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The Complete Guide For A-Level Private Candidates

A-level exams are difficult. The syllabus is extensive and it is difficult to score well. You have to focus, dedicate, and be consistent to score good grades.

However, it becomes even more difficult for private candidates. This is because there is no one to guide them through the entire process. They have to study on their own, keep up with important registration deadlines, and much more.

If you are still considering to retake the A level exams, read this article for more options before taking the plunge.

This is an additional burden and one that can be eased with a simple guide. If you are a private candidate then here is everything you need to know about A-Level exams.

Registration Information

The registration starts at the beginning of March every year. That is when you should look out for dates so you can register for the exams you want to sit for.

The minimum age requirement for the A-level exam is 17 years old. On the other hand, the maximum subjects allowed for A-levels are five H1 subjects and three H2 subjects or three H1 subjects and four H2 subjects.

You can choose from these two combinations of subjects to give your exam.

Examination Fee

In Singapore, the fee for your exam depends on your citizenship. However, every fee includes the basic fee and subject fee. Here is a breakdown of the fee structure for every citizen in Singapore:

  • Singapore Citizen: Your basic fee will be $64 and if you register for local subjects only then your fee will be $32
  • Singapore Permanent Resident: Your basic fee will be $80 and if you register for local subjects only then your fee will be $40
  • International Student: Your basic fee will be $100 and if you register for local subjects only then your fee will be $50

These fee amounts are subject to a GST tax of 7%. One thing to also remember here is that these can be subject to change in 2021 as these amounts are for the year 2020.

The subject fee is also dependent on the subjects you choose for your exams. However, for Singapore Citizens, it will generally be between $80 to $160 and for Singapore Permanent Residents and International Students, it will be between $200 to $350. 

Payment Mode

As a private candidate, there are two modes of payment:

  • Online Payment: Any credit/debit card can be utilized for this
  • Cash/NETs Payment: This can be made at any SingPost office or NETs payment at S.A.M (self-automated machine)

If you are paying through the S.A.M or SingPost then you need to quote the reference number in your Payment Advice Slip from Internet Examination Registration System (iERS).

Choosing H1 And H2 Subjects

This is perhaps the most difficult decision for any student as choosing a subject will set the tone for their entire A-level journey. Now, as a private candidate, you will have two levels of subjects.

These two levels include H1 (higher 1) and H2 (higher 2). You need to remember that at least 1 out of every 4 subjects should be from the opposite discipline as all the subjects can't belong to the same group.

For example, if you are taking three subjects from the Mathematics group then the other one can be from the Humanities group. So far so simple right?

Here are some of the most common subjects that private candidates choose for their exams:

  • History
  • Geography
  • General Paper
  • Literature in English
  • Biology
  • Principles of Accounting
  • Economics
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Mathematics
  • Tamil
  • Malay
  • Chinese

And many more. Your A-level results will also reflect which university you will get admission into. So, before you go on to choose your A-level subjects you must research the universities you want to attend. We have a write-up here to help you kickstart your research: Local vs Private Universities: Things to look out for

Once that is done, then you can choose the subjects accordingly. Every university has a different acceptance criterion for the course you want to pursue so proper research here is important.

Independent Studying

This is perhaps the most intimidating part of undertaking A-levels as a private candidate. You are all on your own and so you need to figure out how you are going to study all by yourself.

Independent studying is difficult, yes. However, it is not impossible. Hundreds of students appear as private candidates every year and they do just as well as the students who are giving their examinations through a school or institution.

The main problem that occurs is how do you find the resources to study? Well, keep reading to find out the answer.

Resources For Independent Studying

You probably know someone who is appearing for A-level through a school. If you need help with resources then you can call them and ask them the books that are being used to teach the subjects you want to go for.

Once you have this information you can purchase the books yourself and start studying. Apart from books, you can also ask them to provide you with any sort of notes or papers that can be helpful to you. Remember, to also get assessment books when you are making your purchases.

If you don't know anyone who is enrolled in an institution then you will have to do your research to find books for the subjects you are going to choose. Technology is a blessing. There are hundreds of resources on YouTube that you can utilize to study.

Do remember that before you buy any sort of books you should ensure that they are up to date with your exam syllabus and requirements. Books keep on changing and updating so make sure you have the latest version.

Studying Through Tuition Centres Or Other Institutions

Private candidates are not completely alone. Many tuition centres and private A-level tutors are offered to such candidates so they can also learn properly. These are either conducted one or one or are in a group of a few students.

One-on-one lessons are usually more expensive so do check the tutoring costs before you decide to opt for one. However, if you think that they can help you get the highest grades then go for it.

Such lessons will provide you with the resources you need to score well. If you think you need more discipline when it comes to studying then having a tutor can go a long way.

A-Level Course Through An Institution

A-level courses are also offered by institutions that are more or less similar to junior colleges. These institutions offer classes to many private candidates in one setting.

You will be attending these courses with other students who are private candidates just like you. All these institutions have different periods for their courses. Some are year-long, some are for ten months, and some are for two years.

Do note that you don't register for your exam through these institutions. You will still be a private candidate. These institutions are more like tuition centers that you will attend. Here are some of the options to choose from:

All these work just like a JC and you will be attending classes at a fixed time. So, if you didn't attend a JC to have more flexibility in your life then these courses will not be suitable for you as you will have to be there for your classes and these courses are also expensive.

They can range anywhere between $10,000 to $20,000. This is why you must understand the benefit it will give you before you opt for such an expensive course.

Which Is Better – JC Or Being A Private Candidate?

It has been a long time since A-levels have been de-linked from the ones in the UK. This is why you will notice that your exams are much more difficult than the ones that are being conducted elsewhere.

This is why the path of choosing a JC or being a private candidate is a tough one. There is no guarantee that you will pass the exam just because you have enrolled in a JC. Many students from such institutions fail every year too.

However, as a private candidate, you will have to work much harder when it comes to acing your exams. In the end, it is all about being determined, focused, and giving your all.

With the right mindset and organization skills, you can achieve anything you want to in life. If you are a private candidate struggling with A-levels then don't worry. There are many resources out there to help you out.

If you are not taking a course or utilizing an institution then the best course of action is to start studying at least more than ten months before your exams.

This will provide you with the time you need to sort out all your materials and make a study plan. Once you do, stick to it and be consistent.

Final Words

A-levels may be difficult but you can do it. You have to be willing to put in the effort to get the highest grades and be successful. We hope this guide helped sort out all your queries as a private candidate!

More informative guides to help you:
5 Power Tips to ace the AQ section of A level General Paper (GP)
Ultimate Guide to Economics Tuition in Singapore - 32 listings!
How to Score A for H2 Chemistry A-level

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About Author

Tutor City's blog focuses on balancing informative and relevant content, never at the expense of providing an enriching read. 

We want our readers to expand their horizons by learning more and find meaning to what they learn.

Resident author - Mr Wee Ben Sen, has a wealth of experience in crafting articles to provide valuable insights in the field of private education.

Ben Sen has also been running Tutor City, a leading home tuition agency in Singapore since 2010.


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