All about NTU Psychology

Hello everyone and welcome to the world of Psychology! This post is written for poly/JC students considering a future with NTU Psychology. The sheer amount of online information can be daunting, so I have kept it to the essentials. I hope that it will be useful to you in making an informed decision.

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Contents

[1] Curriculum: Overview, course structure, modules, lesson format
[2] Academic supplements: internships, research opportunities
[3] Work/future prospects: pay, career pathways
[4] Admission information: IGP for JC/poly
[5] Why NTU psychology: comparing NUS and NTU + some considerations 
[6] Scholarships available

For a future post: how to maximise chances of admission + student life

A bit about me for context

I graduated from the NTU Psychology programme in 2021 with Honours, Highest Distinction. I’m pursuing a Master’s degree in NTU now, researching social psychology. In addition, I’m the incumbent President of the Singapore Psychological Society (Youth Wing), which you should follow for more psychology opportunities! Oh and I also studied psych in poly.

In short, I literally have no identity besides “I do psych UwU”, but in exchange, I think about it ALL the time and that means I can deliver quality information to you, my dear reader.

How better than to start with some common misconceptions? Let’s see:

Common misconceptions

  • Psychology students can read minds or are more well-tuned to others’ emotions. Unfortunately, neither are true – though the second is a skill that can be developed with training based on psychological principles.
  • All psychologists deal with mental health. Not at all – clinical psychology is a popular discipline, yes, but it’s only one out of like, fifty (50) fields available. I’m serious.
    • Related misconception: psychology is a back-up plan for becoming a medical doctor (psychiatry). Let me put it out there now that there is virtually zero chance one can become a medical doctor with a psychology degree. The ONLY exception (available to the 1%) is if you go to graduate medical school.
    • You can become another type of doctor though (PsyD, PhD).
  • Psychology is easy because it’s commonsense knowledge. Yes, everyone has a natural tendency to try to understand other people, but here’s two things for your consideration: 1) you’re often wrong and 2) you don’t know that you’re often wrong. Psychology is also not easy because: STATISTICS IS COMPULSORY!!!
  • A degree in psychology means you are a psychologist upon graduation. Nope, you’ll need to pursue further studies – usually a Master’s degree.

These are not to scare you, merely to illustrate the realities of what it’s like to study psychology in Singapore. If you are willing to accept the above, it marks a great start for your journey ahead!  

Essential information

The full name of the NTU Psych degree as of 2022 is a BSocSci(Hons) in Psychology – short for Bachelor of Social Sciences. It used to be the Bachelor of Arts, and I believe the nomenclature change marks a transition to recognising it as more of a “science”. Some folks make a distinction between BA, BSc, and BSocSci, but imo it doesn’t matter.

What’s important is this – all students that enroll in NTU Psych are guaranteed an Honours degree. That means all students do a 4-year programme, since a conventional undergrad degree is typically 3 years. In comparison, an Honours is optional for NUS FASS.

To fulfill the honours requirements in Year 4, you will write a 10,000-word research paper (aka the fearsome Final Year Project) or take 2 additional higher-level modules in its place.

[1] Curriculum – click here for the full curriculum document.

Students take three types of modules in NTU:

  1. Specific stuff related to your degree (Major Requirements)
  2. General knowledge you need for the world (Interdisciplinary Collaborative Cores)
  3. The “have fun and S/U it” (Broadening and Deepening Electives)

For simplicity’s sake, we’ll only look at the first. Suffice it to say that the interdisciplinary cores will provide a good foundation. You will learn both skills (e.g. writing, critical thinking) and an appreciation of big trends in the world today (e.g. sustainability, big data). As for the broadening and deepening electives (every time I see this phrase I wanna laugh lol), use them as an opportunity to explore without fear of jeopardising your GPA. 

