Attention: open in a new window. PDFPrintE-mail

Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah(UPSR)

Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) also known as Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah is a national examination taken by all Standard 6 (mostly 12-year old) students in Malaysia. Normally, there are 5 subjects in this exam, but pupils in Chinese schools (SJKC) and Tamil schools (SJKT) take 7 subjects. The subjects that are taken in this exam include:

This exam is usually held during the first Monday on the month of September.

Until 2008, Maths and Science will be in Malay. Then, it will be changed in English. The passing grade is A which is between 80-100%. The passing grade changes every year varying to the difficulty of the exam.

The government was thinking about adding more subjects but currently, there will be only 5 subjects.

Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR)

Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) is a Malaysian public examination taken by Form 3 (mostly 15-years-old) students of both public and private schools. It was formerly known as Sijil Rendah Pelajaran or SRP. The subjects in this exam include:

Students are required to take at least 7 core subjects, that is all the subjects above except Chinese, Tamil and Islamic Studies.

Based on the results and individual interest, students will be allocated in either the Science, Arts, or IT stream for the following 2 years in the higher secondary education level.

Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM)

Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), or the Malaysian Certificate of Education, is a national examination taken by all form 5 students in Malaysia. Generally, this is at the age of 17, though students who attended pre-secondary school class would take it at the age of 18. Students who successfully passed their Penilaian Tahap Satu (PTS) examination at Primary Three would take their SPM a year earlier, at the age of 16. The PTS was introduced to Primary Three students in 1996 but was discontinued in 2000.

It is equivalent to the British GCE-O level. The English paper is separately graded by the national examination board and UCLES, and both grades will be displayed on the statement slip. On the real certificate, only the national examination board's grade is listed. The minimum requirement to get a certificate is a pass in Malay.

SPM provides the opportunity for Malaysians to continue their studies to pre-university level. Qualifications recognised for entry into local universities are STPM (Sijil Pelajaran Tinggi Malaysia or Malaysian Certificate of Higher Education - obtained after 2 years of Secondary 6) or Matriculation, although overseas qualifications like A-level are also acceptable for certain courses.

The evaluation scheme is 100% exam-based. The examination for SPM usually takes place around early November and lasts for more than 3 weeks. There are also papers in June, but only for the compulsory subjects.

As Malaysia is revolutionizing its education system, science and mathematics subjects; for example, Biology, Chemistry , Physics, Modern Mathematics and Additional Mathematics; are being tested in English. Other subjects, mainly the Arts, are tested in Malay. In 2003, a new SPM subject, English for Science and Technology (EST)[1] is introduced. It is an English test based on science and technology.[2]

In 2003, the government of Malaysia decided that, beginning 2004, Science and Mathematics should be taught in English for Standard One, Form One, and Form Six students. Thus, the SPM Papers from 2003 up to 2006 have questions in both English and Malay. The first year to do the Science and Mathematics papers in English will be the students taking the November 2007 papers.

Certain subjects are made compulsory for students. These include: Bahasa Melayu (Malay), English, Mathematics, History (Sejarah), Science - for students not in the Science stream, Islamic Education (Pendidikan Islam) - for all Muslim students, Moral Education (Pendidikan Moral) - for all non-Muslim students

Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM)

The Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) or Malaysia Higher School Certificate (sic) is a test usually taken by students at the end of Form 6. Because its initialism is rather similar to the Malaysian Certificate of Education (SPM), many often use Pelajaran (which translates as ‘education‘) instead of Persekolahan (which translates as ‘schooling‘), though it is referred usually as STPM, STP or, particularly the older ones, as HSC (Higher School Certificate). (The HSC was the precursor to the GCE A levels in the UK, and this is still the name of the pre-university examination in Australia.)

The STPM is set and run by the Malaysian Examinations Council (Majlis Peperiksaan Malaysia), which also runs MUET, unlike SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia [formerly MCE, Malaysia Certificate of Education] taken at the end of Form 5), PMR (Penilaian Menengah Rendah or Lower Secondary assessment [formerly LCE, Lower Certificate of Education] taken at the end of Form 3) and UPSR (Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah, Primary School Assessment Test) taken at the end of Standard/Year 6), which are all set and examined by the Malaysian Examinations Syndicate (Lembaga Peperiksaan Malaysia), both of whom, however, are under the Malaysian Ministry of Education.

The STPM is usually taken at the end of Form 6.

Form Six

Though most national secondary schools in Malaysia do not offer Form 6, the Ministry of Education which selects public secondary schools it considers capable of providing Form 6 classes, of late have been rapidly increasing the number of such schools. Unlike all other "forms" which is a year-long level, Form 6 lasts one and a half years. Form 6, like Matriculation, starts in the middle of the year since the institution of the National Service Training Programme (PLKN), a gap of about 6 months between taking the SPM and the start of Form 6.

Form 6 itself is divided into three semesters but isn't conducted in semester system, the first one is known as Lower Sixth Form (Tingkatan Enam Rendah/Bawah) and the other two are known as Upper Sixth Form (Tingkatan Enam Atas).Form Sixers in national schools are usually distincted from the lower forms, often wearing different school uniforms, usually given higher posts within the school's societies, often with lax enforcement of certain school rules and regulations such as the ban on mobile phones, and sometimes even holding a separate morning assembly and recess for Sixth Formers.

