Which Course Should I Study After SPM? Diploma or Pre-University (Foundation, STPM, A-Levels, etc)
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Choosing the right course to study in Malaysia after high school is one of the most important decisions you can make in your life. This can be a confusing and difficult time if you are unprepared.
After SPM or O-Levels , there are many different pathways for you to choose from and sometimes it can be confusing. Students may fill up our EduSpiral Career Assessment form for evaluation. Choosing a course to study after SPM or O-Levels in Malaysia is not a science, it is a process in finding out who you are and what you are good at. Some people find out faster while others take more time.
Most great things begin with a plan. Your future career and studies should be no different. A plan will give you something to work towards. It’ll also help you make the most of the opportunities that come your way. It can be confusing to choose the right course after SPM. You should carefully think about what are the options available to you.
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Which is the Best Education Pathway after SPM?
It can be confusing for students to choose the right course to study in Malaysia after SPM.
Preparations should have been made even before this time but fear not it is still not too late if you have not decided on a career path. It is important for you to research carefully the career that you intend to pursue.
With the wide variety of courses available to a student, the time after SPM can be a confusing one if not guided properly by an experienced and knowledgeable education counselor.
If you are not sure what to study, do ask a trained counselor and always make decisions based on evidence and facts. The decisions that you make now, can change your life forever. You can contact us for a free career test to help you understand yourself better so that you are able to make the right decision.
At EduSpiral Consultant Services, we have counseled and helped thousands of students to choose the right course and private university to study in Malaysia.
The Different Types of Pre-University Programmes for SPM/O-Level School Leavers
Choosing the right Pre-University course after SPM or O-Levels can be confusing. There is no such thing as the “best” Pre-University programme. It is choosing the right Pre-U programme that fits you and your future goals. We have come up with a list of the Top Ten best Pre-University programmes to study in Malaysia,
Below is a list of pre-university programmes offered by top universities & colleges in Malaysia:
- Foundation programmes by private universities in Malaysia
- Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) Malaysia
- Unified Examination Certificate (UEC)
- University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) UK A-Levels
- South Australian Matriculation (SAM) or SACE International
- American Degree Transfer Program (ADTP)
- Edexcel International Advanced Level UK A-Levels
- Western Australian Matriculation (AUSMAT)
- Matriculation Certificate, Ministry of Education Malaysia
- Canadian International Matriculation Programme (CIMP)
There are many different Pre-University programmes available in Malaysia. I will list some of the most popular ones.
Diploma Course in Malaysia
With 3 credits, you can join most diploma courses. Nowadays, you can finish a diploma in 2 years, it used to be 2.5 years. Therefore, now you will complete a degree in 4 years after the diploma which is the same duration if you go for Foundation.
To join a diploma programme, you will need at least 3 credits in your SPM or 3 Bs in UEC. You must have a Pass in BM and Sejarah. The credits of the subjects will depend on what course you take. For example, Maths will be a required credit for IT and Engineering.
The Diploma pathway is a good choice if you do not have enough money, you can at least graduate with a diploma as it is cheaper and a shorter duration. After working a few years to save money, you can continue to complete your degree. If you find it difficult to study and yet would like a certificate, maybe you should study a diploma as takes less time to complete. A degree may be too difficult and is longer hence you may not have the motivation to finish it.
Diploma programmes in Malaysia tend to be more practical oriented while degree programmes are more theoretical. Foundation programmes are more academic. If you are sure of what you want to study, then you can go for the Diploma course. Students after SPM who are not sure what to study should go for the Foundation or Pre-University Programme. You have 1 year in the Foundation or Pre-U in Malaysia to really decide what to study for your degree.
You can apply for the PTPN Loan for the Diploma course while there is no PTPN loan for Foundation or Pre-University courses.
After the Diploma course, you can continue on to a degree and generally enter into the 2nd Year for another 2 years of study. If you enter engineering, it could be another 2 or 3 years depending on which course.
