Students should start planning their education path while they are in secondary or high school to ensure a smoother transition from school to a higher learning institution. There are a few pre-university programs that are offered in Malaysia, and the suitability depends on the student’s next step after high school. Students who may want to further their studies overseas or even locally should learn about the different programs that are offered locally to prepare for their next step. Students should be aware of the pre-university programme application qualification and the structure of the programme before making any decisions on their academic path. 


Advanced Level (A Level)

A Level, also known as GCE Advanced Level, is a pre-university program created based on the British education system. It is recommended for students who would like to further their studies in United Kingdom or locally. The A Level in Malaysia is offered by the Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE) and Pearson Edexcel examination boards. This programme is directed to students who achieved a minimum of 5C’s in their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), O-Level or equivalent; or a grade B in the subject(s) that the student is interested in. These qualifications depend on the academic institutions. This program takes around two years to complete. The programme is suitable for academically-inclined students who want to further their studies at a university or students who are unsure of their career path. However, some subjects offered in the A Level programme have a prerequisite where students are required to achieve a minimum grade in the equivalent subject in their SPM examinations or O-Level before they can apply. 


This fully examination-based programme requires students to take a minimum of three subjects. The exams require students to apply logical thinking skills when tackling the questions. The A Level is divided into two levels. The first level is the Advanced Subsidiary (AS Level), where it covers the foundation of the program, while the second level is known as the A2 Level, where students go in-depth into the subjects of their choice. Therefore, the final results are based on 50% respectively of the first and second level examinations. The grades range from A to E.


Advanced Placement (AP)

Advanced Placement (AP) is a program created by College Board, where students take additional and specialised high school courses which can be transferred as college credit, or qualifies students to enrol in advanced college classes upon entering college. This programme is recommended for students who would like to further their studies in the United States. The purpose of AP courses is to provide students a glimpse of introductory college courses while in high school, to develop required skills for college, to explore courses before the student decides on their potential college major, and to graduate earlier than their peers. It is recommended for students to enrol in the programme in the 11th or 12th grade. It usually takes around one year to complete the programme.


The programme offers up to 38 subjects and examinations for subjects such as sciences, mathematics, world languages, arts, social sciences and many more. However, the subjects offered depends on your school. When selecting courses, students should consider their interest and relevancy with their preferred college major. It is possible for students to self-study for a test but it is advised to attend AP classes. Students are given flexibility where they are able to take as many exams as they would like to in a year. The exams are made up of multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and a free response part. The AP exams usually take place in May and the results are published in July. Students who score a minimum three (equivalent to a B-, C+, or C) out of the five-point Advanced Placement score system are qualified to apply for the AP level college courses. 


International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme

This pre-university programme is known as either IB or IBDP. It is a two-year programme where students are required to take a total of six subjects from various subject categories, ranging from Language Acquisition; Language and Literature; Individuals and Societies; Sciences; Mathematics; and the Arts. Three courses are required to be taken at Higher Level (HL), where the students are required to take a total of 240 hours of classes, while another three courses are required to be taken at Standard Level (SL), where students take a total of 150 hours of classes. Students should take into consideration their intended career path when selecting courses in order to take subjects that are relevant.  


The programme also requires the student to complete three core components. The first component is an extended essay, where students are required to do research and write a 4,000-word essay that relates to one or two of the subjects taken. The second component is a course on theory of knowledge (TOK), where students are required to develop critical thinking skills in order to sharpen their understanding of knowledge as human. The third component is Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) where students take part in activities that teaches them to communicate and engage with society. These activities are to be 150 hours in total. Creativity related activities range from music, art, dance, and many others, while Action revolves around physical activities such as sports. Service is where students take part in volunteer work to give back to the community. 


As for the grading system, students are graded through internal assessment, external assessment, and the three core components mentioned. Internal assessment is graded by the teachers in their school, while external assessment is graded by external examiners. Since students need to be taking six subjects in total, and 7 points is the highest score given per subject, the total points is 42. The three components will be given with 3 points in total. Therefore, the highest total a student can obtain is 45 points. Bear in mind, the diploma will only be awarded to students who achieve a minimum of 24 points. 




If you have found this article helpful, you may be interested in the following articles as well:

How to Choose a Pre-University Program 

5 Things You Should Know About the IGCSE in Malaysia 

Education Systems in Malaysia