First-Class Honours In NUS – Is It Possible?

How To Get First Class Honours In NUS

You may have heard your friends joking about getting a CAP of 5.0 (i.e. perfect score) in NUS, but just how possible is it?

Here’s a guide on how you can obtain first-class honours in NUS.

What is the CAP required to obtain first-class honours in NUS?

You are required to obtain a CAP of at least 4.5 out of 5.0 to achieve first-class honours in NUS. This means that you will need to average at least an A- grade for all of the subjects that are counted towards your CAP.

If you are intending to obtain first-class honours, you do not need to get straight As!

Instead, you will need to obtain a CAP of at least 4.5, which means that your average score for all of your modules will need to be A-.

This means that if you get a B+ for a module, you will need to get an A or A+ for another module to ‘equalise’ your CAP.

If you would like to find out how to check your NUS results and unofficial transcript, you can view this guide here.

What are some tips to obtain first-class honours in NUS?

Here are 6 tips to obtain first-class honours in NUS:

  1. Select modules that you are confident that you can score well in
  2. Optimise the allocation of your modules per semester
  3. Understand the grading component of each module well
  4. Stay consistent throughout your 4 years in university
  5. Try to obtain examiner’s reports and past year papers (if available)
  6. Maximise your S/U options

#1 Select modules that you are confident that you can score well in

For most courses in NUS, there are 3 main requirements that you’ll need to meet to obtain a major:

University RequirementsGeneral Education modules
or CHS Common Curriculum
Course RequirementsModules that are specific
to your course
Unrestricted Elective
Any module in NUS

In most cases, you will need to complete 160 MCs worth of modules to obtain a major.

For most modules, your course requirements will be rather rigid, so you won’t be able to touch that.

However, you are able to choose which General Education modules that you can take from these pillars:

Module CodeModule Description
GECCultures and Connections
GEXCritique and Expression
GEAData Literacy
GEIDigital Literacy
GESSSingapore Studies
GENCommunities and Engagement

You are able to choose which module you can take for each pillar, except for GEA1000 which is the only module in the GEA pillar.

Moreover, for the Unrestricted Electives, you can choose to take any module, so long as you meet the pre-requisites.

If you are looking at scoring at least an A- for each module, you may want to strategise which modules to take.

It will be good to look at the module reviews of the GE or UE mods that you intend to take, to help you get a better idea of what the module is like.

You may want to consider choosing modules that you are confident in scoring well in, particularly if you have prior knowledge in that module.

However, this may result in you sacrificing learning something for interest in the pursuit of grades!

#2 Optimise the allocation of your modules per semester

If you are intending to score at least an A- for all of your modules, it will be best to ensure that you do not overload any of your semesters.

Overloading means that you are taking more than 23 MCs in a single semester.

When you are overloading a semester, this usually means that your workload is really high. As such, the time that you can allocate for each module will be less.

If you are taking 160 MCs, you should be able to complete 20 MCs for 8 semesters, which technically means you do not have to overload.

However, this really depends on the schedule of the course you’re taking, and it will be best to double-check the schedule that they have set out.

For example, you may have a final-year project where you’d want to focus solely on that. As such, you may not want to take an extra mod during those 2 semesters.

One possible way that you can reduce the workload is by going for summer and winter programmes hosted by other universities.

Here are the number of MCs that you are able to clear with each summer or winter programme:

Summer Programme10 MCs
Winter Programme5 MCs
Module Mapping NUS Exchange

However, this depends on your module mapping being approved by your faculty, so it will be best to double-check with them before applying for any exchange programme.

I personally went for the Cambridge Summer Exchange Programme, where I took 4 modules. However, I was only able to map back 8 MCs due to the limit above.

By clearing these modules overseas, it will help to reduce the workload that you have each semester. The best part is that these modules are Pass/Fail, as the grades are non-transferable.

So long as you pass these modules that you take overseas, you will fulfil the MC requirement for your course, without these modules counting to your CAP!

However, it does come at an extra cost, where you may need to pay the school fees to attend these courses.

Depending on which university you choose to go to, it can actually be rather expensive!

#3 Understand the grading component of each module well

After you have been allocated your modules, it will be good to understand how the scoring works for the module.

