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Last Updated: 06 March 2023

Normal (Academic) course for secondary school

Normal (Academic) is a 4-year or 5-year course leading to the GCE N-Level examination in Secondary 4. Some students go on to take the GCE O-Level examination in Secondary 5, and progress to junior college, Millennia Institute, polytechnic or Institute of Technical Education (ITE). The 2023 Secondary 1 cohort will be the final cohort being placed in courses, including the Normal (Academic) course.

Overview Subjects

Normal (Academic) course at a glance

Course type


Course length

4 or 5 years

Course eligibility

PSLE Score 21 - 25*

* PSLE Scores of 21 - 22 are in the Express/Normal (Academic) Option Band
* PSLE Score of 25 is in the Normal (Academic)/Normal (Technical) Option Band

Subjects at lower secondary

Students are exposed to a wide range of subjects at the lower secondary level to:

  • Help them make informed choices on their subjects at upper secondary level and beyond.
  • Prepare them to cope with these subjects at upper secondary level.

The subjects offered are:

  • English Language
  • Mother Tongue Languages
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Character and Citizenship Education
  • Humanities, such as Geography, History and Literature in English
  • Design and Technology
  • Food and Consumer Education
  • Physical Education
  • Art
  • Music
  • Project Work
Compulsory subjects at upper secondary

English Language, Mother Tongue Language, Mathematics, Science, Humanities (with Social Studies)

Options and electives
  • Students who have obtained AL 5 or better in a Standard level subject at the PSLE will have the option to take the subject at the Express level through Subject-Based Banding (SBB).
  • Elective subjects available at upper secondary
  • Elective programmes available
Certifications offered
  • Secondary 4: GCE N(A)-Level and/or GCE O-Level (for subjects offered at O-Level)
  • Secondary 5: GCE O-Level
Next educational level

After N-Level:

After O-Level:

  • Junior college, Millennia Institute, polytechnic or Institute of Technical Education (ITE)

Taking Express level subjects

Lower secondary students can take certain subjects at the Express level through Subject-Based Banding (SBB). Your child can take subjects at the Express level if:

  • They obtained AL 5 or better at the Standard level for that subject at the PSLE.
  • They do well in the school-based examination, and the school finds them suitable after starting Secondary 1.
Note: From 2024, secondary schools will implement Full SBB. Learn more about it.

Transferring to the Express course

Your child may transfer to the Express course at the end of Secondary 1 Normal (Academic) or the end of Secondary 2 Normal (Academic).

Transfers are based on student performance, and the professional assessment of their teachers and principal. Speak to your child’s school for more information on transfer criteria.


GCE N-Level and O-Level examination

In Secondary 4, your child will will sit for the GCE N-Level examination. Most students in Normal (Academic) take between 5 and 8 subjects.

If your child is taking any Express course subjects, they may sit for the O-Level examination in that subject at Secondary 4.


After Secondary 4

Depending on your child’s results at the GCE N-Level examination in Secondary 4, they can:

  • Enrol directly in ITE for a National ITE Certificate (Nitec) or Higher Nitec course through the Direct-Entry-Scheme to Polytechnic Programme (DPP).
  • Continue to Secondary 5 and sit for the O-Level examination. Based on their O-Level results, interests, strengths and learning goals, they can consider progressing to junior college, Millennia Institute, polytechnic or the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).
  • Eligible students can apply for the Polytechnic Foundation Programme (PFP) and enrol in a Polytechnic.

Polytechnic Foundation Programme (PFP)

PFP is a one-year programme taught at polytechnics, as an alternative to Secondary 5.

If your child passes all their PFP modules, they will be admitted to a polytechnic diploma programme.

PFP eligibility is based on students’ N-Level aggregate score.

More on PFP eligibility.

Direct-Entry-Scheme to Polytechnic Programme (DPP)

DPP allows students to take a two-year Higher Nitec course at the ITE as an alternative to Secondary 5.

If your child successfully completes the course with the minimum grade-point-average (GPA), they will be admitted to the first or second year of a related polytechnic diploma programme.

DPP eligibility is based on students’ N-Level aggregate score.

More on DPP eligibility.