Selecting the Suitable University Courses

Confused with the number of university courses available ? Open houses and talks from courses might paint too rosy a picture about that particular course. In addition, course descriptions on the official site are usually too general. These information are presented in such a way to attract the best applicants into their respective course.

Not to suggest these information are deceiving as it depends on which perspective one is looking from. These information can be interpreted as the "potential" of each courses. Whether one can ultimately fulfill the potential to excel will differ accordingly to individual. For instance, taking banking related courses do not guarantee one will be able to get into the prestige "management associate" programs offered by banks. You will have to excel in the courses to stand a chance in getting into such prestigious career tracks.

Discounting the rare occasion, opportunity will only come if you excel in the courses you have chosen. Thereby do select a course that you are passionate about, or at least you think you are passionate about it. Access your own strength and whether you can excel in the particular course you have selected.

I have collated opinions from undergrads in their senior years, to provide applicants like you a different perspective to access your choices. Their relevant A-Level grades are provided to help in your judgement. These are their HONEST PERSONAL OPINIONS of the courses they are currently studying. Thus responses might differ from person to person and it will again be up to individual to decide which parts to take away. Do take your time to read through before making what might be considered the most important academic decision of your life.


Contributing Courses Review

Please email me directly at contact@anthonytuition.com to provide your feedback with regards to the particular university courses you have undertaken/undertaking. NO VULGAR ADJECTIVES, I am not going to edit your responses. VERY SINCERE THANKS to everyone for taking up your time to answer the questions.

NUS Chemistry

Written By: Sarah Feb 2011
Current Years of Study: Chemistry year 3 students
Relevant A-Level Grades: As in H2 Chemistry and H2 Maths

Challenges faced and what to expect from the courses you are studying.

1) More abstract than JC chemistry, have to imagine.
2) Learning the origin/derivation of the theory rather than the theories that have been laid out for us in JC
3) More independent learning of the concepts, ie less spoon feeding.
4) Organic Chemistry is very very different from JC. A lot of arrow pushing in solving a problem. It’s either you get it or you don’t.

What are the Specializations offered for your courses?

1) Analytical, Inorganic, Organic and Physical
2) All the basics/fundamentals will be covered in Level 1 and 2 module- they are compulsory
3)Can choose modules in Year 3 and Year 4 ( But you don’t have the option to declare ur area of specialization
(as mentioned in pt 1) 4)Can apply for Applied Chemistry (more like physics + engineering) in Year 1 Sem 2, need to take a module
called CM1161 and a cap of 3.50 and above to qualify for that degree. Good point is that there is a 1 sem internship worth 8mcs.

Career options and prospects

1) Research (I guess have to further studies)
2) Industries like Biopolis, DSO and petroleum industries.

NUS Chemistry

Written By: Agnes Feb 2011
Current Years of Study: Chemistry year 3 students
Relevant A-Level Grades: As in H2 Chemistry and H2 Maths

Challenges faced and what to expect from the courses you are studying.

Uni Chem is not entirely different from H2 Chemistry, it builds on the fundamental concepts of H2 Chem. However, if you have taken H3 Pharmaecutical Chem, it would be a great advantage especially in year 2 where the chem modules focuses mainly on spectroscopic techniques, which is entirely new for H2 chem students. For those interested in Organic chem and wants to pursue chem as a result, JC organic chem is not a good gauge, as the style of learning of org chem in JC is strongly discouraged here. It focuses on mechanism derivation, compounds synthesis and retrosynthesis here, hence solutions are more often than not intuitive. Hence, org chem can be a struggle for some (often many) in uni. Chemistry is a central science, it is intricately linked to all sciences. For those who want to take Chemistry with the hope of shunning subjects such as Biology or Physics, you could hardly do so. A strong foundation in both H2 physics and biology is advantageous as many of our core modules are strongly grounded by physical and biological concepts. Examples of such modules include Biochemistry, chemical processes, solid state chemistry, and even physical chemistry. One also needs to have a good grasp of mathematical and statistical concepts (H2 Maths) to have the basic functional tools to understand equations (Schrondinger), and to derive them (heisenburg uncertainty principle, quantum tunneling).

