How and What UEs to Choose at NUS

Hello, everyone! I’m back with yet another article. This time, it’s on unrestricted electives (or UEs)! Now, if you haven’t entered university yet, you probably have no idea what I’m referring to, and that’s perfectly fine. Allow me to explain: when you enter university, in order to graduate, you need a certain number of modules (i.e. classes) that are not part of your major requirements.

For example, I’m a psychology major, and modules such as “Introduction to Psychology” are mandatory. However, aside from such modules, I also need to take other classes. These count as UEs and include anything ranging from linguistic studies and philosophy to coding!

If you plan on taking a second major or a minor, you can use those modules to count for your unrestricted electives. For example, if I take both psychology and social work as a double major degree, the social work modules would count as ‘unrestricted electives’. Same thing would happen if I took a social work minor.

But if you don’t really know what you want yet, or are like me and just don’t want another major or minor, you’ve come to the right place! I’ll be sharing my recommendations for UEs and explaining why you can consider taking them too. At the end of the day, it comes down to personal interests, so many will be related to my own preferences. However, there are  bmodules that are beneficial for your overall grade, so do read on!

1. Introduction Modules

If you’re looking for an easy way to clear your electives without using up too much of your time, the most common and natural method is to take introductive modules. Most introduction modules require minimal work and effort as they are students’ first encounters, including students studying that major, with the subject. Thus, it cannot be too overwhelming, nor can professors or lecturers mark you too harshly.

However, do take note that some require much more work than others. For example, when taking the social work introduction module, I had a final exam for which I needed to memorize content. I also had a research essay on the social work services in Singapore. Fortunately, I was used to that type of work. However, this is in contrast to the EL1101E “Nature of Language” module. According to my friend, although she had group projects, she simply needed to submit reflections as part of the grading criteria. She didn’t have any final examinations.

So, pick and choose your introduction modules wisely! If you’re looking for easier ones, EL1101E is one I recommend. I also recommend PL1101E, the Introduction to Psychology Module. There is no final examination, just weekly discussions, and weekly or biweekly quizzes you are graded on. Although the quizzes can be a bit tricky, you should be able to get by with a decent grade.

2. 1k Modules

For those unfamiliar with the university system, there are different levels of modules with (theoretically) different levels of difficulty. 1k modules (so any module where the module code has “1” as the first number) are considered the easiest in university. Some examples of 1k module codes include: PL1101E, PL1101E, GL1101E.

The examples listed above are all introductory modules, and at first you might get confused: what is the distinction between the two categories of ‘introductory modules’ and “1k mods”? Well, introductory modules are a subset. While all introductory modules are 1k mods, not all 1k modules are introductory.

Additional 1k modules you can consider include those with the GESS code. GESS modules teach you more about Singapore and Singapore’s political, economic and diplomatic ties both within Singapore and with other countries. For example, GESS1004 examines Singapore’s diplomatic ties with India in both the past and the present.

I am taking GESS1004 this semester and can say that it is not that bad a module. The workload is quite manageable: there are two essays and one group presentation, and you just have to participate in class. So do try and speak at least once every tutorial. If you do the above decently, you can score relatively well for this module. Based on my experience, I strongly recommend you try GESS modules if you are looking to clear safer modules.

However, note that a lot of these GESS modules are related to basic politics, economics and writing. If this is not your passion, or if you don’t feel confident in your writing ability, you might want to consider other modules instead. But if you don’t mind these things, consider taking at least one GESS module some time in your undergraduate career.

3. CS/CU Modules

These modules are the most special within NUS, and also some of the rarest you can find. CS/CU stands for pass/fail, meaning that these modules only have two outcomes: pass or fail. There is no grade you obtain, no need to worry about a bell curve and getting that “A”, or any other concerns that come with normal modules.

Although pass/fail might sound scary because “what if I fail”, these modules legitimately require minimal effort to complete. You simply fulfil the basic requirements: show up to class, participate a bit, finish the assignments. Do all these and you are pretty much going to pass. Some of you might worry about failing but based on reviews of CS/CU modules, literally everyone passes.

However, these modules are often difficult to find because there are so few of them (for good reason). To assist you, I have provided this link to a reddit post, where the CS/CU modules within NUS are listed.

You will notice that one of them is a GESS pillar module: GESS1035. That is another GESS module that I am currently taking, and I can confirm that it really needs minimal effort. For GESS1035, I simply watch pre-recorded lecture videos, show up to tutorial once every two weeks, do one group presentation, and write one reflection for every tutorial. It might sound like a lot, but you need to remember that it’s a pass/fail: as long as I complete the assignment, I pass. It doesn’t matter how good your reflection is, and you don’t have to put a lot of effort in researching and coming up with innovative critical thinking. If you do the basics, you pass.

Pass/fail modules also means that your CAP won’t be affected. This is especially relevant to those who are in year two and above. In year one, you will most likely be busy with CHS modules and your major modules anyway, and won’t have any space for electives. However, when you reach year two, you need to start putting them in your plan. The only problem is, you need to be careful when choosing these electives because you can only S/U three modules for the next three years.

This means that you need to choose your electives wisely: choose electives where you can actually score and obtain at least an “A-“ in. At this level, any tiny problematic grade can affect your overall CAP, and one “B-“ can pull your CAP down quite a bit.

By choosing pass/fail modules, you help yourself freeze your CAP. Most undergraduates end up with at least a 4.0 after year 1, and if you take CS/CU modules you have one less module to worry about. Yes, your grade won’t increase, but there is no risk of it dropping either. And honestly, it is much more likely that your CAP decreases, which is why pass/fail modules are literal lifesavers.

4. Modules that you are Passionate About

The previous three recommendations all centered around maintaining good grades. And there is, of course, nothing wrong with wanting to keep up a high CAP. However, I suspect there are people like me out there who genuinely have an interest in learning. In university, you get the opportunity to learn so much about the world and to really dive deep into topics you likely never learnt about in secondary or JC.

Because of this, a lot of my electives are based on my own passions. And for this final section, I would just like to share some of the modules I have taken so far, and why I recommend them to everyone.

Out of all the UEs I have completed so far, the two that are not GESS-related modules are “Introduction to Social Work” (SW1101E) and “Struggle for Modern China” (HY2207). Both topics are passions of mine, and I highly recommend them.

For SW1101E, I think it is important to have a basic overview of the social work system in Singapore. Many of us might hear of social problems and see facilities like Family Service Centres in our neighbourhoods, but not many of us have an in-depth knowledge of the overall systems and the actual work behind the scenes. I think this module gives a very brief overview, and although you can learn much more in a social work internship, it is still an opportunity for those interested in the social sector.

For HY2207, I strongly recommend it. I am not the best historian and haven’t taken a history class ever since Secondary Two. However, I wanted to better understand the current political climate of China, and to do so I needed to understand China’s history. I am taking this module under Professor Kung and genuinely enjoy his teaching style. He is very passionate about the subject and is willing to answer any questions I have, no matter how stupid I perceive them to be. The module is also very comprehensive and provides a very good background and overview. The readings are engaging, and although they are long, they help you critically think about the state of China at that period in time. Overall, for anyone who wants to better understand the current global superpower, I think this module is the starting point.

And that’s it from me! Hope to see you all next time!

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