What Pre-university to Study After SPM? The Easy 2023 Guide


Students often ask us: “What’s the best path for me to take now that I have my SPM/O-Level results?”

The answers vary and have to do with what you plan to do for your higher education in general.

Here are the most popular pre-university programmes you can consider with your SPM or O-Level results. These are also the common ones that universities accept as entry requirements for their degree courses.

(Related reads: After Getting Your SPM Results: 5 Important To-Dos.)

Popular Pre-university Courses in Malaysia

What is a Foundation Course?A foundation course is one of the more popular pre-u courses in Malaysia.

A Foundation course is a pre-university qualification that you can take before you move on to your degree. The subjects you can take typically fall into the Arts or Science category. However, some universities will have more specialised Foundation courses, such as 

  • Business, 
  • Computer Science, 
  • Law or 
  • Built Environment (for architecture).

Each university would have its own syllabus and assessment methods. In addition, your foundation course is only recognised in Malaysia. 

Intakes are usually in April, May, August, or September.

Why You Should Take Foundation

  • You already know what subjects you want to pursue and which university is suitable for you.
  • You will get a better understanding of your Degree studies.
  • A Foundation course is generally easier than other Pre-University programmes, such as A-Level and STPM.

Things to Take Note of

  • You will not be able to apply for jobs with your Foundation course.
  • Check with the respective institutions on their credit transfer policies with other universities if you plan to transfer to another university.
  • You will also find it challenging to switch courses, as most universities may not recognise Foundation programmes from another institution.
  • Only selected institutions allow you to take out a PTPTN loan for a Foundation course.
    (Read this guide on how you can get your PTPTN loan for your education.)

What is A-Level?A-Level courses can give you flexible options for your degree in Malaysia and abroad.

A-Level is a 100% exam-based pre-university course that originated in the UK. The minimum number of subjects you can take is 3, and the maximum is 4. 

A-Level has two parts: 

  1. AS Level, which is the foundation of A-Level; 
  2. the second A2 Level, where you dive deep into your chosen subjects.

Exams will take place when you complete each part. Your finals will then contribute 50% each to your final grade. Intakes are in January, March and July.

However, A-level science programmes are not offered at private universities in East Malaysia.

Why You Should Take A-Level

  • Top-tier universities in the UK look favourably upon A-Level graduates. It is also accepted worldwide.
  • A-Level’s assessment is fully exam-based. The subjects require you to be analytical and involve a lot of reading.
  • A-Level students are not limited to those in Malaysia, so you may be able to find extensive study materials with a quick search online.

Things to Take Note of

  • All universities will require you to take compulsory subjects as an entry requirement for degree courses such as Medicine and Engineering.
  • If you choose to take science-stream subjects, consider taking math and 2 Science-related subjects. Furthermore, learning math also keeps your options open if you want to take an Arts-related Degree course.
  •  If you are planning to study in Australia but are interested in taking A-Level, do note that you will get your results in August. This timeline is essential because Australian degree intakes are generally in February and July.

What are AUSMAT and SACE?AUSMAT and SACE are popular courses for those wanting to study in Australia.

Australian Matriculation (AUSMAT) and the South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) follow the Australian education system. As such, you would usually start the course in January or March and take your exams in November.

AUSMAT is under the governance of the Western Australian government. Students are graded 50% on coursework and 50% on examinations. Meanwhile, SACE is administered by the Southern Australian government. Your grades depend on 70% of coursework and 30% of examinations.

Despite that, these Pre-University programmes are not available at private institutions in East Malaysia.

Why You Should Take AUSMAT or SACE

  • This pre-university course is for those who want to earn their grade through quizzes, group assignments, class participation, and lab work (for Science stream students). On the upside, you will face a similar environment when you begin your Degree course.
  •  The process of picking the subjects is similar to A-Level. In that aspect, you either select what you want or take a predetermined set of modules based on the major you choose to go into for your degree course.

Things to Take Note of

  • If you plan on adding entering a UK university to your study plan, do keep in mind that your AUSMAT or SACE results will come out in January and July.
  • Generally, the university term starts in September in the UK. Australian universities, on the other hand, have February and July intakes.
  • Most universities in Australia require a fee for each application you make.

What is the Canadian Pre-University (CPU/CIMP)?CPU and CIMP qualifications are accepted by universities worldwide.

You might see the terms Canadian Pre-University (CPU) and Canadian International Matriculation Programme (CIMP) circulating in your list of options. However, both names refer to the same thing.

CPU, or CIMP, is the equivalent of the 12th grade in high school for Canadian students. Subjects are assessed based on 70% coursework and 30% final exams. Your final results will be the average percentage of the 6 modules you will take, with a maximum score of 100%.

