Secondary school students to have 1 common national exam from 2027, GCE O- & N-Level exams to be scrapped

The change also means that students will only be able to take their mother tongue language (MTL) exam once.

Ilyda Chua | March 02, 2024, 02:31 PM



This year's Secondary One students will be the first batch to sit for the new Singapore-Cambridge Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) examinations — a common national exam for all secondary school students.

The SEC will replace the current GCE O- and N-Level examinations, which will be scrapped from 2027.

This change comes under the new Full Subject-Based Banding (SBB) system, said Minister for Education Chan Chun Sing in Parliament on Mar. 1.

It was previously discussed in 2019 by then-Education Minister Ong Ye Kung.

Different papers for different subject levels

The current system involves streaming students into the Express, Normal (Academic), and Normal (Technical) streams, based on their overall academic results.

Express students sit for their O-Levels in October, while students in the Normal stream sit for their N-Levels in September.

But under the new Full SBB system, all students will instead take just one national exam: the SEC.

Similarly to the H1, H2, and H3 system in the A-Levels, there will be different papers for different subject levels.

Students will be able to take subjects at the level that suits them best, based on their strengths and interests.

The subjects will be mapped in this manner:

  • Normal (Technical) level -> General (1) or G1
  • Normal (Academic) -> General (2) or G2
  • Express -> General (3) or G3

To spread out their exam load, students will take their English and MTL written exams in the second week of September, while the rest of the exams will take place in the next month.

Their scores, with their respective levels and combinations, will then be reflected on their SECs.

Can only take MTL once

The change also means that students will only be able to take their mother tongue language (MTL) exam once.

Previously, O-Level students were able to retake the exam at the end of year, after their first mid-year attempt.

The minister explained that when the O-Level MTL exam was first introduced in 1980, less than 40 per cent passed both their first and second languages.

"So we allowed students to take their MTL exam twice, to meet the Second Language requirement for Pre-University."

However, this is no longer the case. A second sitting only changed the post-secondary posting outcomes for less than two per cent of students, according to MOE's analysis.

"I understand that some may be concerned that they will have one less chance to improve their MTL grades," Chan said.

"But we need to strike a careful balance between striving for excellence, chasing the last mark, and allowing our students to learn at a better pace."

Top image from MCI/Youtube and MOE/Facebook