The classic end-of-year dilemma for secondary two students: O-Level Physics or O-Level Biology? At the end of their first two years in secondary school, most students are required to pick their subject combinations for their upper secondary curriculum. While there are quite a number of variations, with some schools even offering arts streams, we’ll be focusing on three core science combinations:
- Double Science (Physics): O-Level Physics, O-Level Chemistry
- Double Science (Biology): O-Level Biology, O-Level Chemistry
- Triple Science: O-Level Biology, O-Level Physics, O-Level Chemistry
Many students who opt for double science are often undecided between O-Level Physics and O-Level Biology. It is likely so because students are not often exposed to sufficient curriculum differences in their lower secondary science education where all the three sciences tend to be lumped and taught altogether. This is why Zenith is here today to give you some advice- we have put together a short summary of key factors to note before you decide on which science to take up!
#1: Your interest and affinity with both subjects
Many secondary schools would have arranged for a lower secondary curriculum where students are required to take both Physics and Biology, whether at the same time or during different semesters. While O-Level Physics and O-Level Biology are somewhat similar to the bite-sized versions you have been offered in lower secondary, you’d be going much more in-depth if you’re taking either pure Biology or pure Physics. To properly assess which subject to take on, you should weigh your experiences with each of the respective subjects in your lower secondary science curriculum.
Firstly, reflect on how you found both subjects during the school term. Did you enjoy both equally or did you find one particularly interesting? Was one harder to comprehend or study for? It is crucial to remember that pure Physics and Biology at the O-Level will require you to go much more in-depth with details and your critical analysis, which is why it is crucial that you pick the subject you are interested in or have a natural affinity with. Otherwise, you might find yourself dreading each lesson and end up doing poorly!
Ultimately, results do matter as well. Even though academics are not everything, they are a reflection of your ability to grasp concepts of each subject. Your grades might act as an indicator of your ability or affinity with O-Level Physics and/or O-Level Biology. Let us say you spend the same amount of time studying for both subjects, yet you find yourself doing better in Biology. This may be a hint that you have a greater aptitude for O-Level Biology and are likely to do better in it. Of course, there are other factors at play so sit down and do some self-reflection! You will inevitably be sitting for these subjects, no matter which one you decide to take, at the O-Level Examinations, and you will have to include a science subject in your L1R5. You will be taking 8 subjects at the O-Level Examinations and time will definitely be a challenge. Choosing something that you are adept in will really help you out when you’re trying to digest concepts and revise.
#2: The SEAB O-Level syllabus
If you have read our previous articles, you would know that the SEAB website is Zenith’s best friend. When in doubt, always refer to the SEAB website because it provides the clearest and most accurate overview of examinable subjects. In the figures below, we have included both O-Level Biology (Fig 1.) and O-Level Physics’s (Fig 2.) examinable syllabus. Some students are undecided on which double science to choose from because they have not yet browsed through what each science entails, the examinable components, specific topics and crucial requirements. Thus, it is vital to clear up these doubts so you can understand each subject and its requirements better. The content guides will also show you the main themes and subtopics that you will be covering. Look at these topics carefully, and decide which sounds more interesting to you!
Fig 1. SEAB O-Level Biology Syllabus
Fig 2. SEAB O-Level Physics Syllabus
#3: Junior Colleges / Polytechnic prerequisites and University requirements
After the O-Levels, most students will head to either a Junior College or a Polytechnic. In Junior Colleges, students will usually sit for 5 main subjects at the A-Levels, unlike the O-Levels where students sit for 8 to 9 subjects. Out of these 5 subjects, one will be a compulsory subject: General Paper at Higher 1 level. Once students enter their Junior Colleges, they will be required to once again, choose their subject combinations to take on for the A-Levels.
Unlike the O-Levels, content at the A-Levels is significantly more detailed and specific, you must expect to really delve deep into different theories and concepts for every subject. Every subject has three differing levels, Higher 1 (H1), Higher 2 (H2) and Higher 3 (H3), with progressively difficult levels. Students usually take 3 H2 subjects and 1 H1 subject; they may also choose to take up an additional H3 subject. To take subjects at the H2 level and/or H3 level, most Junior Colleges will require you to have already taken the subject at the O-Levels. Some Junior Colleges may not allow you to take certain subjects without any prior experience at the O-Levels. Thus, you may want to head to the respective websites of the different Junior Colleges in Singapore to check them out.