What are the Specializations offered for your courses?

Pure Chemistry, as where I am from doesn’t have any official specialisations (ie they will not be listed in our transcipt). However, we will be given flexibility of choice from yr 3 onwards, where we can choose modules from fields such as Organic chem, inorganic chem, physical chem, analytical chem & computational chem. There is also the applied chemistry option at the end of yr 1, which requires more stringent criteria for entry (min B+ for a chemical processing module, and CAP >3.5). They take in an average of 35 students each year, so it is pretty competitive. This path does offer specialisations, either in material Chemistry or Medicinal chemistry (popular choice). There is a compulsory credited internship at the end of this 4-yr direct honours course.

However there is nothing to fret for chemistry students as there is a RIPE program in place that helps allocates students to internships in chemical industries, a cap >4 is however required though. There are also undergraduate research opportunities for chem students under the UROP program, where yr 3 students having cap >3.5 can conduct research under the supervision of a professor, in place of their usual core modules.

Career options and prospects

About 60% of pure chem students take honours each year, a good honours degree is the basic requirement for research assistants in many research institutes and universities. Besides research, industrial application is another enticing option for chemistry students. Nevertheless, usually these well established renowned chemical companies such as Bayer, Aglient, Tanaka Pharmeauticals, they only take in a handful of applicants each year, and most of them require overseas posting. The rest enter jobs in non-chemistry related fields.

Any advice for them

If you are interested in learning about the theoretical concepts behind chemical phenomena, compound synthesis methods, love laboratory work (long hours at lab) and are excited about using sophiscated analytical instruments to analyse real-world samples, chemistry would be a great choice for you. However, you have to be warned that most part of chemistry, especially in the early undergraduate years, theoretical concepts are like the bible and you will be well drilled by them. It is only towards the final 2 yrs of undergrad studies where experimental studies become common and are more closely modelled after real-life industrial applications or research laboratory experiments. Nevertheless, chemistry is still a study that is abstract most of the time. Very often, the content delves deep into the quantum world (pardon my excessive use of quantum science as examples for it is my specialisation) to explain even the working principles of the apparatus we use today. So, be prepared to embrace both the theoretical and practical aspects of chemistry!

Technical details aside, there are also considerably less foreign scholars in chemistry than other science courses. Another thing to note is that yr 2 chemistry modules are relatively heavy and demanding in their content, hence it is advisable to take less demanding electives in yr 2 and leave them to later years.

NUS Material Science Engineering

Written By: Choon Hoon on Feb 2011
Current Years of Study: Graduated with 2nd Upper Honors From MSE in 2010
Relevant A-Level Grades: As in Maths and Chemistry

Challenges faced and what to expect from the courses you are studying.

It's not easy to really understand the courses that I want to take based on just the pamphlets and website. It takes me some time understand what I really want for engineering course after the tea sessions and the interactions with the seniors and I also have a hard choice between choosing NTU and NUS

Essential academic strength of applicants to excel.

Other than having good exam results, having an interest to pursuit his dreams i.e. to be a materials engineer and interest in specific research may help

Career options and prospects

Most engineers dun end up being engineers, More importantly, I feel that one should have an open mind in seeking a career based on his personality and what he likes to do.

Any advise for them.

Networking in uni is very important, coz you never know when you need their help for work and future career planning.

NUS Chemical Engineering

Written By: Qi Song on Feb 2011
Current Years of Study: Final Year Student ( Honors Year) at NUS Chemical Engineering
Relevant A-Level Grades: As in Maths, Chemistry and Physics

Challenges faced and what to expect from the courses you are studying.

Chemical engineering is about large-scale production of any useful, desired chemicals. It has nth to do with chemistry; cos it is still an engineering course after all, haha. Thus, good mathematics skill is a must. Chemical engineering is really about using all the maths that you have or are going to learn and apply into chemical processing. Like any other engineering, we have models/simulations/equations that described the physical and chemical processes taking placing in a chemical plant.

