Applying for a Master’s Programme

21 July 2022 — There are a variety of reasons why you might have decided to pursue a Master’s Degree, including to develop a deeper set of skills and knowledge, to keep up with new technologies and techniques, or to open up more career opportunities. Even if your motivations are clear, the application process to join a programme might seem a little less so.

Mr Benjamin Tey, Assistant Senior Manager with the Programme Consulting Team at the School of Continuing and Lifelong Education (SCALE), National University of Singapore (NUS), is on hand to provide some clarifications, tips, insights and advice on how to put together your application to increase your chances of being offered a place in a Master’s Degree programme of your choice.

Benjamin Tey Mr Benjamin Tey, Assistant Senior Manager with the Programme Consulting Team at SCALE

Here are his answers to some of the most frequently asked questions posed by applicants.

What is your advice for applicants when choosing a Master’s programme?

Studying for a postgraduate degree is a big investment, so it is important to have a good understanding of why you are doing this and what you are hoping to do with your qualification once you graduate.

When considering a programme, assess whether it matches your passions, interests and strengths. Your education will greatly influence your career choices in the future, so you should consider a programme can help you achieve your career goals.

If you are not sure about the direction in which to take your career, but still want to pursue a postgraduate degree to get a leg up, you may want to consider a more versatile general programme that offers a broad range of paths to choose from. A good example is the MSc in Industry 4.0, a multidisciplinary programme offered by six NUS Schools and Faculties.

What is the difference between a Master’s Degree by research and a Master’s Degree by coursework? Which is the better choice for me?

A Master’s Degree by research refers to a programme that comprises independent research study in a specific discipline, culminating in the submission of a dissertation. If you are a student in this type of programme, you can expect to work independently on a research project under the supervision of a professor, with the goal of writing and presenting a research paper (also known as a dissertation), which will detail your research endeavours.

If you plan to further your studies in a Doctoral Degree programme, or if you are looking to work in academia in the future, then a Master’s Degree by research is a good choice. Through this programme, you can demonstrate your ability to conduct research independently and contribute to a specialised field.

A Master’s Degree by coursework, on the other hand, involves attending classes, as well as working on projects, often in collaboration with industry. It follows a traditional education curriculum; as a student in this sort of programme, you would be required to pass exams and maintain a certain grade in order to obtain the degree.

Such programmes are designed to deepen the skillset of students through postgraduate training, in-depth study, and enhanced professional skills. This type of course is aimed at equipping graduates with industry-relevant skills and knowledge to prepare them for the workforce.

Students in Master’s Degree by coursework programmes can also apply for doctoral study at a later date. Some programmes, such as the MSc in Computing, also offer a research option to help students be better prepared for research work.

Do you have any advice for students planning to apply for a Master's Degree programme at NUS?

Most of the University’s Master’s Degree programmes start in August each year. The application period is generally ten months before the start of the programme, usually from October of the previous year to February of the following year. My advice is to start researching the programme you want to study and prepare for your application as early as possible.

I recommend that students start their research in their final year of undergraduate study. During this time, you can also enhance your portfolio with relevant projects to showcase your interest in the Master’s Degree programme you are planning to apply for.

If you are an international student, you would need to prepare for the necessary tests such as IELTS/TOEFL/GRE/GMAT, which are required by most schools in English-speaking countries. The scores are valid for two to five years so you can apply for it ahead of time. Prepare early and strive for satisfactory results before you apply.

At the same time, do your sums to check if you have the funds needed to pursue your studies. Tuition fees for most programmes are typically in the range of S$40,000 to S$50,000, and you will also need to factor in your cost of living. Ensure that you are on a sound financial footing before applying.

Many NUS Master’s programmes require interviews. Do you have any tips on how to prepare for them?

The best advice I have to give applicants is to stay calm and be yourself.

Preparing for a Master’s Degree programme interview is much like preparing for a job interview: be honest, sincere, and let your personality shine through. When asked about non-academic topics, you can share in detail on how your interests and personal projects are related to the programme that you are applying for.

Frequently asked questions during interviews can include your reasons for applying, preparations for studying in the chosen field, future career plans, and personal interests and educational background. These questions will enable the admissions committee to assess your abilities and motivation when applying for this programme.

