What to do if fail O level Singapore

Recently, there is positive news that polytechnic students no longer need to “depend” on their O level results to enter university.

Most students will aim for JC (Junior College) or Poly (Polytechnic) admission after their O levels. Outright failure (F9) is quite rare for O levels, but students need to be careful as too many borderline passes like D7/C6 can lead to a score that is technically a pass, but not enough to enter JC or Poly. (See: Academic grading in Singapore: How many marks to get A in Maths for PSLE, O Levels, A Levels)

What to do if do badly for O level Singapore for key subjects

Method 1: Write Appeal Letters

Certain subjects (especially Mathematics) are more important to pass than others. According to this post on Quora, failing Mathematics can mean “auto rejection from all poly courses”.

Failing English is also quite serious as Poly seems to require D7 and above for English. This may be a problem for foreign students. There are indeed students who ace all subjects except English, they qualify for JC but not polytechnic! (See this post on Kiasuparents.)

The solution is: write appeal letters. Polytechnics do have some room for discretionary admission for borderline cases. So do try this option and do not give up.

“So off I went to most of the polytechnics to talk to their lecturers and submit my appeal. SP I did not go because I felt they were too good for me. Ngee Ann Poly I did not submit my appeal out of silly pride because the lecturer I talked to mocked & laughed at me. But for the rest, the lecturers I talked to were pretty kind even though they honestly tell me my chances are low. So I wrote my appeal letters talking about myself, my journey, what I did wrong, what I could have done & why I am suitable for the course I am applying.

RP was the first to accept me for their IT course and made me go through some programme first. Temasek come later wanting to interview me but I declined as I accepted RP offer already. NYP rejected me without an interview.”

Source: https://www.quora.com/Whats-your-story-after-failing-O-levels-in-Singapore

Method 2: Alternative Route of ITE -> Poly -> Degree

This alternative route is also possible. The journey is not easy though, as this Quora post mentions:

“So I took my Higher Nitec in Information Technology in 2004. The only reason why I took Information Technology was because I was good with computers. I did HTML coding in secondary school and I was good at Photoshop. That was a great advantage. For me, Higher Nitec was much easier than O Levels. I easily scored a high GPA in 2006 and managed to get a place in Nanyang Polytechnic where I continued studying Information Technology.

To be honest, polytechnic was far more challenging but I was determined to prove my parents wrong. I continued my full-time studies while working part-time as a barista so that I can pay my school fees and daily expenses. It wasn’t easy and some days I did skip classes because I was burnt out from work and school. I did fairly good, scored a 2.6 GPA in 2009 and went on to serve my 2-year mandatory national service in the military.

In 2011, after finishing my national service, I was employed in an institution as an IT support. In 2012, I had plans to take up part-time degree. So I moved on in 2013, got a better paying job, took my part-time BSc in Cyber Forensics and Information Security Management and graduated. Working full-time and taking a part-time degree has got to be the most taxing feeling I have ever had. I had to juggle work with studies. There were school projects and essays. It was challenging but I made it.”

Source: https://www.quora.com/Whats-your-story-after-failing-O-levels-in-Singapore

Method 3: O Level Private Candidate

Another possible route is retaking O levels as a private candidate. This route is also not easy as it involves discipline in studying by oneself. Possibly a better option is to enroll in private schools, or hire private tutors for those weaker subjects.

Method 4: Go Overseas

This method is unfortunately only for those who are well off (a.k.a. rich). The Singaporean O Level is the hardest version of the O Levels (compared to the UK or the Hongkong papers). Hence, chances are high that even a relatively academically weak Singaporean student can do quite well in overseas education systems like Australia, UK, US, etc.


Do read our blog on: Inspirational story: From EM3 and Normal (Technical) to PhD. Also very motivational is: From PSLE 124 to PhD A*Star Researcher. Nowadays, having a failure in the early section of education is not the end. There are different pathways to success, though some are longer than others. As Robert Frost wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

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