Year 1 and 2: You will learn math, chemistry and many chemical engineering basic modules. NOTE: chemical engineering basic modules are not exactly the things that u have learnt in JC. You can say that these modules are actually a hybrid of “A” level of maths and chemistry. You will get to know many different Theories and Laws which can be described by the derivatives and differential equation learnt from maths, haha. You may find these modules to be very common to Mechanical Engineering (in fact, chem eng started off from there, haha). So it is definitely NOT CHEMISTRY.

Year 3 and 4: Drawing and integrating important knowledge from the chem eng basic modules, you will start to learn “advanced” modules which define you as a “chemical engineer” from the rest of the people. Since the chem eng basic modules is all about maths equaition, the “advanced” modules is going to be about maths again, haha. Just that now u got software/programs/models to make ur life easier, haha.

At the end of the 4 years, you will be able to “simulate” a chemical plant based on the (1) maths, (2) chemical engineering basic modules and (3) “advanced” modules that you have learnt, haha. You will be able to appreciate how NUS Chem Eng department have designed the 4 years of syllabus in such sequences. New knowledge is built on top of the current ones.

Essential academic strength of applicants to excel.

I think a potential Chem Eng student should have good skills in both (1) Quantitative Analysis and (2) Qualitative Analysis.

(1) Quantitative analysis: In simple terms, you must be good in maths. A good grade in JC maths can be an indication. Like any other engineering, maths is the language that is commonly used in describing chem eng. You must be comfortable in looking and interpreting any maths terms appearing in the entire 4 years.

(2) Qualitative analysis: In simple terms, you must be good at grasping difficult concepts. A good grade in JC chemistry can be an indication. Especially in Year 2 and 3, many new chem eng concepts will be introduced to the students. You must be good in understanding these concepts and yet have the flexibility to apply them at the same time.

In addition, he/she must be good in many basic principles drawn from maths, chemistry, physics and even biology. He/she must able to switch from examining the minute details to seeing the bigger overall picture when required.

In order to excel the course, the student must have the above skills at the same time. These analyses will always happen together for the entire 4 years. This can be mentally challenging at times, but this is exactly the kind of “mentalities” that I think a chem eng student should have.

Chemical engineering can be an “easy” course. If you are already well-versed in maths, you just need to constantly challenge ur “thinking” throughout the 4 years. If you are lazy or cant be bothered to “think”, chem eng can be very tough and disturbing as described by many chem eng seniors (even if you are very good in maths).

Career options and prospects

Chem Eng students can find employments in almost any sectors. We are not limited to chemical processing/Jurong island/Shell, etc, although these sectors usually pay well. Of course, you can choose not to do these if you find it to be boring. But like any other engineering degree, we are good in all the skills mentioned above. Thus, chem eng student can also go into other non-engineering sector.

Any advise for them.

Depends what is their interests and capabilities first. What is the “thing” that they are interested in and have the capabilities to do so? It shld be sth which they feel strongly about, but I think is hard to have both at the same time, haha. But I usually tell my students to follow their interests first. At least, they have will have the motivation/understand what and why they need to learn. There are also examples of student who have capabilities and develop the interest later, haha. Actually, both interests and capabilities build on each other. Haha. Once this is defined, the choice for the course/education becomes clearer, I hope.

I think university courses form a formal education to equip the students with the necessary skills/knowledge/capabilities for the kind of work/career. I think the courses in local uni here are purposely designed to “stretch” the poor students, haha. From wat I have gathered, different courses have different styles of education in order to inculcate a set of “mentalities” required for the “job”. Thus, different courses may turn out to be different from wat the students expected, haha. I think interested students will understand why they need to undergo different learning experiences, haha.

My advice is that if a student is interested in a field and its related university courses, he/she shld talk to people who have undergone the same education. They are best people to pre-empt the student about the kind of “mentalities” and typical school life in the courses, haha. Talk to the relevant people more, or else it will turn out be different from is expected, haha.

NUS Electrical Engineering

Written By: Nelson on Feb 2011
Current Years of Study: Final Year Student ( Honors Year) at NUS Electical Engineering
Relevant A-Level Grades: As in Maths and Chemistry

Challenges faced and what to expect from the courses you are studying.

