H2 Math Bell Curve

As mentioned in H2 Maths Distinction Rate (Percentage of As), the national distinction rate for H2 Math is usually around 50%. That is, 50% of all students will get ‘A’ grade for H2 Math. (Note that this statistic is heavily skewed by the top tier JCs where close to 80%-90% of all students get ‘A’ for H2 Math.)

According to numerous online sources, such as Reddit, this year’s (2018) H2 Math paper was significantly harder than previous years. It featured many “out-of-the-box” questions that are not found in the Ten-Year-Series. The “bug” question featuring a “bug” walking in a zig-zag fashion and falling into a “blackhole” stumped many students. Certain topics, such as PnC (Permutations and Combinations) are totally left out, prompting students to say that it is a case of “PnC —> “high investment Low returns “ More like “high investment NO returns”. (Update: The “bug” question is a disguised PnC question.)

Despite all these, there are still many students who honestly think that the paper was doable, or even easy. Probably these are the students who have practiced Prelim papers of top schools like Hwa Chong or Raffles, and hence are used to such tough questions.

The usual consensus is that a high 70s mark (>75) is sufficient to get A for H2 Math. Low 70s (70-74) is quite risky and may either be ‘B’ or ‘A’ grade depending on the difficulty of the paper.

Someone actually created a poll (https://strawpoll.com/zh7r7xh7) for the H2 Math 2018 scores. It is quite possible to predict your own score accurately since the answers will be circulating online soon after the exam. Based on the poll, ignoring the typo error that is “75-89” is meant to be “75-79”, we can see that the cut-off for ‘A’ grade for 2018 should be in the range 70-74. This is based on the hypothesis that the 50% distinction rate holds.

The bellcurve for A levels is apparently set by SEAB (Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board), while Cambridge does the marking. According to an “old examiner report“, Cambridge likened grading to swimming a lap. They said that a candidate who could ‘compete a lap’ would be given due credit regardless of the number of people who also completed the lap. After Cambridge finishes marking and gives the numerical score, the bell curving will be processed by SEAB to determine the final grade, that is, ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C,’ and so on. This is probably necessary to ensure a “consistent” grade distribution so that university admissions can go smoothly, and that grades from different years are roughly comparable.

O Level Bell Curve

Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/singapore/comments/73cmgi/o_level_bellcurve/

It is well known that the “bell curve” is applied to the O Levels result. The most notorious example is E Maths, where 90+ or high 80s is required for the top grade of A1. The traditional mark of 75 is only enough for B3/B4 in the actual O levels.

Update: According to official sources, “grade boundaries” instead of bell curve is being applied to O Levels / A Levels. Technically, there is a subtle difference between the two since the bell curve refers to the normal distribution in statistics. Hence, technically, “bell curve” is not applied to O levels. However, for laymen, “grade boundaries” and “bell curve” are essentially the same thing, meaning that the percentage of A1s or As is being externally controlled by the examiners in the form of “grade boundaries”. It is definitely not the case that 75 marks is sufficient for A1 in ‘O’ Levels, or 70 marks is sufficient for A in ‘A’ Levels. It is being moderated and controlled via the “grade boundaries” determined by Cambridge which depends on the difficulty of the paper and possibly other factors like the cohort’s overall performance.

The quintessential discussion on bell curve in O Levels is this Reddit post: https://www.reddit.com/r/SGExams/comments/c1jqzr/o_levels_no_bell_curve/.

According to multiple users on Reddit, the bell curve estimate for Maths in 2016 is:

Emath: 95

Estimated a 92. Was pretty confident that I’ll get an A1. My math teacher even said that it’ll be ~88 due to the difficulty of the paper. Ended up with an A2 zzz.

Amath: 90

Paper 1 was tricky but paper 2 was manageable. Same thing as above. Estimated a 87, but got an A2.

“2015 O levels, I got double A1s for both maths. My E-Math estimate is on 96% and A-Math on 90%. The curve on E-Math is far steeper than A-Math, but if you wanna get the double A1s, grind and aim for perfection.”

For the A2/B3 grade, it is less demanding, but still significantly above 70:

Bellcurve is always unfavourable to E Maths student but kinda favourable to A Maths student.

I think I only got 78-79% for E Maths and I got A2 in the end.

While for A Maths, I know I only got 60-64% and in the end B3.

Other sources like Kiasuparents gave the following estimate:

Even if people minus a lot of marks for working… The emath A1 won’t be less than 85.. The paper is too easy. That’s why They moderate the bell curve up by so much.

And not only my teachers, but teachers in other schools as well have told their students that if they think a score of ~75 can get them an A1, they should b expecting a B3/B4 instead.

Do you have any experience with the bell curve? Share your experience in the comments below!

