryEdit

General Paper (or GP) at H1 level or Knowledge & Inquiry (or KI) at H2 level are academic subjects offered at the Singapore-Cambridge GCE Advanced Level examination in the Singapore education system. All pre-university students in Singapore undertaking the Singapore-Cambridge GCE Advanced Level examination are required to offer either of the subjects.[5][6]

General Paper aims to develop in students the ability to think critically, to construct cogent arguments and to communicate their ideas using clear, accurate and effective language. In addition, General Paper encourages students to explore a range of key issues of global and local significance and provides students with a good foundation to thrive in a fast-changing world.[6]

The General Paper comprises two papers, Paper 1 and Paper 2. Paper 1 comprises twelve questions that cover a wide range of topics, including but not limited to: history, society, culture, economy, politics, philosophy, sciences, mathematics, geography, literature and language, as well as topics of local interest and global concern. Candidates are to answer any one question out of the twelve given within a time span of 90 minutes. Candidates are to write an essay of length between 500 and 800 words. Paper 1 accounts for half of the final grade. Paper 2 comprises one or two passages of continuous prose. Candidates are required to demonstrate their ability to comprehend, explain, infer, evaluate and summarise within a time-span of 90 minutes. The sections tested include short answer questions, summary and an application question. The application question requires the candidate to evaluate the author's arguments and apply the author's suggestions to their own country. Marks are also allocated for appropriate use of language. Paper 2 accounts for the other half of the final grade.[citation needed]

In 2012, the Singapore General Paper syllabus was modified and its subject code 8806 was replaced by a new subject code 8807. A key difference in the new syllabus is that examiners require candidates to present conviction, confidence and be convincing in their essays, departing from set-piece essays and memorising core content.[citation needed]

Subject combinationEdit

Subjects at H1 level constitutes one academic unit, subjects at H2 level constitutes two academic units, with the exception of subjects taken at H3 level.[5] Students are invariably required to sit for either H1 General Paper or H2 Knowledge and Inquiry, and may opt to elect any combination and number of H1 and H2 subjects, up to a maximum of twelve academic units (AUs).[5] A maximum of two H3 subjects can be applied. Subject examination of the H3 level subjects were previously offered as "Special papers" (or "S-Papers") under the Cambridge GCE Advanced Level before 2006.[5]

Under the Ministry of Education's regulations, students sitting for the A-level in a junior college are required to take at least one subject that is from a contrasting discipline.[5] They are also required to fulfil additional academic requirements of Singapore's education system, such as having to take Project Work and a Mother Tongue Language.[7]

Grading systemEdit

H1 and H2 subjects are graded alphabetically in the following manner.[8]

Grade Remark
A Above Singapore-Cambridge

GCE Advanced Level pass

S Below Singapore-Cambridge

GCE Advanced Level pass



  • Candidates who pass at least one subject at H1 or H2 level will receive a Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education (Advanced Level).
  • Grade 'S' denotes a sub-pass.
  • Grades 'S' and 'Ungraded' indicate that the candidate has failed to obtain a pass in the particular subject. These two grades do not appear on the certificate but will be shown on the result slip.
  • Subject(s) taken by the candidate under special arrangements will be annotated in the certificate.

H3 subjects are graded as either Distinction, Merit, Pass or Ungraded.

List of subjects examinedEdit

Subject Language medium Level Notes
Project Work English H1
General Paper English H1
English Language and Linguistics English H2
Knowledge and Inquiry English H2
Literature in English English H1, H2, H3
Theatre Studies and Drama English H2
Geography English H1, H2, H3
History English H1, H2, H3
Economics English H1, H2, H3
China Studies in English English H1, H2
French French H1, H2
German German H1, H2
Japanese Japanese H1, H2
Non-Tamil Indian Languages Bengali / Gujarati / Hindi / Punjabi / Urdu H1
Mathematics English H1, H2, H3
Further Mathematics English H2
Physics English H1, H2
Chemistry English H1, H2
Biology English H1, H2
Art English H1, H2, H3
Music English H2, H3
Computing English H2
Principles of Accounting English H2
Management of Business English H2
Chinese language Chinese H1
China Studies in Chinese Chinese H2
General Studies in Chinese Chinese H1
Translation (Chinese) English and Chinese H2
Chinese Language and Literature Chinese H2, H3
Malay Language Malay H1
Malay Language and Literature Malay H2, H3
Tamil Language Tamil H1
Tamil Language and Literature Tamil H2, H3
Essentials of Modern Physics English H3
Pharmaceutical Chemistry English H3
Proteomics English H3

H3 Pharmaceutical ChemistryEdit

H3 Pharmaceutical Chemistry (Syllabus 9812) is an additional subject being offered to the GCE A-level students in Singapore. It replaces the decades-old Special paper (otherwise known as paper "0" in syllabus 9251), a paper that is often taken by students aiming for local/overseas scholarship or who simply want to challenge themselves. The first batch of students sat for their examination in November 2007.

As given under the "Introduction" in the syllabus provided by University of Cambridge, H3 is meant for students with exceptional ability and interest in chemistry. The depth of the knowledge is pitched at undergraduate level, with approximately 140 hours of teaching and self-directed independent learning. H3 Pharmaceutical Chemistry is notorious for being the hardest subject in the 'A' Level curriculum as prescribed by UCLES and SEAB.

However, from 2019, H3 Pharamceutical Chemistry has been replaced by H3 Chemistry (Syllabus 9813). The latter sees a marked departure from content memorisation and focus on drug action and synthesis, but is now more focused on application. Students learn additional content that increases their breath and depth of knowledge of the pre-requisite H2 Chemistry Level, and are expected to apply their knowledge to new and novel problems that are faced in the real world. This is in line with the Ministry of Education's policies.


The syllabus is divided into 6 sections as follow:

  1. Effects and development of drugs
  2. Properties of functional groups and intermolecular interactions
  3. Molecular Stereochemistry
  4. Understanding Reaction Mechanisms
  5. Separation and Analytical Techniques
  6. Some classes of drugs

Additional informationEdit

The above syllabus is somewhat similar to the optional topics offered by International Baccalaureate chemistry. It overlaps considerably with option B, G and H, which are titled "Medicines and Drugs", "Modern Analytical Chemistry" and "Further Organic Chemistry" respectively. The move from Special paper to H3 is primarily to place more emphasis on independent thinking, learning and creativity. Unlike Special paper, H3 takes the students beyond what is covered in the basic H2 syllabus; it therefore allows students to be exposed to more in-depth knowledge at a younger age.

Teaching materials/notes are mainly obtained from a guide written by the University of Cambridge.

Candidate PerformanceEdit

In 2010, the number of school candidates who sat for the examination was 14,280, out of which 90.8% of them scored at least three Higher 2 (H2) passes, with a pass in General Paper (GP) or Knowledge and Inquiry (KI).[9]

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit


  1. ^ "About GCE A-Level". Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  2. ^ hermes (2017-09-11). "Changes to Britain's GCSE and A-level exams won't affect Singapore students". The Straits Times. Retrieved 2017-12-10.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-01-01. Retrieved 2011-03-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Ministry of Education Singapore: New 'A' Level Curriculum 2006". Retrieved 2017-12-06.
  6. ^ a b "School Info". Retrieved 2017-12-06.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2011-06-21.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-03-07. Retrieved 2011-03-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)