Hmm I think first expect sth very different from what we did in JC. In JC, we can juz memorise things blindly and score but in uni, I think tt memorising won't bring us far. Just understand the concepts and theory won't be enough. The students have to be able to apply the concepts and theories learnt during lecture for their projects and exams. One challenge I can think of is to be really discipline and yet still hv to balance between studying and playing. I mean if the student still wants to hv good time in uni but otherwise, can just concentrate in study.

Essential academic strength of applicants to excel.

Other than having good exam results, having an interest to pursuit his dreams i.e. to be a materials engineer and interest in specific research may help

Career options and prospects

As for career options, I think it really depends on individuals. From what I see now, many employers are not so particulars about academic results but instead, they are looking for people who have good soft skills. They are also looking for people who are active in their CCAs to show their leadership qualities, people management qualities and others. I strongly encourage you to go for internship program because that is when you can get the working experience and most importantly to make connections with he people inside the company. It will be good for you resume as well as it adds on to your working experience. So much saying, if you choose to go for internships, please choose the right company to join that you think might have future career prospects for you. For example, if you are interested in investment banking, do try to join those big investment banking companies because from what I see, they do hire most of the interns that they recruit for internships and that is good because it can be said that sort of you could have a guaranteed job with good pay even before you graduate.

Any advise for them.

One very impt thing is that make as many friends as possible because these friends u made in uni might be a great help in the future. For example, they might help u to find job because I feel tt nowadays, having "connection" is very impt. But on top of all those, my advice is just try to have fun as much as possible and don't force yourself too much because you don't know when you might be out of gas. I guess by having fun, we can reduce the stress level that all uni students experience and that's another reasons why we should make a lot of friends. Do join CCA that you enjoy and try to take up some leadership positions because it helps a lot for your resume. Another important advice is that try to get to know your seniors in your course. They will be a great help to you in terms of studies and when you are choosing your FYP projects. Make sure you choose the right professor for your FYP projects or else you're going to suffer a lot during your final year.

I think in uni we have to study smart. Yes being smart is good but even if we are not as smart as those high achievers student, we can still get the same score as them as long as we study smartly. Using the correct study method is also very impt and it can cause a lot of disadvantages. Take myself for example. During my year 1, I can say tt I did quite badly and I found out tt my study method is not suitable. So starting from year 2 onwards, I see that my grades are improving.

NUS Economics

Written By: Wee Howe Feb 2011
Current Years of Study: Final Year Student ( Honors Year ) at NUS Economic and Electrical Engineering (Double Degree Program)

Challenges faced and what to expect from the courses you are studying.

1) At university level, the course is much more mathematical
2) There are less essays to write (this depends on what modules you take but generally, this is true)
3) The focus is on the understanding and application, not regurgitating
4) Most of the elective modules involve projects, so you need to read up more (of course, presentation and
application are important parts too)
5) Economic intuition is taken for granted, if you have absolutely no idea why a strengthening SGD will
hurt our economy, you might want to reconsider

Essential academic strength of applicants to excel.

1) Sufficiently strong mathematical background (matrix algebra, probability and statistics, basic calculus)
e.g. You must be able to find the optimal point for functions (multivariate optimization)
e.g. You must understand statistical distributional properties and their implications

2) Interest in your surroundings (e.g. CPF, budget, ticket pricing...). Economics is everywhere, if you can
constantly apply the concepts, you will do perfectly fine.

What are the Specializations offered for your courses?

I am not too sure about the career prospects so this may be a bit off:
1) Economist (i.e. those guys that appear on the news to analyse what is happening to the market now)
2) Statistician (interest and really strong background in econometrics is required)
3) Banking & financial sector jobs (The competition with the business guys are quite tense and the
distinguishing factor is usually how you present yourself, i.e. talk)

Career options and prospects

Economics is fun and useful but if you intend to pursue a career (including academic) related to economics, you do not necessarily have to start with a economics undergraduate degree. In fact, you will find that another degree from the hard sciences will do just as well (or even better). This is mainly due to the focus on the rigorous mathematical requirements at the application level. Don't stop at reading the recommended textbook (there will usually be recommendations for each course), you will need to look at research papers and related books to gain a complete understanding.