It depends on the exemptions from the particular institution. Generally you will enter into Year 2 of the similar programme at the same university but if you choose to transfer to another university, you may not get enough exemptions and may only enter into the Final semester of Year 1.
Pre-University or Foundation Programmes in Malaysia
You will need at least 5 Relevant SPM credits to enter into a Pre-University programme or Foundation Course in Malaysia
It is important to find out what you would like to study after SPM instead of blindly following your friends or just assuming that some said that the A-Levels is good, and so you chose it without finding out more.
I don’t have anything against the A-Levels, but my humble opinion is that it is a great programme and is quite challenging. Students should choose the A-Level programme if they want to study Law, Medicine or Pharmacy.
Keep in mind that the A-Levels is quite challenging, is in English and takes up 1.5 years. If you do not make it, you may have wasted a lot of time. If you know what you would like to study, you should just take up the college’s Pre-U/Foundation programme or an internationally recognised Pre-U programme such as the SAM, CPU, AUSMAT, UNSW, etc. They generally take 8-12 months to complete, so you could save on time. Note that if you want to pursue Medicine, some of the Pre-U programmes are not accepted.
The Pre-U programmes in Malaysia vary in time and course content. Some emphasise on course work, others exam oriented so choose one that fits your character.
Many private higher educational institutions, have developed their own internal university foundation programmes. These courses are accredited by the Malaysia Qualification Agency (MQA) and recognised by the respective foreign partner universities and also accepted by many other overseas universities as an equivalent to pre-university qualification in their respective home countries.
Unlike the external qualifications which focus on more general Science and Art-based subjects, the internal qualifications provide specialisation in precise areas of study such as the fields of business, computer & IT, and engineering, and hence, cater to the specific needs of different students.
Students who know what they want to study can just go for the Foundation at the university offering the degree of interest. It is cheaper, easier and a faster way to continue to completing the degree.
What about studying STPM?
Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) is Malaysia’s version of the UK’s GCE A-Levels and is a Pre-University course
recognised for entry into public universities in Malaysia. The STPM is also accepted for entry into private universities in Malaysia and overseas universities.
The STPM is acknowledged as one of the toughest exams.
STPM is very tough and takes 2 years to finish. If you do not do well in STPM, you would have wasted the time which is also money. If you had graduated faster, you would have started work earlier and start earning money and gain experience valuable for your resume.
STPM will take about 2 years, more time than that if you calculate the time after your SPM until you enter into Public University. The time you take for STPM, you would have completed the diploma.
There were 58,355 students who took STPM in 2013 and in 2014 it dropped to 48,615 students. It is a drop of 16.69% (9,740 candidates)
48,615 candidates registered for the STPM examinations in 2014 but only 42,854 sat for it. Only 390 out of 48,615 STPM 2014 obtained a 4.0 CGPA. 57 candidates failed the exam.
The national CGPA was 2.62 but for non-bumis to get their courses of choice, you will need higher CGPA. Ten students scored 5As, and a total of 398 students scored 4As. To obtain scholarships from private universities or overseas, you need to score 4As or 5As, so based on this, you can calculate the chances of you scoring in the STPM and obtaining a scholarship.
27,342 (63.80%), passed in four subjects, 7,130 in three subjects, 3,563 in two subjects and 2,410 passed just one subject. Pass here includes D and E. You need at least 2 Cs to join a degree course in private universities.
The number of candidates achieving 4 Principals (C) in STPM 2014 is 60.14 per cent. You need at least 2 Principals to join a degree course in private universities.
Still not sure what to study after SPM?
If you are not sure of what you want to study, then you can join the Pre-U or Foundation course. After that, you will continue on to the degree programme for another 3-4 years depending on the course. You do not have to choose what to study yet during foundation as it is general.