There are quite a few ways that you can be graded for a module:

  • Continuous assessments and finals
  • Group projects
  • Presentations
  • Class participation
  • Written submissions
  • Video submission

By knowing how you will be assessed for each module, it will help you to plan a strategy to do well for the module.

#4 Stay consistent throughout your 4 years in university

If you have set a goal of attaining first-class honours, it will be important for you to stay consistent throughout your 4 years.

This is because scoring a poor grade (lower than A-) on one of your modules may reduce your CAP, such that it is less than 4.5!

Moreover, the modules will become harder as you progress throughout your 4 years.

It will be better to score as high as you possibly can during your first 2 years, so that you have some ‘buffer’ in case you score poorly in your later modules.

For example, scoring more A and A+ at the start will give you some leeway to score a B+ or lower, so it will help to reduce your stress.

#5 Try to obtain examiner’s reports and past year papers (if available)

One of the best ways to understand what the grading for a module is like is by obtaining examiner’s reports and past year papers.

However, this is subject to availability, as not all modules may have reports and past year papers.

Examiner’s reports are really useful as they give you hints on the types of topics that may come out for your examination. This could give you some clues on the areas that you should be focusing on for the exam.

If past year papers are available, this could be a good way to practice for your exams too! However, this may also mean that the questions are not recycled, and your examiner may set a new paper each time which may be very different.

#6 Maximise your S/U options

The last tip to obtain first-class honours is by strategising how you use your S/U option.

When you S/U a subject, the grade that you obtain will not be counted to your overall CAP, but you will still obtain the necessary MCs.

This is similar to how clearing an overseas mod will not count towards your CAP.

As such, this is very useful in the sense that you can choose to S/U modules that you didn’t do well in, so that it will not lower your CAP.

However, you are only able to S/U a module if it is:

  • A 1000 module
  • A 2000 module with no prerequisites
image 108
Source: NUS

As of the 13th of December 2021, NUS has made changes to the S/U Declaration Exercisebeginning from AY21/22.

image 114

With a new S/U system, you will now be able to S/U modules from the current semester and the previous semester of the same academic year.

As such, you will be able to declare S/U for modules that you took in Semester 1, during the S/U Declaration Exercise of Semester 2.

Should I S/U a B+?

If you are aiming to obtain first-class honours in NUS (minimum CAP of 4.5), it will be best to consider S/U-ing a B+ as it may pull down your CAP in the later years. However, if you are aiming for second upper honours (minimum CAP of 4.0), it may not be necessary to S/U any B+ that you obtain.

During my first semester in university, I scored a B+ for one of my modules, which I decided not to S/U. However, when I decided to pursue first-class honours, this B+ did carry the risk of me not being able to maintain a CAP ≥ 4.5.

If you are confident that you want to pursue first-class honours, I would suggest that you should S/U all the B+ grades that you obtained, if you are confident of scoring at least an A- for all of your future modules.

This is because S/U-ing a B+ may carry the risk of your CAP being unstable due to a ‘small base’, where the grades that you obtain in the future modules may have a greater impact on your CAP.

As such, I would only recommend this strategy if you are confident in doing well for your future modules.

Is it hard to get first-class honours in NUS?

Getting first-class honours in NUS will be extremely time-consuming, where you will either have to sacrifice sleep or your social life to obtain it. This is a decision that you’ll need to think through carefully before deciding to go ahead with it.

To do consistently well in your university modules, you may need to sacrifice something in the pursuit of grades.

There is usually this ‘joke’ in university, where you can only have 2 out of these 3 aspects of your life:

  • Grades
  • Sleep
  • Social life

In order to attain good grades, you will have to either sacrifice your sleep or your social life!

If you are keen on obtaining first-class honours, it is something that you’ll have to commit to throughout these 4 years and stay consistent.

You can find out more about CCAs in NUS, and whether it’s something you’d like to take on as an extra commitment.


First-class honours in NUS is achievable, if you are willing to sacrifice something to attain it.

However, it still highly depends on the bell curve in your modules, as some of them can be really competitive. You will need to be in the top 20% of your cohort to stand a chance of attaining first-class honours.

Ultimately, it will be best to ask yourself why you want to get first-class honours. This will be the main motivating factor that gets you through these tough times.

If this factor is not strong enough, you may lose your motivation halfway and decide to give up!

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