S/U? what.

I refer to the newest blogpost by the Provost of NUS on the new S/U system for cohort 16/17.

The S/U system was designed as an opening to allow students to venture beyond their faculty-offered modules and to take a chance and open the door to new ideas, perspectives, etc. From the 14/15 cohort onwards, this was so. I am from the cohort 15/16 and I would like to agree very much with the new move which would now enable freshmen to S/U not just up to 20MCs which is 5 modules but 32 MCs which is 8 modules in the first year of their candidature. I think that this is good because of a few reasons. First, for those who have no idea what I’m talking about, here it is.

THE S/U Option:

So basically what this is. S stands for Satisfactory and U for Unsatisfactory. You get to make a decision after the final results are over for that semester – you decide which module grades to keep (thus you will label as Satisfactory), or not keep (Unsatisfactory) in the overall calculation of your CAP (Cumulative Average Point, something like a GPA).

For cohort 14/15 and 15/16, it is a gradeless free FIRST semester, meaning you can S/U up to 20MCs (which is equivalent for 5 modules worth of S/U)

BUT NEWLY for Cohort 16/17 incoming in August, the S/U option is now extended to 32MCs in the freshmen year (which is equivalent to about 8 modules of S/U, given that one module is usually 4MCs). SO if in the freshman year, you do 5 modules per semester, that is 5 x 4 x (2 semesters) = 40 MCs, you can S/U 32 out of the 40 MCs.

The excess is then carries over to the next few years, up to a maximum of 12 MCs which is 3 mods.

This change is said to be brought about to continue to appeal to students in taking modules that would help them broaden their horizons and expand their interests and that are not solely from their faculty/specific course.

NOTE: The max number of S/U MCs in any candidature is still 32MCs, it is just that for the incoming cohort, they have the option of all 32MCs to be used in the first year whereas for cohorts 14/15 and 15/16 they only have 20MCs to use in the first year.

(Disclaimer: I possess the POV of an Arts Student, so it will definitely slant in that direction.)

So these are the reasons for why I support the S/U move and this new change specifically.

  1. In semester 1 of the first year, it is no secret that it is a time of acclimatising in a way. Getting used to the school culture, university life, campus life (if you stay on campus), it is not easy. Perhaps for army guys this might be even made more difficult as they’ve been out of the academic environment for a good two years. So, with the new option, it allows students the first full semester to settle in, balance up all their commitments which they might have amassed knowingly (or unknowingly, y’know just joining everything and going with the flow) and suddenly they find themselves in a dance production, drama production, a sports CCA, two upcoming camps, Rag and Flag etc etc etc.
  2. It allows students to actually have more time to figure out what they want. I’ve said this many times during Open Houses and when I went to FASS Outreaches to JCs and stuff. If you take the introductory modules, sometimes it is not enough to convince you to stay on in the major. So I often encourage people to take more modules under that major before deciding if they actually want to major in it. The problem here is that, you may like a particular major/field of study and be really interested to find out more, but it may be so that you may not be as good in it as you wanted to be. So therefore in a way it becomes kinda painful because you really like it…bbbbut you may have to decide between interest and grades. Having 2 semesters worth of S/Us allows you to mitigate the pain of that decision. E.g. I like taking German but I don’t want to ruin my CAP disastrously, so I have to forgo one German module maybe. But with the the new S/U (if I were in cohort 16/17. it means now that I can take German 1 and 2 and confidently enjoy myself in the modules and not be so worried about final grades per se.) This is not to say you do not work hard, but this is assuming that you work hard (yes pls do) but it may just not be commensurate to your grades because there might be factors out there you cannot control, eg the bell curve.

The bell curve. Yes. The new S/U Option, well, maybe it helps to reduce the horrors of the bell curve for first years. It is a painful thought to have your grades and efforts thrown around like a paper ball by the bell curve. It is well and truly, scary. But perhaps the new S/U option does release pressure on freshies a little, so as point 2 mentions, they can enjoy themselves a little more in academic (and campus) exploration before they get wrecked by the bell curve in the next few years. So maybe it will be more like they’ll be eased into the pressure cooker a little less harsher. hahaha.


The Provost did say in the blogpost that the PSLE system from 2021 is also gonna remove the T-score ranking system and will now rank students according to ‘wider scoring bands’. I think this S/U system comes along pretty well. As a freshman who has just completed year 1, it is a perfect time to tell this to incoming juniors.

When you come into University, it is the last 3-4 years of your life to ever throw yourself into anything and gain the most out of life, whatever you do, do it madly, never give anything short of your all. It is the last chance to pick up skills, pick up as many as you can. Uni life will make you uncomfortable sometimes, it’ll push you into places you don’t wanna go to, emotional places sometimes. Academically it is tedious, but it is also beautiful. You learn so much about yourself and your society. Knowledge and discovery is beautiful and I mean this in more than an academic way. With that, here’s to a long break ahead. (:

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