Many Master's Degree programmes require students to select courses and arrange timetables before the start of the semester. Do you have any advice for applicants on managing their course timetables?

Prior to the start of the semester, you will be pre-allocated certain modules and free to choose others. In order to avoid a scheduling conflict in your courses and examinations, I would encourage students to use NUS's timetable assistant “NUSMods”, which can help you organise your class schedule easily and let you view course summaries.

How to use NUSMods

Select the upcoming semester, then key in the module codes of the modules you are planning to take in the search bar (Example shown below):

Select the upcoming semester, then key in the module codes of the modules you are planning to take in the search bar (Example shown below):


Some courses may have different time slots for lectures or tutorials. After you add the course to your class schedule, click on the tutorial or lecture slot to view the available time slots.


After you have added all the courses to your timetable and checked that there are no scheduling conflicts, you can download them as images or PDF files.

Do you have any advice for students on how to manage their academic calendar?

The minimum duration of study is 12 months while the maximum duration of study is 18 months, and students generally take up to five courses in one semester. International students holding student visas are considered full-time students.

You can choose to take fewer courses per semester and complete your programme over a longer period of time, as long as it is within the above-mentioned range. Students will be charged additional fees (including Miscellaneous Student Fees such as Student Services and Health Service Fees) for each extra semester that they take to complete their programme.

For more information on Miscellaneous Student Fees, please refer to:

Do you have any advice for students who want to learn new skills outside of the core curriculum?

The vast majority of the Master's Degree programmes at NUS are structured around core compulsory course, complemented by electives. Electives are the best option for students to develop skills outside of their major.

In multidisciplinary Master's Degree programmes, electives are usually offered by different faculties and can encompass a wide range of topics.

For other more focused Master's Degree programmes, there are typically prescribed electives and unrestricted electives. Unrestricted electives allow students to explore greater breadth or depth in any subject and at any level.

Most Master's Degree programmes require students to maintain a minimum Cumulative Average Point (CAP) to continue their studies or graduate. Do you have any advice on this?

The best way to keep your CAP on track is to understand how it is calculated and to know your CAP at all times. This will enable you to track your academic progress and assess if you need to work harder to meet the minimum requirements to continue your studies or graduate.

At the end of each semester, students can check their grades in the Education Records System (EduRec).

To understand how grades affect your CAP, you can refer to the table below:

NUS uses a weighted average calculation, where the weighted grades for all subjects are divided by the total subject credits. The formula to calculate CAP would be the total number of MCs per module multiplied by the corresponding numerical grade point.

Essentially: CAP = Σ(MCs per module x Point)/Total number of MCs taken for the semester

There are also many online CAP calculators that can help you calculate your CAP.           

My advice is to know your current CAP at all times and study hard.


Do you have any advice for applicants who have a wide range of interests and want to apply for multiple programmes? Is there any downside to doing so?

Applicants are allowed to apply to multiple programmes based on interest. However, you can only enrol in one programme.

For applicants who are undecided, I recommend submitting multiple applications. This would give you more choices and may increase your probability of admission. Applications for different programmes are reviewed by different admissions committees, and they have no impact on each other. As such, you may want separately prepare your application for each programme to best emphasise your fit for a programme. Also, please note that each application would incur a separate application fee.

If you apply for multiple programmes within the same application period, please create all applications, as shown on the page below, and rank them in order of preference. Please note that they cannot be modified after submission.

Your preferences will only be considered if you are applying to multiple programmes offered by the same School, Faculty or College. The screenshot below is an example where an applicant has applied for two courses offered by the same School; the School will take the indicated preference into consideration when processing such an application.


As your preferences cannot be changed after submission of application, please finalise your order of preference before submitting your application (i.e. when the Application Status is at “Pending online submission”). As mentioned earlier, your preference will not be a consideration if you are applying for programmes offered by different Departments or Schools.

Those are some of the commonly asked questions that I encounter as a member of the Programme Consulting Team. Should you have any questions which are not answered here, email them to

I hope that these tips are helpful. All the best in your application!

21 July 2022