GCE O Levels: Using the L1R5 to your advantage


We know that GCE O Level (L1R5) is coming up in a few months time, with major Secondary school students preparing for their Mid-Year Exams (MYEs) sometime this End-April to Early May.

By now, you may have a good idea about what your L1R4/5 score is.

Beyond your own subjective feelings about your child’s progress, numbers often are a good indicator to bolster your own assessment of your child.


Breaking Down the L1R5:

32 O-level additional mathematics Paper 2 scripts from Singapore lost in  Britain, Parenting & Education News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

(Source: The Straits Times)

The L1R5 is an assessment tool used by the Ministry of Education to score the 10,000 plus Singaporean secondary school students who take the annual GCE O Level Exam every year in December.


How does it work?

The L1R5 refers to the six best subjects out of a possible maximum of 10 subjects your child can enrol in. This is broken down as the following:

1 – L1 – Language (English/Mother Tongue)

2 – R5 – Relevant 5 Subjects Grade


The L1 often chosen is English, as the majority of students score better in their English subjects compared to their Mother Tongue subjects.

However, Tutopiya Team stresses that students place equal weight on their mother tongue and their English subject. We’ll be explaining why this is important further down the article, so keep reading.

L1R5 is used to determine a student’s entry to Junior College, whereas L1R4 is used for students moving on to polytechnics and ITE. 

Hence, if you are considering moving on to JC, you will need to focus on your L1R5. 


What is a good L1R5 score?

In general, the lower the score, the better for your child. Each subject is graded on these grade bandings:

Grade Score  Grade description Corresponding points
A1  75% and above  Distinction 1
A2 70% to 74%  Distinction 2
B3 65% to 69% Merit 3
B4 60% to 64% Merit 4
C5 55% to 59% Credit 5
C6 50% to 54% Credit 6
D7 45% to 49% Sub-pass/fail 7
E8 40% to 44% Fail 8
F9 Below 40% Fail 9


The grade, D7, is the worst for your child. It roughly corresponds to 40% and below.

Each grade band corresponds to a specific grade. For example, an A1 is one point, while a D7 is seven points.

So the lowest score that your child can possibly achieve, i.e. the strongest score is 6 points.

Still unsure? We’ll provide two examples to help you clarify.


Scenario 1:

 Your son has gotten these grades for his ‘O’ Level Subjects.

Subject Grade
English A1
Mathematics A2
Physics  A2
Biology B3
Chemistry A2
Social Studies/ Geography A1 

This means he has a total of (1+2+2+3+2+1) = 11 points for GCE O Level.

But it doesn’t end there. Your son gets to deduct 2 points off.



If GCE O Level students complete their VIA (Values in Action) programme over 4 years, they will be able to do so. This is because teachers-in-charge of their CCAs (Co-Curricular Activities), and the school programme often structures the 4 years of secondary school education in a way that fulfils these requirements.


What’s another advantage?

 If your child takes Higher Mother Tongue, then they get to deduct another two points off.

 This is where we’ll present the best-case scenario for your child.


 Scenario 2:

 Your daughter has gotten these grades for her ‘O’ Level subjects.


Subject Grade 
English  A1
Chinese A1
Higher Chinese  A1
Mathematics  A1
Chemistry A2
Physics  A1
Biology  A1
SS/Geography  A2


So, your child will choose the best six subjects. She will leave out Chemistry and SS/Geography because they are both A2 subjects.

Instead, she will be taking (1+1+1+1+1+1) = 6 points, which indicates she has six A1s.

Now, she’ll get two points off for VIA attendance, AND she will get two additional points off for Higher Chinese.

This reduces her total score to 2 points in total.


What does this spell for your strategy as a student?

At Tutopiya Team, we believe it is thus a HUGE advantage to take on a higher Mother Tongue subject.


When can your child take on a Higher Mother Tongue as an ‘O’ Level Subject?

Your child will be offered a Higher Mother Tongue subject based on their performance in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), which they take before they enrol into a secondary school.


If your child gets an A* for their Mother Tongue subject, they will be offered Higher Mother Tongue for their GCE O Level.

We’re not saying to spend less time on English.

English is a key prerequisite to a student’s professional development.

Many careers place a premium on the ability of students to communicate clearly through verbal and written English.

However, there is a huge strategic advantage if your child can excel in his/her mother tongue as well.


If your child develops his or her Mother Tongue skills early, they will be eligible for GCE O Level – Higher Mother Tongue subjects, such as Higher Chinese, Higher Tamil and Higher Malay.


What is the advantage of these subjects?

These subjects allow you to deduct two additional points from your total L1R5 score.

They also allow you to be eligible for certain MOE based scholarships, such as the Language Elective Scholarship.


What is the Language Elective Scholarship?

According to the MOE website:

“The Language Elective Scholarship (CLES) for the study of Chinese at H2 Level is offered by the Ministry of Education to encourage academically able and linguistically talented students to pursue the Chinese language course at H2 Level under the Chinese Language Elective Programme (CLEP).”

 The MLEP is often offered in top Singapore pre-tertiary education schools, such as:

1 – Dunman High School

2 – Hwa Chong Junior College

3 – Nanyang Junior College

4 – Temasek Junior College


Besides opening doors for your child via language scholarships, gaining mastery in Mother Tongue is crucial for niche CCAs.

In an age where MOE is shifting towards holistic education, it is increasingly crucial for your child to do well in their CCAs.

While most CCAs are competitive, a niche CCA such as a Mother-Tongue based CCA involvement can give your child an edge for their future.


With an excellent grasp of their Mother Tongue, your child can:

Learn Chinese Orchestra

Benefits: Being enrolled as part of a Fine Arts CCA allows your child to develop a professional musical skills.

Learn Chinese/Tamil/Malay Oratorical Skills

Benefits: Mother Tongue-based Debate Showcases are often held on a national media level in Singapore, gaining your child a once-in-a-lifetime exposure.


Using L1R5 to Your Advantage



Going back to the L1R5:

Ok, so now you are convinced. A Higher Mother Tongue provided your child at least passes (gets a C6 and above) is a good strategic decision for your child’s performance in school.

Now, armed with the knowledge of the L1R5, you and your child need to make the decision of what Junior College you’d like them to aim towards, in their post-secondary school plans.


What are the required L1R5 scores for Junior Colleges?

The L1R5 scores are often mandated by the respective Arts and Science streams. Here is the top school’s cut off points (the entry points they need to enter their schools):


Hwa Chong  Arts: 6
Science: 5
Raffles Institution Arts: 5
Science: 5
Anglo Chinese Independent Arts: 5
Science: NIL
St Joseph’s Institution Arts: 7
Science: 7
Nanyang JC Arts: 7
Science: 6
National JC Arts: 8
Science: 9
Dunman High School Arts: 10
Science: 7
Eunoia JC Arts: 10
Science: 9
River Valley High School Arts: 10
Science: 9


Tutopiya offers 1-1 live online tuition for students aged 9 to 19. We believe that your child needs to be prepared for their national examination in their early years to build their foundation knowledge. We offer a free trial for all new student sign-ups! Experience online tuition with Tutopiya today!

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