The only choice is either Foundation in Arts or Foundation in Science. Note that if you take Foundation in Science, you can change to arts courses for your degree but if you take Foundation in Arts, you can’t change to science-based courses.
It is important to talk to the right people to give you proper advise.
Just like you won’t ask a Doctor how to repair your car or a mechanic about your health, you should ask someone who has the necessary experience with in depth knowledge of the hundreds of courses and universities out there.
The choice that you make now can change your life forever, so you should talk to the right people and make the right choices.
Summary of the Best Pre-University Programmes in Malaysia
Top Foundation Programmes in Malaysia
Students after SPM or O-Levels can consider taking the Foundation Programmes at top private universities in Malaysia. The Foundation Programmes are 1 year and is cheaper compared to the external Pre-University Programmes.
Many private higher educational institutions in Malaysia, have developed their own internal university foundation programmes. Students who know what they want to study can just go for the Foundation at the university offering the degree of interest. It is cheaper, easier and a faster way to continue to completing the degree in Malaysia.
|Number of subjects||12-15. Varies depending on the programme and university (usually combination of compulsory, elective & MPU subjects)|
|Recognition & Accreditation||Malaysia Qualification Agency (MQA)|
|Assessment||Assessment for Foundation programmes in Malaysia will vary from university to university. It will contain a mix of coursework, assignments, quizzes and exams. The coursework could cover different assessment tasks such as projects, assignments, laboratory work, presentations, tests, and others as assigned throughout each semester. The final examination is conducted at the end of each semester.|
|Price||RM8,000 – RM25,000|
The Best A-Level Programmes in Malaysia
The A-Levels is quite popular however it is quite tough and not for those who do not have the discipline or motivation to complete it. I would recommend the A-Levels for those intending to pursue medicine, dentistry, law or pharmacy or who are planning to go overseas. The A-Levels is internationally-recognised for admission into universities worldwide including professional courses.
The A-level syllabuses are divided into Advanced Subsidiary (AS) and Advanced Two (A2) levels, each contributing 50% towards the final A-Level grade. AS Level is the first half of the course and forms the foundation of A-Level. A2 Level is the second part of the syllabus and covers more difficult topics.
Students who have good results in SPM/O-Levels and prefer exam-oriented assessment rather than coursework or assignments, should go for the A-Levels.
|Country of origin||United Kingdom (UK)|
|Duration||12 – 18 months|
|Number of subjects||2- 4. Students may choose the following subjects:
|Assessment||It is 100% external examination-based. Both the ‘A2’ and ‘AS’ level examination sessions occur twice a year, in June and November, with some subjects only available in June or November. Results are issued in August and February respectively.|
|Price||RM20,000 – RM40,000|
Australia Matriculation Programmes in Malaysia
There are 2 different Australian Matriculation programmes in Malaysia which are the:
- South Australian Matriculation (SAM) or SACE International
- Western Australian Matriculation (AUSMAT)
There are some slight differences between the two programmes and it is important for students to research and compare to see which on fits them.
I would not advise students to go for the March intake as it is an intensive programme which is shorter in duration where the exam is in November. Many students with good SPM results have not done well after taking the March intake for AUSMAT.
|Country of origin||Australia|
|Duration||7 – 18 months|
|Number of subjects||5 subjects (including English)|
|Awarding Body||South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE)|
|Price||RM21,000 – RM40,000|
Canadian International Matriculation Programme (CIMP) in Malaysia
The Canadian Pre-University (CPU) or CIMP is the final year of the secondary school programme in Ontario, Canada. It is designed based on the course guidelines and standards of the Ministry of Education and Training of the Ontario Province.
