Find & Compare The Best Pre-University Programmes In Malaysia

What are the differences between Pre-University programmes, such as A-Level, SAM and ADP? Learn more about each programme’s curriculum and exam structure, and find out which is the best for you.

  • Programme Overview
  • Curriculum Highlights
  • Recommended For
  • No. of Subjects
  • Course Duration
  • Exam Structure
  • Grading System
  • A-Level
  • Programme Overview
    A Pre-University programme from the UK. It is commonly considered the "gold standard" of qualification, and is widely accepted.

    Upon successful completion, students normally pursue studies in the UK, but A-Level also gives you access to many universities worldwide, including Ivy League universities in the US.
  • Curriculum Highlights
    • Emphasises on analysis and application of knowledge.

    • Subjects taken are usually related in some way, allowing you to gain in-depth knowledge in subjects and areas that you are passionate about.
  • Recommended For
    Those who are academically-inclined with an analytical and inquisitive mind, and prefer 100% exam-based assessment.
  • No. of Subjects
    Minimum of 3 subjects, maximum of 4 subjects
  • Course Duration
    15 to 18 months
  • Exam Structure
    100% exams in 2 stages; AS Level and A2 Level
  • Grading System
    Final results will be a grade of A* to E for each subject taken.

    AS Level contributes to 50% of the grade, with A2 Level contributing to the remaining 50%.

    The maximum score is A*A*A* for 3 subjects, and A*A*A*A* for 4 subjects.
  • Foundation Studies
  • Programme Overview
    Usually geared towards a specific degree (e.g. engineering, design, IT), or can be broad-based leaning towards a discipline (e.g. science, business, arts). It prepares you for a smooth transition into your chosen degree programme by focusing on specific subjects related to your degree.

    Students who take this will normally go on to pursue a degree from the same college / university, or partner universities.
  • Curriculum Highlights
    • Curriculum is typically geared towards the degree programme offered at the college / university.

    • Subjects will be related to your chosen field of study (e.g. mainly science subjects for a Foundation in Science course). It can be a combination of compulsory and elective subjects.
  • Recommended For
    Those who have a clear idea on what they would like to study, and want to get a head start on learning subjects related to their degree.
  • No. of Subjects
    Varies depending on the programme and institution
  • Course Duration
    Between 12 to 18 months
  • Exam Structure
    Varies depending on the programme and institution. Typically, it will be a combination of coursework and final exam.
  • Grading System
    Varies depending on the programme and institution
  • Australian Matriculation (SAM/AUSMAT)
  • Programme Overview
    There are two primary programmes offered in Malaysia - South Australian Matriculation (SAM) administered by the South Australian government, and Australian Matriculation (AUSMAT) administered by the Western Australian government. Both programmes lead to an Australian Year 12 qualification.

    Students who take this will usually go on to pursue a degree from an Australian university.
  • Curriculum Highlights
    • Emphasises on self-directed learning, with continuous assessment.

    • You will have the flexibility of choosing subjects from different streams, including both science and business.
  • Recommended For
    Those who like continuous assessment via class-based tests, research papers and assignments, with a balanced contribution from the final exams.
  • No. of Subjects
    5 subjects, including English
  • Course Duration
    11 months
  • Exam Structure
    AUSMAT: 50% class assessment / coursework (e.g. tests, research papers, assignments), 50% exams

    SAM: 70% coursework / class assessment (e.g. tests, research papers, assignments), 30% exams
  • Grading System
    Final results will be a single score, called the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR). It is derived from your best four subjects, plus 10% of your weakest subject. ATAR shows your ranking relative to your peers, e.g. 99.0 ATAR score means that you performed better than 99% of your peers.

    The maximum score is 99.95.
  • Canadian Pre-University (CPU)
  • Programme Overview
    There are two primary programmes offered in Malaysia - Canadian Pre-University (CPU) and CIMP (Canadian International Matriculation Programme). Both are the same and leads to an Ontario Secondary School Diploma, which is awarded to Canadian students who successfully complete 12th Grade.

    Students who take this will usually go on to pursue a degree from a Canadian or American university.
  • Curriculum Highlights
    • Emphasises on interactive learning, with a high focus on individual and group collaboration activities.

    • You will have the flexibility to choose from an extremely wide range of subjects.
  • Recommended For
    Those who enjoy presentations, group work and debates, with constant assessment as opposed to final exams.
  • No. of Subjects
    3 subjects per semester, totalling to 6 subjects including English as a compulsory subject
  • Course Duration
    12 months
  • Exam Structure
    70% continuous assessment / coursework (e.g. presentations, debates, quizzes), 30% final exam
  • Grading System
    Final results will be an average percentage across all 6 subjects.

    The maximum score is 100%.
  • American Degree Programme (ADP)
  • Programme Overview
    Unlike other Pre-University courses, this is a direct entry into university level after SPM/O-Level.

    ADP programmes in Malaysia usually have a credit-transfer option, which means that you can transfer to a US university to finish your degree after studying anywhere between 1 to 3 years in Malaysia.
  • Curriculum Highlights
    • Emphasises on broad-based education, with the flexibility to change majors during the course.

    • You will have the flexibility to choose your subjects, and can complete your degree at your own pace. Roughly half the subjects you choose will need to be related to your major, while the remaining will help to enhance and broaden general academic knowledge.
  • Recommended For
    Those who enjoy a broad-based, flexible curriculum, with a focus on coursework.
  • No. of Subjects
    Typically 3-4 subjects per semester
  • Course Duration
    Direct to degree, totalling 4 years
  • Exam Structure
    Approximately 70% coursework with 30% final exams, depending on the course and institution.
  • Grading System
    Final results will be a single numerical score, called the Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA). Each letter grade you receive (A to E) corresponds to a grade point. Your CGPA is the average of all your grade points, usually weighted by the number of credits given for each course.

    The maximum score is 4.0.
  • International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB)
  • Programme Overview
    A Pre-University programme that is often compared to A-Level. It is viewed as a more balanced course offering more breadth as compared to A-Level.

    Many universities worldwide are starting to accept IB as an entry qualification.
  • Curriculum Highlights
    • Emphasises on knowledge across a broad spectrum, focusing on independent research and writing skills.

    • Requires you to cover a full range of subjects, including foreign language, sciences and arts, in addition to research essays.
  • Recommended For
    All-rounders who enjoy language, arts and science subjects, while managing independent research and creative studies.
  • No. of Subjects
    6 subjects (including a foreign language) plus 3 core components - Extended Essay (EE), Theory of Knowledge (TOK) and Creativity, Action and Service (CAS)
  • Course Duration
    21 to 24 months
  • Exam Structure
    Between 20% to 50% internal assessment (e.g. presentations, fieldwork, lab work, artistic performances) for each subject
  • Grading System
    Final results will be a single score from 6 subjects (7 points each) plus 3 points for the core components.

    The maximum score is 45.
  • Diploma Courses
  • Programme Overview
    A Diploma is a level below an undergraduate degree, and equips you with specific industry-related skills and knowledge.

    Upon completion of a Diploma course, you will have the option of entering the workforce early, or you may also continue to pursue a degree.
  • Curriculum Highlights
    • Emphasises on practical and industry-related skills, rather than theoretical knowledge.

    • Subjects offered will be related to your chosen field of study (e.g. subjects related to programming and software creation for a Diploma in Computer Science).
  • Recommended For
    Those who want to enter the workforce early, and want to dive straight into learning industry-specific skills and knowledge.
  • No. of Subjects
    Varies depending on the programme and institution
  • Course Duration
    Between 24 to 36 months
  • Exam Structure
    Varies depending on the programme and institution. Some diplomas will have a semester of practical training/internship built into the programme.
  • Grading System
    Varies depending on the programme and institution
  • STPM (Form 6)
  • Programme Overview
    This national programme is largely equivalent to A-Level, and is recognised by a number of universities worldwide. Because it is offered by many government schools, you can save significantly on tuition fees.

    Students who take this will normally go on to pursue a degree at local public universities, or Institusi Pengajian Tinggi Awam (IPTA).
  • Curriculum Highlights
    • Similar to A-Level, STPM emphasises on analysis and in-depth knowledge.

    • You have the flexibility to choose subjects. However, most schools have specific streams geared towards arts or science, so you may be required to take subjects that are related.
  • Recommended For
    Those who are academically-inclined, and for those who want a recognised qualification while saving on tuition fees.
  • No. of Subjects
    Between 4 to 5 subjects, including General Studies
  • Course Duration
    18 months
  • Exam Structure
    Between 20% to 40% coursework (project paper, field work and practical) for each subject. Curriculum is divided into 3 parts, with exams at the end of each term. It is a modular system, and students can repeat the written exam at the end of each term for better results.
  • Grading System
    Final results will be a single numerical score, called the Overall Subject Grade Point. For each subject, you will receive a letter grade (A to F), which corresponds to a grade point. The Overall Subject Grade Point is the average of the top four subjects.

    The maximum score is 4.0.
  • Malaysian Matriculation (Matrikulasi)
  • Programme Overview
    This local Pre-University programme is offered by Malaysia's Ministry of Education (MOE). It is primarily reserved for bumiputera students, with approximately 10% of the spots for non-bumiputeras.

    Students who take this will normally go on to pursue a degree at local public universities, or Institusi Pengajian Tinggi Awam (IPTA), although it is recognised by selected universities overseas.
  • Curriculum Highlights
    • Only 3 streams are offered - Science, Accounting and Technical. The syllabus is similar to STPM, although Matrikulasi is commonly viewed as a simpler and shorter course compared to STPM.

    • All subjects are pre-determined based on your stream. You will need to take part in co-curricular activities, as this will be a factor when applying for IPTA.
  • Recommended For
    Those who are academically-inclined with an interest in co-curricular activities, and who are vying for a place at local public universities / IPTA.
  • No. of Subjects
    Approximately 8 subjects
  • Course Duration
    12 months or 24 months
  • Exam Structure
    20% continuous assessment (assignments, lab reports, quizzes), 10% mid-semester exams and 70% final exams.
  • Grading System
    Final results will be a single numerical score, called the Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA). Each letter grade you receive (A to E) corresponds to a grade point. Your CGPA is the average of all your grade points.

    The maximum score is 4.0.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pre-University Programmes

What are Pre-University Programmes?

A Pre-University Programme is a preparatory course for students who have completed their SPM or O-Level, and are looking to further their studies.

Pre-University programmes equip you with the right knowledge and learning skills so that you will be able to handle the challenges of an undergraduate degree course.

What are some of the Pre-University Programmes offered in Malaysia?

In Malaysia, there are many options available to you after completing your SPM.

Broadly speaking, you can choose amongst the following Pre-University programmes:

  • A-Level: This UK qualification is widely accepted by many universities worldwide and focuses on giving you in-depth knowledge in the subjects that you’ve chosen.
  • International Baccalaureate (IB): Often compared to A-Level, IB is viewed as a more balanced course, requiring you to learn subjects across a broad spectrum.
  • Australian Matriculation (SAM / AUSMAT): This is an Australian Year 12 qualification that assesses you on both coursework and final exams.
  • Canadian Pre-University (CPU): This gives you an Ontario Secondary School Diploma, and emphasises on interactive learning, with a high focus on individual and group activities.
  • American Degree Programme (ADP): Strictly speaking, this is not a pre-university programme, but a direct entry into university level after SPM. ADP is a flexible, broad-based programme that allows you to complete your degree at your own pace.
  • Foundation Studies (Science / Business): This gives you a focused and direct route towards an undergraduate degree programme offered at your chosen college / university.
  • Diploma Courses: This emphasises on practical and industry-related skills, and allows you to enter the workforce early upon successful completion.
  • STPM (Form 6): This is a national programme that’s largely equivalent to A-Level and is offered by many government schools.
  • Malaysian Matriculation (Matrikulasi): This is another national programme that’s similar to STPM, but primarily reserved for bumiputera students. It is commonly viewed as a simpler and shorter programme compared to STPM.

How long are Pre-University Programmes?

Most Pre-University programmes are between 11 to 24 months. Programme duration may vary depending on intake, so make sure you do your research.

Which Pre-University Programme should I choose?

There are many factors to consider when deciding on the right Pre-University programme.

It is important that you spend some time thinking about your strengths, personality and preferences in order for you to choose a Pre-University programme that is right for you.

Here are some things that you may want to think about:

  • Have you decided broadly what you’d like to study as a degree (e.g. engineering, medicine, business, accounting, etc.)?
  • Do you prefer exams, coursework or an equal balance of both?
  • Do you prefer a broad-based programme that lets you study a wide variety of subjects, or a more focused one that gives you in-depth knowledge in related subjects?
  • How quickly do you want to complete your Pre-University course and your undergraduate degree?
  • Does your dream university accept your Pre-University qualification?
  • Do you have financial constraints?

Our comparison table above will help you compare the differences between the various Pre-University programmes in some of these areas.

Not sure if you should study Diploma, A-Level, Foundation in Science, or some other Pre-University course? Take our Course Recommender Quiz and get a recommendation in 3 minutes!