Friday, September 1, 2017

My Experience with Specialist Diplomas (Part 2)

This is a continuation of my previous post on Specialist Diplomas (see here).

Course Content (continuation)
Normally, lectures and tutorials are conducted in the same session. The lectures will be conducted in the first half, followed by the tutorials (or labs) in the second half.

Besides learning in class, the lecturers also provide additional materials for out-of-class-learning/e-learning. This is more for self-interest though. Despite being a nerd, I don't touch these materials. What? No time lah! Holding a full-time job and studying the main syllabus already saps up my time considerably.

Generally, there are no final exams. You may now breathe a sigh of relief.

However, there are quite a few assessment components. Normally, you have a mid-term test and an end-of-module test, with the end-of-module test comprising a larger percentage of your module grades. In addition, there will be group project work and some individual assignments to complete as well.

Let me digress for a moment. In 1 year, you have 2 semesters. In 1 semester, you have 2 terms. Depending on the polytechnic and/or SD programme, the length of each module and the academic load you take each semester differs. Normally, you are required to complete 4 to 6 modules in a SD programme. In my case, I had to take 4 modules for each SD.

For my first SD, the programme was structured such that I took one module per term. In contrast, I had to take 2 modules concurrently in my second SD, with both modules lasting a semester. If you don't understand, nevermind. Just see the visualization below.

There are both pros and cons to each. If the SD you are considering to take is structured like my first SD, be prepared to rush like mad. The mid-term test will hit you in like week 4 or 5 when the term commences. There's no time for slacking. You have to revise consistently.

At first glance, you have "more time" if the SD is structured like my second SD. Don't be deceived though. Remember, there is still project work and individual assignments to complete. Most likely, you will even have to meet up with your group mates outside class time during your term break to cheong your project. Also, you will perceive time to crawl in this format.

For those that are curious, yes, there is bell curve grading. For my first SD, one of my lecturers implied that there is. In my second SD, it was quite obvious. In one of the modules, there was a difficult lab test and 3/4 of the class failed it. I was one of the studious lucky ones who managed to solve the lab in time. Therefore, I got slightly better than a passing grade. When I received back my grades, my results were clearly bumped up. The others who actually failed were given a passing grade. That's how I knew.

Mid-term tests and end-of-module tests could be paper-based or online. Similarly, tests could be either open-book or close-book (open-book tests are generally harder). Interestingly, for one of the polytechnics, the questions you get from online-based tests are randomly sampled from a pool of questions. Hence, the difficulty of the set of questions you get is heng/suay one. Some of my classmates who studied a lot sian jik pua when they got a set of questions which were considerably harder than the rest. (Ironically, the top student of my cohort had one of the easiest set of questions LOL).

That's all for now. If I do remember any other pertinent stuff, I would do an "addendum" post on Specialist Diplomas.

Can't wait for my 3rd Specialist Diploma programme to commence this coming October! Woohoo!


  1. Well done! I have finished one SD and 1 certificate level, now looking for a the next SD!

    1. His passerby,

      Thanks! SDs are good fun. They are economical, are of a fairly-short duration, and provide decent introductions to other fields. :)

  2. are there SD that are < 1year?
    and, even better if they are online.. due to work schedule

    1. Hi FC,

      Unfortunately, no to both. :(

      However, all the polytechnics offer short courses. You might be interested in those as well.

      Still, some SDs are offered on a modular basis. You do each module one at a time. Once you are done with all the modules, you graduate with a SD. But I think it might be quite hard because you do not have the same group mates to follow you through the entire programme. :/