How to get into a Course of your Choice in NTU even with bad A-level grades


So you’ve managed to get into NTU. A prestigious local university. It’s been a few weeks of lessons and you now realise that you don’t like what you learn and you prefer to be studying something else. One thought leads to the next and you’re thinking of switching courses. The problem is that it’s not that easy to just switch courses. Especially if you have mediocre or terrible A-level grades. You ask yourself if it’s even possible. This is a guide that may help you on this journey of transferring courses.


Firstly, let’s get familiar with this page:

This should be the end of the guide right? Apply, pay a $10 admin fee and get transferred! Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Wrong!!!!

If you are as determined as me and if your A-level grades are just mediocre, you’d be seeing this page MANY TIMES. This author has made a total of 9 applications before she was successful. So be warned, for some of you, this may not be an easy path to take.

Here is a rough timeline of how long and what it took for me to transfer to my desired course:


Sem 1 : Tried Engineering, did okay but didn’t really like it. GPA was 4.0

Holiday: Applied for transfer to a couple of HSS courses. All were rejected. Even if my GPA was okay, my A-level grades were terrible. So my A-level grades might have been what stopped me from being able to transfer.

Sem 2 :  Started to hate Engineering. Took Intro to Psychology and loved it. Sem GPA 2.9 . Scored a B+ for Intro to Psych. But I performed really badly for my engineering modules because I had lost all interest.

Holiday: Applied for transfer to Psychology and some other HSS courses. All rejected. Was hinted by a Psych prof that if I really wanted it, I should take more modules in Psychology modules and also try getting at least a B just for Psychology modules.

Sem 3: Took 2 Engineering modules, 2 Psychology modules and 1 GER-PE. Sem GPA 3.3. Scored A and A- for the 2 Psychology modules.

Holiday: Applied for transfer. Rejected and was told to maintain my grades and apply again in the May-June transfer period instead.

Sem 4: Dropped all Engineering modules. Took 4 modules of Psychology and 1 GER-PE.  Sem GPA 4.7. Scored A+ A A- B+ for the Psychology modules I took.

 Detailed Process:

detail process

Let us start with the most drastic kind of transfer: transfers across disciplines. Let’s say you have enrolled as a student in Engineering. But you want to study a social science course, for this example, we use Psychology.

What you must essentially do is that you must prove to those in the Psychology department that you would be a great psych student. The best way to prove that you would be one is through your grades. But how do you show them that you are a great psych student when your engineering grades are bad or mediocre at best? Simple: take psychology modules instead.

If you know you want to transfer to another course the MOMENT you step into NTU. DO NOT wait. Quickly drop all your cores and register for modules from the course you want to transfer to. The faster you can prove to them that you are good, the quicker you can get that transfer.

The process in detail:

1. Psychology modules can be taken as an Unrestricted Elective.

2. Take a few of these modules such as Intro to Psychology, Fundamentals of Social Science Research, Cognitive Psychology etc. Drop your core modules if need be to make space for more Psychology modules.

3. Get good grades in Psychology. (definition of good here may vary, but this author was only successful after scoring a 4.57 GPA for 7 modules that belonged to the course he wanted to transfer to, although a lower grade might have been sufficient, the better the grade the higher the chances. Also, they will not only look at your Psychology grades, but those will be a big factor. Other factors would of course include your A-levels of Poly GPA. ) If this is the course you really want to transfer to, then getting a good grade will be manageable and not impossible at all.

4. Seek advice from professors in that course, ask them if they can help you or if they can tell you what is required of you so that you’d have a better chance. Also, highlight to them that you are working towards a transfer, so that they can advise you or even put in a good word for you.

5. Apply for transfer. This part is also a little tricky. It is better if you apply for a transfer in the May-July period rather than the Dec-Jan period. The reason for this is that the schools may want to take students in the May-July batch so you can come in together with all the new freshmen. Coming in at Semester 2 is just administratively awkward.

As you can see it is not as simple as just applying for a transfer. The chances that you’d be successful is very low if you do not prove to the faculty that you would be a good student in that course.