The modules that you take for psychology are split into two main types – the major-cores and major-electives. You will be clearing the 9 major-cores in the first two years, which are compulsory modules that the entire cohort has to take. These serve the function of exposing you to the diverse fields within psychology – e.g. social, biological, cognitive psychology – which can be poles apart in the methods and theories that they use. They’re all introductory-level modules, so don’t worry if you don’t have a H2 from JC.  

You will also be introduced to statistics from your very first semester. Even though students are only required to take two statistics modules (there are more, but they’re optional), you’ll realise that the subject matter bleeds into everything else. For example, to evaluate a journal article, you need to know what the numbers mean. Some students erroneously believe “oh since my future career goal is to become a therapist [for example], it’s not that important”. But without the numbers, we’re not a science at all. Either way, no matter how much mental gymnastics or procrastination you put yourself through, it will find its way back to you. So, you might as well tackle it head-on and set aside a lot of time to practice.

Most of the major-cores are lecture and exam-based. Lectures are usually 3 hours in a large lecture theatre or possibly online with COVID. Alternatively, it will be 2-hour lectures and 1-hour tutorials with more room for discussion. There is a heavy focus on content absorption and regurgitation. You will be expected to read a lot, from textbooks to journal articles. Some assignments will require you to write essays, where you will have to synthesise and evaluate the literature. There may also be presentations and posters to deliver. Nonetheless, the weightage of your grade is primarily determined by exams. Most of the exams are a combination of MCQs and short-answer questions.

Moving on to the major-electives. NTU Psychology offers over 50 (!) electives, though not all are available every semester. You won’t be taking all of them, of course. That’s why they’re called electives – because you get to choose. You won’t be taking them until earliest Y2S2, though it never hurts to plan ahead. 

Here are some examples of electives I’ve taken:

  • HP3002 Positive Psychology
  • HP3402 Social Cognition (fun fact: I’m the tutorial assistant for this now)
  • HP3708 Biopsychosocial Criminology
  • HP4104 Evidence-based Practice in Clinical Psychology

You might note a few things from the above. First, the topics are rather niche. You can think of them as “offshoots” of the core modules. They are also more integrative, e.g. social cognition blends social and cognitive psychology. Second, there are level 3000 and 4000 modules. Level 4000 modules are the most specialised, with a focus on the state of the art and application. Classes are smaller, with less lecturing and more student discussion. At this level, we move away from exams towards applying the knowledge to create new ideas and products. These are the modules that will stretch you the most. The instructors of those modules range from experts to superstars, who often have fanbases (LOL).

Single majors can expect to have a workload of about 15-18 AUs per semester, which is about 5-6 modules including the miscellaneous ones. This means you will be taking about 3-4 psych modules every semester. Double majors do a bit more, and 2nd majors are stressed a bit more because they have fewer modules they can S/U. Each module may further split into a number of quizzes, ranging anywhere from 2 to 5 (bless these students). The lesson is clear: consistent work is the only way to survive and thrive.

A brief note regarding the Final Year Project (FYP) that students will take in Year 4. I quote from the website:

The objective of the Graduation Project/FYP is to expose students to the elements that are inherent in independent research work in psychology. With the guidance of an advisor, the student will learn to identify a research issue in an area of psychology, conduct empirical, meta-analytical (use of secondary data), or library research, and write up a research report of about 9,000 to 10,000 words

“Empirical” just means “run your own study”, meta-analytical just means “take a bunch of existing studies and run analyses on them”, and library research means “literature review”. All worthwhile and fun. FYP is compulsory for GPAs >=3.9/5, optional for 3.75-3.89, and disallowed for those below 3.75. The third group will take two 4000-level modules in its place. You’ll graduate with an Honours regardless of whether you do your FYP, though it’s required for the award of Distinction and above.

You don’t have to worry about the FYP because it’s so far away. But if you need to ease your kiasuism, what you can do is to take your first semesters to find out more about the professors. Learn about their personalities, their work, their interests, and decide if you’re aligned with those aspects. If you have an idea of who/what you like early on, you can also volunteer as a research assistant at their labs to get a headstart. More on that below.

