O-Level results in Singapore


Anyone who’s studied in Singapore would be familiar with the crippling amounts of academic stress we get put under while prepping for the O-Level examinations – a.k.a. the determining factor for the rest of our lives. Or at least, that’s how make-or-break parents, teachers and adults in general painted it out to be. 

The day I received my atrocious O-Level results and realised I was nowhere near the admission requirements of my next step in education, I remember feeling nothing but desolation. Yet, here I am now. Crafting the latest addition to my hundreds of articles. Writing has always been my dream job, what I love doing, and what I still struggle to believe I am actually getting paid for. 

Funny thing is, 16-year-old me who had freshly flunked her O-Levels would’ve never believed that all this was on the horizon. Here’s what went down on my journey from “no school is ever going to accept me” to #TooBlessedToBeStressed.


The reality of flunking O-Levels in Singapore


O Level Results Singapore - Childhood Education
Image credit: Renae Cheng

I’ve loved reading and writing ever since I learned the ABCs as a tiny tot, so my lifelong aspiration has always been to take on the career of a wordsmith. 

That said, I didn’t possess the same fervour and enthusiasm towards studying – especially for subjects like Maths and Science which I deemed irrelevant to what I would be doing in my dream job. My grades were subpar at best, and teenaged me spent so much time tinkering around on Friendster and having after-school Neoprint photoshoots that I barely ever mugged. 

O Level Results Secondary School Singapore
Image credit: The Smart Local
Photo for illustration purposes only

Throughout my Secondary 4 year, I yearned so badly to progress into either a relevant polytechnic course or the junior college route to eventually enter a local university, that my naive heart believed that everything would fall into place come the O-Level exams – knowing full well that I barely put in the effort. 

Unsurprisingly, my wishful thinking of being able to excel academically without actual hard work was rewarded with a harsh snap-back to reality – in the form of an O-Level results slip with numbers so embarrassingly large – including a whopping E8 for Elementary Maths – you would think I was gunning for a high score.

Note: For context, the lower an O-Level aggregate (sum of all grades), the better. This is because the top grade is A1, and the bottom is F9.

O Level Results Singapore Secondary School
Image credit: Renae Cheng

I’m extremely paiseh to admit and I try my best to repress this memory, but I remember curling up into a ball on the floor of my school hall and just weeping uncontrollably for close to an hour. All while my peers crowded around me to celebrate their stellar results, how fun!

After I had stopped with the hyperventilating and stream of hot tears, my mind went into a whirl thinking about what was to come. Does this mean I’ll never write again, at least not as a career? Do I have to resort to jobs which I hate and have zero passion for? Should I force myself to ditch my love for writing and find a new dream job? 

Somewhere in the depths of my mind, I could almost see a metaphorical door closing on me. 


How I took my bad O-Level results & started carving my dream career


I picked myself up and decided that life, and my career, is not a race but a marathon. It might take an extra year of my youth but because I knew exactly what education and career path I wanted to delve into, I decided to retake my examinations as a private candidate to give my O-level results a boost. 

My grades weren’t that much better, but I managed to land a spot in a polytechnic Communications course. As fate would have it, I met several seniors who recommended me to take the private university route post-graduation. 

O Level Results - Singapore University
My forehead shining bright like a diamond…but so is my future!
Image credit: Renae Cheng

After conducting ample research on the various private uni options in Singapore, I zoned in on Kaplan because they offered flexible class schedules, the ability to shave off modules with relevant polytechnic credits, and even an option to double major in precise specialisations which I was eyeing career-wise.

Throughout my lectures and tutorials, I was taught by both local and foreign educators who had already made their mark in the media and communications industry before they started teaching. 

Kaplan University Singapore Classroom
Don’t mind me…just having a casual photoshoot before class. I was thoroughly enjoying uni life, as you can tell.
Image credit: Renae Cheng

I loved that everything I was studying would one day come in handy in my dream job, be it Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) or media law. It was a far cry from primary and secondary school days, where I would gleefully look forward to English periods and dread every other subject to no end.

As the flexible timetables allowed me to take on freelance work, I took my time with the modules while taking on writing gigs to boost my portfolio, and eventually graduated with a Double Major in Communication Studies and Web Media in 2018. 


