The polytechnics are proving to be a draw for top O-level students, with their diverse offerings of more than 200 courses, ranging from marine science to film-making.

Of the 34,800 students who were posted to post-secondary institutions last year after the release of the O-level results, close to 59 per cent - or 20,500 - were offered places in the polytechnics.

But what was significant was that 8,000 - or close to 40 per cent of the students who secured a place in the polytechnics - had qualified for junior college, which requires better results for entry.

The figure was similar to that of previous years, said the Ministry of Education, which released the numbers in response to queries from The Straits Times.

Potential polytechnic students at a course counselling session. Students who received their O-level results on Monday have until 4pm today to apply to a post-secondary institution. 

The ministry also said that of the total given places in post-secondary institutions, 33 per cent, or 11,500, were posted to the JCs or Millennia Institute which offers a three-year A-level programme, while 8 per cent, or 2,784, gained places in the Institute of Technical Education.

To enter a junior college, a student's L1R5 score - based on English and five relevant subjects - must not exceed 20 points.

Polytechnics require grades from English and four other subjects to not exceed 26 points.

But for popular courses such as biomedical science and banking and finance, successful applicants need to score under 12 points.

Students who are applying for a place in the polytechnics, despite qualifying for the JCs, say they are attracted to the interesting courses and the practical and applied learning approach.

A typical comment came from Jimmy Lim, 16, who wants to enter the advertising industry on completing his studies.

"I helped a cousin with an online ad and realised that I had a knack for it.

"So I thought why not go straight into a course that will teach me about advertising instead of going on to study maths, science or history," said the student who received his O-level results on Monday.

He has an L1R5 aggregate score of nine.

Singapore Polytechnic principal Tan Choon Shian said of the students who opt for the polytechnics: "They prefer and thrive in our polytechnic system where we emphasise continual learning and assessments, group projects, internships and attachments throughout the six semesters over three years, instead of a high-stakes graduation exam."

The polytechnic route has also become more appealing because more places are now available to those who want to upgrade their diploma to a degree, with the Government opening up more university routes.

Just a few years ago, only about 13 per cent of polytechnic graduates were admitted into universities here.

Last year, the figure went up to 17 per cent.By 2015, this will be raised to 20 per cent.

In comparison, more than 70 per cent of JC students enter the local universities.

Students who received their O-level results on Monday have until 4pm today to apply to a post-secondary institution.

Polytechnic officials advise students to attend Open House events and course counselling sessions to discuss their options with the lecturers.

One student who did that is 17-year-old Ronald Tan, who is torn between engineering and marine science - a new course offered by Republic Polytechnic.

Said the keen diver who wants to be a marine biologist: "I talked it over with the lecturers and in the end, decided on marine science because that is really where my heart is."