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New assessment system for STPM

A report from Star newspaper today on the new assessment system for STPM


IN accordance with the Education Transformation Programme, starting from the year 2012, the Malaysian Examinations Council (MEC) will implement a new Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) assessment system to enhance the form six education programme.

Existing STPM examination system

The existing examination is conducted based on one-and-a-half years of form six studies, comprising the lower six form and the upper six form.

The 2012 STPM examination

In 2012, the examination will be conducted in two modes. The first mode is for students who are currently in upper six form and will be under the existing examination system.

The second mode is for lower six form students in 2012 who will be the first cohort for the new assessment system. They will take the first term examination in November 2012.

New assessment system

In the new system, the duration of form six studies is similar to the present system. The allocation of teaching periods remains the same: eight periods per week for each subject (one period = 40 minutes).

The subjects offered remain at 23 subjects which are General Studies, Business Studies, Malay Language, Accounting, Chinese Language, Mathematics (M), Tamil Language, Mathematics (T), Arabic Language, Further Mathematics, Literature in English, Information and Communications Technology, Communicative Malay Literature, Physics, Syariah, Chemistry, Usuluddin, Biology, History, Sports Science, Geography, Visual Arts and Economics.

The curriculum is divided into three parts based on topic areas. Each part will be taught and studied in either the first, second or third term. The total duration of study is one-and-a-half years.

Students’ assessments will be carried out each term with the results being released at the end of the term. The overall STPM results will be based on the best combined results of the three terms.

Soft skills such as communication skills, teamwork, leadership, critical thinking, problem solving, information management and ethics are included in the new curriculum.

There will be two forms of assessment: the School-Based Assessment (SBA) with a weighting of 20% to 40%, and the centralised examination with a weighting of 60% to 80% (the weighting varies according to subjects).

School-based assessment (SBA)

The SBA consists of project work, field study and practical work. The coursework question/task is prepared by the council and will be conducted either over three terms or as determined by the subject requirements. The assessment will be carried out by the subject teacher in government schools and government-aided schools. For private schools, integrity schools and individual private candidates, the examiner is appointed by the council.

The assessment moderation will be conducted by council appointed personnel at district, zone or state levels to ensure judgments of standards are comparable as well as a fair, valid and reliable assessment of students’ achievements. The council has also prepared a Teacher’s Manual and Student’s Manual for each subject as guidance and reference for all.


A centralised written examination is administered at the end of each term. Question papers are prepared by the council, and the marking of answer scripts will be carried out by council appointed examiners.


The grading system in the new assessment system is similar to that of the existing one. The score (at the question paper level) acquired by students for each term will be aggregated to determine the overall subject grade. There is no prerequisite minimum pass grade in each term for students to qualify to continue their studies in the following term.

Improvement of exam results

A special feature of this system is that students are allowed to improve on their first and second term results by retaking these term examinations at the end of the third term. Students who do not obtain satisfactory results for the third term may also re-sit it.


Through the new system, students will have a lesser curriculum load to study and have more opportunities to obtain better results. The introduction of SBA is in line with the aspiration of the Education Ministry to develop human capital. This is also consistent with the ministry’s vision to strengthen and make the assessment and evaluation system more holistic, with an emphasis on outcome-based education that focuses more on students and is less exam-oriented.

Standards and recognition

In these terms, the new system is similar to that of the present one. In general, the curriculum content has not changed. A representative from Cambridge Assessment (CA), United Kingdom will attend the Standards Setting Committee meeting to endorse the results.

The CA representative will give his opinion on the analysis of the examination results for each paper and a collective decision will be made on the standards.

The Student Intake Management Division under the Higher Education Ministry has been briefed on the implementation of the new assessment system.


The system is expected to strengthen and enhance pre-university studies in order to attract more students to take up the programme, and to transform the assessment and evaluation to one that is more holistic in nature. For more information, log onto the MEC’s website at


New STPM Modular Format

The STPM will be going modular with the first batch of students going in this year in May 2012. For those who missed the article on the new format in Star Newspaper on April 1, 2012, I have copied below for you. I have also added some other details on STPM as well.