This method may work for many other types of transfers too. Transfers from Engineering to Physics or from Sociology to Mathematics or Biology to Computer Science. However, you must have seen the obvious flaw of this method. The course you intend to transfer to MUST allow students outside their faculty to take their modules as an elective. So those of you dreaming of transferring to Medicine, you can keep dreaming. Medicine does not provide any modules as electives.

Frequently Asked Questions:


Q: How many modules would be sufficient?

The answer is not so clear. 7 seems to be overdoing it. But a good gauge would be 4-5. And you should score well in them. How well? B+ to A- is a safe gauge. If your A-level grades were good, you wouldn’t need to score so well for the Psychology modules. If they were bad, you should try aiming as high as possible to boost your chances.

Q: How long would it take for me to complete a sufficient amount of modules?

Depends on how determined you are. If you know that a transfer is what you want, I would recommend that you drop ALL of your engineering modules and just fill up your timetable with psychology modules. This way, you can easily complete 5 modules in one semester and apply for a transfer right away.

Q: I’m afraid that if I don’t get the transfer, I would lag behind my peers in Engineering by a semester. Should I just take one Psychology module per semester?

This is a legitimate concern. However, do note that engine students have to complete 5 UEs anyway. So you would be able to catch up in time. While your peers are doing their UEs, you would be doing the cores that you missed out on. So it evens out at the end.

Also, if you take just one Psych mod per semester, note that you’d have to complete 4 semesters of school before having enough modules for a transfer. This would delay your graduation once you get transferred. And not all of the engineering modules can be brought over once you have made the transfer.

Furthermore, if you are REALLY INTERESTED in what you want to transfer to, a high GPA is easily possible, hence a transfer would be more or less confirmed.

Q. Its hard to get the UEs because of the waitlist system. How do I get the modules?

This is a tricky one. What you can do is email the admin staff (NOT teaching staff) that is in charge of Psychology. Use google to find out who they are. Tell them your situation, that you need the modules because you want to make a transfer etc. And hopefully, they will be nice enough to slot you in even when there are no vacancies. Although this is not a confirmed method. Some schools do allow this while others are stricter. In any case, it’s not difficult to obtain at least 2 UEs per semester at least through the waitlist system.

Q. I’ve already used up 3-4 of my UEs! None of them were Psychology modules. How do I register for more UEs??

Relax, call your Engineering faculty’s undergraduate office and ask them to lift the restrictions of the number of UEs you can take. You can file an intention to pursue a minor online and give the excuse that you need to fulfil your Psychology minor if they find that transferring is not a legitimate reason.

Q. Woohoo!!! So does this mean I can transfer to NBS?? NBS does provide their modules to be taken as UEs.

This author has only transferred from Engineering to Social Science. NBS is much more competitive and requires much better grades for freshmen to enter. Hence, we can conclude that it is much tougher if you want a transfer to NBS, but it’s not impossible. This method should still apply if one is seeking such a transfer.

Q. I’m not sure if I can achieve a good grade for the course I intend to transfer to. Should I still give it a try?

Yes. You should. Although 4.57 might seem a little high, this author was actually told that a 3.5 would have been sufficient to transfer to the course she aimed for. Note that this number might not apply to all courses that you intend to transfer to. A 3.5 might be sufficient for a less popular course like the one I transferred to while a 4.5 might not even be enough for a very popular course like NBS. In order to judge how ‘popular’ a course might be, you can take a look at the IGP as a gauge :

The better the 10th percentile grade, the harder it would be to transfer to that course.

Q. I hate my course and want to transfer out. However, there are no other courses that I would be good at. Can I still use this method to transfer out?

No. This method is not meant for those who want to just ‘escape’ from their current courses. This method works best if you already know where you want to transfer to AND you are willing to work extremely hard in those modules in order to prove your worth. If you hate your current course still want to transfer it’s possible, but make sure you aim for a course that you are really keen on studying for.

Q. Can I transfer my Engineering modules over as UEs after I have successfully transferred?

Yes, you can! But this only applies to some modules. I can’t say if ALL modules can be transferred over. To be safe, take fewer (or even better, none) Engineering modules and replace them with Psych modules. Hence, when you transfer over, you won’t be lagging too far behind your peers since you’d have completed more Psychology modules already.

