When Lee Hong Qi, 17, received her O-level results last year, she knew it was not her best performance.
She obtained an L1R4 score of 16 points - for English and four relevant subjects - which meant she qualified for only the polytechnics.
"I didn't want to go to a polytechnic because I didn't know what course I wanted to do, and I preferred JC (junior college) as it's the common route to enter university," said the daughter of an engineer and a housewife, who has two younger brothers.
So she decided to re-sit exams for four subjects - additional mathematics, elementary maths, English and combined science - and signed up at private school Penciltutor.
MORE ATTENTION, MORE HELP
The small class sizes really helped as the teachers could pay more attention to me, and help me in topics I was weak in. The teachers were very helpful. They were more like friends than teachers.
LEE HONG QI, who hopes to get into Jurong JC, on the classes at private school Penciltutor.
She said: "I studied 10 times harder, cut down on going out with friends, and learnt from my mistakes. I came up with study schedules so I could do sufficient revision before the exams, unlike previous times, when I didn't do enough preparation.
"I was very playful before, and I usually ended up among the bottom half of the cohort in school."
Her classes at the school in Jurong West, which started in March and took place four times a week, cost $3,150. She eventually scored A1s for all subjects except English, for which she got a B3. Her biggest improvement was going from a C6 grade to A1 for A maths.
This time, her L1R5 score - based on results for English and five relevant subjects - was 13 points, which meant she qualified for JC.
To enter a JC, a student's L1R5 score must not exceed 20 points.
Hong Qi, who hopes to go to Jurong JC, which is near her home, said: "The small class sizes at Penciltutor really helped as the teachers could pay more attention to me... With my previous score, I felt quite lost because I couldn't get into JC."