Getting my dream job as a writer in the media industry


The Smart Local Writing Job

Armed with not only a double degree but a wealth of freelance writing experience, my resume was sufficiently beefed up as compared to my peers who advanced to tertiary education while I was stuck retaking my O-Levels. 

Safe to say, the Kaplan degree programme gave me a boost and I eventually caught up, if not surpassing some of my peers altogether – especially for those who were crawling slowly through four whole years of uni.

The icing on the cake was that, by the end of my Kaplan journey, I had amassed a long list of networking contacts which are arguably more valuable than any straight As report card. This is because Kaplan offers part-time degree programmes, and many of my schoolmates were working adults who already had a strong foothold within their respective industries.

This made my post-graduation job search a lot easier and, as you probably have guessed by now, I managed to clinch a spot as full-time writer at The Smart Local – a publication I had been eyeing since my poly days.

The Smart Local Work Trip - Seoul, San Francisco
Me in Seoul and San Francisco, places I would not have had the privilege of visiting if not for my job.
Image adapted from: The Smart Local

I now wake up every work day eager to get crackin’ on the next work assignment, writing about fascinating topics from corridor culture to mental health. I’m also surrounded by positive colleagues who share the same passion for content creation, and have been fortunate to travel the globe on pre-Covid work trips.

I know it may not be the immediate thing to come to mind when people ponder “dream jobs” – it’s not always glamorous, it can be deemed boring and nerdy, and let’s face it. My pay isn’t exactly sky-high! That said, I’ve spent close to three years churning out articles and I can safely say that the fulfillment alone makes me beam with pride and gratitude.


Grades aren’t the only thing that determines your future


Throughout my primary and secondary school years, if anyone were to tell me that “grades aren’t everything” I would have just scoffed and retorted that they must not be from Singapore. 

O Level Results - Academic Stress in Singapore
I may be smiling, but I was very much dead inside.
Image credit: Renae Cheng

Academic pressure weighs so tremendously on us since young, whether you’re skipping playground sessions to prep for PSLE or spending the better part of your youth with your nose stuck in N- or O-Level Ten Year Series books.

The idea that grades were the be-all and end-all was ingrained in me so strongly that when I peered at my ghastly O-Level results slip, part of me genuinely felt that that was the end of the road. They say hindsight is 20/20, and only looking back now do I realise that one or two doors may have closed on me, but there were still a myriad of promising paths I could head towards.

If I could turn back time and talk to my younger self, I would tell her to just hang tight, work hard and have faith. Her wildest dreams will come true in time, and she doesn’t even have the slightest clue how things are going to be even better than she ever dared imagine.


Work towards your dream career with Kaplan Singapore


Not just for folks in the same boat as me who have racked up grades that were less-than-ideal, Kaplan Singapore is also a solid option for those who want to receive proper education in their chosen field and advance with diploma or degree certification in a shorter span of time, or mid-careerists looking to upskill or train in a side specialisation with short courses.  

Kaplan University Singapore
Image credit: Kaplan Singapore

I would also recommend it for its central location, situated in between Dhoby Ghaut and Bugis MRT stations with a ton of food, shopping and activity options in the vicinity. Because #priorities, am I right?

In all seriousness, many Singaporeans have reservations about private unis, and I was no different. What I can attest to, however, is that you won’t just be handed a degree certificate in exchange for school fees. 

The time I spent at Kaplan served as a crash course for me to burst forth in the media industry, equipping me with invaluable skills that are essential to what I now do for a living.

Kaplan Open House 2021

If you want to explore Kaplan’s options for your dream education and career path, there’s no better opportunity than the Kaplan Virtual Open House taking place 5th – 9th April at 11AM-8PM and 10th April at 11AM-5PM

Get information about their offerings, with over 500 higher learning academic programmes spanning diploma, bachelor’s degree, post-grad degree and professional certification courses. You’ll also be able to speak to Kaplan’s education consultants directly and get all your burning queries answered.

Bonus: Enrol online to enjoy perks worth up to $300, including programme rebates, 50% waiver of your application fee, shopping vouchers and lucky draw entries – terms and conditions apply.

You can sift through uni brochures all you want, but take it from someone who’s felt absolutely hopeless, went through the Kaplan route and is now living her best life career-wise: this may very well open the doors that lead you to your dream job.

Find out more about Kaplan’s Virtual Open House 2021


This post was brought to you by Kaplan.