After Secondary 2, students must choose their subject combinations for Upper Secondary. These subjects will also be taken for the Singapore-Cambridge GCE O Level. Students must then choose between Pure Sciences and Combined Sciences, which poses a dilemma for many students. Even if students choose to enrol in Pure Science, they must then determine whether to enrol in Double Sciences or Triple Sciences.
If they are eligible, we strongly recommend that students select Pure Sciences. Criteria vary from school to school, but schools typically consider Overall Grades and Science and Mathematics Grades. After their GCE O Level, students who wish to pursue GCE A Level (Science Course) or Science-related courses in the numerous Singapore Polytechnics will benefit from taking Pure Sciences. However, after Secondary 3, if students have demonstrated that they cannot handle Pure Sciences, they will be given the option to switch to Combined Sciences.
What are the distinctions between Pure Sciences and Combined Sciences?
Pure Sciences will encompass approximately 20% more content than O Level Combined Sciences in terms of coverage. For instance, Pure Chemistry encompasses topics such as Electrochemistry and Ammonia that Combined Chemistry does not. Questions in Pure Sciences may not be as straightforward as those in Combined Sciences. The Pure Sciences emphasise both Data Reading & Analysis and Concept Application.
Due to the experimental nature of the sciences, students must also complete a practical as part of their examination. For Pure Sciences, students will take three separate assessments (known as School-based Science Practical Assessments, or SPA) during curriculum periods. In contrast, for Combined Sciences, students will take only one assessment (Paper 5) in mid-October. In Pure Sciences, students are evaluated based on their experimental techniques and response scripts, whereas in Combined Sciences, students are graded solely based on their answer scripts. (However, students may also be penalised if they request assistance, etc.).
The grade for Combined Sciences is derived from the two Sciences courses, whereas the grade for Pure Sciences is based on a single subject. For instance, a student who received an A1 for one subject and a C6 for another will likely receive a B if they take Combined Sciences but will receive two distinct grades (A1 and C6) if they choose Pure Sciences. In addition, the C6 will probably not be factored into calculating aggregate scores for admission to Junior Colleges / Polytechnics.
Double Sciences or Triple Sciences?
Students are only advised to enrol in Triple Sciences if they earned an excellent grade (ideally 85 per cent or higher) in Lower Secondary Sciences. If not, students are encouraged to enrol in Double Sciences. Some institutions in Singapore have discontinued the Triple Sciences combination, requiring students to take Double Sciences instead. This is likely due to the school’s desire to develop “well-rounded” students; therefore, schools would like to offer subjects from all disciplines (e.g., language & linguistics, humanities) to broaden the student’s horizons.