Demystifying cut-off points and CCA points

(14 Jan, 2am edit) Sorry, made an error in the earlier version of this article. Bonus points ARE used to determine if someone qualifies for polytechnic. Have edited the article, and added another section at the bottom to squash some rumours.


It seems like there’s a lot of confusion and misconception over what cut-off points are all about, and when CCA points are involved. Here’s my attempt at explaining it.

“Cher, why are there eligibility criteria and cut-off point?”

  • Eligibility criteria is to make sure you have the knowledge required to take the course. E.g.: Did you take certain subjects that the course needs and show that you have some mastery of those subjects?
  • Cut-off point is an indication of how popular the course was and what was the net aggregate score of the people who entered this course.
    (Net aggregate = Aggregate score minus bonus points, like CCA points)

So as long as you meet the eligibility criteria, you CAN apply for the course even if your net aggregate is higher than the cut-off for last year (Whether it is wise, we will discuss this in the next post about your choices).

“So cher, why tell us last year’s cut-of-point (COP) when it doesn’t affect whether we can apply for the course or not?”

The main purpose of showing you last year’s COP is to give you a sense of how popular the course was last year and the kind of students who got into it. This is to allow you to estimate whether you may be able to compete for a spot in the course this year.

Why only estimate? Cause COP can change from year to year.

“Wait cher, how come can change one? How is COP derived?”

To understand COP, you must first understand the problem the posting system is trying to solve. Every course has a limited number of places. Hence, when a course has too many applicants, how should we determine who gets a place in the course? So the system has a certain way of allocating students to their courses.

Let’s use this scenario. Suppose we have 5 students in the whole of Singapore (represented by different colour dots). Their net ELR2B2 aggregate is the number on them.

5 students: blue, red, yellow, green and purple.

How will the system allocate who will get their first choice?

  1. System will first rank the students according to their net ELR2B2 aggregate.

2. Once ranked, the system will start by posting the student from the top of the ranking. For simplicity sake, let’s just say all 5 of them happen to chose the same courses for their 1st to 3rd choice.

Since Red is ranked first, the system will look at Red’s choices first. Since Red’s 1st Choice Course has vacancies, it was allocated its first choice.

3. As you can see from the animation above, when it is Yellow’s turn, since its 1st choice still has vacancy, it is also allocated to its 1st choice course.

4. However, when it is Blue’s turn, its 1st Choice Course is full. Since the 2nd Choice Course has vacancy, Blue is allocated to that course.

5. Now that Red, Yellow and Blue have been allocated their courses, it’s time to allocate Green (ranked 4th) and then Purple (ranked 5th).

When it is Green’s turn, the system tried to allocate it to its 1st Choice Course. But it is filled. So the system tried its 2nd Choice Course. No vacancy too. Since its 3rd Choice Course has vacancy, Green was allocated to its 3rd Choice Course.

6. You can see from the animation that when it is Purple’s turn (ranked 5th), like Green, it couldn’t get its 1st and 2nd Choice Courses as they were full. However, Green’s 3rd Choice still has vacancies, it was given its 3rd choice.

7. Now that the course is filled, the system will take the highest aggregate of amongst the students of that course as the course’s COP.

That means, every single student in that course has a net ELR2B2 aggregate which is equal or lower than the COP.

“Ok cher very long winded. So how come the COP change from year to year?”

Now realise that from the example above, whether a student can get into the course is NOT dependent on last year’s COP? It is dependent on who chose the course and the number of vacancies available.

If the net aggregate of the students who got into a course is very different from one year to another, the COP will change accordingly too.

Notice how the COP for Course X changed in 2016 because of the net aggregate of those who got into the course?

Of course, this is just an extreme example. You can check out past JAE booklets to see how the COP of a course has changed over the years.

“Then Cher, when will we use CCA points? How come some say I can use it to enter JC/MI but some say cannot?”

The rule of thumb is as follows:

  • When deciding if you eligible for JC or MI, bonus points will not be used for L1R5 and L1R4.
  • Net aggregate (aggregate minus bonus points like CCA) will be used when 
    - Deciding if student’s is eligible for polytechnic 
    - Deciding who should be given their choices first (for those who are eligible for their respective institutions).

For example, Gary and John both qualify for polytechnics:

Here’s another example, where Asmah and Mary both qualify for JCs.

BUT in the calculation of L1R4, CCA may be one of the R4 subjects. But you cannot use it as a bonus point (minus off your aggregate) to determine if you qualify for MI.

From Page 24 and 28 of the 2017 JAE Booklet

Squashing rumours

Some of you have heard all kinds of funny things, like bonus points only comes in if there’s a tie when posting courses etc. Somehow, you prefer to trust these rumours more even when you can’t locate the source of the rumours. Well, apply your reliability skills!

Here are screenshots from your JAE 2017 booklet to back up what I’ve said:

When bonus points are considered

Net aggregate score = Aggregate score minus bonus points (like CCA)

From Page 11
From Page 12

About bonus points not being used to decide if you’re eligible for JC/MI

From Page 28

About using net ELR2B2 (ELR2B2 minus bonus points) to determine if you are eligible for polytechnics

From Page 30
From Page 38
From Page 48
From Page 56
From Page 66

References and further resources

  • How posting is done — See JAE booklet 2017 Section 3 Part 1(Pg 11)
    In addition to what I’ve explained above, it also tells you what happens when there is only 1 space left, but there are more than 1 student with the same aggregate score vying for it. Do also note that there’s special consideration for Nursing courses too. READ THAT!
  • How bonus points work — See JAE booklet 2017 Section 3 Part 2(Pg 12)
    In addition to what I’ve explained above, it talks about other bonus points that can be used.
  • COP trends of various Polytechnic courses for the past 4 years?https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1_zY-C6XOjaBBY3v-0ib6x1UQgG9cQGDKG5CeKdECx2E/edit?usp=sharing
    This should give you a sense of how much the COP changed over the years for the courses of your choice.
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