Bridging the Gap: The Jump from “O” to “A” Levels Humanities

The following is an article which we have contributed to the latest Nov/Dec16 issue of PopClub.

A brand new challenge awaits students who are now done with their GCE O-Level examinations, and those who have finished their IP Year 4. As they advance to pre-university education, they have to navigate the arduous task of choosing a subject combination.

It is important to note that it is compulsory even for Pure Science students to select a contrasting subject, in this case, a Humanities subject as part of their subject combination. Where most students would have taken Combined Humanities at the O-Levels, the choices of these contrasting Humanities subjects in JC include China Studies in English, Economics, Geography, History and English Literature.

Another important point to note is that even for a “familiar” subject like History, the breadth and depth of content and the rigorous assessment mode means that it is no longer just a “memorising” subject but requires a high-level of analytical and essay writing skills. For totally new subjects like China Studies and Economics, the learning curve will be even steeper. Since having a headstart into understanding the basic theories and concepts will be beneficial, students can search for specific programmes before the start of the new school year to help them bridge this gap.

The following is a brief introduction on the various Humanities subjects:

China Studies in English

CSE focuses on the development in contemporary China with a key focus on the post-1978 period. Students will examine how the opening up of China and economic reforms under Deng Xiaoping has brought impacts on Chinese society and culture, shaped its patterns of governance, brought opportunities and challenges, and influenced China’s foreign policy. H2 students will also need to do a written report (Independent Study) on a topic of their choice to be drawn from the various themes.


Despite its popularity, many students will struggle with Economics. The theories appear abstract and most learners end up faring badly as they are unable to apply them to real-world situations. Topics range from Demand and Supply to Macroeconomic Policies and even International Trade. Students will benefit from a specially designed curriculum that complements the school system and imparts an important set of knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that will motivate them to take an active interest in socio-economic issues.


Geography has recently undergone a significant syllabus change. More than simply learning prescribed subject knowledge on Physical and Human Geography, the new syllabus is aimed at developing skills and competencies for the 21st century. Centred on three themes like “Tropical Environments”, “Development, Economy and Environment” and “Sustainable Development”, students have to apply relevant geographical knowledge to carry out investigations and making recommendations and decisions that consider different elements of an issue and address interests of different stakeholders.


Divided into two papers, Paper 1 “Shaping the International Order 1945-2000” covers three themes: 1) Understanding the Cold War 1945-1991; 2) Understanding the Global Economy and 3) Safeguarding International Peace and Security. Paper 2 focuses on the Making of Independent Southeast Asia 1945-2000, and covers 1) Search for Political Stability, 2)Economic Development after Independence and 3) Regional Conflicts and Cooperation. Emphasis is placed on how students engage crucial historical concepts and apply them in their responses. These range from an awareness of chronology to change and continuity.

English Literature

Besides needing to have a deep love for reading, students have to demonstrate how the literary context of the text informs their understanding and critically analyse and evaluate ways in which writers’ choices of form, structure and language shape meanings, and clearly communicate the knowledge, understanding and insights appropriate to literary study. In addition to set texts, students will be required to critically compare and evaluate unseen texts in one of the papers.

Make your choices wisely!

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