A little about the O levels or IGCSE exams

We have been getting many enquiries from parents about preparations for IGCSE. As we are not well-versed with the exam sytem, we have requested the principal of a learning center to give her comments. This is teacher Kat (Katherine Loh) – who runs an O levels center in Puchong, and who has very graciously agreed to help with answers to some common questions. Teacher Kat successfully homeschooled her children up to college level using the IGCSE curriculum.

1. When is the best time to prepare a child for the IGCSE? 8? 9? 12?

Wow, this question is a tough one! Do you mean,’when do I start preparing for exams?’ Or just ‘ when do I start reading up material?’ You need to understand that IGCSE is very much curriculum guided, which means that you can score in the exams if you follow their format. I assume that we are taking the former question. So, if you start preparing your child at 8 for the exams, then he should be able to take the exams at 10 or 11. Then what? Go to college at 12? What is a good age to enter college? Will your child be able to cope with the challenges in college at 15? Not just intellectually but, emotionally and spiritually as well.

I believe the minimum age for most Msian colleges is 17 for a foundation program and 18 for a degree. My advice to parents: Don’t rush your children to take the exams. They have only one childhood. Give them time to explore and have a wider base of knowledge. Give them time to develop soft skills as well. The time to switch to iGCSE syllabus for exams could be from 14 onwards. Duration of course, depending on number of subjects taken can be 1-3 years.

2. Is the IGCSE the only way to get into college? Why is it getting so popular in Malaysia?

No, it’s not the only way. You can enter through Year 10 or 11 in Sunway, ADP programs, SAT plus transcripts. More options are available now. Well, the Msian education system has its roots in the British system and is acceptable for entrance to Msian colleges.

3. How does one prepare for it at home? Would you encourage students to do it on their own without tuition from O levels centers like yours?

One can try to do it homeschool style initially but for most subjects, you may need a tutor for the final round of preparation. Especially for the Sciences and Add Maths.

4. What are the criteria for the course? Can anyone or everyone do it?

This is a difficult question. Shall I say that I do have at least one student for every batch who don’t make the minimum 3 credits. Some do come back for retakes. You have to be very strategic if a student has learning difficulties. Every case is different. I have found that certain international schools are now offering Physical Education, Drama, ICT as IGCSE subjects. This is good for students who are not academically inclined. However, learning centres cannot offer these subjects as they are project based.

5. Does the O levels certificate get one into college?

Yes if you have a minimum of 3-5 credits.

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