Please Mind the Platform Gap: Choosing Subject Combinations – The Hybrid Combinations

By Kelly Leong (20S07C)

All opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and are no substitute for formal academic advice.

Ah, selecting a subject combination: a time of great distress for those not yet certain of their aspirations, or those with so many passions that selecting just four subjects becomes a daunting task. Many will be familiar with the two distinct streams, Arts and Science, and might even be torn between both, but few would stop to consider staying in the middle.

If I were to be honest, I don’t think my parents fully supported my decision to take this subject combination initially. Even I had qualms of my own! In fact, the days leading up to inputting my subject combination were full of doubt and uncertainty:

“Shouldn’t you reconsider?” 

“Will you have a job?”

“Are you sure you’re making the right choice?”

And to answer all these questions, one has to understand what taking a hybrid combination entails.

So, What Exactly is ‘Hybrid’?

A quick Google search on ‘Hybrid Combinations in JC’ will pull up a multitude of results—most notably the Reddit and various forum pages. Filled to the brim with rumours and concerns of students who have considered the hybrid combinations, mixed with a dash of advice from ‘jaded’ seniors, it’s a trove of opinions that may do nothing but confuse.

To put it simply, hybrid combinations are essentially combinations that comprises two science subjects and two arts subjects. The two sciences would consist of Math and either Chemistry or Physics, together with H2 Economics and another arts subject (though you can request special combinations if you think H2 Economics is not for you). It is worth noting that while RI treats the hybrid combinations as part of the science stream, people will often understand you better if you just said “hybrid”.

Unfortunately, for those aspiring to take H2 Biology in isolation (BMEX), you’ve been had—this combination is not offered due to MOE regulations.

And What Can I Expect From This Peculiar Combination?

While the hybrid combinations stray from the traditional science and arts combinations, it offers a unique mix of numbers and frantic scribbling that can be enjoyable for some. For Christine Sim (20S07A), “hybrid was the most balanced for [her]”, and she feels that “it’s pretty good if you’re someone who likes both arts and sciences”. One can expect fewer calculations than those taking PCME, and less writing compared to those taking H/GELM. It’s a nice balance, suitable for those who have some aptitude for both skills, as you get to hone them simultaneously.

In fact, this balance and versatility comes in handy when applying for university! Hybrid students are situated comfortably in the middle of two very different streams. This gives you the flexibility to take a science course (such as environmental engineering or pharmaceutical chemistry) in certain universities, while still have some background in the humanities subjects should you choose to study liberal arts further down the line.

Of course, this same ‘staying in the middle’ concept may turn on you should you decide to pursue specialised fields, such as Aerospace Engineering or Medicine, since most universities require students to take two sciences other than Math to be eligible for such courses. Chances are, though, that you already aren’t especially inclined to the sciences if you’re considering this stream.

Okay, I’m Listening, But I’ve Heard Some Things…

There are some stereotypes and rumours about those taking the hybrid combinations, and of course these may be formed on some basis of truth, albeit warped and slightly exaggerated. I’ve heard a number of them myself from the grapevine extending batches back, so here’s my take on some of the more prevalent ones:

  1. People take hybrid combinations because they don’t know what to do or are unable to cope with studying the ‘full’ science stream.

This statement cannot be entirely disputed since there are a variety of reasons why someone would choose to take any combination. Yet, it’s rather unfair to generalise everyone taking such a combination as indecisive teenagers or struggling scholars (and even if they were, there’s nothing very wrong about that!). Debbie Kang (20S07C) expresses that the hybrid combinations was her choice as she simply “did not enjoy any of the other two sciences”, but still did not want to fully enter the arts stream as “she had an interest in some branches of science”. Hence, the middle ground was the most suitable option for her. 

I myself took this subject combination above a ‘full science’ one because I had ruled out (with swift decisiveness) certain specialised fields, and hence decided to free up a subject and study something I enjoyed.

  1. You won’t have options in university.

A simple glance at any university course requirements would assure all anxious Year 5s-to-be that this is verifiably untrue. It’s not that one has absolutely no options in university, rather that your options may just be marginally limited. For instance, while you might be unable to pursue Marine Biology in certain universities, you may still chase your dreams taking Pharmaceutical Chemistry instead. I recommend you check the admission requirements for your course of choice to determine if forgoing a subject is alright. You’d be surprised at the options you still have, as requirements often vary by university. Legend even speaks of seniors who have gone on to pursue medicine (without two sciences!).

  1. Hybrid classes are one of the least academically-inclined classes. 

I would like to express that this is once again a hasty generalisation, and a rather unfair continuation of the first rumour. As you would have heard during matriculation, students in Y5–6 are first sorted into classes by subject combination, a whole host of other factors, and lastly by grades. The relatively small cohort of hybrid students means sorting students based on combination and timetable clashes is often enough. Sure, one could argue that without streaming (such as in PCME/BCME classes), hybrid classes tend to be a mix of people with different aptitudes for academia, and varying paces of learning. Some may be more serious about grades than others, and the class as a whole could be ‘rojak’, but it all boils down to the individual, doesn’t it? As a close friend of mine put it, variety is the spice of life!

Huh, Maybe This is Where I’m Meant to Go!

In retrospect, I don’t have many regrets about choosing a hybrid combination, and I’m definitely glad I did not reconsider; personally, I’m enjoying the mix of chemical equations and geography essays. So, if you want to study Newtonian mechanics, learn about the economy, work out some mathematical proofs and understand the English language all at the same time, consider taking up a hybrid combination! Just remember to do your research, and look into potential courses in university that you might want to pursue.

It’s obviously scary to realise that you might be selecting your future career with this choice, but little can beat passion when you’re thrown into the rigour of JC life. With so much happening, it may pose a challenge to some to find happiness and enjoyment.

You can avoid being one of them by simply choosing what you want to do.

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2 thoughts on “Please Mind the Platform Gap: Choosing Subject Combinations – The Hybrid Combinations”

  1. I would argue that hybrid gives the most options in university. You don’t have to study a humanities subject in JC for you to take it in uni, but interest has to be sustained by continued exposure to the subject. If you take a science combi just to “open more doors”, you may end up losing your connection with the humanities while busy memorising your bio notes/the 999 variations of pV=nRT. This is assuming you don’t want to do medicine or anything that needs 3 sciences in uni. (I took hybrid in RI, and I’m studying econs in uni).

    Also, do go for unconventional combis! It actually gives you an edge in uni apps because it serves as interesting background information to discuss in your application essays/interviews. High school/sixth form students in the UK/US/HK have so much more subjects, like psychology, government or sociology, to choose from that once I entered uni, my combi (which was unique in my cohort) was utterly ordinary compared to what my non-sg friends did.

    Follow your heart and good luck for JC :)

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