The Complete Guide to A Levels in Malaysia

Published by Afterschool.my on Apr 07, 2022, 12:20 pm

If you're curious about what A-levels are like in Malaysia, this guide will explain all you need to know, including what A-levels are and how to choose A-level courses. We want to make sure you know everything there is to know about this famous pre-university programme so you can make an informed college selection. Let's get this party started!

What is A-Levels?

A-levels is a Malaysian pre-university programme modelled on the UK education system. It's similar to the STPM, but modelled in the United Kingdom. It is also known as GCE Advanced Level, and it prepares you for a university degree by allowing you to study a variety of subjects in depth.

The Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE) and Edexcel are the two examination boards that deliver the A-levels in Malaysia. The Cambridge A-levels are offered in most Malaysian colleges.

Because A-levels are entirely exam-based, you'll be reliving your SPM days. However, unlike SPM, where students often take nine topics, you only need to take two to three subjects.

A-levels requirements in Malaysia

A-levels in Malaysia, like other pre-university courses, require a minimum of 5 Cs in SPM, O-Level, or equivalent. There are other pre-university programmes, such as Australian Matriculation, Canadian Pre-University (CPU), and STPM, that are equal to A-levels.

Subject prerequisites are required for some A-level topics, such as:

  • Physics 
  • Chemistry 
  • Biology 
  • Further Mathematics

This means that in order to pursue these courses at A-levels, you must have studied and received the minimum needed grades for the relevant subjects at SPM level.

How long is an A-levels course?

The duration of A-levels courses in Malaysia varies from 15 to 24 months, depending on when you begin your studies.

A-levels fees in Malaysia

Fees for A-levels in Malaysia range from as little as RM16,000 to as much as RM35,000, depending on the institution you choose to study at.

How is A-levels Structured?

Are you unsure what the distinction between A and AS levels is? As a matter of fact, AS Levels are a subset of A-levels. In fact, A-levels is divided into two sections:

Advanced Subsidiary (also known as AS Level) and Advanced Subsidiary (also known as A2 Level) are the first two years of the programme and serve as the foundation for A-levels. The second section of the course, A2 Level, covers more advanced themes in your chosen areas.

 You will normally take tests at the conclusion of each level, with each level accounting for 50% of your ultimate mark. In essence, 50% of the marks come from AS examinations and 50% from A2 exams. Remember that A-levels are entirely exam-based.

Each topic will receive an A* to E grade as a final result. The maximum score would be 3A* for 3 subjects and 4A* for 4 subjects.

What Subjects Should You Take for A-levels?

When it comes to choosing your A-level topics, you'll be spoiled for choice, since many Malaysian institutions offer a wide range of options. However, certain disciplines lead to more degrees and occupations than others, so picking the correct ones is crucial. This table below shows the possible degree pathways and the recommended subjects to take.


Recommended Subjects

Accounting, Economics, Business, Finance

Essential: Mathematics & Economics

Recommended: Business Studies, Law, Accounting, Psychology

Actuarial Science

Essential: Mathematics

Recommended: Physics, Economics, Further Mathematics

Biochemistry, Biomedical Science, Nutrition

Essential: Chemistry, Biology & Mathematics

Recommended: Physics

Computer Science

Essential: Mathematics

Recommended: Computing, Further Mathematics, Physics


Essential: Mathematics & Physics

Recommended: Further Mathematics, Chemistry


Essential: None

Recommended: Law, English Literature, Accounting, Economics, Mathematics

Medicine, Dentistry & Pharmacy

Essential: Biology, Chemistry & Mathematics

Recommended: Physics

Which A-level Arts or A-level Science topics you should take will be determined by the degree you intend to pursue. If you're not sure what degree you want to pursue, here are some pointers on how to choose the correct subjects to study.

How to choose your A-levels subjects?

Choose subjects that you will likely enjoy — When you are interested in a topic, studying becomes less of a chore. Also, excelling at something is often simpler when you enjoy doing it!

Choose subjects that are a good fit for you - each subject is different and requires a different set of skills. Some disciplines may test your originality or ability to write essays, while others will test your analytical and critical thinking abilities. Play to your strengths to succeed in this programme!

Choose subjects that are related to the jobs you want to do – Take a personality test to see which fields would be the best fit for you.

You can choose from a list of subjects to take:

  • Accounting
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Economics
  • Further Mathematics
  • History
  • Law
  • Literature in English
  • Mathematics 
  • Physics 
  • Psychology
  • Thinking Skills (offered at AS level only)

How many A-levels subjects should you take?

Should you take three or four subjects? We recommend that you choose three subjects rather than four because it is always best to concentrate and focus on fewer subjects and do well in them. Most universities just require you to take three courses.