Mixed feelings over new STPM format


Students have differing views about the recent changes to the STPM (Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia) format. Some find it appealing while others think otherwise. What was once very much like the A-Levels, a course based around an externally assessed final examination, the STPM is now more akin to pre-university programmes such as the South Australian Matriculation (SAM).

The STPM’s new assessment system revolves around continuous school-based assessments and centralised examinations which can be re-taken to improve grades.

Even though the ratio between school-based assessments and examinations is between 20 to 40% and 60 to 80% unlike SAM’s 70% college-based assessments and 30% external examinations, it is still seen as a welcome change by many students and teachers.

Darren hopes that the results will be better under the new format.

“As someone who is thinking about sitting for the STPM, this is good news for me. At least now I won’t be ‘pigeon-holed’ into studying for one huge exam.

“Instead of cramming whole text books into my head for final exams, I will be able to focus and score on the tests spread across the one and a half years,” said Neda Nejim Al-Asedi, 16, from SMK Assunta on Stuff@school’s Facebook page.

She added that the changes were a great move that would help reduce and spread out the stress levels of STPM students a little bit.

Another student who thinks the changes to the STPM are for the better is Tan Hui Jin, 19, from SMK Taman Connaught who said she never considered Form Six as a pre-university option.

“I never thought about it, but the new format is definitely better for the students, as it is no longer entirely exam oriented.

“The assignments and projects under the school-based assessments will help them develop much needed soft skills through presentations and group discussions,” she said explaining that students need to be all rounders and well balanced.

Hui Jin elaborated that the new format will help students with their communication and interpersonal skills which are essential in the working world.

Celine says the first batch will be viewed as the ‘experimental batch’ .

“What is the point of acquiring deep knowledge in any field if you can’t communicate, express and apply what you learn?” she added.

But to many students, the new format is untested and there are already many longstanding reasons why they are not keen on taking the exam. “New format, new challenges, sounds tempting to me. Seems a whole lot easier than the previous format. However, I’m not jumping on the bandwagon just yet.

“I want to see the learning outcomes of this new format. If it produces better students and results, perhaps I’ll take up STPM,” posted Syasya Aqilah Abu Bakar, 16, from SMK (P) Methodist Ipoh who has a year to go before deciding whether or not the STPM is for her.

SMJK (C) Yu Hua student Darren Koh, 16, said in his post that he finds the STPM changes really convincing, but he would like some solid evidence first before he decides to take it up.

“Lets see the results of the STPM with the new format, hopefully it will be better. Lenient assessments equals less stress which means healthier students,” he said adding that the changes to the STPM did make it more appealing.

Darren continued in his post that he would definitely consider it as an option after he is done with his Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM).

For SMK (P) Sri Aman student B. Jeetha, who cried tears of joy after scoring 10 straight A’s in her SPM, the STPM is a risky option she is not willing to take.

Neda Nejim: I will be able to focus and score on the tests …”

“I’m afraid I can’t cope with it, even with the changes. I want to take up accountancy and if I take the STPM I will have to enter the Arts stream.

“I am a Science stream student and I would be treading on unfamiliar ground if I go into the Arts stream just to pursue accountancy,” she said.

She described that it would be easier to pursue a diploma or other accountancy courses than to sit for all the STPM papers. “Plus the time it takes to finish programmes or courses other than the STPM tend to be faster, which is much more convenient for me,” she explained.

B. Jeetha added that she is currently busy looking for a scholarship to further her studies as her mother is a single parent.

Catherine Yee, also a Sri Aman alumni, now a Sunway University A-levels student said she would not consider taking the STPM even after the changes because she believes the syllabus would still be as hard as it used to be.

“I think even with the change in assessment systems and structure, the syllabus will still be harder than most other pre-university courses out there.

“Unless they change the syllabus itself, I believe it is still harder than the A-levels,” she said.

After celebrating her straight A’s success in the SPM, Siti Diyana also disclosed the fact that she did not want to pursue the STPM, but for simpler reasons.

“I don’t want to go back to school. I don’t want to put on a uniform anymore, I think I’m quite done with that,” she quipped.