NUS Mathematics

Written By: Abigail Feb 2011
Current Years of Study: Mathematics year 3 students
Relevant A-Level Grades: "A" in H2 Maths and "Merit" in H3 Maths

Here’s some background info on me: I am a third-year Applied Maths student at NUS, specializing in Finance. Since I was interested in Business, I also took a second major in Management. I used to take Math H3 back in JC and I entered the Math course in Uni out of a strong liking for the subject.

Challenges faced and what to expect from the courses you are studying.

Challenges faced and what to expect from the courses you are studying. For instance how the chemistry courses in Uni might differ from chemistry in JC.

For Maths, the uni standard is many more times vigorous than in JC. Unlike in JC where calculations are the norm, uni focuses on the proving of theorems and on the why rather than the how. For instance, in a module focusing on P&C (Permutations and Combination), we are asked to construct a formula for the sum of k*(nCk)2, for k=1 to n. Then we are asked to explain why we think the formula is correct. While Math H3 covers topics covered in uni, it is not completely representative of the scope of uni level Math, as it has hardly any proving problems.

In addition, Uni Math, both Applied and Pure includes compulsory computing lab tutorials, where we use Mathematical software to write programmes to solve Math problems, like finding the roots of any equation entered into the programme. While a computing background is not necessary, it is essential that you do research and consult regularly with your lab tutor in order to get your programme code right.

What are the Specializations offered for your courses?

For Math, you can choose your modules out of a loooonng list. Hence, you can choose what area of Math you want to specialize in. While, there is no official specialization categories, Applied Math caters to 3 main interests: Financial Math, Scientific Computing and Operations Research. There is a study plan available on the NUS Math Dept website, where you can see the modules that are usually taken by students with an interest in any of the 3 areas.

Career options and prospects

The sad case in Math & Statistics is that typically, the average student loses interest in the course by the 2nd year or so. As such, they may be less likely than other students in other courses to take Honours.

While a Math degree can supply you with a great range of jobs, from a finance career in a bank to teaching to an IT job working with software solutions for companies, in today’s job market, having an honours degree is becoming a necessity. For a non-honours degree, jobs opportunities include teaching, IT computing, and non-Math related jobs. Usually, those jobs that involve Math directly, such as Math research, Math professorship, etc, require a further degree.

Any advise for them.

It is my vehement and frequently mentioned advice that you should be sure that you really love Maths before signing up for a Math or App Math major. Do not merely take this course because you get good marks in it or because you have a great Math teacher who inspired you to be like her or because you are not sure what other major you are interested in. If you do so for any of the above reasons, chances are that you would lose interest and even hate Maths before long.

The competition is this course is especially fierce as this course has one of the highest (probably the highest) proportion of foreign scholars and the subject matter is no easy treat either. So be absolutely certain that you have a true passion for Maths!

Or just simply anything that you feel is important for incoming students to know of to give them a better sense of preparation.

Further note: If you are a very social person, as in you like to participate and interact during tutorials, have group discussions etc, reflect before you sign up for a Math course. I’ve known of Maths tutorials where the students enter and leave at the end of the semester without any class participation or contributions and without speaking to anybody else. Of course, that is the worse-case I’ve heard of and those students are probably anti-social kids anyway. Best of luck and study hard!

NUS Mathematics

Written By: Amy Tan Feb 2011
Current Years of Study: Mathematics year 3 students
Relevant A-Level Grades: "A" in H2 Maths

Challenges faced and what to expect from the courses you are studying.

Be prepared to do lots of proofs, especially if you're thinking of majoring in pure mathematics. Applied maths has less proving to do, but nonetheless, still more as compared to JC level. Rote learning and memorizing formulas will not work anymore. In fact, the good thing is if you're doing maths at nus, most maths mods allow us to bring in 1 or 2 pieces of A4 sized helpsheets into the exam hall, where we can squeeze in all the formulas we need. This means they'll expect you to be able to apply and manipulate the theorems and formulas to your use, and not just memorize them like in secondary and jc. In essence, you must enjoy maths. If you're thinking of taking it just because its easy, you might be disappointed.

