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Science Stream or Arts Stream in JC? - 'A' Levels Subject Combination Guide (2021)

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

Now that you have submitted your JAE application, your fate is not yet pre-determined until you decide on your subject combination for 'A' Levels.

If you make a wise choice, the next 2 years in JC can get a lot easier! That will save you some white hair and stressful outbreaks (hopefully).

In this comprehensive 'A' Levels Subject Combination Guide, let us break it down for you and outline the impact of your subject combination choice for the next 2 years and beyond (university / career).


'A' Levels Rank points

In JC, you will be required to choose between 2 main streams, the Science Stream & the Arts Stream.

Both streams stand on equal footing when it comes to your final rank point for your 'A' Levels, however, do note that certain university courses will require some pre-requisites for their enrollment. (We will elaborate on this later!)

Here is how your rank points is calculated for university enrollment.

Your rank point is calculated out of 90. You will take a total of 3 H2 subjects (20 points each) & 3 H1 subjects (10 points each).

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 students who are able to cope and manage 4 H2 subjects, your poorest performing H2 subject will be converted to a H1 when tabulating your rank point score.

Do note that H3 subjects are not included in the rank point calculation. H3 subjects are beneficial if you are applying for scholarships or prestigious programs as it helps you stand out from the crowd.

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.


Science Stream

The majority of students entering JC will be in the science stream (70-80%). If you are wondering why, entering science stream is sort of like a gateway to entering most engineering courses in our local universities.

So without chemistry/physics/biology, you will not be able to enter any science related or engineering courses. This can severely limit your choices when it comes to course selection in university enrollment which explains why most students flock to the science stream out of 'safety'.

The two most common Science Stream subject combinations are:

1) PCME (Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Economics)

2) BCME (Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Economics)

At 'A' Levels, you are require to take 3 core subjects and 1 contrasting subject.

For the combinations above, your PCM / BCM makes up the 3 science core subjects, with Economics functioning as the contrasting humanities subject.

These 2 combinations are the 'safest' choice as they allow you to be eligible for most university courses.

Some students do take Geography, Literature or History instead of Economics as the contrasting subject. It really depends on your interest!

On top of the 4 core subjects, you will also be require to take Project Work (H1) & General Paper (H1).

Mini Dilemma: Biology or Physics?

Firstly, I think that it is important for you to understand the difference between the 2 subject's content.

The TLDR explanation would be that at 'A' Levels, Physics is more concept/formula driven with a stronger need for calculation while Biology will have a more rigorous content base.

Contrary to popular belief, to enter Medicine or Pharmacy, H2 Biology is not compulsory. The pre-requisite to enter these top courses only require 2 H2 science subjects, hence both PCME & BCME are eligible!

One point to note is that while Biology is not a pre-requisite, a lot of the content you will study in medicine/pharmacy will require knowledge from Biology, hence BCME students tend to have a head start than their PCME counterparts!

The most straightforward way to decide is to see if you took Pure Physics or Pure Biology at 'O' Levels. If you took Triple Science, you will need to make a smart decision on which combination to go for.

You can check out our 'Ep 2 - Understanding subject combinations' on our weekly Spotify podcast as we broke down the difference between 'O' Levels & 'A' Levels physics/biology.


Arts Stream

For the Arts Stream, the most common JC subject combination would be:

1) HELM (History, Econs, Literature, Math)

2) GELM (Geography, Econs, Literature, Math)

At 'A' Levels, you are require to take 3 core subjects and 1 contrasting subject.

For the combinations above, your HEL / GEL makes up the 3 humanities core subjects, with Math functioning as the contrasting science subject.

On top of the 4 core subjects, you will also be require to take Project Work (H1) & General Paper (H1).

Almost no students will take History & Geography together because the content alone will probably drive you crazy.

If you took Pure Geography or Pure History at 'O' Levels, the content you will study at 'A' Levels will be a build up hence it is advisable to further those subjects at 'A' Levels. Unless you absolutely hate the subject then choose something else. (Then why you take in the first place lol).

Students also can take ELL (English Language and Linguistics) or even a 3rd Language as a H2 subject. In some schools, you can also do China Studies (in English), Music or Art as a H2 subject.

However, do note that this depends on the JC you are heading to so please go check the school website on the subjects your JC offers!

There is also Knowledge and Inquiry (KI) which is basically a H2 version of General Paper (GP).

Knowledge and Inquiry (KI) is an elective H2 subject that studies on the nature of knowledge and its construction in areas of knowledge such as the sciences, the social sciences, mathematics, history, ethics and aesthetics.

But before you are feeling philosophical and want to take the plunge, here are 3 things to take note off.