At some point, every student probably goes through the phase of “this was not what I was expecting”. If you want a clearer idea of what to expect, check out my guide to NTU Psych modules, where I cover the content, assessments, and personal tips for all modules I took.

[2] Academic Supplements

Research opportunities are useful if you are gearing for a career that is research-oriented. Internships offer an avenue to demonstrate your aptitude and interest in a field of work.

Research Opportunities

Research Assistantships (RAs): a university has two functions – to educate and to churn out research. Professors are conducting new research studies all the time, and many have “labs” – workgroups of students running projects spearheaded by the professor (known as the Principal Investigator). Students can volunteer (i.e. unpaid labour) to join labs to assist with these projects and learn about the research process. Early on, you’ll be assigned more menial tasks like coding responses, running studies and data cleaning, but as you gain more experience, you’ll ideally be empowered to contribute more. You might even land a co-author spot eventually!

The demand for manpower is ever-present, but so is the supply. Thus, you’ll have to be proactive in seeking out your professors and be able to articulate clearly why you have chosen their lab over others. The good news is you don’t have to limit yourself to the professors that have taught you – you could even go beyond the department if you wanted.

URECA: An acronym for “Undergraduate Research Experience on CAmpus”, this is an optional programme that allows students to conduct their own research project with a supervisor of their choice. It is available from Year 2 onwards for all students with a GPA of over 4.0. It’s 4AUs, which is the equivalent of a 4000-level module. In other words, it’s like a mini-FYP. The good news is that it’s pass/fail, allowing a rare opportunity for students to freely pursue their interests without having to worry about their GPAs. How your experience will play out is heavily dependent on your supervisor’s workstyle and preferences (this is a rule you should remember as you go along), but in general, all students are expected to submit a 5,000-word research paper as the final deliverable. They will also be credited as the first author alongside their supervisor. You probably will not end up with a ground-breaking discovery, but it’s an excellent foray into the world of research.

For more information, I wrote a review of my URECA experience here.

Internships

I only took one internship in poly – right before I graduated. Since I knew I wanted to pursue further studies early on, I wasn’t too worried about whether I had an internship or not. The pressure to obtain an internship under one’s belt can be daunting, though. In my conversations with friends, the stresses of applying for internships was a frequent topic.

There is no restriction on where and what kind of internships you can apply for. Additionally, the School of Social Sciences (of which the Psych department is under) offers the Professional Attachment Programme (HPAP) that students at the end of Year 3 can take. Students will receive 5AUs (pass/fail) in exchange upon completing 10 weeks of internship. The organisation in which you intern at must be approved by the Career and Attachment Office (CAO), though.

Juniors often ask me where to find internships. Honestly, I’m not very sure in light of my limited experience in this area. Three avenues I can suggest:

  • Ask your professors
  • Use platforms such as LinkedIn
  • Do your own research

Just because a job is not listed doesn’t mean it’s not there. One of my friends shared that she had landed an internship by proactively reaching out to companies that interested her even when they did not indicate that they were hiring talent. I was so impressed. I just applied for mine because I saw that they were recruiting via school email.

At the end of the day, before jumping into any research opportunities or internships, start by asking yourself: what value am I looking for out of this, and is it what I really need? Or am I merely doing it for the sake of having something on my résumé? Don’t just do it because you’re FOMO. Remember that every choice you make entails an opportunity cost. 

[3] Work/future prospects – ah yes the million-dollar question

Pay: An average fresh grad from NTU Psych can expect to earn in the range of $3000-3500.

Sectors (that I’ve seen my friends enter): civil service, private sector (HR, banks), research, marketing, clinics

  • To reiterate: to become a full-fledged psychologist, you need a postgraduate degree. It is not a negotiable, and takes years of investment and commitment. 

