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IP Vs. O-Level: Which Is A Better Option For Your Child?

The Integrated Programme (IP) is a 6-year programme targeted at the top 10% of each graduating cohort from primary school. Students in this programme can bypass the O-Level for a direct route towards the A-Level, International Baccalaureate (IB), or NUS High School Diploma. Secondary students on the O-Level track can also apply to transfer to the Integrated Programme (IP) at secondary 3 if they perform well in their studies.

If your child falls into either category, congratulations! However, it is best to consider whether the IP is the best educational path for your child before committing to a decision. Let us peel back the layers of what you and your child can expect from the IP and its differences from the O-level curriculum to ensure that both of you can fully understand what the IP demands from and instills in students before making your choice.

Introducing the Integrated Programme

In Singapore, the conventional route students take after PSLE is to transition to secondary school and work towards achieving their O-Level in secondary 4 or 5 before progressing to a junior college, polytechnic, or the Institute of Technical Education (ITE). 

The IP program changes that, allowing Secondary students to skip their O-Level examination. Instead, students undergo a 6-year programme (inclusive of JC1 and 2) that exposes them to a broader range of learning experiences in academic and non-academic areas.

However, not all secondary schools offer this programme. There are currently 17 schools in Singapore offering the IP program – 13 schools offer the IP program leading to the A-Level, while 3 schools offer the IP program leading to the IB Diploma, with the last offering a path leading to the NUS High School Diploma.

Here is the list of current IP schools in Singapore:

IP schools leading to the A-Level:

  • Catholic High School
  • Cedar Girl’s Secondary School
  • CHIJ St. Nicholas Girl’s School
  • Dunman High School
  • Hwa Chong Institution
  • Nanyang Girl’s High School
  • National Junior College
  • Raffle Girl’s School
  • Raffles Institution
  • Singapore Chinese Girl’s School
  • Temasek Junior College
  • Victoria School

IP schools leading to the IB Diploma:

  • Anglo-Chinese School
  • Methodist Girls’ School
  • Saint Joseph’s Institution
  • School of the Arts


  • NUS High School of Mathematics and Science

IP vs. O-Level: what are the differences?

Each IP school has its individual programmes and methods of execution. As such, the curriculum design and rigour of each school vary. Nevertheless, you and your child can still expect the programme to differ from the O-Level track in the following ways.

Difference #1: In-depth study and early introduction of A-Level concepts

In-Depth Study and Early Introduction of A-Level Concepts

Students undertaking the IP program are introduced to more advanced topics and study materials before they reach the JC level. The aim is to provide them with a robust foundation when they progress to tertiary education, giving them a head start over those on the O-Level track. As a result, it is unsurprising to find many students seeking additional help, like enrolling in IP Maths and IP Chemistry tuition, to ensure they do not fall behind in class.

Difference #2: IP exams are more aligned with the A-Level syllabus

More Critical Thinking

Having taught IP Chemistry and IP Maths tuition classes for years, our tutors have observed that both IP and O-Levels examinations tend to feature many inference and critical thinking questions. These questions are designed to encourage students to think out of the box, test their inference and deduction skills, or require them to combine concepts across different topics to answer the questions correctly. However, IP exams are more closely aligned with the content taught in A levels. As a result, students in the IP program are better equipped to tackle the A-Level exams.

Difference #3: Less exam-focused learning

Less Exam Focused Learning

While textbook-based learning remains a pivotal aspect of the IP program, they do not comprise the entire curriculum. Instead, learning can involve various activities. For example, students may be asked to act out the scene of a play during their Language Arts class. 

Project work also features significantly, with the format involving extended essays, oral presentations, or research projects for various subjects. These continuous assessments are all graded and count towards the student’s final aggregate score, which can impact their JC promotion.

This is in stark contrast to students taking the O-Level exams. O-Level students have to diligently prepare throughout their entire academic year to ensure they perform well for one final exam. Meanwhile, students in the IP program have to ensure that they perform well for every weighted assignment and test, as each grade counts towards their cumulative average points, which can impact their JC promotion.

Is the IP suitable for my child?

Just because your child is strong academically does not mean they are automatically suitable for the IP track. Notably, the curriculum’s relatively open-ended and exploratory nature may not suit students requiring more structure in their learning. Conversely, independent learners may find themselves excelling in the programme.

So, avoid making a hasty decision. We recommend considering your child’s interests, learning style, personality, and preferences when selecting their ideal educational path. For example, O-Level might be a better stepping stone if there is a vocation that your child wishes to pursue in a polytechnic.

The IP can be beneficial for your child, offering them a holistic education and better preparing them for the rigours of tertiary education. However, if your child is struggling with the curriculum, particularly in Maths or Chemistry, fret not! At Studious Minds, our IP Maths and IP Chemistry tuition classes are specially designed to support your child’s learning along the IP track, equipping them with the skills they need to thrive while managing the transition. Visit our website to sign up for our trial lessons today.