• Darrell

JC or Poly? - The Ultimate Guide (2021)

Updated: Jan 15

Before you even receive your ‘O’ levels results, this question must have been lingering in your mind for quite some time. JC or poly?

Gone are the days where Junior College is deemed as the superior choice compared to Polytechnics. Both education institutions are great in their own rights and focuses on academic learning through fundamentally different approaches.

Wondering what’s the difference between the 2? Let’s break it down.

Junior College Route

Junior college last for 2 years and you will have to take the ‘A’ levels examination at the end of your JC journey.

In JC, you will be required to choose between 2 streams.

Science stream*: - Math (H2) - Chemistry (H2) - Physics/ Biology (H2) - One humanities (economics, geography, history, literature etc…) (H1) - General Paper (H1) - Project Work (H1)

Arts stream*: - Economics (H2) - Geography/History (H2) - Literature (H2) - Math (H1) - General Paper (H1) - Project Work (H1)

Each H2 subject is worth 20 rank points while each H1 subject is worth 10 rank points. Local university admission is calculated based on your rank point out of 90.

H2 subjects

'A' - 20 rank points

'B' - 17.5 rank points

'C' - 15 rank points


H1 subjects

'A' - 10 rank points

'B' - 8.75 rank points

'C' - 7.5 rank points


For a rough estimation, most local university courses require 70 rank points and above, with the more prestigious courses like computing, medicine & law requiring 85 rank points or the full 90 rank points. You can refer to a compiled list here.

*I do want to clarify that the examples given above are typical combinations but there are also hybrid combinations, H3 subjects and Knowledge & Inquiry (KI). Do find out more once you enter your JC.

A good advice as to which stream to choose is to look further down the road and look at which university course you intend to enroll to. Certain courses have entry prerequisites or module exemptions for certain introductory courses if you do well in ‘A’ levels.

If you are leaning towards engineering and science related courses in university, you should definitely take the science stream. If you are intending to do more humanities related courses like psychology or social science, you will be better off in the arts stream.

If you are not too sure what to expect in JC yet, check out our article on '7 Hard Truths of JC Life in Singapore."

Polytechnic route

Polytechnic will last for 3 years and you will be graded through your Grade Point Average (GPA) which takes into account your results across all your semesters.

In polytechnic, you are to select your choice of course and you will then be required to take modules relevant to your course every semester. These modules may be graded based on exams or project work.

You can check out the list of courses available here.

Do note that most polytechnics will have an internship opportunity during one of your semester in your final year. This will help you gain real world working experience and to pick up skill sets relevant to your area of study.

Pros & Cons

Now that we have done a rough break down of what to expect from each route, let’s analyse the pros & cons of both options.

JC route

Pros: - Shorter duration (2 Years) - Cheaper school fees - Flexible subject combination - Standard student life similar to ‘O’ levels - around 70% of ‘A’ levels holder go on to local university

Cons: - Heavier academic workload - Very structured school timetable - Retaining is a possibility - Stiff academic competition from IP school students

Poly route

Pros: - University-like school environment - No uniforms - Internship opportunity - Less intense academic load with more emphasis on project work and presentations - Large range of courses to choose from - Better school infrastructures - Cooler orientations - More free time and freedom

Cons: - only the top 20% of the poly cohort enters local universities - More expensive school fees ($200-$300 monthly) - 3 year timeline - Maintenance of grade (GPA every semester) - ‘Hell week’, when all modules’ assignments deadline are due in the same week

I do want to clear up misconceptions that going to a polytechnic means you will not be able to make it to a local university. That is untrue and there is an increasing trend of polytechnic graduates entering local universities. Nowadays, 1 in 3 university admissions is a poly graduate.

The key deciding factor should be which education path suits you best.

If you already have a strong idea of what you want to do in the future, heading to polytechnic and specializing in your area of interest might be a lot better for your personal and professional growth. Going the poly route also gives you the opportunity for internships which helps you learn real world skills and network with people in the industry.

However, if you are still unclear of where you will like to do in the future, the 2 years in JC might be a good buffer for you to sharpen your academic thinking and put you in the best position to excel in university.

Regardless of whether you head to a JC or Poly, you will still need to do well to gain admission to university. There is no easy route here.

This article merely gives you a glimpse of what JC & Poly life looks like. Why not hear from ex-JC student & ex-Poly students themselves?

OVERMUGGED is proud to present to you our ‘JC vs Poly’ webinar where we invited 4 panelists to share more about their JC/Poly experiences and how it helped them get into a local university!

You can watch the recorded version here!

At OVERMUGGED, we are always looking to help students along in their academic journeys.

If you are heading to JC next year and have yet to join our ‘A’ levels channel, please do so now and gain access and the latest updates when our tutor team release high quality free notes for Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Math, Economics, History & General Paper!

If you are unsure how to calculate your L1R5 or L1R4, you can read our guide here!

We hope that this article has given you a better framework to think about your decision between JC vs Poly!

Do follow us on Instagram for the latest updates and check out our weekly podcast on Spotify as well!

Brought to you by OVERMUGGED.

By Tutors, For Students

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