Monday, 28 December 2015

NTU GEM Explorer Application Guide

This post is the second instalment of my exchange series, you can read the first here.

The application period for this academic year is closing soon, yet many juniors have texted me over the course of the last month to tell me they're completely lost or confused with terms like course matching, fee-paying, etcetera. I've gotten the same questions so many times that I decided I was going to tell you everything I know and did here. Even if you're already almost done with your application, use this as a checklist or guide to see if you missed out anything!

Step 1: Assess your chances

Getting an exchange spot is straightforward, it is completely determined by your GPA and nationality.  The higher your GPA is, the easier it is to get your spot. If you're a Singapore citizen you are given priority, followed by PRs and finally foreigners. Based on these 2 factors, carefully consider your odds. We'll come back to this later.

Step 2: Decide on your purpose

As Minghui mentioned in my previous post, it's important to know from the start what you want to get out of your exchange. It sounds philosophical and all but this seriously helps to narrow down your choices and give you direction in your decision making. If you want to clear modules, go to universities that have many of your core subjects. If you want to clear electives, you can afford to be less choosy and take more cores in NTU in the coming sem.

Step 3: Choose the region 

Now this part is fun. Based on your funds and academic/travel interests, pick the region you'd like to study in. If you have limited funds, Asia is an obvious choice. Don't underestimate how much fun you can have in a country just because it's nearer to home. Ask around and see where your seniors have been to. If you're Muslim, will there be halal food options and mosques in the region you're interested in? My choice was straightforward, I study English, so I'm going to England. Also do remember that cities are way more expensive than suburbs and outskirts. Do your research accordingly!

Step 4: Check the OGEM course finder 

This is a really crucial and basic step that a lot of applicants miss out, and I have no idea why. I spent the most time doing this, apart from checking individual university websites.

  1. Enter iNTU, click on the studentlink tab right below the header. 
  2. Select academic matters > student exchange > Coursefinder : Search for previously approved courses taken by NTU students (this is a live link so you can also just click it instead)
  3. Check what courses others have matched based on region/university/your course 
Step 5: Narrow down universities 

Now, narrow down your choices to 5-10. They don't have to all be from the same region, but that's what I did because I was dead set on the UK. Go into these schools' websites for your department and prepare yourself for the most tedious part of application.

Step 6: Read the damned fine print

So many of my friends and I stumbled even after getting accepted because there were so many hidden things we didn't notice when applying. Here are the top things I recommend you take note of:
  • How many modules am I allowed to take? (some schools only allow 2 cores. If you're intending to clear cores on exchange just forget about this choice immediately)
  • How many modules from my department must I take? (if they expect you to take majority of your modules within your dept, this is a problem if you want to clear electives)
  • Are the modules offered in English?
  • Are the modules I want available to me? (it's not just about which sem they're offered, some courses are not offered to exchange students AT ALL. Check if they have a part-year handbook or email them straight to clarify what you can take)
  • When does the term end? (Germany has a notoriously late term and this might be an inconvenience to some intending to do internships)
  • Do they have any additional weird requirements? (Some universities require basic language certification in their native tongue)
Step 7: Create a spreadsheet for your choices

Can't tell you how much I hated doing this, I hate tables, I hate seeing words and numbers in little rectangles. But it saved me so much trouble in the months to come and I'm still using my spreadsheet till today, a week before I'm leaving for exchange.

The way you organise it is up to you, but I created different columns for different criteria I had and ranked my choice unis accordingly. I also started cross referencing the overseas mods to NTU mods so that I could easily key them into the OGEM course matching system when the time came. I regret not inputting the URLs for these mods though! Would have saved me some time in the months ahead.

* This is what I call pre-acceptance course matching, and is what people refer to when they say they're course matching before applying. Do not confuse this with the official course matching through the OGEM system after you've been accepted. Here's a screenshot for your reference:

Step 8: Form a rough list

By now both your mind and heart should be leading you towards how you should rank your choices. Take note of them but remember things may change.

Step 9: Fill in application form

And watch the vacancies like the stock market during an economic crisis. Submit the form on the last day, unless your GPA is 5.0. For the rest of us plebeians, is very important to analyse your chances based on the number of vacancies and your own GPA. If your GPA is borderline (3.5-4.0) and your first choice has only 1 slot and 5 people have applied for it, use your common sense and re-rank your choices. Like I mentioned in Step 2, your nationality also plays a part. If the semester you're applying for is very popular for a university you really want, consider going the other semester.

That being said, it doesn't hurt to take a risk, but don't take too many. There was only one spot for Warwick in sem 2 and my friend applied for it. As far as GPA goes I knew I didn't stand a chance against her, but I tried anyway. And now we're heading to UK together! DREAMS DO COME TRUE GUYS. 


Step 10: Wait and see

Results are released in a matter of weeks, and those who've been successful with their first choice will get it first. Others will be released subsequently and it might take awhile. If you're one of the unlucky ones, start enquiring and researching the other OGEM options, like summer/winter interlude, fee-paying and language immersions. There are also many other chances for you to reapply for GEM explorer if you didn't get any of your choices, so just be patient and determined. You'll get something you're happy with eventually.

All the best guys! Drop me a question on or leave a comment here if you have any questions. I'll do my best to help :)


  1. Hi, would it okay if I linked your post on exchange from my site? My site can be found at . Thank you

    1. sure, link away! I have other posts related to exchange and travelling in the uk, do check em out around my blog :)