Firstly, KI is a unique subject that does not have related Secondary subjects and University courses. Be prepared for a steep learning curve.

Secondly, most universities, be it local or overseas, simply treat KI as the equivalent of GP. So despite the extra effort and the increased difficulty in scoring well, KI is not widely acknowledged and does not bring extra competitive advantage.

Finally, the subject itself is very difficult and requires large amount of time and research on your own. Be prepared for your essays to be some next level stuff.

Don't say bo warning ah!

Good news is that for students taking KI, they do not need to take General Paper (H1). KI will function as 2 H1 subjects and can be used as a contrasting subject for both Science & Arts as your fourth contrasting subject so you will have more flexibility for your subject combination!


Hybrid Stream?

Not a science person but not a humanities person too. So how? Hybrid lor.

Hybrid streams means that instead of taking 3 core 1 contrasting, you are taking 2 core & 2 contrasting subjects.

Students usually take H2 Math, H2 Chemistry or Physics, H2 Economics & 1 other humanities.

There are tons of unique hybrid combinations so I will not delve into it. But there are 3 main warnings I must inform you of before you go down this path.

1) University pre-requisite

While you might feel like you are super 'special' in JC, you might find yourself the odd one out in university. Due to the unique combination, you might not be eligible for some courses that a Science Stream student can enroll for. The most common example would be Medicine where 2 H2 science subjects are required. H2 math does not count.

2) Timetable

Due to your unique subject combination, your timetable will be a mess and you will probably end school much later than your peers. You might also need to jump between classes to attend the lessons which mean you might be a lone wolf as compared to being around your classmates 24/7.

3) Subjected to availability

Lastly, hybrid combinations are really subjected to availability. Not all schools will be able to accommodate to your specific combination so do check if your hybrid combination is something that your JC offers!


What’s the difference between H1, H2 & H3?

Since the rank point only requires 3 H2 subjects, most students will eventually drop their weakest H2 subject to H1 level.

In general, we can assume that H1 subjects have 50-60% the content as compared to its H2 counterpart.

The skills and techniques will still be held to the same standard but the amount of chapters will be lesser. It's pretty much like Pure science vs Combined Science or Pure History vs Elective History.

Having 4 H2 subjects can be a good thing as it gives you an extra safety net in case you choke and one of your H2 subjects take an unexpected drop at 'A' Levels. Your lowest H2 subject will be converted to a H1 and the impact on your rank point will then be minimized.

H3 subjects (including H3 Research) are only offered to students with outstanding grades after JC 1. They tend to touch on university level stuff and beyond. It does not affect your rank points at 'A' Levels but it will really help a lot when it comes to applying for scholarships or the popular courses (like medicine)!

Take it if you really want to geek it out because you have exceptional interest in it. It is going to be an extra workload but go ahead if you are able to cope!


A word of advice

If at this point, you are still unsure of which stream or what subject combination to take, I suggest you look at the subjects you took at 'O' Levels.

Your performance at 'O' Levels will also be a very good indicator as to which subjects you are likely to perform better at 'A' Levels. If you scored an A1 or A2 for some subjects, it is a smart choice to take those subjects for your JC subject combination.

The truth is that for most JCs, you can only enter the science stream if you took Pure science. If you took combined science at 'O' Levels, you will need to score an A1.

This is from Eunoia JC's website:

The indicative cut-off point for H2 Biology, H2 Chemistry and H2 Physics is B3 for the respective subject at the GCE O-Level Examination or equivalent, or A1 for Combined Science at the GCE O-Level Examination.

In other words, your subject combination at 'O' Levels has already helped you narrow down your options.

So be smart about and take subjects that you are already familiar with or have shown an aptitude for. That way, you are setting yourself up for success.



That was quite a ton of information to digest but all in good faith that it will help you derive at a more informed decision when deciding your subject combination!

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

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

Do follow us on Instagram for the latest updates too!

We recently had an in depth discussion on subject combination on our weekly podcast on Spotify. I suggest giving it a listen as we dropped many insightful takeaways that can help you come to a better decision! Do check out 'The Group Chat' on Spotify!

Don't worry too much and always take it one step at a time!

Brought to you by OVERMUGGED.

By Tutors, For Students


We have also kindly compiled the list of JCs and the relevant webpages for the subject combinations they offer!

Here you go!

L1R5 Net score (8 & below)

L1R5 Net Score (9-11)

L1R5 Net (more than 11)

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May 09, 2023

And how do i ask to change to literature for my contrasting subject?


May 09, 2023

What if i take DNT instead of amath in secondary school?Would i still be able to apply for the science stream?

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