I'm sure we could relate to this at some point in our life.

Sometimes we finish the exam and sometimes the exam finishes us. 

Exams are parts and parcels of our lives as a student, especially if you're currently studying at a secondary level institution in Malaysia.

In this article, we will take a look at the features, significance and education pathways of some of the most common secondary level and tertiary level education school-based examinations in the country.

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What To Expect For School-Based Assessments After The Abolishment Of PT3 In Malaysia?

First, let's start off with the most recent examination related news in the country. The announcement of the abolishment of Pentaksiran Tingkatan 3 has been making waves in local media since the first week of June this year.

Based on our research on the latest news from the Ministry of Education, here are two important pieces of information that we have gathered about the new changes to this assessment.

a) Focus on classroom-based assessments (PBD)

Students will no longer need to sit for a centralised examination for the subjects at the end of their Form 3 studies. Instead, they will be assessed year by year according to their taught syllabus throughout their lower secondary education.

The PBD encompasses two parts of assessments and is carried out by subject teachers through observation, written and aural tests through:

  • Formative assessment [Classroom activities in the form of group presentations, quizzes]
  • Summative assessment [School-based examination at the end of the academic year]
PBD malaysia
Under the PBD, students will go through a series of formative and summative assessments.
Source: Xframe

b) The emphasis of assessment will no longer solely be on academic grades

Apart from monitoring the student's academic progress through PBD, students will also be evaluated in terms of their physical, sports and co-curricular-based assessment (PAKSK) and psychometric assessment (PPsi). 

This introduction of these two assessments will reduce the over-reliance on examination grades among students when they are considering their pathways for their Form 4 studies later.

Read this to have a better understanding of lower secondary education assessments for public schools in Malaysia.

Why Is SPM One The Most Important Exams For Secondary School Students In The Country?

Now, let's move toward higher secondary level education.

Ask any Form 5 students (or their parents) and they will tell you that their mind is pretty much occupied with the thought of sitting for Sijil Pelajaran (SPM) at the end of the year.

That's why you'll see most of them spending time in libraries for revision, going for tutoring lessons and even temporarily saying goodbye to their favourite hobbies to achieve the best outcome in the exams.

It's their ultimate goal to score as many As as possible to mark a glorious end to their public secondary level education in Malaysia.

What makes SPM so important?

a) Extensive subjects and syllabus

Apart from the 7 compulsory subjects (Malay, English, Mathematics, Science, History, Islamic Studies, Moral Studies) , SPM candidates get to choose to sit for a variety of subject combinations from these various categories:

  • Arts and Health
  • Economics and Business
  • Language and Literature
  • Science and Mathematics
  • Social Sciences and Religion
  • Technical and Vocational

The subjects are marked using the following grading scale.

GREDMARKAHTAHAP
A+90-100CEMERLANG TERTINGGI
A80-89CEMERLANG TINGGI
A-70-79CEMERLANG
B+65-69KEPUJIAN TERTINGGI
B60-64KEPUJIAN TINGGI
C+55-59KEPUJIAN ATAS
C50-54KEPUJIAN
D45-49LULUS ATAS
E40-44LULUS
G01-39GAGAL (FAIL)

b) Most versatile secondary level qualification examination to enter all pre-universities programme

Think of SPM as a multi-purpose card that can help you gain access to various buildings. In short, your SPM results can help you to apply to various pre-university programmes in Malaysia and even outside Malaysia.

Here is the list of pre-university programmes that requires SPM qualification locally:

  • Form Six studies (STPM)
  • Local matriculation (Public)
  • Foundation (Private)
  • Diploma (Public and private)
  • A-Level (Private)
  • South Australian Matriculation/Australian Matriculation (Private)
  • American Degree Transfer Programme (Private)
apply university malaysia
Different secondary exams can lead to different education pathways for your university application.
Photo by Akson on Unsplash

If you have at least 5 credits (Cs) in your SPM and pass your Malay and Sejarah paper, you can pretty much apply to all the above programmes and also for foundation programmes overseas.

If you have 3 credits, you can apply for a local diploma programme.

Learn more about the SPM examination here.

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What Are Some Foreign Language Exams That You Can Take While Taking Your SPM?

In an increasingly globalized world, it's undeniable that Malaysians have the upper hand when it comes to mastering multiple languages at a tender age. The majority of us easily speak two languages fluently and some of us are even trilingual.

If you are a foreign language lover and would like to take your language learning journey to the next level while pursuing your secondary education in Malaysia, you should certainly sign up for the Ujian Pencapaian Bahasa Asing (UPBA).

You can refer to the list below for the offered subjects:

  • German
  • Korean
  • Japanese
  • Communicative Chinese

Do you know that you can master all of the above foreign languages with the help of a Superprof tutor?

