Secondary school students to have one common national exam period from 2027

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SINGAPORE - This year’s Secondary 1 students will be the first to sit their national examinations under one common timetable in 2027.

They will sit the new Singapore-Cambridge Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) examinations in 2027 instead of O- and N-level examinations, said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing on March 1 in Parliament.

This comes after the removal of streaming into Normal and Express in secondary schools in 2024, and the implementation of full subject-based banding, where students take subjects at varying levels according to their strengths and interests.

This means that students will have one written exam sitting for their mother tongue language (MTL) subject and will not be able to retake the exam, said Mr Chan during the debate on his ministry’s budget.

Currently, students are able to choose from two exam sittings for MTL, one during mid-year, usually in the first week of June holidays, and another during the O-level written exam period, usually in November.

“I understand that some may be concerned that they will have one less chance to improve their MTL grades,” said Mr Chan.

“But we need to strike a careful balance between striving for excellence, chasing the last mark, and allowing our students to learn at a better pace.”

“When we introduced the mid-year O-level MTL exam sitting in 1980, less than 40 per cent of students passed both their first and second languages,” said Mr Chan. “So we allowed students to take their MTL exam twice, to meet the second language requirement for pre-university.”

Today, almost all O-level MTL students meet the language requirement within their first sitting, he said, adding that taking the second sitting changed the post-secondary posting outcomes for less than two per cent of those taking the MTL exam.

“The new system will allow our students and teachers to better pace the MTL curriculum, with four more months of learning, rather than to squeeze everything into less than 3.5 years in preparation for the June sitting,” said Mr Chan.

Students will sit for their English and MTL written exams in the second week of September – one month ahead of other subjects to spread out the exam load, Mr Chan added.

There will also be one common exam period for the written papers of other subjects, starting in October.

Currently, N-level exams are held in September and O-level exams are held in Oc...

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