What are the Specializations offered for your courses?

Quantitative Finance (Selected at the end of yr 1 studies based on grades and interviews).

Career options and prospects

Applied maths majors can choose to do teaching under moe or enter finance, IT or insurance companies. Pure maths majors can enter teaching or choose to do research after graduate studies.

Any advise for them.

If you love maths for what it is, you'll love uni maths. Choose your majors based on your interest and what you believe you can handle. Then enjoy your uni life!

NUS Engineering and Business (Minor)

Written By: Kian Wai on Feb 2011
Current Years of Study: Final Year Student ( Honors Year ) at NUS Electrical Engineering and Business
A-Level Grades: Straight As

Challenges faced and what to expect from the courses you are studying.

Engineering and Business differ greatly in both the nature of the course as well as the workload. If you ask around and compare the timetables of Engineering students with those from the Arts or Business faculty, it is easy to see the difference in module workload. While peers from the other faculties enjoy a couple of free days every week, Engineering students would almost never be able to experience such luxury. Almost every Engineering module comes with lectures, tutorials and labs. And adding on to these classroom lessons are projects that could not be simply done up within a few days or at the eleventh hour. Hence, one needs to be sufficient mentally prepared for the challenges and demands of the Engineering curriculum so as not to find himself/herself struggling to stay afloat amidst the pressing deadlines and profound content. Do not expect to see Engineering as a mere extension of JC physics which revolves mainly around familiarity with equations and direct application. An Engineering curriculum is certainly more than that – the ability to understand the breadth and depth of concepts, link the relevant ideas and apply them is key. The Business course on the contrary is much less heavy in terms of the workload and content. Because of the nature of the course, there isn’t a standard answer to every question. As long as it sounds logical and is backed by sound theories or concepts, the answer may be fully acceptable. And if you are looking for a course which could provide you with the opportunities to improve your skills in public speaking or presentation, Business may be the choice. And more importantly, concepts learnt in the Business course are also more closely related to our daily lives, such as management or organisational behaviour concepts and investment analysis. If you like to experience the fusion of the two, a Double Degree/Double Major/Minor option could be considered.

Essential academic strength of applicants to excel.

For an Engineering course, a good foundation in Mathematics is important. Physics, in my opinion, is not an essential subject to be familiar with in order to excel in Engineering. Usually, only specific subjects related to Physics would be necessary, and these could be read up from books or the internet. For the Business course, soft skills are the more important skills that would put a student in a better position to excel. Due to the nature of the course, presentations are almost certainly a part of the module’s assessment. Working in teams is also common. Hence, having good interpersonal skills would be beneficial. On a more specific basis, depending on which track of the Business course one pursues, good foundation in different subjects would be needed. For example, to excel in the Finance track, a good foundation in Mathematics and the ability to analyze or observe trends would be essential. This is because ultimately, an investment banker or trader needs to look at multiple screens simultaneously and make his/her buy/sell/hold judgments.

Career options and prospects

Engineering is one of the most versatile courses one could ever embark on. Engineering graduates are well sought after in many industries, ranging from the manufacturing sector, to the banking industry, and of course, the public service. It is not the specific formulas that place an Engineering graduate in a good position to land their dream job, but rather, the ability of Engineering graduates to analyse and solve problems systematically, i.e. the general methodology. All jobs need this skill. Hence, if you are undecided on which course to go for, and is technically inclined, Engineering would be a good option. For a Business graduate, the options are less varied. The manufacturing industry is out of bounds for sure, except for positions which revolve around corporate functions. However, if you think you are not technically inclined, and is interested in marketing, operations management or finance, then I would think that a Business course is worth considering. You could find yourself working in a bank, consultancy firm, or the advertising industry!

Any advise for them.

Planning is critical at the university level. You are responsible for your own education. From module selection to timetable planning, you have to make your own choices and chart your path for the 3 or 4 years of university curriculum.