Decision making - What subject combination should I take?

There are many different factors that you should take into consideration when deciding what subject combination to take for the A Levels but essentially the most important factors would be

  1. Likelihood of doing well for the subject taken

  2. Interest

  3. School’s performance in the subject

  4. Pathways to university courses

So many factors - so how should I prioritise?

I’d prioritise the factors according to the order I’ve placed above. Why? At the end of the day, what you are striving to achieve would be the higher number of rank points you can get with your A level grades so that you can gain entrance into the university course of your choice.

Logically speaking - that means you should of course do subjects you know you stand a better chance in excelling.

How do I know my likelihood of doing well for the subject taken?

Your past exam scores (the O Levels, and Secondary School final year examinations) - are an indication of whether you have strengths in certain subjects. For example - if you have been consistently doing well in Physics, then your past performance in Physics provides you with some kind of grounding / advantage that you may likely continue with if you take Physics at the A Levels.

Also - take a look at the curriculum and look at the format of testing and see if the type of ‘testing’ - e.g. essay writing, short structured answers, data response questions, multiple choice questions - are these formats that you are familiar with and have previously done well in?

Why should I do something I’m interested in?

Well obviously - if you are interested in the subject, there is likely greater motivation in you spending time with the subject and that could possibly translate into better outcomes. There is a lot of curriculum to be covered within the 2 years that you spend in Junior College and there’s not enough time. Lots of independent learning that you will have to be doing on your end - it is really easier to do independent learning for something that you are interested in, to begin with.

I said possibly - and it is not always the case that what you are most interested in turns out to be the subject you end up excelling in. I’ve always been more interested in Geography during my JC days, but I’ve consistently done better in Economics through-out my 2 years of JC than for Geography.

But really, you have 4 subjects you are deciding on, surely you shouldn’t be doing 4 subjects that you dread doing. Include subjects that you like into the mix.

School’s performance in the subject

I’m not too sure where you can get past years’ statistics from. It would probably be too late for you to wait till 22nd February 2019 which is the release of A Level results for the 2018 candidates (affectionately known as J3s in many schools).

If you can get access to past years performance of the school, study them carefully.

If the school has consistently performed well. We define ‘performing well’ to be achieving a distinction rate that is significantly above the national distinction rate - and also whether such a statistic is a ‘consistent’ one that is upheld across the years, and whether this statistic was ‘improving’.


if XJC (an imaginary JC) has a distinction rate for Economics of 45% when the national average is 25%, and this result has been held constant of between 40% to 50% in the last 5 years - we would gather the school’s Economics performance has been quite strong.

This could be indicative that the school probably has a strong team of Economics teachers, good resources and generally you would be in good hands. Thus, this would be a good subject to consider taking.

But of course, there’s also the likelihood that such strong results are also indication of the students capabilities already determined by O Levels / PSLE grades at play as well.

Pathways to Universities

Most people regard this as the most important factor, when in my opinion this should be the least important factor unless you are

  1. Exceedingly brilliant that you know you are going to score straight As for sure

  2. You want to do specific courses that require specific subjects as a pre-requisite

Other-wise - this should be the least important factor, because frankly speaking if you don’t do well at all in your A Levels, your choices are going to be restricted anyway.

Thus - consider this last unless you belong to the first 2 groups.

But as a general rule, unless you are intending to do a humanities OR arts related course that is NOT Economics in university, Mathematics is a good subject to include in your mix.

If there is a remote chance at all that you will be taking Science or Engineering at university level, then include Physics / Chemistry in your mix.


Thus - take subjects you know you are going to do well in, followed by subjects you know you are interested in, include school’s performance into your consideration as well before looking at subjects that open more pathways to universities

Student HelpEUGENE TOH