Additionally, A-Level sciences like A-Level Biology or A-Level Physics are essentially a continuation of the O-Level syllabus. Many key concepts or foundational ideas are taught at the O-Levels, and will not be repeated at the A-Levels because you will be expected to know. Without sufficient O-Level experience, you may find it a struggle to keep up. So think carefully about the science subject you wish to take in Junior College when making your choice!
If you plan to head to a polytechnic to pursue courses such as Biomedical Science, Pharmaceutical Science, or Biotech Engineering, some Polytechnics will require you to take O-Level Biology. Hence, do make sure you check clearly on what are the necessary course entry requirements before making your subject course choices if you have a particular interest already!
You may also refer to university prerequisites if you’re far-sighted and want to plan ahead! Many courses in university have prerequisites, and even though most prerequisites are subjects taken at the A-Levels, some courses have prerequisites that go back to the O-Levels! As mentioned earlier, some Junior Colleges will not allow you to take an H2 science without O-Level knowledge, and this may lead to you being unable to offer the needed A-Level prerequisites for your desired course in university. This is extremely crucial because some students may end up being unable to enter their dream courses because of missing prerequisites. Additionally, some universities may state that it is desirable or helpful for prospective students to offer certain subjects at the O-Levels or A-Levels, and you might want to do so in order to increase your chances of acceptance! At this point, however, we’d also like to reiterate that if you haven’t thought of what you want to take on as your major in university, it is completely fine! Everyone has their own timeline, and we all discover our passions and/or interests in the end, whether that is sooner or later. So don’t fret!
#4: Talk to seniors and/or others that have experience
You don’t have to make your choice alone! Talk to your seniors, ask them for their thoughts, opinions, and experiences. It is always extremely helpful to talk to someone who has already taken or is currently taking O-Level Biology or O-Level Physics and you may find that first-hand recounts are much more helpful than general guides you may find online. Ask your seniors how they find the workload, various topics, or even the format of exams for each subject. You may be pleasantly surprised by the variety of perspectives and how helpful they can be! Alternatively, you can always approach our tutors for their advice! Just recently, Zenith conducted an ‘Open House’ for our Junior College side where we invited our tutors and ex-students to host talks about different Junior College subjects! Don’t be shy, our tutors are always excited to meet new faces! At Zenith, we believe in a culture of care, which is why our tutors always go the extra mile for you. We strongly believe in helping students in any way we can.
#5: Hit us up @ Zenith for help!
Here at Zenith, we understand the qualms of committing to something unfamiliar and foreign. This is why we offer free trial lessons for all subjects! To get a better idea of O-Level Biology and O-Level Physics, feel free to sign up for our free trial lessons! During the 2 hours, you will be able to experience the subject and receive top-tier notes compiled by our meticulous tutors!
With Zenith, you will never have to worry about notes ever again. Whether you take O-Level Biology or O-Level Physics, Zenith has got you covered! You can expect succinct and clear notes on every chapter, and even summary sheets and cheat sheets to boost your understanding and streamline your learning process! Our secondary biology and secondary physics tutors are always available for consultations round the clock. Here at one of the top secondary tuition centres in Singapore, we boast a distinction rate of 85~% (Fig 3.) amongst our upper secondary students, across all subjects. Rest assured you are in good hands!
Fig 3. Testimonials from our students
Many of our students stick with Zenith throughout their secondary and JC education because of our excellent teaching methods and amazing culture. At Zenith, we believe in merging traditional teaching methods with modern ones, involving the use of technology, in order for you to get the best and most effective learning experience. Our teaching pedagogy is unparalleled with our expert tutors around to guide you closely in every subject you take on! At Zenith, we understand the need for instant clarification, especially during the examination season, which is why our tutors are always available to reply to your questions. We also boast excellent welfare for all our students (Fig 4.)!
Fig 4. Welfare at our Potong Pasir Branch
In every centre, we have designated study areas just for you; our study areas are air-conditioned and equipped with an excellent internet connection. Our study areas are also right next to our fully-stocked snack bar. As long as we are open, you’ll always have access to these areas! If you are keen to look at our upcoming centre tours, you can always check them out on our Instagram page! Slots are limited, enquire more or sign up today!