Key skills gained: critical thinking, writing, translating research, data analysis, interpersonal skills, possibly advocacy (HAHAHA)

[4] Admission Information

Indicative Grade Profile AY21/22 for Psychology

A levels

  • 10th percentile: AAC/B
  • 90th percentile: AAA/A

Polytechnic

  • 10th percentile: 3.72
  • 90th percentile: 3.92

[5] Scholarships

There are many scholarships for freshmen that NTU offers.

I might do another post on how to improve your chances at getting a scholarship/maximise your chances of getting into the programme based on my experiences of receiving the Nanyang Scholarship and NTU Research Scholarship, so feel free to give a like, leave a comment under this post, or even support me if you want to make it happen!

[6] Why NTU Psychology?

I cover various reasons why in my post comparing NTU and NUS Psychology, written with the input of my friends in the two programmes. That being said, I recognise that there are other universities in Singapore offering psychology, and they too are valid choices.

Some major concerns might be:

  • The major declaration system: NUS FASS allows you to change your major to something else, NTU doesn’t; you’re in for psych all the way
  • The module balloting system: NTU is fastest fingers, NUS is bidding
  • The S/U system: NUS allows seeing your grades before S/U, and NTU students have been up in arms for years about this, but it didn’t matter much to me
  • The location and living arrangements: NTU has first 2 years guaranteed hall, and I think NUS doesn’t have this

Student life

I originally wanted to include my experiences with hall living, overseas exchange, and student clubs in this post but in the interest of time I think I’ll save it for another post. Again, let me know if you’re interested by liking, commenting, or just reaching out!

Feel free to AMA by leaving a comment here or on the Reddit post I’ll probably be linking this to.

Final credits

This post and its format was inspired by the following “All about [Course]” series of posts which I am grateful for: law, nursing.

Resources and relevant posts

Follow/contact me | OR if you want to show some love, you can buy my candy and share it with your friends, it’ll make my day ❤

Follow for more psych opps: Singapore Psychological Society (Youth Wing) | NTU Psychology Society

More on NTU life: Guide to STAR Wars and other FAQs

Gwyn’s Guide to NTU Psych Modules (or: PSYCcess)

Update 12th Aug 2021:

WELCOME WINNERS (back) to a new semester of striving and suffering in AY21/22! This update brings additional reviews for HP4103 Forensic & Criminal Psychology (previously HP4106) and HP3203 Conservation Psychology. Also, with this update, I come forth with a new opportunity for YOU…

click for social media

We are the Singapore Psychological Society Youth Wing, bringing psych opportunities to you(th) 🤙🏽! We aim to advance psychology as a science and career among youths in Singapore 🇸🇬. Follow us on social media to be notified about our latest psychology initiatives. ❤

(Full disclosure: I’m the President so rest assured we’re legit.)

+++ END UPDATE/NOTICE +++

welcome to SUCCESS

Hello to all my fans. This post is a comprehensive review of modules I have taken in NTU. For each I briefly discuss the lecturer’s style, content, assessments, and personal tips if any. Ctrl-F is your friend here – enter either the year/semester (e.g. Y1S1), course code (e.g. HP1000), module name (e.g. Introduction to Psychology) to jump to the relevant section directly. I also indicate the type of module (Core/Major-PE/Ger-Core/Ger-PE/UE) and number of AUs. All the psych mods are presented first, followed by the GER-PEs/UEs/BDEs.

Background: I majored in Psychology with a 2nd Major in Sociology. That’s a normal workload for psychology + 35AUs in sociology courses substituted from my UEs.

Disclaimer: Module syllabus differs by year and is especially contingent on the lecturer so what you read here may not be what you get. My module trajectory is not a guideline – I just did whatever I wanted. It is your responsibility to do your due diligence. Just because I said a module was easier for me doesn’t mean it’s easy to score because of how the bell curve works, and just because I said something was hard doesn’t mean I didn’t do well. I discourage selecting modules based on how easy they seem; I recommend selecting topics that interest you.

PSA: You can find most course syllabi at this page (under the courses block).

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