SmileTutor Blog Students Advice For Students Choosing Your Subject Combination for Upper Secondary? Here’s What You Must Know

Choosing Your Subject Combination for Upper Secondary? Here’s What You Must Know

In your first two years in secondary school, you explored many different subjects and learned many new things.

And now, it is time for you to choose the subjects that you want to focus on for your O-Levels or N-Levels.

But deciding on your subject combination may not be a straightforward process for some, as you will need to consider your interests, whether the subject is suitable and manageable for you, etc.

If you’re having trouble choosing your subjects, don’t worry! I’ve compiled the important things that you need to consider and what you can do to make the best decision for yourself.

The first thing that you must know: 

It has a significant impact on your future route

What you study definitely doesn’t fully dictate your future route, but the limited options may make it difficult for you if you have regrets about the subjects that you take.

Usually, students carry through with the subjects that they took in upper secondary. Since they are familiar with the subjects, they will go on to take them in Junior College (JC), or choose a course in a polytechnic or Institute of Technical Education (ITE). This will then affect the degree that they choose in university, and subsequently, their future line of work.

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This is especially so for science subjects which are mostly very content heavy. Humanities are more skill-and-application-based and might be slightly easier to catch up with.

Still, it will definitely be less taxing to build upon the knowledge that you already have from secondary school, instead of having to learn a new subject from scratch.

That is why it is important for you to choose your O-Level or N-Level subjects wisely.

Don’t choose your subjects just based on your grades

You’re probably in a dilemma you’re considering a subject that you find more interesting but you didn’t do as well in.

You might be thinking: Should I follow my interest or just do whatever it takes to get the best grades? And my advice is to definitely go with your interest.

In your first two years of secondary school, you may have been more focused on adapting to the major changes from primary school. 

It is a big jump — you suddenly have many more subjects to juggle, you are making new friends, and you may not have found your most suitable studying method.

The grades that you attain in lower secondary are not a good judgment of your true ability in the subject when you progress to upper secondary.

Similarly, even if you may have done better in a subject in lower secondary, it is going to get a lot more difficult in upper secondary and what will keep you going is your interest and passion in it. When you truly like the subject, you will have the drive to learn and improve.

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Do some background research on the subjects

Many students end up regretting the subjects that they chose because they didn’t turn out to be like what they expected.

You should keep in mind that the academic requirements in upper secondary are very different from lower secondary.

In lower secondary, your school will try to give you exposure to all of the offered subjects, so the curriculum is pretty rushed and the school would only be able to give you a glimpse of each subject.

But you will have to study your chosen subjects in upper secondary in-depth and there will be higher expectations of your performance.

“I didn’t know that [subject] was going to be like that!”

“I didn’t know that there would be so much to memorise in [subject]!”

To avoid having these frustrations, it is good to do your research about all the subjects that you’re considering.

Some subjects are more content-heavy which means that you need to either be good at memorising, or you’ll have to spend more time and effort to memorise.

Some subjects are more application-based, so if you struggle to really understand and apply concepts, it may be very difficult for you to score.

Find out whether the subjects are right for you

To have a good look at the actual expectations of the subject, you can head down to bookstores and skim through the assessment books, textbooks, or past-year papers of the subjects that you’re considering.

In fact, technology has now made it a lot more convenient for you as you can simply search online for free resources such as test papers.

Alternatively, you can also reach out to your seniors from your CCA, your siblings, cousins, etc., and ask them what their experience was like with the subjects that they took.

This would allow you to learn from their experiences before making choices that you might regret.


Transitioning from lower secondary to upper secondary can be a stressful period because you’re making a crucial decision on the subjects that you’ll be working really hard for O-Levels or N-Levels.

I hope that this article has given you the advice that you need to take away, to make an informed decision for something as crucial as your subject combination.

Good luck!

Want more advice for students? Read our other articles here.

Rum Tan

Rum Tan is the founder of SmileTutor and he believes that every child deserves a smile. Motivated by this belief and passion, he works hard day & night with his team to maintain the most trustworthy source of home tutors in Singapore. In his free time, he writes articles hoping to educate, enlighten, and empower parents, students, and tutors. You may try out his free home tutoring services via or by calling 6266 4475 directly today.