Sixth Formers in most schools generally form their own association, commonly called the Form Six Association or the Form Six Society. Most of the time, these associations' main annual activity is the initiation of new Lower Sixth Formers during orientation.


Candidates sit for no more than five subjects, all within the same examination season. All Science- and Mathematics-related subjects - that is Mathematics S, Mathematics T, Further Mathematics T, Computing, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology though not Sports Science, are offered bilingually in English and Malay until 2007 when they will be offered only in English. All other exams, other than languages, are still offered only in Malay and are likely continue to do so for the foreseable future.

STPM is an open-list examinations, that is any combination of subjects may be taken. However, to be considered for IPTA admission, students must take General Studies (Pengajian Am) and at least three other subjects. Most, if not all, schools and colleges offering STPM, however, do stream their students into science and arts (humanities).

A list of all subjects available for STPM students are:

  • Pengajian Am (General Studies)
  • Bahasa (Melayu (Malay language)
  • Bahasa Cina (Chinese language)
  • Bahasa Tamil (Tamil language)
  • Bahasa Arab (Arabic language)
  • Literature in English
  • Kesusasteraan Melayu (Literature in Malay)
  • Syariah (Shariah)
  • Usuluddin
  • Sejarah (History)
  • Geografi (Geography)
  • Ekonomi (Economics)
  • Pengajian Perniagaan (Business studies)
  • Perakaunan (Accountancy)
  • Mathematics S (may not be taken with Mathematics T)
  • Mathematics T (may not be taken with Mathematics S)
  • Further Mathematics T (may only be taken with Mathematics T)
  • Computing (may only be taken at certain schools)
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Sains Sukan (Sport science)
  • Seni Visual (Visual art)

For most non-science and sport science subjects, there is generally two papers per subject. For science subjects, there is three papers, with the third a practical paper[1] (though all but Computing offers an alternative written paper as an alternative for private candidates).

Mathematics S and Mathematics T share the first paper (consisting of Pure Mathematics), while with slightly different second papers, the prior with a more business mathematics approach while the latter a more science-related and statistical approach. Both subjects have both their papers graded separately on a different curve, though all questions shared between the subjects are marked with the same, secret marking scheme.

Grades and Grade Points

STPM, like the matriculation programme, follow the Cummulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) system. There are 11 grades, which are A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+ and D, with F as the failing grade. The grade points for each of these grades are between 4.0 and 1.0, A being 4.0 and D- being 1.0. The F grade gives a grade point of 0.

Each paper's grade appears on the result slip and the certificate. The subject's grade and grade point is determined by the weighted average results of all that subject's papers, where all papers must be passed otherwise the grade and grade point would be, respectively, F and 0. The cummulative grade point average is the average of the top four subjects taken and usually rounded up to 2 decimal points. Therefore, if a student scores A in four subjects and fail in the fifth, he's CGPA would be 4.0.

The actual range of scores within each grade is a state secret and changes annually. Usually, the range of marks of science subjects is relatively higher than non-science subjects, as well as between subjects equivalent in the matriculation programme and those without. Unlike other examinations in Malaysia, STPM for the most part suffers little grade inflation in addition to having a widely-considered rigid marking scheme - with the exception of subjects not offered in matriculation. STPM therefore is generally considered amongst the world's toughest examinations.

Cummulative and subject GPA's at 2.0 and above is considered a pass with credit (or principal pass), below that, it is considered a sub-fail, and a 0 is considered a fail. Matriculation into local universities require at least a GPA of 2.0 and above, though private universities, university colleges and colleges generally accept less.

University entrance

The STPM itself is recognised by many universities internationally, especially those within the Commonwealth of Nations as well as the United States and the Republic of Ireland. Though it is globally-recognised, few take the examination, widely seen as very difficult, and those who do are largely non-Bumiputras. Though recognized internationally, most universities, particularly in the UK, consider STPM results equivalent to GCE A-Level results though the latter is generally much easier. For American universities, because the GPA range is between 4.0 and 0 (unlike Advance Placement's range of 5.0 to 0) can understate the academic achievements of an applicant.

Most of the exam's candidates take the exam to enter public universities, otherwise known as Public Institutes of Higher Learning (IPTA), though contrary to popular belief, it isn't the only examination accepted besides the Malaysian Higher Religious Certificate (STAM) and the matriculation programme. Candidates technically may apply for IPTA admissions for degree-level courses with a variety of pre-university examinations considered equivalent with STPM - including A-Levels. All those applying for university, however, must have taken the MUET.

Most Bumiputras, however, don't take the STPM - at least 90% of places within the one-year matriculation programme conducted by the Ministry of Education is allocated for Bumiputras while the other 10% are distributed among non-bumiputras. This has become a source of contention because matriculation students, who enter university one year earlier compared with their STPM peers, are considered on equal standing with STPM only in Malaysia for the purpose of IPTA admission though it is widely seen as significantly less difficult than STPM with a significantlly streamed down Form 6 syllabus.

The STPM may also be used by those not interested in entering university for the purpose of employment.