The 2021 ultimate NTU freshmen guide: How not to suck

by | Aug 16, 2021

Entering a new school can be anxiety-inducing. Probably even more so if you’re a potential freshman at NTU—believe me, I was once an NTU freshman myself and everything was overwhelming!

NTU is a huge place, and getting lost is easy. Moreover, the academic system with all its terminology can be incredibly confusing for NTU freshmen who are unfamiliar with how they work.

This article is an all-in-one guide for all incoming freshmen at NTU, and those considering studying at NTU one day. In it, you’ll find useful information and all sorts of tips and tricks, like how to navigate the campus and more, so do read on!

NTU Hive

NTU has the biggest university campus in Singapore, and it’s no surprise for seniors to get approached by NTU freshmen every August asking how to get to a certain place.

Adding on to that is the naming system of different lecture halls and tutorial rooms that makes it a bit challenging for NTU freshmen to find their class’ location for the first time.

For starters, the academic facilities in NTU are split into two, known as North Spine and South Spine. Many of the lecture theatres and tutorial rooms are also split according to the area they’re in.

Naming system of locations

If you already looked at your timetable or NTU Maps, you’ll notice that the class locations are included. It looks something like “LHN-B2-05” or “LHS-02-09”.

Confusing, right?

Let me break down the abbreviations of some of these locations that most of you NTU freshmen might have your tutorials and lectures in.

Abbreviations of Locations in NTU

Bus services (internal, external, and public)

NTU has its own campus shuttle bus services that can take you around NTU without having to walk from one place to another.

Public buses 179 and 199 also enter the compound and are alternatives to the shuttle buses.

Internal campus shuttle (normal)

There are 4 common internal shuttle buses that all NTU freshmen should take note of:

  1. Campus Loop – Blue (CL-B)
  2. Campus Loop – Red (CL-R)
  3. Campus Rider – Green (CR)
  4. Campus Weekend Rider – Brown

The blue and red lines loop around NTU. They head in opposite directions.

Meanwhile, the green line (campus rider) and brown line (campus weekend rider) both exit the campus, with their final stop being at Pioneer MRT station.

Over the weekends and holidays, campus rider becomes campus weekend rider with more stops before exiting NTU.

NTU bus service map

For more information on the exact stops with pictures, bus frequencies, and operating hours, do refer to this website.

Personally, here are some of my recommendations and experiences regarding these buses:

  • The Blue and Red lines get extremely crowded during peak hours (morning, early afternoon, evening). Do expect to wait longer—I’ve waited 20–30 min before, and it was much faster when I walked!—if you choose to take them.


  • If you’re commuting by train, alight at Pioneer MRT station and board the campus rider to save money. But do be aware of long queues in the mornings with waiting times of 10–15 min for each bus.


  • I highly recommend using the uWave app for checking bus stops, bus timings and their real-time locations! So far, it’s been accurate for me and is user-friendly too.

Internal campus shuttle (express)

During the semester, there are additional service loops for the blue, red, and green lines. These are express routes that operate only during morning and evening peak hours.

Here are the timings and stops for the respective express loops:

Express loops

There’s also the Lunch Express Shuttle Bus Service that allows you to quickly travel around NTU in the afternoons for lunch or run errands!

The Lunch Express buses have a frequency of 10–12 min and run from 1200hrs to 1400hrs on weekdays only (excludes public holidays).

Here are the stops and timings you need to know:

NTU Lunch express loops

I understand that these stops and routes can be incredibly confusing to NTU freshmen, so do take the time to sit an entire bus ride if possible to familiarise yourself with the landmarks and area!

External campus shuttle (heartland shuttle services)

Note: This information is only accessible via NTU intranet, accurate as of 26 July 2021

NTU also runs one-way external campus shuttle services in the heartlands, specifically from Ang Mo Kio, Bukit Gombak, Pasir Ris, Punggol, Sengkang, and Tampines to NTU.

These services are free, but only NTU students are allowed to use these bus services, so showing your matriculation card is required to board these buses.

Seating is on a first-come-first-served basis. Once maximum capacity is reached, boarding is rejected and you may have to commute via other means instead, so do be there at least 5–10 min before pick up.

All services only run during term time on weekdays. There is no service on weekends, public holidays, recess week, and during NTU’s vacation period.

Below is the list of all heartland pick-up points, locations, and times:

NTU External campus shuttle

All buses also alight at 2 stops in NTU, either the bus stop outside the Student Services Centre (SSC) or at Tan Chin Tuan Lecture Theatre.

If you’re an NTU freshman for the academic year 2021/22, there will be a new heartland shuttle schedule for Semester 1 that will be released on 30 July 2021 in your NTU email/outlook. The information above is only correct before 30 July 2021.

