To S/U or not to S/U

First of all, if you are unfamiliar with the CAP system and how it works, please refer to the CAP and Bell curve. This excel NUS CAP Calculator can also be used to track CAP and set goals.

What can be S/U-ed?

The S/U option will apply to all Level 1000 modules (with or without pre-requisites) and Level 2000 modules without other NUS modules as pre-requisites, unless otherwise stipulated by the Faculties/Departments. If you are unsure, approach the lecturers and tutors to clarify. 

Should I S/U?

You need to have a clear understanding of your ability, goals and study plan to make an informed decision to S/U. 

Important things to consider:

  • CAP goal for graduation and the type of honors you are aiming for.
  • Application into programs including Student exchange (e.g. application to go on exchange in Y3S1 will be reviewed using grades up to Y2S1).
  • Plan buffer for harder modules in the future.

At the most basic level, you should be looking to S/U all grades below your target honors– e.g. only keep B+ (4.0) and above if you are looking to be a Second-Upper Class (now called Distiction) graduate. However, this may lead to extreme S/U-ing for some, having need to S/U all your grades. This is where you will need to look at your current semester’s results and determine if your initial goals are realistic. While I have come across exceptions who managed to turn their life around after the first semester (from Ds to As), it would be more likely for you to improve by a grade or 2, if you really do actively change your study habits (Bs to B+ or even A-).

We will be using this sample semester results of 1 C+, 1 B and 2 B+ and 1 A (CAP 3.8) to discuss.

Your short term grades will definitely improve when you S/U your lower grades. Using our sample, you can definitely S/U all but the 1 A to get a CAP 5.0! While this is tempting, I’m sure many of you will have heard from your friends to keep more as a “buffer” or to prevent large CAP fluctuations in the future. Let me give you an example of what this means.

Scenario:  The next semester you get 1 B, 1 B+ and 1 A-, but you got yourself 2 C+.

You decide to S/U all but your A (CAP 5.0). Your goal is likely to be first class (>4.5), but do make sure it is realistic for you.

New CAP: 3.67

If you had kept your B+ (CAP 4.33 – your goal is >4.0) to “buffer” any bad grades that may arise:

New CAP: 3.75 (keeping 2B+ and 1A in first sem)

As you can see, you end up with a higher cap (significant, trust me) although you may not have had a higher one in sem 1. <remember points to consider section above> In simple terms, there are more MCs in the higher grade-ranges that will assist to pull up your overall CAP by compensating for the bad ones. This works in all cases, if your highest grade is B+ and u are considering keeping ur Bs (same principle).

However, it is worthy to note that if you really manage to get all A- and As in the second semester (as per your goal), the 2 B+ would be weighing you down instead. Once again, it is important to set an accurate and realistic goal for yourself after your first semester, and more often than not, your CAP from the first sem (before S/U or excluding the outlier) should give you a pretty accurate picture for you to estimate your future semesters.

Although S/U-ing a D/D+ would give u a “U” grade (need to retake but will not affect CAP), some may still opt to keep their D/D+. Although it would plunge your immediate CAP (not so much your graduation CAP), it may be beneficial depending on the situation.

It allows you to proceed with higher level modules that require this pre-requisite. Hence, you will not need to reshuffle your modules around to cope with retaking the module (especially if the modules are only offered in EITHER the first OR second sem). However, I personally STRONGLY DISCOURAGE this as you would definitely need the basics from this module do well in advanced modules. There is a high chance you will do badly in the following modules and have your CAP destroyed.

There is only 1 of this type of modules in your entire candidature (e.g. CS1010E), and you are certain that retaking this module would not yield u a significantly higher grade. You are looking to not overload another semester to accommodate retaking this, as you do not want it to affect your other modules. Your current CAP will drop drastically.

Keeping your D/D+ is rarely ever taken into consideration, but it may be a viable option for some. Please bear in mind that having a D/D+ on your transcript may be detrimental to you in the future, and for getting into certain programs. For example, having a grade below C in your transcript will greatly diminish your chances of getting into exchange, as written in the UG SEP website.


If you are still unsure or unable to gauge your ability in future semesters, a good guide would be to definitely S/U all your C and C+ and definitely keep your As, A- and even B+. Bs are very tricky, and need some sort of honest guesswork on your part.

For a more technical and detailed post, please refer to the blogpost made by our NUS Provost: SU1101: The Science (and Art) of the S/U Option.