  1. Can I NOT transfer the Engineering modules if they will just bring down my CGPA? You can decide to throw away the Engineering modules that you scored badly in. But this means you would need to take more UEs once you transfer over and it might delay your graduation.

Will they only look at my Psychology grades? Or will they look at my A-level/poly GPA as well?

Again, there’s no specific answer. They will consider everything but we do not know how they would distribute the weightage. The author scored poorly for her A-levels: DDD/BC. Got into NTU engineering but just barely. She scored poorly for her engineering grades after semester 1 as well. However, she scored very well for electives and for her Psychology modules.

Q. If I transfer after year 1 and take more than 4 years in total to complete my degree, will that mean I will no longer have the MOE tuition grant? Won’t that be super expensive?

Yes and no. MOE tuition grant only lasts for 4 years. So if you spent 2 years in Engineering and 3 years in Psychology, you will have to pay off that last 1 year WITHOUT the MOE tuition grant. However, NTU being the nice institution that it is will extend the subsidy to you instead. Meaning that you will still pay the same amount as you’ve been paying for the past 4 years and your fees won’t suddenly jump.

Q. Don’t bluff me okay. If I use your method and don’t get a transfer, I will sue you.

That’s not even a question. This is definitely not a foolproof method. Many things can go wrong:

a. The profs might find your grades undesirable even if you’re scoring 4.0.
b. The year you apply for transfer coincides with the Dragon baby intake and they cant squeeze another person in.
c. The year you apply for transfer just happen to have another 10 people applying for transfer to the same course and all of them score 4.5 and above while you are scoring 4.0.

There are many variables that I have not considered. This method will only BOOST your chances, not give you a confirmed transfer.

Q. I am from XXXX university. I want to transfer to NTU. How can I do this?

Wrong guide. This method only applies to transfers within NTU. However, from what I know, successful transfers between universities are actually pretty rare.

Q. How long did it take for you to make the transfer a reality?

Officially it took me 2 years.


General Advice:

1. Assess your abilities.

I didn’t know I would actually be able to get a first-class in the social science module that I aimed for. Nor did I know I would be that interested in it. Assess yourself, if you know you would be good at it and you know you can do it, you can start the transfer process much earlier and not waste too much time.

2. Assess your abilities.

It’s not an error, I just can’t emphasise this enough. Assess yourself. Don’t attempt the transfer JUST because you hate your current course. You might ‘feel’ as if you like the course you want to transfer to but it might be just you deceiving yourself. If you drop all of your cores at one go and take up all Psychology modules but end up getting C/C+ for those Psychology modules, you would have essentially just wasted an entire semester. GGWP.

3. Be nice.

It gets you far. Don’t demand anything from the admin staff or from the professors. You are in no position to ask for anything from a faculty that is not your own. Psychology modules can be hard to obtain and are sometimes oversubscribed! If you ask the admin staff politely, they may feel appreciated and help you out by slotting you in. This would really help you complete as many Psychology modules as possible.

4. Study hard.

Really hard. If your A-level grades are as bad as mine, you’d need to make up for it by performing really well in those Psychology modules.

5. Plan AHEAD!!

Use NTU’s Content of Courses and study it like the bible. Know which courses are available in which semesters. For example, if you want to transfer to Sociology, you’d need to get “HS1001 : Person and Society” ASAP!! It’s only available in Sem 1 AND it serves as a pre-requisite for almost all the other Sociology modules. Psychology is easier since HP1001 is available in both semesters. Courses like History and Philosophy have few pre-requisites so you don’t have to worry too much if you intend to transfer to those courses. You don’t have to take their 1001 intro courses and can just skip taking whatever modules that are available that semester.

6. Know when to give up.

To hell with all those motivational slogans. Some things really are impossible to do. If you’ve already completed 4 modules from that course you want to transfer to but can only score an average of B- or C+ then you should know that that course is simply not meant for you. Accept the fact and move on.

This article is contributed by Jennifer Tan from NTU


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