The Ultimate Pre-U Guide in Malaysia 2022


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 in large part it has to do with what you plan to do for your higher education in general.

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



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.

Foundation courses are typically divided into Arts or Science. 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. A Foundation course is only recognised in Malaysia.

Intakes are usually in April/May/August/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

  • 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 difficult 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.



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 from the UK.

The minimum number of subjects you can take is 3, and maximum is 4.  

A-Level is divided into two parts: AS Level, which is the foundation of A-Level; the second is A2 Level, where you dive deep into your chosen subjects.

Exams take place when you complete each part, and contributes 50% each to your final grade. Intakes are in January, March and July.

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

  • 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 Maths and 2 Science-related subjects. Maths 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 take note that results are released in August and Australian degree intakes are generally in January.



What is AUSMAT and SACE?

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

Australian Matriculation (AUSMAT) and South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) are based on the Australian education system.
Typically, you would start the course in January or March and take your exams in November.

AUSMAT is governed by the Western Australian government. Students are graded 50% on coursework and 50% on examinations.

SACE is administered by the Southern Australian government. Your grades depend on 70% coursework and 30% examinations.

These Pre-University programmes are not available at private institutions in East Malaysia.


Why You Should Take AUSMAT/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). You will face a similar environment when you’re in your Degree course.
  • The process of picking the subjects is similar to A-Level in that you either choose the subjects you want or take a predetermined set of subjects based on what major you choose to go into for your degree course.


Things to Take Note

  • If you plan to apply to a university in the UK, do keep in mind that your AUSMAT/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 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), but both are the same.

CPU/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 subjects you will take, the maximum score of which is 100%.

You will also sit for an external literacy test 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.

These Pre-University programmes aren’t available 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.
  • CPU/CIMP is recognised by many universities worldwide.
  • All local private universities accept students with a CPU qualification.


Things to Take Note

  • Most (if not all) Canadian universities will charge an application fee.
  • Results for CPU/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) follows the United States’ education system. You begin your Degree studies as early as your first semester.

Overall assessment is 70% based on coursework, and 30% through final examinations.

Intakes usually take place January, March, April, May and August.

The ADTP isn’t available at private institutions in East Malaysia.


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 will not be confined to certain subjects and have the freedom to take classes not related to your chosen Degree major. The final 2 years will involve subjects that are more focused on your major.
  • The American classroom focuses on class interactions and presentations, and strengthens your soft skills to develop self confidence.


Things to Take Note

  • Do research on your university’s partners for the ADTP. One of them will be where you’ll be attending after you’ve completed your studies in Malaysia.
  • Check the ranking of the university you’re planning to attend. It is important that you are making informed decisions about both institutions that you’ll be attending.
  • A budget for living expenses and university fees while you are abroad is a crucial part of your planning.



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 SPM leavers can opt to take to get to their Degree.

You can use this to enter public and private universities. It is created and governed by the Malaysian Examination Council, and recognised worldwide.

The duration of your studies would be 1.5 years and is divided into 3 semesters.

Students can choose to enrol in Form 6 or register as a private candidate to take STPM.

There are 23 subjects that students can choose from. However, not all schools offer the full lineup.

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 be attending a school near your house.
  • You will have a more holistic education experience compared with your high school years.
  • Besides assessments and exams, students are also expected to be involved in co-curricular activities.


Things to Take Note

  • 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 state or national level.
    The more prominent your participation is, the higher chance you’ll get the scholarship.



What is Diploma?

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

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

Assessment is based on both coursework and exams, and is university-specific.

Once you’ve finished your Diploma, you can either choose to start working or pursue your Degree at second year. Intakes are usually in January, March, May, August, September and November.


Why You Should Take Diploma

  • You gain practical experience in your chosen course. You will get a lot of practical training and qualify for jobs once you’ve graduated.
    This would be the best route to take if you want to get a head start to your career, or want to see whether it is the right industry for you.
  • The minimum entry 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 Diploma). There are also scholarships available for your Degree if you managed to do well in your Diploma.


Things to Take Note

  • 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 would be paid less than those with a Degree.