However, if you plan to study abroad and want to get into top-tier universities (particularly in the United Kingdom), taking four subjects may be useful. This is due to the fact that certain elite colleges may require 3A*s. As a result, some students prefer to take four topics as a "safety net" in case one of the three subjects fails.

Also, in the case of Engineering, doing A-levels Further Maths (typically offered as a 4th subject only) may be advantageous to you, because topics covered in the first year of Engineering Math would have already been taught in Further Maths.

Why Study A-levels?

There are numerous pre-university programmes available in Malaysia, but here are some of the most compelling reasons to pursue A-levels.

  • Many leading universities throughout the world accept A-levels.

A-levels are widely recognised as the gold standard of pre-university studies, and they are approved by many of the world's finest universities. While it is commonly used to study in the United Kingdom, it is also approved in many other countries, including Australia, the United States, Canada, and Singapore.

  • It allows you to keep your options open.

Because foundation programmes prepare you for higher study in the topic you've selected, you may be limited to particular degrees at certain colleges. A-levels, on the other hand, allow you to pursue a variety of degrees once you've completed them. This is especially useful if you aren't sure what degree you want to pursue.

  • It provides you with an extensive understanding of your chosen disciplines.

A-Levels allow you to focus on only a few subjects and develop in-depth knowledge in your chosen areas, rather than needing to juggle five or six subjects as in other pre-university programmes. This is ideal for folks who have a strong interest in a few topics and want to jump right in.

  • There are numerous A-Level resources accessible.

If you're an A-level student, the internet is your oyster, with tools like prior year papers, marking systems, and revision problems freely available. Your college will also provide you with adequate materials to help you ace your exam.

Is A-levels right for you?

Here are some questions to consider if you're debating whether or not to pursue A Levels:

  • Do you have an analytical and inquisitive mind and are academically inclined?
  • Do you prefer an assessment that is entirely focused on exams?
  • Are you interested in gaining in-depth knowledge in a few disciplines rather than studying a large range of topics?
  • Are you interested in pursuing a competitive degree (for example, medicine, pharmacy, or dentistry)?

If you answered yes to the majority of these questions, A-levels might be a good fit for you.

Because of its emphasis on knowledge analysis and application, A-levels is considered one of the more academically and intellectually rigorous courses.

As a result, while most institutions need you to have at least 5Cs in SPM or equivalent, most colleges do not. We normally recommend that you have at least 5Bs and good Math and English grades.

Advantages and drawbacks of A-Levels

This table below shows the advantages and drawbacks to taking A-Levels.



  • A levels has been considered the “golden standard” for pre-university for a long time.

  • If you haven’t chosen what and where to study at university, A levels (in the correct combination) gives you many choices of course and university because the qualification is accepted globally.

  • If you are trying to get a scholarship, A levels is a highly regarded qualification used as a benchmark for academic success.

  • If you are planning to apply for a top university, they are most likely considering A levels as a better indicator of your academic excellence compared to internally awarded pre-university qualifications.

  • Because it is a stringent programme, many students tend to drop a subject after AS level. This means you have to ensure that you score the minimum grade required with the remaining three subjects.

  • The course takes a longer time to complete compared to foundation programmes.

"Will A-levels be difficult?" is a common question that arises in the minds of those considering taking them. A-Levels are widely regarded as a challenging subject since they demand you to analyze and apply logical reasoning when answering exam questions. In comparison to other courses, such as Australian Matriculation, you'll also notice that the learning content is more in-depth.

The level of difficulty, however, is determined by the subjects you choose and your time management abilities.

Remember how we talked about how important it is to choose things that you enjoy and are good at? This is essential to your success in these courses. You must also put in the necessary effort and time to comprehend your study materials.

So, if you pick the correct subjects and work hard enough, you'll discover that A-levels are feasible and not nearly as difficult as many claims!

Another commonly asked question regarding A-levels is whether STPM is the same as A-levels.

STPM, Malaysia's pre-university curriculum, is comparable to a variety of pre-university programmes, including A Levels. STPM is also well-known around the world, particularly in universities in the Commonwealth of Nations and the United States.

While STPM is equally as difficult as A levels, it does have its own set of challenges. A Levels, for example, are entirely exam-based, whereas STPM final grades are determined by a combination of school-based assessments (20–40 percent of final score) and final exams (60–80 percent of final score).

To find out more about top institutions, courses and scholarships, visit afterschool.my

Afterschool.my is Malaysia’s no 1 higher education website that provides helpful information on courses, institutions and scholarships for students transitioning from secondary school to university level.

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