Going Against the Grain: Niche Subjects (OH2020 Print Edition)

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Do you want to go against the grain? Have no fear, for niche subjects are here! Disclaimer: experiences may include unlucky timetabling, knowing your tutors better than you’d like, and an absence of recorded lectures. Do head to the SEAB website and these subjects’ booths for more details!


H2 English Language and Linguistics (ELL) investigates the nature of the English language and contemporary issues surrounding it.

To take ELL, RP students must attain at least 3.6 for English in Year 4, while JAE students must attain at least an A2 in their English O level examination; however, those who do not meet these criteria may take the ELL Qualifying Test in January.

Paper 1 (Analysing Language Use) examines how language changes according to its use and user; students analyse text types at levels such as syntax and discourse analysis. They must compare two texts of different types and discuss their differences, before adapting three stimulus texts into another text type and commenting on the changes they have made.

Paper 2 (Investigating Language Use in Society) involves sociolinguistics. Students complete three essays, chosen from two sections of two questions each. One section concerns the reasons and attitudes towards language change and variation (covered in Year 5), while the other examines the relationships between language, culture, and identity (covered in Year 6).

All ELL students are invited to attend the annual English Language and Linguistics Symposium in April and are eligible for the MOE English Language Elective Scholarship (ELES).

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Dr Joe Bennett and Dr Gareth Carol
speaking at the ELL Symposium in 2018


Unlike ELL, which concerns linguistics, these actually stand for Chinese, Malay and Tamil Language and Literature (CLL, MLL, and TLL) instead. 

Each subject is assessed in three papers: Essay and Comprehension (Paper 1), Comprehension E-exam (Paper 2), and Literary Analysis (Paper 3). 

Paper 3 requires candidates to answer four questions based on the genres they have studied. For CLL, tutorials cover 古文 (classical prose), 韵文 (verse), 现代小说 (contemporary prose), and 现代戏剧 (contemporary plays). For MLL, the genres taught are sajak (modern poetry), cerpen (short stories), plays, and novels. And for TLL, the curriculum encompasses one novel and an anthology of Singaporean Tamil literary works, including poetry, short stories, and plays.

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MLL Batch ’20

Examinations aside, what else can students look forward to?

In Year 6, eligible students can take H3 CLL or MLL, which fall under the NUS-MOE HSSR Programme. They are required to write a research paper on one of the topics offered that year. MLL students can also apply for the MOE Malay Language Elective Scholarship; however, CLEP and TLEP for CLL and TLL students are not offered at RI.

While H3 TLL is unfortunately not offered, not all is lost for TLL students! Students can look forward to activities such as the Pre-University Seminar on Tamil Language and Literature organised by Yishun Junior College’s Indian Cultural Society and National Tamil Language Month activities. They can also join inter-school competitions like Sorchilambam and Yutham. Additionally, students are eligible for the National Elective Tamil Language Programme (NETP) and the accompanying scholarship, both administered by Umar Pulavar Tamil Language Centre. 

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TLL Batch ’18


Passing the admission test (including music listening, analysis, and practical tests) is the only prerequisite to take H2 Music, though it is suggested that students should attain the level of at least ABRSM Grade 5 in Practical and ABRSM Grade 6 in Theory. Students who have completed the 4-year MEP course in RP or scored at least an A2 in Higher Music or A1 in Music at the O level examinations may also apply for the MOE Music Elective Scholarship (MES) by submitting either a recording of their performance or a portfolio of their compositions. 

There are three fundamental aspects of music study: music performance (solo and ensemble performance), music writing (composition & harmony), and music history (listening/analysis). These are organised into three components at the A levels: music practical, coursework (composition), and a written paper.

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This year’s H2 Music batch at Bricolage, their music showcase held at the library@Esplanade.

The music practical involves a 15–25min programme, with smaller internal practicals as mini dry runs for the ‘A’ levels itself. The music writing coursework involves some stylistic imitation and composition techniques. There is also free composition, a single work (3-5 minutes) where students are encouraged to structure and develop original musical ideas, with a cumulative coursework portfolio being submitted at the A levels. Additionally, the written paper involves three parts: Asian music studies (Chinese and Malay music), commentary on an unseen piece of music (based on the focus topic), and an essay based on the focus topic for the year (music in America from c. 1890–1960).

Lessons still follow the lecture-tutorial system. However, with a class of only 10–20 people, tutorials focus on smaller batches of students, allowing for individual care and attention. Lectures cover the focus topic as well as Asian music, while tutorials allow students to work on their individual performance recitals and music writing portfolio.


A-level Art students must produce three different submissions, namely: a written paper, eight A3 sized boards that document all they have done and learned in the two years, and their Final Work, which can take the shape of any form of art. 

There is an entrance test for aspiring Art students, comprising written and practical components, as well as an interview. Applicants are encouraged to bring along a portfolio of works, though it is not compulsory!

Students are trained to see in different perspectives, and thus be good artists and good people. This is exemplified by the Art teachers’ motto: look longer, look closer, look harder.

Furthermore, outings are aplenty, be it school-arranged or just a fun trip with your classmates! Examples of outings that this year’s 11-student batch have gone for are the Lasalle Graduation Show, UOB South East Asia Focus, and the Murakami exhibition at the STPI Creative Workshop and Gallery.

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The 2017 MEP Showcase poster; MEP Showcases highlight the talent of each H2 Music batch by featuring performances of original compositions.


The prerequisites for RP students are an overall GPA of 3.6 and a 3.6 in English. Prospective candidates will also have to pass a placement test, which JAE students can sit for.

The A-levels involve three papers. Paper 1 involves writing two essays, one on pure epistemology, and the other on knowledge in a particular field of study (e.g. history). Paper 2 concerns critical thinking; students evaluate arguments presented in the form of three passages. Paper 3 is the Independent Study, involving a 3000-word paper on any topic of interest (as long as it involves the nature and construction of knowledge) over six months in Year 6. 

Unfortunately, KI cannot be taken with other niche subjects except a third language at H2 level.

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