|Country of origin||Canada|
|Duration||12 – 15 months|
|Number of subjects||6 subjects which include one English subject, that is, either ENG4E or ENG4U. The other subjects are Business, Computer Studies, Mathematics, Science and Social Science.|
|Assessment||70% coursework (e.g. tests, research papers, assignments) and 30% final exam|
|Awarding Body||Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD)|
|Cost||Between RM13,000 – RM35,000|
American Degree Transfer Programme (ADTP)
Students after SPM or O-Levels will enter directly into Year 1 of the degree program for a total of 4 years. The American Degree system after SPM or O-Levels is
- Year 1 (Freshman) – ADTP in Malaysia
- Year 2 (Sophomore) – ADTP in Malaysia
- Year 3 (Junior) – University in the USA
- Year 4 (Senior) – University in the USA
The American undergraduate degree provides an education that emphasizes problem-solving, critical thinking and decision-making skills. American education provides a flexible, holistic and well-rounded approach to education. It produces graduates with strong critical and analytical thinking skills with the ability to put knowledge into action.
|Country of origin||USA|
|Duration||48 months. After SPM or O-Levels, students will enter into the American Degree Programme for 2 years before transferring their credits to a university of their choice in the USA for the final 2 years.|
|Number of subjects||Students will take about 40 subjects (110 – 140 credit hours) in total during their four years of studies, where 20 subjects (60 credit hours) are completed at ADP and the rest are completed in the USA. Students will normally take about 4-5 subjects each semester.|
|Assessment||Students are assessed through exams, coursework, assignments, presentations, quizzes and research papers. The percentage of exams and assignments varies depending on the subject you are taking.|
|Grading System||Final results will be a single score, the Grade Point Average (GPA) on a 0.0 to 4.0 scale. The highest grade is an A, which equals 4.0 The final result is the CGPA (cumulative grade point average) which is also on a 0.0 to 4.0 scale, and is your GPA obtained from all subjects taken.|
|Cost||RM30,000 – RM60,000 for duration of 2 years of study in Malaysia. Cost of studying in the USA would range from RM150,000 to RM200,000 per year including cost of living.|
Diploma Course at Private Universities in Malaysia
Students who are sure of what they want to study can go for a Diploma course. If you are still not sure, then you should go for a Pre-University programme. The diploma generally is more practical while a degree course is more theoretical and academic.
After completing your diploma, you can go find a job or continue on to Year 2 of the degree if your college or university offers the degree or you can transfer credits into another university. If you transfer to another university, you may not be able to get the full exemptions to enter into Year 2 of the degree.
|Duration||24 – 30 months|
|Number of subjects||25-35 subjects (May include internship)|
|Assessment||A mix of Assignments, Coursework, and written examination percentage. The diploma programme provides students with relevant, interesting, stimulating and practical experience via a variety of teaching and practical techniques.
Students will experience different dynamic learning processes are employed in the delivery of a diploma programme, such as lectures, tutorials, computer lab work, team-based project, real life system development, presentations, independent projects supervised by supervisors from university lecturers or industry experts. The learning is very much practical oriented.
|Recognition||Accredited by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA)|
|Cost||RM15,000 to RM50,000|
Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM)
Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) is Malaysia’s version of the UK’s GCE A-Levels and is a Pre-University course recognised for entry into public universities (IPTA) in Malaysia. The STPM is also accepted for entry into private universities in Malaysia and overseas universities. The STPM is acknowledged as one of the toughest exams in the world.
If you had scored high is SPM, you are eligible for scholarships for Foundation programmes at top private universities. The Foundation programmes are easier and so if you score for Foundation, you can get more scholarships to cover part or all of your degree studies.
Problem is if you take the STPM which is so much tougher than the Foundation course, although Form 6 is free, but if you don’t score in STPM, you have no scholarship for your degree studies and in the end have to pay all of the fees for your degree studies in private university.
The STPM is extremely tough and if you do not do well, you would have wasted 2 years of your life and time is money. The earlier you graduate and join the work force, the more work experience you can gain and add this to your resume where it translates into higher salary. If you take a diploma at a private university in Malaysia, you would have finished it at the same time you would have taken to complete Form 6.
