What is the difference between O level and A level examinations?

Final year national examinations signify the end of a journey and the start of a journey for many. When leaving primary schools, all students must write the PSLE, the O level examinations  (ordinary level) signify the end of students’ secondary education, and the A level examinations (advanced level) signify the end of junior college. Students that do not go to Junior college may go through other major examinations in their lives, but they will not write the A-level examinations.

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The A-level and O-level examinations are challenging and thus there are many A-level tuition teachers and O-level tuition teachers out there, ready to lend some help.

So, What Is the Difference Between O Level And A Level Examinations?

  1. Firstly, the O level is exam that students write at the end of their secondary education, which the A level exams are written at the end of a junior college education.
  2. One exception is for students who take a higher mother tongue; they must write their O level for normal mother tongue at the secondary 3 levels.
  3. Depending on the students’ subject combination, they will write their relevant examinations for the subjects that they chose to take in secondary 3.
  4. For A levels, the subject combination will be chose based on the level of H1 and H2. H3 will be done on Jc year 2 based on astounding results achieved in JC year.
  5. For O levels, the grading will be A1, A2, B3, B4, C5, C6, D7, E8 or F9. Whereas for A levels, the grading would be A, B, C, D, S (Sub pass) and U (Undergrade).


The subjects at the O level can seem to be new and challenging. Before subject combinations were chosen, subjects like science and math were taught in a generic manner. But after secondary 2, the subjects get further branched out into physics, biology and chemistry, elementary mathematics, additional mathematics, and the principle of accounts.

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Subjects like English would be dealt with greater depth. O level English tuition teachers prepare students ahead for challenges that would even be encountered for General Paper in junior college. O-level tutors (in school and in private tuition) emphasize the need for students to cultivate discipline and learn to stick to a regime because that will teach students to habitualise good time management, which only comes with plenty of years of practice.


The journey towards A-level is considered a nightmare for most JC students! It is notorious for sleepless nights of studying, rushing against time to complete project work drafts to meet deadlines, and surviving on loads of coffee to get through a day full of lectures and frequent lecture tests.

A-level tuition in general can seem a little expensive so a student from a household of a decent income would mostly sign themselves for tuition for a maximum of 2 subjects. Level tutors empathize with students’ struggles and ensure that they provide them with tips and tricks to tackle exams easily!


In grading for the O level, the number next to the grade signifies the points that the student receives for the subject. The higher the points, the worse the performance in the subject. Among the subjects that the student took, 1 language and 5 other subjects will be chosen so that the student is able to receive the lowest cumulative point possible.


Moreover, if the student took the Higher mother tongue, 2 points will be reduced from the total. Similarly, depending on the CIP hours and commitment that the student had to his or her CCA, a further 1 or 2 points will be reduced from the total.

The minimum score possible to achieve is an A1 for everything with a 4-point reduction resulting in a total of 2 points. Using the points that students achieved, they can apply to different junior colleges or polytechnics to proceed with their further studies, if necessary.


A level examination, as mentioned, is written at the end of their junior college journey. One exception is for students who take normal mother tongue; they must write their normal mother tongue A level examinations in their first year of Junior college.

For junior college, all students will have to take 5 subjects (General Paper, Math, Chemistry, one other science, and one humanity). These subjects can choose from 3 levels, known as H1 (the lowest level), H2, and H3 (the highest level).

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For the A-level examinations, students will be required to sit for their respective subject examinations at their respective levels. They will be given a grade based on their performance in their examinations and it can be A, B, C, D, E, S or U.


Note that unlike in the GCE O level, these grades are not associated with any numbers as A level performance is not based on points. Instead, a cumulative score out of 100 will be calculated for students using a distribution curve of the different marks of the population.

This score will be useful in applying for universities almost everywhere around the world.  Hence, it is important to perform well in both O levels and A level examination as it has a huge influence on career-related decisions and for further education. If students struggle with their grades and have a tough time managing schoolwork, there are even online tuition teachers to save the day!

To help you prepare for O-level exams here is a helpful article:

Tips For The Preparation Of GCE O Level Exams