She added that she did not think the STPM is too much to handle and with the new format it would definitely relieve the burden of students.

Naysayers and skeptics aside, STPM students who sat or are sitting for the old the exam in its old format think the changes are a boon. Shakthswary Raja, 19, from SMK Cochrane explains.

“I’m jealous of my juniors who will be sitting for the new STPM. My teacher gave me a glimpse of what it’s like, and I love it.

“It lightens the burden of the student and spreads it out across the STPM’s study duration. This in turn reduces the amount stress students go through,” she said.

Perhaps the most colourful comment on the Stuff@school’s facebook STPM thread comes from Celine Wu.

The 17-year-old from SMJK (C) P.Pinang who like Syasya Aqilah, found STPM to be a tempting option with the new format, said that she also had her doubts.

“I get the feeling that the first batch of STPM students using the new format will be viewed as an experimental batch to see if the format works.

“So even if I do decide to take the STPM, it will be in the second batch of students after the quality of the certificate under the new format has been confirmed,” she said.


STPM uses a Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) system. There are 11 grades, which are A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+ and D, with F as the failing grade. The grade points for each of these grades are between 4.0 and 1.0, A being 4.0 and D- being 1.0. The F grade gives a grade point of 0.

Grade Grade Points
A 4.00
A- 3.67
B+ 3.33
B 3.00
B- 2.67
C+ 2.33
C 2.00
C- 1.67
D+ 1.33
D 1.00
F 0.00

In order to pass a paper, candidate must at least score a C (2.00) or above. Having a grade between D to C- is a principal pass (lulus separa). But certain private institutes, UTAR for instance, refers to principal pass as C.

Each paper’s grade appears on the result slip and the certificate. The subject’s grade and grade point is determined by the weighted average results of all papers in that subject, where all papers must be passed, otherwise the grade and grade point would be, respectively, F and 0. The cumulative grade point average is the average of the top four subjects taken and usually rounded up to 2 decimal points. Therefore, if a student scores A in four subjects and fail in the fifth, his CGPA would be 4.0.

The actual range of scores within each grade is undisclosed and changes annually, depending on the performance of the candidates. Usually, the range of marks of science subjects is higher than non-science subjects.

Cumulative and subject GPA at 2.0 and above is considered a pass with credit or principal pass. GPA below 2.0 is considered a sub-fail, and a 0 is considered a fail. Admissions to local public universities requires at least a CGPA of 2.0 and above, though private universities, university colleges and colleges generally may accept student with CGPA less than 2.0.

To enter into local private colleges or universities for most courses, students need at least 2 Principal Passes or 2Cs. It does not include the Pengajian Am paper.

STPM candidates sit for no more than five subjects, all within the same examination season. All Science- and Mathematics-related subjects (Mathematics S, Mathematics T, Further Mathematics T, Computing, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology) are offered bilingually in English and Malay. All other exams, other than languages, are still offered only in Malay and are likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

STPM is an open-list examination; that means any combination of subjects may be taken. However, to be considered for Malaysian public university admission, students must take Pengajian Am (General Studies) and at least three other subjects. Most, if not all, schools and colleges offering STPM, however, do stream their students into science and arts (humanities).

A list of all subjects available for STPM students are:

  • Pengajian Am (General Studies)
  • Bahasa Melayu (Malay Language)
  • Bahasa Cina (Chinese Language)
  • Bahasa Tamil (Tamil Language)
  • Bahasa Arab (Arabic Language)
  • Literature in English
  • Kesusasteraan Melayu (Malay Literature)
  • Syariah (Islamic Law)
  • Usuluddin (Usuluddin)
  • Sejarah (History)
  • Geografi (Geography)
  • Ekonomi (Economics)
  • Pengajian Perniagaan (Business Studies)
  • Perakaunan (Accounting)
  • Mathematics S (may not be taken with Mathematics T)
  • Mathematics T (may not be taken with Mathematics S)
  • Further Mathematics T (may only be taken with Mathematics T)
  • Computing (may only be taken at certain schools)
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Sains Sukan (Sports Science)
  • Seni Visual (Visual Art)

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