Superprof is an established learning platform that connects passionate learners and dedicated tutors from all parts of the world to learn various subjects.

Don't be surprised that you can find as many as 5658 private German tutors at Superprof that offer physical lessons or online lessons in Malaysia.

You can easily hire a language tutor at Superprof with these simple steps.

  1. Head to the Superprof Malaysia homepage
  2. Choose the subject that you want to learn and select your current location (city/online)
  3. Filter your preferences for your current learning level and maximum budget for hourly rate
  4. Start browsing the tutors' profiles
  5. Contact your desired tutor with a Superprof Student Subscription Pass
  6. Confirm the final class details with your tutor and prepare for your first lesson

Refer to this UPBA guide to know why you should take this foreign language exam.

What Are The Differences Between UEC and STPM?

After completing your SPM, you could still want to pursue your tertiary studies (Form Six) in a school setting instead of entering a college/university immediately.

You can either take the Sijil Pelajaran Tinggi Malaysia (STPM) in a government public school or continue your studies to get a Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) if you're already studying in a Chinese Independent High School.

Here are some of the differences between these two examination systems.

  • Subjects offered 

In terms of the UEC, the majority of the subjects are offered in Chinese and the syllabus is adapted from teaching materials from Taiwan and China. For STPM, all subjects are taught in Malay apart from Science and Mathematics subjects and also other language-based subjects.

  • Grading system 

STPM and UEC have different grading systems. UEC follows an A to F grading scale while STPM uses the Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA).

Important note: A Credit in UEC is from A1 grade to B6 grade. 

UEC grading scale:

  1. A1
  2. A2
  3. B3
  4. B4
  5. B5
  6. B6
  7. C7 [Pass]
  8. C8 [Pass]
  9. F9 [Fail]

STPM Grading scale: 

GradeScore (Marks)CGPARemarks
A80-1004.00Full Pass
A-73-793.67Full Pass
B60-663.00Full Pass
B-53-592.67Full Pass
C+47-522.33Full Pass
C40-462.00Full Pass
C-37-391.67Partial Pass
D+33-361.33Partial Pass
D30-321.00Partial Pass
F0-290Fail
  • Education pathways 

You can apply for degree programmes in public universities,  private universities in Malaysia and even apply for overseas universities with an STPM qualification.

On the other hand, for UEC graduates, you can only enrol in a degree programme at private colleges and universities and also overseas higher learning institutions.

What Is The Pathway To Pursue Vocational Studies At Secondary Level In Malaysia?

If you do not intend to pursue the conventional academic path for your secondary-level studies, you can consider venturing into Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).

We have seen an increase in employability among many TVET graduates in Malaysia in recent years due to various industry demands.

To kickstart your TVET learning journey, you can apply to study at a vocational college after completing your primary education. Yes, that's how early you can master these skills.

We've listed the two education pathways that you can pursue vocational studies at your secondary level education and tertiary level education in Malaysia.

Kolej Vokasional (Vocational College)

At the Kolej Vokasional, you will be exposed to a variety of subjects. 33 of them are listed under the Sijil Vokasional Malaysia (SVM) exams. Throughout your studies here, you will be tested on your vocational specialization and also several core academic subjects

After getting your SVM, you can then continue to sit for the Diploma Vokasional Malaysia (DVM) at the same vocational college before furthering your studies.

Discover more about the SVM.

Local public universities

After getting your DVM, you can apply to enrol for a vocational degree programme at several local public universities. You can then work in the government sector, private sector or even open your own vocational based business upon graduation.

study vocational malaysia
Vocational studies has a promising future in Malaysia.
Photo by Bakhrom Tursunov on Unsplash

Why Is IGCSE Your Go-To Choice If You Plan To Study Overseas?

Last but not the least, let's talk about the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE). It is a secondary level exam taken by students in international schools or homeschooling students in Malaysia.

To any parents who are reading this, if you have plans to send your children overseas one day, you can certainly encourage them to take this exam.

Here are two important reasons.

a) Internationally tailored syllabus for all subjects 

All of the IGCSE subjects follow the syllabus that has been endorsed by the Cambridge International Assessment Education. Every year, candidates over the globe sit for the same paper set by this body.

b) Usage of English as the medium of instruction 

Of course, apart from the Malay Language and other foreign language subjects, the rest of the subjects are taught solely in English. So you can be sure that your written and spoken English will improve.

Find out more about IGCSE exams in Malaysia.

This has been a guide to all the secondary level and tertiary level school-based examinations in Malaysia. All the best in your studies!

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An avid reader and writer, Joycelyn loves the art of communication and is passionate about all kinds of media.