You need a lot of discipline and good teachers in order to do well in the STPM. If you have alright results for your SPM, don’t expect a miracle in the STPM as it is 20 times tougher than the SPM. If you can afford, choose an easier way through the 1-year Foundation offered at top reputable Private Universities in Malaysia.
|Country of origin||Malaysia|
|Duration||18 months (+6 months if you intend to apply to public universities)|
|Number of subjects||Between 4 – 5 (including General Paper)|
|Grading||Final results will be a single score, the Overall Subject Grade Point. Grades are given from A to F for each subject taken, which corresponds to a grade point. The Overall Subject Grade Point is the average of the top four subjects with the maximum score of 4.0.|
|Cost||Less than RM1,000|
Malaysian Matriculation Programme (Matrikulasi) and Asasi IPTA
Program Matrikulasi Malaysia) is a one-year pre-university preparatory programme offered by the Ministry of Education, Malaysia. Starting 2005, the selection process for the programme is done through a race-based quota system, where 90% of the places are reserved for bumiputeras students while the remaining 10% are open for non-bumiputeras.
Prior to 2006, only one-year programmes are being conducted. Since then, four different programmes are offered. They are One Year Programme (PST, short for Program Satu Tahun in Malay), Two Year Programme (PDT, short for Program Dua Tahun in Malay), Technical Programme and Accounting Programme. Mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry and informatics science subjects are conducted in English. Other compulsory subjects are English, Dynamics Skills (Kemahiran Dinamika), Islamic/Moral Study and Information Technology. Students are also required to take up a co-curricular activity of their choice (sports/games, societies/clubs or marching band) during the programme.
|Country of origin||Malaysia|
|Duration||12 months (Program Satu Tahun) – 24 months (Program Dua Tahun)|
|Number of subjects||Students must study at least six subjects over two semesters (one year). There is one intake a year, usually in March or April. The matriculation programme in Malaysia offers three streams – science, accountancy and technical streams|
|Assessment||Combination of classroom assignments and examinations|
|Grading System||Your GPA is determined from the grade values associated with the grades that you obtain for each subject every semester. All grades are internally assessed.|
Comparison Chart of the Top Pre-University (Pre-U) Programmes in Malaysia
|Pre-U Programme||Brief introduction||Duration||Assessment||Subjects|
|Cambridge A-Levels Awarded by Cambridge Advanced Level Certificate||The Cambridge GCE A Level is the general certificate of education qualification through examinations by the University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE).The GCE A Level programme places emphasis on knowledge, understanding and reasoning abilities and skills.||Duration is 12 or 18 months Intakes in January, March and July Exams in June & November||Assessed totally through external examinations. The examination papers are set and marked by examiners from the University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE). You can now sit for the A-Level examination in two phases: at Advanced Subsidiary Level (AS) and at Advanced Two (A2) Level. Students unsatisfied with any of their individual units must re-sit the entire level, ie either AS or A2, and only the last score will automatically be taken into account.||No. of Subjects: 3-4 SciencePhysics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, Further Mathematics and Economics.Arts
Law, Mathematics, Economics, History, Accounting, English Literature and Business Studies.
|LONDON EDEXCEL INTERNATIONAL – A-Levels||The Qualifications & Curriculum Authority (QCA) in the UK only recognises the London A-Levels. The London A-Levels is under the tight scrutiny of the QCA for all preparation, distribution and marking of the examination papers. For the London A-Levels, there is a centre in every region to facilitate communication with Edexcel UK, in addition to ensuring that the London A-Levels centres meet the standards set by the QCA.||Duration is 12 or 18 months Intakes in January, April and July Exams in January & May/June||100% external examination. n Modular A-levels, each A-Level subject is subdivided into SIX UNITS where each unit is separately assessed in stages. In the Staged assessment it is divided into stages and in each stage the candidates get to select any number of the six units to be assessed in each examination session. An assessment is done every six months and the number of units selected for each examination session is entirely up to the candidate. The best grades for all the 6 units will be added together for a full A-Level final grade.||No. of Subjects: 3-4
|South Australian Matriculation (SAM) or SACE International Awarded by South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE)||SAM offers – Proven learning techniques tailored to university study- A balanced choice of subjects leading to a variety of university degree courses- A mixture of school assessments and external examinations that assess students fairly
– The flexibility for students to complete the program over an extended period
– An opportunity for students to increase their tertiary entrance rank by repeating subjects without penalty.