Moreover, you will also sit for an external literacy test that is overseen by the Ontario Ministry of Education. And, commit to 10 hours of approved community service, such as providing learning activities to underprivileged children.

Intakes are usually in January, May, July, and September. Sadly, these Pre-University programmes are unavailable at private institutions in East Malaysia.

Why You Should Take CPU/CIMP

  • Coursework plays a heavy role in assessment, so this is a course for those who are more keen on practical work instead of exams.
  •  Many universities worldwide recognise this pre-university.
  • All local private universities accept students with a CPU qualification.

Things to Take Note of

  • Most (if not all) Canadian universities will charge an application fee.
  • Results for CPU or CIMP come out in July and December, so keep in mind these dates if you plan to apply to universities in other countries.

What is ADTP?The ADTP gives you the freedom to study a wide selection of subjects along with your Degree major.

Students who take the American Degree Transfer Programme (ADTP) follow the United States education system. Thus, your university course will begin as early as your first semester.

The overall assessment for ADTP is 70% based on coursework and 30% through final examinations. Intakes usually take place in January, March, April, May, and August.

Unfortunately, private institutions in East Malaysia do not offer this programme.

Why You Should Take ADTP

  • The programme gives you time to prepare before you go abroad. An ADTP student spends up to 2 years in Malaysia before transferring to an institution abroad, usually in the USA.
  • You do not need to select specific modules and have the freedom to take classes outside of your chosen Degree major. Furthermore, the final 2 years will involve subjects that are more focused on your major.
  • The American classroom focuses on class interactions and presentations. This structure strengthens your soft skills to develop self-confidence.

Things to Take Note of

  • Do research on your university’s partners for the ADTP. One of these partners will be where you will attend after completing your education in Malaysia.
  • Next, go deeper into what your chosen university has to offer. Consider its ranking, environment, and surrounding areas.
  • Have a budget for living expenses and tuition fees as part of your study abroad planning. This step is crucial to helping you get by on a daily basis.

What is STPM?Private universities also accept STPM results as part of the entry requirements for their degree courses.

STPM is a pre-university programme that SPM leavers can opt for to get their degrees. It is created and governed by the Malaysian Examination Council and recognised worldwide. This qualification can take you to public and private universities.

The duration of your studies would be 1.5 years, divided into 3 semesters. You have the choice of entering Form 6 or registering as a private candidate to take STPM.

Upon beginning your studies, there are 23 subjects for you to choose from. However, not all schools offer the full module lineup. Then, you will go through a school-based assessment (20%–40%) and a centralised examination (60%–80%).

Registration and enrolment take place as early as May.

Why You Should Take STPM

  • It is a cost-effective option for students, as you would likely attend a school near your house.
  • You will have a more holistic education experience than during your high school years.
  • Besides assessments and exams, you get to be involved in extracurricular activities.

Things to Take Note of

  • STPM is known to be challenging, especially if you want to enter public universities.
  • Universities give out scholarships based on your participation in leadership roles or sports competitions at the state or national level.
  • The more prominent your participation is, the higher your chances for a scholarship.

What is a diploma?A diploma course is perfect if you want to start your career early.

A Diploma is equivalent to the first year of a university degree. While it is not as extensive as a Degree course, it concentrates on practical skills and knowledge relevant to the industry you plan to join after graduation.

Assessment is based on both coursework and exams and is university-specific. Once you have finished your Diploma, you can start working or pursue your studies as a Year 2 degree student.

Intakes are usually in January, March, May, August, September, and November.

Why You Should Take a Diploma

  • You gain practical experience in your chosen course. You will get a lot of practical training and qualify for jobs once you graduate.
  • A Diploma would be the best route to take if you want to get a head start on your career or are keen on seeing whether it is the right industry for you.
  • The minimum entry requirement for most Diploma courses is 3 credits only.
  • You might be paying less by taking the diploma-to-degree route. This is because the total tuition fees might be cheaper (especially for the Diploma). Scholarships for your Degree are also available if you do well on your Diploma.

Things to Take Note of

  • You can transfer to a different university for your Degree, but this is usually limited to local institutions. Check whether your Diploma qualifications are accepted.
  •  Diploma holders are qualified for jobs but at a lower pay lower than those with a Degree.

So, Which Pre-university Should I choose?

Choosing a pre-university course is a real hurdle that every SPM graduate goes through. From creating a budget to getting the right fit, there are several things to think about before you click the apply button. 

If you are still struggling with forming your study plan, don’t worry. Uni Enrol has got you covered with

  1. personalised counselling sessions with friendly counsellors,
  2. detailed breakdowns of universities and courses and
  3. over 500 types of scholarships.

Remember, you do not have to go through it alone. You can connect with us through our social media or start with a pathway match.