Parliamentary Question

Bell Curve for GCE-Level Examinations

9 January 2023


Mr Patrick Tay Teck Guan, West Coast GRC

To ask the Minister for Education whether there is a bell curve for the GCE O and A level examinations for all subjects to determine the final grade given.


1. Our national examinations do not grade to a bell curve, but are what assessment experts describe as standards-referenced. The grades awarded reflect a candidate’s level of mastery in a subject based on an absolute set of standards. They are not affected by the performance of others.

2. Statistically, test scores of a large population of students in any subject tend to fall into a normal distribution (a bell curve) due to natural variation in the level of mastery among the students.

3. The Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) ensures that examination standards are comparable year on year. This means that each examination is aligned with the syllabus objectives and learning outcomes, and consists of a balanced proportion of basic, average and challenging questions to cater to students of different abilities. This proportion is kept stable year-on-year.

4. SEAB neither ‘force fits’ the exam scores of students into a bell curve nor uses pre-determined proportions for grades.  If there are more candidates demonstrating better quality work in an examination year, a higher percentage of them will be awarded better grades.