“Cher, how do I decide on my choices?”

So you have a list of courses in mind to apply for. Which one should you put as your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. choice? This post is to give you some tips that may help you with it.

You should have…

  1. Thought through your inclinations and found your internal compass.
  2. Used your internal compass with other factors (interests etc.), you have a list of courses in mind which you meet the eligibility criteria.
  3. Understood what cut-off points (COP) is about.

If not, please do so, or this post is useless to you!

Some common mistakes

#1. Thinking that a lower COP means a better course for themselves

A lower COP means that the people who applied and got into the course last year has a lower ELR2B2 score. It does not mean the course is necessarily better or more suitable for you. (How COP came about?)

#2. Refusing to consider all courses which last year’s COP is lower than your aggregate

Remember — COP change from year to year (Why?). Who knows, you will meet this year’s COP?

#3. Not having a backup plan — not having any courses which last year’s COP is higher than your aggregate

Again, COP changes from year to year. (See past 4 years’ trends). If it so happens that this year, all your choices are more popular than last year and their COP drop, you wouldn’t be posted to any of your choices. So the system will randomly assign you to any course that you are eligible for and have vacancies.

From JAE booklet 2017 Pg 11.

If all courses have no vacancies, you will not be posted anywhere, and you’ll be forced to appeal for courses after posting results are out. This is not a fun process, trust me.

So how? Preparing your list

  1. Know what you qualify for
    Using your Form A (the one with all the course codes), indicate in your JAE booklet which are the courses in which you meet the eligibility criteria.
     Or if you prefer to do it on computers so that it is quicker to sort and filter, copy the information from the COP trend spreadsheet.
An example of someone who have sorted out what they qualify for

2. Narrow down the list of what you qualify for
Based on what you’ve found out about your inclinations, together with your interests and other factors, group them in the following manner:
- Group 1 — Aligned to inclination and interested in it
- Group 2 — Somewhat aligned to inclination and ok with it
- Group 3 — Not aligned to inclination but somewhat interested in it
- Group 4 — Not aligned to inclination, ok with it
- Blank — Totally not interested.


An example of deciding if the course are Group 1, 2, 3, 4 or blank.

3. Rank the groups
Sort the courses properly: Put Group 1 courses together, Group 2 courses together etc. Within the group, put the ones you’re more inclined to on top.

Now you should see clearly what courses you should have more inclination towards.

4. Start to consider cut-off points
Insert last year’s cut-off points and aggregate type of those in Group 1–4.

5. Consider how likely you will meet this year’s COP
It is hard to predict this year’s COP, but you can use the trends spreadsheet to estimate what this year’s COP might be based on how it has changed over the past 4 years (increasing COP or decreasing COP?).

Compare your aggregate with the course’s 2016 COP and estimated the 2017 COP to decide if it is “Safe”, “Ok” or “Risky”.

  • Safe: Your aggregate is at least 3–4 points lower than 2016’s COP and estimated 2017 COP.
    e.g.: 2016 COP: 26. Your aggregate: 20
  • OK: Your aggregate is equal to or 1–2 points lower/higher than 2016’s COP and estimated 2017 COP.
    e.g.: 2016 COP: 20. Your aggregate: 20
  • Risky: Your aggregate is at least 3 points higher than 2016’s COP and estimated 2017 COP.
    e.g.: 2016 COP: 16. Your aggregate: 20


  • Make sure you use the right aggregate type to compare. Some courses use ELR2B2-A, some ELR2B2-B, etc.
  • At this stage, remember to minus off your CCA Points.
A sample of what it looks like. In this example, the student’s ELR2B2-B, C and D are the same, but ELR2B2-D is a bit higher.

So how does this translate to your JAE choices?

The strategy
- As far as possible, get the ones closest to your inclination and interests. 
- However, do have some safe options as backup, so that you will not be allocated to some random courses.

  1. Rank by inclination/interest first
    Ideally, the first 12 choice should be the first 12 courses that you have ranked according to your inclination/interest. After all, these are your preferences, right? Your Group 1 and Group 2 should be at the top of the list.
  2. Take a look at your overall list
    Your list should have “Ok” and “Safe” options. If it is all “Risky” and “Ok”, there is a good possibility that you may not meet this year’s COP for any of your 12 choices. So good to have a few “Safe” options as a backup. 
    If your “Safe” options are only in Group 3 and 4, my suggestion would be to put a few of these as the last few choices. 
    If your list consist of only Group 1 and 2, but there are “Safe” options, it’s fine.

Good samples

#1 Ideal cases

Both are ideal because it is ranked according to inclination and preferences. There is also a good mix of “Ok” and “Safe” options as backups, should you not get your first and few choices.

#2 Not so ideal for you, but safe

For both cases, you see that some of the Top 12 choices in Group 3 were removed, as they were “Risky”. This is to make sure that all Group 3 and 4 options are “Safe”/”Ok” so that you have backups if you did not get your Group 1 and 2 options.

For the case on the right, all Group 1 and 2 options are “Risky” and “Ok”. It is not ideal for you, as there is a good chance you may not get what you’re inclined to. But there is sufficient “Safe” options as a backup, so this option is still ok.

Most importantly, both examples rank by preferences first, before tweaking to ensure that backup options are in the choices.

Not a good idea

#1 Going by COP ONLY instead of preference

Both options ignore preference/inclination. The one of the left is where someone put the lower COP first. The one on the right is where someone put the higher COP first.

My take is that both don’t quite make sense — as you’re likely to get something that you’re less interested/inclined to.

Remember, when it is your turn to be posted by the system, the system will attempt to see if there’s space in your 1st choice. If there isn’t, it will try your 2nd choice. If no vacancy as well, the 3rd choice, and so on and so forth, until one of your choices has a vacancy.

So for the one on the left, there is a good chance the system will allocate you to a course you are less inclined to, but a lower COP than the one that you’re most inclined to. For the one on the right, there is a good chance the system will allocate you to the first few courses, which is not what you are inclined to.

Now don’t get me wrong

If so happen that after you rank your preference/inclination, the COP looks like what it is above, I think it’s fine. My point is ranking your choices by COP shouldn’t be the first thing you do. Your preference should come first.


Remember the strategy

  1. Go by your inclination/preference first
  2. Modify it by making sure that there are safe options as backup.

As far as possible, make sure you get what you are inclined to/prefer first in JAE. JAE Appeal (which is after posting results are out) should only be a last resort (I’ll explain more later in the next post).

But Cher, the courses I really prefer, the COP last year is way lower than my aggregate

You can still put it as one of your top few choices, so long as you have “Safe” and “Ok” options as backups in the list of 12 choices.

In addition, you can always try Direct Admission Exercise to see if they’ll take you in for your top few courses using other considerations. No harm trying, right?

From Section 1, Page 2 from JAE Booklet 2017

(Edit: added in 14 Jan). Take note that for most polytechnics, DAE are only for selected courses, and for those who can’t apply via JAE.

Where to apply?

Your seniors may have told you about Joint-Poly Special Admission Exercise (JPSAE), where there was one portal to apply for special considerations. This year, JPSAE has been replaced by each polytechnics having their own DAE portal. So apply directly to the polytechnics: