Your right to choose
Before you enter university, probably the word “elective” seldom appears on your timetable. Most of your classes are allocated to you based on your selection of subjects upon the entry of the school. You hardly imagine the opportunity to design your own timetable the way you want it to be. However once you become a university student, the freedom suddenly arrives. But don’t spoil the choice. Let Digital Senior give you some tips on how to choose smartly and wisely.
What is an elective?
First of all, we need to know what an elective module is. As the name suggests, it is a module that you “elect”—or choose—to take. Under the general trend of higher education becoming more holistic and flexible, students are encouraged to take modules outside your major programs. University doesn’t want to produce a batch of engineering graduates who don’t have the business acumen for them to climb the corporate ladder in an engineering firm, or a cohort of arts students without sufficient understanding of science and technology that are increasingly intertwined with arts. Hence, elective modules are introduced to allow students to study what is not related to their specialization, so that they will become versatile individuals.
Three kinds of electives
The current systems in Singapore divide elective modules into three types. The first type of electives falls under the general education requirement, in which a student has to choose a few modules from a list of classes that the university believes will benefit all the students regardless of their majors. The second type of electives falls under one’s major program. On the one hand, one has to take core modules that every student in that major must take. On the other hand, one can choose to take major electives that fit their specialization interest or career goal in the field. The last type of electives is what we call free electives. They are the best examples of freedom of education, as one can take a module as diverse as drawing, foreign languages or sports. Choosing general education electives or major electives usually does not pose much concern, as students may not have that many modules to choose from to begin with. The real problem comes in when it comes to free electives that can form up to half of the total academic credits one has to earn.
Pursue your passion
First, you can choose an elective module that you are simply interested in. University life is essentially about exploration. By taking some modules that relate to fields that you never touch before, you are challenging yourself to go out of the comfort zone. Such fun classes will make your university life fun as well. Moreover, if you always want to learn something, be it arts, sports and many others, which is offered by your university as an elective, why not go ahead and take the free class (since you paid your tuition fee anyway)? Such electives are important relief from your often intensive degree programs.
Creating an edge
Secondly, free electives give you the opportunity to pursue a minor or a second major. Taking a minor or a second major gives you an additional edge when you are applying for job, as it shows your understanding in a field different from your primary major and also your dedication to learn more than others. For universities that allow S/U option, namely NUS and NTU, please note that while you can exercise such an option for free electives, you can’t S/U any free elective that contributes to your minor or your second major. And taking an additional program definitely eats into your free electives that can be used to pursue your interest. So that is a trade-off you have to make.
Boosting your score
Lastly, free electives can also be used strategically. Even though almost all the modules in your university carry the same number credits, some are actually harder to score than others. If you choose free electives that are easy to score, they can actually boost your GPA, which is essentially an average grade of all the grades for the modNUSules you take. Using electives to boost GPA is especially effective towards the earlier study in your university, since it is easier to pull up the average grade then. But how do you know which electives are easier to score? Well, once you are in your university for long enough time (like one semester), you will generally know the reputation of modules on offer from your friends or seniors. You also need to look at your study style. Whether you prefer memorization or calculation? Do you like project based assessment or exam based assessment? It is time to exercise your right to choose and use that right to your advantage.
The three pieces of advice are not mutually exclusive. You can use your electives to take an additional program, take some fun modules and boost your GPA. Since you have limited number of credits for your electives, exercise your right carefully.
To check out a list of easy-to-score NTU electives, click here.
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