Education News: Princeton University abolishes “Bell Curve” (O Level Bell Curve)

O Level Bell Curve Discussion

With the O Levels and A Levels coming up, a recent topic of talk is what the “Bell Curve” will be like. Some subjects, especially O Level E Maths, are notorious for having a extremely high bell curve. Students allegedly need more than 90 marks to secure an A1 for E Maths (Elementary Maths) at the O Levels.

Will the O Level abolish the “Bell Curve” system one day? Virtually nobody likes the “Bell Curve” system, other than those at the top of the curve. Some bad points about the “Bell Curve” system is that students can become quite competitve, as they know that the number of As is limited. Ideally, cooperation and discussion among students are needed to improve their knowledge. Students who help one another create a friendly and conducive environment for learning.

What do you think? Post your comments below!

Source: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/new-jersey-more/item/73702-princeton-nixes-suggested-limit-on-a-grades

Princeton University's Blair Tower photographed from above (Alan Tu/WHYY)

Rest easy, Tigers. Princeton University is reversing its longstanding policy on “A” grades.

For the last 10 years, the school’s official grading policy has recommended that professors don’t award A’s to more than 35 percent of students in undergraduate classes.

It was meant to remedy the rampant grade inflation that had taken place on campus in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Since the policy took effect, the number of A’s awarded dropped and grade deflation began to set in.

But the policy had unintended side effects.

“Many students commented that the atmosphere on campus had become overly competitive,” said engineering professor Dr. Clancy Rowley. “They were intentionally not helping each other for fear that the other student would get the A grade at their expense.”

Read more at: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/new-jersey-more/item/73702-princeton-nixes-suggested-limit-on-a-grades

Featured book:

Inequality by Design: Cracking the Bell Curve Myth

A1 marks for A Maths / E Maths

How many marks to get A1 for A Maths / E Maths for O Levels?

The official answer is not released by Cambridge / MOE, but it is definitely not 75 as the papers are subject to the bell curve (using normal distribution).

According to popular forum Hardwarezone:

Hello! Was wondering how much marks do I have to get in order to get A1… Many have been saying you need to get 90%. Is it really 90% for both Maths?

Cambridge has never revealed its score. Was wondering what you hve heard from your teachers or from other reliable sources. Thank you!

Appreciate it very much.

Ans by a forummer: 90 marks for emaths. 80+ for amaths

Now, getting 90 marks for E Maths is no mean feat. But it is possible with practice and the right coaching!

Getting 80+ for A Maths is no joke either. If you have taken A Maths before you know how difficult it is, and usually for any test in school more than half the class will fail.

We must approach the O Levels with the right positive mindset:

1) It is always possible to improve. No matter how weak the student is in Maths, it is always possible to improve. The key thing is to:

2) Start revision and practice early. The earlier you start revision and practicing Maths, the more chance of improvement you have!

3) Learn to love math and appreciate its beauty, or at least try your best not to hate math. Since Math is pretty much compulsory till JC, why not try to like it? Adopt a positive mindset and you will be able to study for longer hours for Maths, which will translate to a better score in the end.

If you are looking to brush up on your A Maths / E Maths skills and learn some tips on scoring during exams, join our weekly group tuition at Bishan!


E Maths Group Tuition and Why E Maths is actually more difficult than A Maths


Come for E Maths Tuition at Bishan! Conveniently located at Block 230 Bishan Street 23 #B1-35 S(570230), near Catholic High School.


  • Monday 7pm-9pm (E Maths)

(Perfect for students who have CCA in the afternoon, or students who want to keep their weekends free.)

Do not underestimate E Maths!

Those who truly understand the Maths Syllabus at Secondary Level will know that E Maths is in some ways, more difficult than A Maths. Not to mention the infamous E Maths Bell Curve, which is definitely well above 75 marks to get a chance of A1. (Some sources say the Bell Curve for E Maths is 90 marks. See http://forums.sgclub.com/singapore/questions_about_o_378705.html )

“Amaths is good, like ditzy said, I tell you, if you practise amaths everyday and do past years papers, you can see amaths quite okay one. During my secondary school years i felt that emaths more difficult than amaths.”

Source: http://sgforums.com/forums/2297/topics/401226

“You can ask many people out there, which one is more tedious and require thinking more, they’ll say emaths.
Reason simple very simple:
They throw an entire paragraph at you which hidden clues here and there, slight errors is almost unavoidable.
Short and simple, they throw question at you. Just solve. End of story.”

Source: http://forums.sgclub.com/singapore/additional_maths_hard_336484.html

My year some speculated that E Maths A1 was as high as 90?”

Source: http://forums.sgclub.com/singapore/questions_about_o_378705.html