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How To Retake O Levels As A Private Candidate?

The O Level exam is one of the milestones many Singaporean students have to pass on their way towards higher education and successful careers. 

O Levels are taken by millions of students worldwide and in Singapore, there are two ways you can do it. You can either take your O Levels through your school or as a private candidate

This article focuses on the latter. Here you will find all the essential information connected with O Levels (i.e. what are the deadlines, the fees, what not to bring to the test center, where you can get your test results, and so on). 

Also know: 5 key differences between Cambridge O levels and Cambridge IGCSE, don't register for the wrong one!

Now, most O Level candidates take their O Level exams through their schools and get information about this exam in the classroom, however, you do not have this opportunity if you are a private candidate. In this case, it is up to you to keep yourself constantly up to date about the latest developments (you can do that by frequently visiting the MOE website). 

To make it easier for private candidates we have made a compilation of the essential pieces of information every O Levels private candidate should be aware of. Without further ado, here is what you need to know. 

Registration Requirements For Private Candidates

In order to retake your GCE O Level exam as a private candidate, you will need to fulfill the following requirements. 

Firstly, you need to have turned 15 years old no later than 1 January of the same year you are planning to take the exam. 

Secondly, you must not be a school candidate. 

Thirdly, if you are planning to take a science subject test that requires you to write a practical paper there are two ways of doing that. You either need to have taken this test before, or you are planning to attend / currently attending the science practical at school (any school will do). Only if you satisfy these preconditions will you be allowed to sit your science exam. 

And, last but not least, you are only able to choose 9 test subjects

If you know that you can fulfill all of the aforementioned requirements then congratulations, you are eligible to take your O Level exams as a private candidate. 

Exam Syllabus For Private Candidates

Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board provides the official examination syllabus for the O Level private candidates on their website. You must check it before registering for any of the subject tests. Here is why it is crucial for you to do so.

Firstly, there are some subjects that are only offered to government school students and are not accessible to private candidates (so logically, there is no point in registering for such subjects). 

Some of these inaccessible subjects are Technology, Art and Design, and Computing. Check the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board’s website to see the full list of the subjects that are offered to private O Level candidates.  

The second reason you need to check the syllabus before registering has to do with the updates. SEAB updates the syllabus on a regular basis, so if any changes have occurred in the subject you need to know about it. 

The Registration Deadlines

O Level private candidates can start filling in their application forms in March. The application process takes place online on the official Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board’s website. You must visit the website to see the exact dates. 

The Exam Fees

The examination fees vary for each private candidate depending on their citizenship status. If you are a citizen of Singapore you will typically have to pay $64 (the fees may vary ever so slightly). Permanent residents in Singapore will have to pay approximately $65. As for the international students, they will have to pay around $75. 

Keep in mind that these are the basic fees. The prices for each subject also vary depending on the candidate’s citizenship status. In addition to the basic and subject fees students also have to pay the exam GST fee. 

You are probably curious how you can pay. Well, O Level payments can be made at any SingPost office or, even more conveniently, online with the use of debit and credit cards. In addition, you can also pay via a Self-Automated machine. 

Receiving the Proof of Exam Entry

After you have paid all of the exam fees you will receive the proof of entry by mail. If you are planning to take a mid-year exam the proof of entry should arrive by May. As for those who plan to take their O Levels at the end of the year they will receive it by July. 

Do not lose this proof of entry as you will need to show it at your NRIC to be allowed to sit the test. 

What to do if you get sick before the exam?

MOE has always made special provisions for sick students wishing to take the O Levels, but this has probably never been more important than it is in today’s day and age. 

If you have a contagious disease (either COVID-19 or any other) or if you are hospitalized for any reason and cannot go to the official testing location then you must call the customer service hotline of the Ministry Of Education, their contact details here. They will connect you to SEAB and explain to you in detail how to overcome your predicament. 

The ministry will provide you with a medical certificate that will give a detailed account of your medical condition. This certificate must be presented to SEAB so that they allow you to sit your O Levels outside the exam center. 

The SEAB will arrange for you to sit the exam either at the hospital or at a special exam center. In the case of the former, you will need to bring your own exam materials. 

If you are so ill that it is impossible for you to take the test even with all of these concessions, then you can make a request for Special Consideration. 

This will be granted if the student has completed at least half of the component score of the subject. You also need to have all of the relevant medical reports in order to support your request. 

If any other unforeseen circumstances arise that hinder your ability to sit your O Levels contact the SEAB as soon as possible and follow their instructions to the letter. 

The Exam Location 

Everything you need to know about your O Level exam location will be written in the Proof of entry that you will receive by mail. This document will include the location address, your seat number, etc. so, once again, it is important to tuck this paper away in a safe space until the day of the exam. 

Late Registration Period

Those students who missed the March registration deadline will still be able to register in April. However, the SEAB will charge a late registration fee in addition to all of the exam fees. In addition to the extra fees, you might be required to contact the MOE if you missed the deadline. So, needless to say, it is best to register in March. 

The list of forbidden items.

You cannot bring whatever you want into the exam hall. Below there is a list of the items you absolutely cannot have on your person while taking the exam.

  1. Any kind of electronic device that captures and stores any type of audio, visual, or written information (this includes all phones, tablets, smart watches, music players, etc.). 
  2. Any unauthorized papers (reference materials, notebooks, study notes, sticky notes, paper with a conversion table on it, etc.). 
  3. Any kind of calculator or dictionary (unless they are on the official list of approved items). 

It goes without saying that breaking any of the aforementioned rules will result in a severe penalty. 

Receiving Your GCE O Level Test Results

About two months after the entire examination process has been completed in January all of the test results will be released. The actual date is announced by the MOE several days in advance so periodically check their website to see when it will happen. If you are unable to access the website for some reason, do not worry. The date typically gets announced on the news, so keep an eye out for that. 

Also, the results are sent out by mail, and if you are a Singapore citizen you can check your SingPass account to see them. 

To conclude, taking your O Levels as a private candidate may seem daunting at first but in reality, the process is very well managed and organized. In this article you have learned about the essential things you need to keep in mind to make sure this process runs as smoothly and as painlessly as possible. But if you have some unique problem you can always get in touch with the MOE for additional support and guidance.

More informative posts:
Life after O level results: What's next?
How to study for GCE O levels as a private candidate in Singapore

Don't forget, you can also get a good private O level tutor to help you pass it this time round!

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About Author

Tutor City's blog focuses on balancing informative and relevant content, never at the expense of providing an enriching read. 

We want our readers to expand their horizons by learning more and find meaning to what they learn.

Resident author - Mr Wee Ben Sen, has a wealth of experience in crafting articles to provide valuable insights in the field of private education.

Ben Sen has also been running Tutor City, a leading home tuition agency in Singapore since 2010.