‘Combined Sciences’ or ‘Pure Sciences’?

At the end of Secondary 2, students are required to make a decision on their subject combinations for Upper Secondary.These will also be the subjects that they will be taking for their Singapore-Cambridge GCE ‘O’ Level. Students then need to decide whether they want to take ‘Pure Sciences’ or ‘Combined Sciences’, and this is a dilemma for many students. Even if students decided to take ‘Pure Science’, another question will be whether to take ‘Double Sciences’ or ‘Triple Sciences’.

We encourages students to choose ‘Pure Sciences’, if they are eligible to choose this pathway. Criteria differs in different schools, but schools are usually looking at Overall Grade and grades for Science and Mathematics. Taking ‘Pure Sciences’ will put a student in advantage if he/she want to pursue GCE ‘A’ Level (Science Course) or Science-related courses in the various Polytechnics in Singapore, after their GCE ‘O’ Level. However, at the end of Secondary 3, if students showed that they cannot cope with ‘Pure Sciences’, they will be given a choice to change their subject to ‘Combined Sciences’.

So, the question now is, what are the differences between ‘Pure Sciences’ and ‘Combined Sciences’? In terms of content coverage, ‘Pure Sciences’ will cover approximately 20% more content than ‘Combined Sciences’. For example, for Chemistry, ‘Pure Chemistry’ covers topics like Electrochemistry and Ammonia, which are not covered in ‘Combined Chemistry’. You may refer to the respective pages (under Division of Sciences) to see the differences between the syllabi. Questions in ‘Pure Sciences’ may not be as direct as those of ‘Combined Sciences’. ‘Pure Sciences’ emphasise on Data Reading & Analysis as well as Application of Concepts.

As Sciences are experimental by nature, students also need to undertake practical as part of their examination. For ‘Pure Sciences’, students will take three separate assessments during curriculum periods (known as School-based Science Practical Assessment, or SPA), whereas for ‘Combined Sciences’, students will take only one assessment (also known as Paper 5), usually during mid-October. For ‘Pure Sciences’, students are graded based on their experimental techniques and their answer scripts, whereas for ‘Combined Sciences’, students are graded solely based on their answer scripts (however, students may also be penalised if they request for assistance etc.).

Next, the grade for ‘Combined Sciences’ is obtained from the two Sciences subjects, whereas the grade for ‘Pure Sciences’ is of one subject only. For example, a student who scored A1 for one subject and C6 for another will probably scored a B grade if he/she takes ‘Combined Sciences’, but his/her grade will be two separate ones (i.e. A1 and C6) if he/she opted to take ‘Pure Sciences’. Further more, the ‘C6’ most likely not be used in the computation of aggregate scores, for admission into Junior Colleges / Polytechnics.

Then, the next question, ‘Double Sciences’ or ‘Triple Sciences’? Students are only advised to take ‘Triple Sciences’ if they obtained a very good grade (preferably 85% or above) for their Lower Secondary Sciences. If not, students are advised to take ‘Double Sciences’. There are some schools in Singapore that apparently stopped offering the ‘Triple Sciences’ combination, in which students need to take ‘Double Sciences’. This may be probably due to the objective of the school to develop students to be ‘all-rounded’, so schools would like to offer subjects of all fields (e.g. language & linguistic, humanities), so as to broaden the horizon of students.

These are the common MYTHS that students have on the different Sciences subjects.

  • ‘Pure Sciences’ are extremely tough.

‘Pure Sciences’ is actually not very difficult, especially for students with passion.

  • ‘Combined Sciences’ are for Lower Ability Learners.

‘Combined Sciences’ are offered to students who are not very strong in science, but these students may had done very well in other subjects, like literature, which are not related to Science. Students taking ‘Combined Sciences’ can also do very well for their examinations.

For Secondary 2 students, make a wise choice. For Secondary 3 students taking ‘Pure Sciences’, whether to change your subject to ‘Combined Sciences’ do not depends entirely on your Secondary 3 result. Change your subject combination only if you are not confident. There are students who failed their ‘Pure Science’ in Secondary 3, and obtained a merit for their GCE ‘O’ Levels.

For queries or feedbacks, please email us at horizoneduc@gmail.com.

The reason for the use of quotation marks is that the terms quoted are not the official terms. ‘Pure Sciences’ is known as Science with SPA whereas ‘Combined Sciences’ is known as Science.


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