|Duration is 10 – 18 months with intakes in January, April or August||Balance of continuous internal assessment and a final external examination. Students are provided with a university aggregate score (out of 90 marks) and a tertiary entrance rank (TER), a percentile ranking that is recognised without modification by all tertiary selection agencies in Australia. Students must complete 5 subjects, including 1 subject from List 1 and at least 1 subject from List 2. In addition, students must achieve a satisfactory score (10/20 or better) in either English as Second Language Studies, or English Studies.||No. of Subjects – 6 • Accounting
• English as an Additional
• Legal Studies
• Mathematical Methods
• Research Project B
• Specialist Mathematics
|Australian Matriculation (AUSMAT) Awarded by Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE)||The AUSMAT is the Year 12 curriculum of Western Australia. The Curriculum Council of Western Australia, on behalf of the Government of Western Australia, overseas the quality implementation of the curriculum.||Duration is 7-10 months with Intakes in January & March
Exam in November
|50% internal continuous assessment(moderated by the Curriculum Council)and 50% external final examinations (TEE)
Provides opportunities to use multiple assessment techniques to help students progress – continuous assessment may include topic tests, quizzes, assignments, investigations, research and exams.
Flexibility of calculating a student’s score based on Best-4 or Best-5 subjects .
|No. of Subjects – 5 Required to take English as an Additional Language (EAL/D) or English The remaining subjects must include one subject from each from List 1 and List 2:LIST 1 – German, English, Economics, LIST 2 – Accounting and Finance, Biological SciencesChemistry, Computer Studies
Mathematics, Mathematics : Specialist Physics
|Canadian International Matriculation Programme (CIMP) or International Canadian Pre-University (ICPU) Awarded by Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD)||Offered according to the requirements of the Ontario Ministry of Education, students to graduate with the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) In the CIMP, they focus on your development in the following areas:- Effective communication; using English as the language for international communication- Independent learning skills; learn how to learn
– Effective transition from secondary to tertiary education
– Talent and leadership development
– Community outreach
|Duration is 10 months. Intakes in January, March and July Exam in May & November||Assessment will be 70% coursework and 30% final examinations. Coursework includes evaluations conducted throughout the programme; quizzes, assignments, projects and class tests. The final assessment will be in the form of an examination.In addition, to graduate, students must sit for anexternal literacy test administered in March, perform Ten (10) hours of recognised Community Involvement.||No. of Subjects – 6 Business, Computer Studies, Mathematics, Science, Social Sciences & English Courses.|
|Internal Foundation at Private Universities in Malaysia -Internal qualification||It is cheaper and easier than the external Pre-University programmes. Students intending to continue on in the particular university can choose to go for their internal Foundation course. Its accredited by MQA & can transfer to other private universities in Malaysia for the relevant degree.||Duration is 12 mths or 3 semesters with intakes in Jan, April, July, August or October depending on the university||Assessments comprise coursework, class tests and examinations. Internally assessed by the private university.||No. of Subjects – 12-15
Subjects depends on the type of Foundation
|American Degree Program (ADP)||-Direct entry into Year 1 of degree continue to Year 2 in Malaysia and then transfer to a university in the USA for the final 2 years- Holistic education||Duration is 2 years in Malaysia and 2 years in the USA||Assessment includes quizzes, assignments, projects and class tests.||Students will take general studies for the first 2 years before specializing in their major for the final 2 years|