After sitting for exams at the end of secondary school, options for the next stage of a student’s education can be a bit confusing. Choosing the correct pre-university course / syllabus is based on what a student wants to study at university and eventually what career path they intend to follow. The following pre-university programmes and syllabuses are offered in Malaysia.
The A-Levels qualifications are administered by two examination boards - Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) and Edexcel, with most schools and colleges in Malaysia offering the CIE board. Separated into two parts, the Advanced Subsidiary (better known as AS Level) forms the foundation of A-Levels in the first half of the programme while A2 Level covers more complex and in-depth topics within the syllabus. The course lasts two years and is 100% exam-based. Most students do three A-Levels, although some students take four for personal development and extra knowledge, universities only require three.
Foundation studies focus on subjects that are specific to the degree a student plans to take and are studied at the university. Spanning a year, these courses are designed to develop skills and subject knowledge required for the university course. Comprising a combination of coursework and final exams, foundations studies do differ between universities. Most students choose to remain with the same university after their foundation studies, but it’s also possible to apply elsewhere. This is a faster route to entering university and is suitable for those who have already decided what university course they want to study.
Australian Matriculation (SAM/AUSMAT)
For students planning to go to Australia to study or who want to take up an Australian degree here, this is the most suitable programme. The Australian Matriculation (AUSMAT) and the South Australian Matriculation (SAM) are extremely popular pre-university programmes in Malaysia with more students choosing this route to university. The differences between the two are that AUSMAT is graded on 50% coursework and 50% examination during the 11-month session, while SAM is 70% coursework and 30% examination within the 12-month session. Students also have the flexibility of taking both Arts and Science subjects before finally deciding on what they will study at university.
Canadian Pre-University (CPU)
The Canadian pre-university courses offered here are the Canadian Pre-University (CPU) and the Canadian International Matriculation Programme (CIMP). Both programmes are similar and earns students the internationally recognised Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD). These courses last between 12-15 months and students take up a total of six subjects. Grades are based on 70% coursework and 30% examination results and students can choose from a wide range of subjects. In addition to the exams and coursework, you must also complete the Ontario School Secondary Literacy Test (OSSLT) as well as several approved hours of Community Service to complete the programme.
STPM (Form 6)
The Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM - Malaysian Higher School Certificate in English) is the Malaysian pre-university programme and allows students to enter public universities. The STPM course is taught over 18 months with 90% of the grade based on academics and the rest on extracurricular activities. Subjects are based on whether the student follows the Arts or Science streams and there are annual intakes in May. Every student is required to take the Malaysian University English Test (MUET), an English language proficiency test which is compulsory for admission into public universities.
American Degree Programme (ADP)
The American Degree Program (ADP) follows the American curriculum and provides direct entry from secondary school into university. It is a four-year programme with 1+3 (1 year in Malaysia, 3 years in the US) or 2+2 (2 years in Malaysia, 2 years in the US) transfer programme. ADP programmes in Malaysia usually have a credit-transfer option where you can transfer to a university overseas (typically in the US or Canada) to complete your degree after the initial one to two years of study in Malaysia. Grades are based on 70% coursework with an emphasis on assignments, presentations and projects, and 30% on the examinations.
International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP)
The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) is a two-year programme originating in Switzerland. It is known for being more academically challenging than other programmes but more balanced and comprehensive. Six subjects are taken covering languages, the arts, science and maths, and the structure is based on three core components - Theory of Knowledge (an interdisciplinary course), Extended Essay (based on research) and Creativity, Action, Service (CAS), which is community work. Students are marked on a point system (maximum being 45 points) via internal and external assessments, and course work.
A diploma is a level below an undergraduate programme but is equivalent to the first year of degree. These courses are more practical and teach industry-specific skills and knowledge to prepare you for the working world and are between 24-36 months long. After attaining the diploma, you can either go straight into a job or begin the second year of a related degree. Diploma courses have a lower entry requirement – minimum three credits in the SPM exams or its equivalent. Popular courses include culinary arts, computer science, software engineering, aviation and hospitality management.
Malaysian Matriculation Programme (Matrikulasi)
The Malaysian Matriculation Programme or Matrikulasi is a preferred choice for students who are looking to enter a public university. It’s an extremely affordable option and recognised by certain universities in Australia, Indonesia, the UK, New Zealand and several other Commonwealth countries, but only for selected courses. The programme is divided into three streams – science, technical and accounting – and takes between one and two years to complete depending on the course. Grades are based on 90% academic results and 10% extracurricular activities.