Ng conducting a Mathematics experiment in class. Photo by Winley Ng.
Have you ever looked up information about STPM? You can come across a lot of information regarding furthering your studies in college or university, but not about STPM. Some may not even consider STPM as an option when it comes to furthering their studies. Winley Ng is an STPM student who has been presented with full scholarships from private institutions as well as an offer to study at the Matriculation Programme in Negeri Sembilan. However, she rejected those offers and chose to take STPM instead.
According to Ng, STPM - also known as Form 6 - is a Malaysian pre-university programme. It is an option students can take after completing their SPM exams before pursuing a degree in university. STPM is 18 months long and consists of three semesters. STPM students have to go to school before 7.30 a.m. which some students may be unhappy to hear about, but will certainly benefit you when you enter university or college. For your information, after completing your SPM, you do not need to apply for STPM. As long as you meet the requirements, you will be offered a place automatically. As for SPM leavers, you have to get at least a pass result for your Malay language paper. For more information, you may refer to the Malaysian Examination Council’s official website.
STPM students are able to choose the subjects they want to take. However, there is a minimum of four subjects that must be taken by students including General Studies (Pengajian Am) which is mandatory for every student. Although there are a total of 23 subjects offered, it depends on the subject's availability in the school since not all subjects may be offered. Moreover, you are allowed to switch streams, but it is advised to do it as soon as possible to avoid being left behind in your studies. Besides the four subjects, students have to take the Malaysian University English Test (MUET) examination as it is required when pursuing a degree. As for Ng, she chose General Studies, Mathematics, Chemistry and Biology. Additionally, the language used to teach the subjects is English except for General Studies, which is taught in Malay.
The main reason that Ng chose STPM to further her studies was her economic situation. Wishing to ease her parents' financial burden, she decided to enrol for STPM as it was extremely affordable. Students who are already enrolled in a government school can sit for the STPM exam for free. Otherwise, a basic fee of RM120 is required, while the fee per subject is RM90. The only cost that students must pay is the MUET examination fee which is RM100. Apart from that, students are able to resit for their Semester 1 or 2 examinations but are required to pay RM50 per subject paper. Ng has saved a lot on costs by living with her parents. The only expenses besides the MUET examination fee are for reference books. Unlike SPM, there are no textbooks available in STPM, so students buy their own preferred reference books. The result of STPM is equivalent to the A-Level result. Ng also mentioned that she finds STPM is more challenging compared to Foundation and Matriculation programmes.
Reference books that Ng uses. Photo by Winley Ng
Furthermore, Ng also explains that there are no easy subjects in particular. Although STPM has only four subjects, each of the subjects has its own challenge. If you are not the studious type or are more of a hands-on learner, Ng advises that you reconsider taking STPM. This owes to the fact that STPM requires high discipline and initiative to keep on track with the syllabus. If you are lucky enough, you may get a good teacher who can help you in your studies. Nonetheless, teachers’ guidance and teaching are more supplementary to your learning, and individual efforts must be made in order to understand the syllabus. Meanwhile, if you wish to attend extra classes out of school, they are very hard to access, as the fees for these classes are generally quite high. As for Ng, she did not attend any extra class outside, but in order to catch up with the syllabus, she utilised resources available online such as YouTube to boost her learning process. Additionally, having discussions with classmates is a good alternative as students can share and exchange different opinions and thoughts on a certain topic.
Of course, everything comes with its advantages and disadvantages. In Ng’s view, one benefit of taking STPM is that it is widely recognised internationally by many universities, giving students a wide range of degree courses to pursue. Graduates can use their STPM results to apply for degrees locally in both public and private universities as well as institutions abroad. Since the STPM course follows the holidays set by the government, students have more free time compared to those enrolled in different programmes. Ng mentioned that students should use the holidays wisely by working on their studies or learning a new skill besides taking time to rest. On the other hand, although STPM is 18 months long, students have to sit for an exam every six months. You will not have enough time to cover the material fully and you have to keep studying for the next exam. Sometimes, it is stressful as students need to spend a lot of time studying so they can score well. To enter into universities, students must achieve a CGPA of at least 2.00 or two principal Cs in the relevant subjects. “Once again, if you are not ready to commit the time and effort, you should consider other options,” said Ng.
Whatever programme you are enrolled in, you should set a target result to achieve before taking any exam. Ng said, “I am trying my best to attain a CGPA of 4.00 in STPM. Although it is challenging, I will not give up easily. By getting a great result, I will be exposed to more opportunities for my further study. Actually, it’s hard to get the course that we are fond of in public universities as there are many others competing for the same course. So in order to prevent this from happening, I will always strive harder!” There will definitely be times when things get stressful for her, but she copes by listening to music while also taking breaks when she studies. She likes to look up motivational videos to keep herself driven. Since she lives with her parents, she also talks to her parents about her problems and seeks advice from them.
Finally, Ng stated that STPM graduates can move on to their degree right after finishing STPM. There is no program that students must go through in between. Ng mentioned that she will try to get a part-time job while waiting for her results. Meanwhile, she will also be applying for degree courses and scholarships offered by universities. “I can’t wait to enrol in the Degree program anymore!” said Ng.
After speaking to Ng, we can see that the benefits to studying STPM are its affordability and the multiple opportunities to pursue one's degree course. However, its downside is that students have to cope with the stress that comes with it. Think twice when you are choosing your further study as it may affect your future!
By Yap Jing Wei