Public bus services

The SBS buses 179 and 199 also have stops inside NTU, so you can take these instead of the shuttle services.

Both start at Boon Lay Interchange, going around NTU before returning back to the interchange.

Bus interchange

You can check the stops, frequencies, and operating hours for 179 and 199 on the SBS Transit website.

Alternatively, the uWave app also provides real-time locations and maps for both public buses.

uWave bus app

North and South Spine Linkway

Undoubtedly the most common route to-and-fro the North and South Spines is the linkway near Tan Chin Tuan Lecture Theatre.

On average, brisk walking along the linkway (based on my experience) takes about 7 min from North to South Spine. This linkway is a good option if you don’t want to take any bus when switching classes.

Here’s how to get there:

how to get to north and south spine linkway

If you are taking the campus rider (green), alight at TCT LT. The linkway should be on your left; follow the red arrow indicated above.

directions to north or south spine

You should see this carpark area, which is the linkway—the blue arrow points to NTU Carpark A and there’s a path for pedestrians inside. Walk all the way down and you’ll arrive at North Spine Plaza.

The red arrow points to the South Spine area; the nearest building is Block SS4 (South Spine 4). Walk all the way down and you’ll arrive at Lee Kong Chian Lecture Theatre (LKC LT) where you can go to The Hive and Koufu/Canteen B.

Places to dine in NTU

NTU is full of places to have your meals! Besides the well-known areas to dine at like North Spine Plaza and Canteen B at South Spine, many students also like to dine at one of the many food courts located at some halls.

Halls 1, 2, 4, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, Crespion (Crescent-Pioneer halls), and the North Hill halls have their own food court.

Meanwhile, North Spine’s most frequented dining areas are McDonald’s, Subway, Starbucks, Long John Silver’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Fun World Café, North Spine Food Court (Canteen A), and the North Spine extension, which expands the food court!

South Spine doesn’t have as many options, with Canteen B and the Co-op Café at The Hive being popular choices for students who want a quick meal.

The complete list of dining options at NTU can be found here. For NTU freshmen who’re vegetarian, this Reddit post has some dining options for you!

Places to study in NTU: Libraries

As NTU freshmen, you probably didn’t know that NTU is home to 7 libraries. These libraries are great for conducive studying and revising!

NTU Lim Wee Nam Library

Lee Wee Nam Library is the most popular one due to its array of seating areas and central location (North Spine).

Library Outpost at The Hive has few seating areas but is a convenient spot to print your notes or assignments. Printing services are self-service and charged, though.

The other libraries in NTU are:

  • Art, Design & Media Library
  • Business Library
  • Chinese Library
  • Communication & Information Library
  • Humanities & Social Sciences Library

Although not technically a part of NTU but still within the campus, there’s also the NIE Library.

Check out the locations and opening hours of these libraries here. You can also view their FAQs.

If you’re looking for something exciting outside of NTU, check out these 7 Singapore cafés to study in.


Academic Units (AUs)

Being NTU freshmen, you might’ve seen this term if you were looking through NTU’s modules. So what is it exactly?

Academic units, as they’re called in NTU, is like a currency attached to each module. Typically, most modules are worth 3 AUs.

1 AU = 1 hour of lecture/tutorial per week or 3 hours of field/lab work per week.

The breakdown of 3 AUs is 2 hours of lecture and 1 hour of tutorial.

Each major has its own set number of AUs they must clear before they can graduate. I was a Sociology major, so I had to clear 126 AUs within four years at NTU.

Module overloading and underloading

Every semester, you also have a set number of AUs to clear. I’m not sure about other Schools, but most Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) students are recommended to clear 15/16 AUs per semester.

Taking more than 20 AUs each semester is considered “overloading” for HSS students and you have to get approval from your School to overload on modules. Do check your School’s respective page for information on the procedures for overloading.

Although not a common practice, there’s also “underloading” where you take less than the recommended number of AUs per semester.

Many NTU freshmen have the fear that underloading a semester means they’d be slower than their peers or that they can’t graduate on time.

This is all true, but I think there are some benefits to underloading if you plan it out well. For example, if you want a more relaxed pace after a hectic semester or if you want a particular professor for a certain module, it helps to underload.

Also, friends who’ve taken a module before can also tell you more about that module! There were times I nearly took a module that some of my friends regretted taking or wished they’d waited to take.

Thanks to their experiences, I was better able to select classes that had timings I preferred and matched my interests!

List of Modules

The Content of Courses page is useful for checking what modules are available for a particular semester. It includes the class schedules for all modules—helpful when planning your timetable on STARS!

Content of courses

Simply select the academic year, semester, and major from the drop-down menus to get a list of available modules!

Modules on this page are also sorted according to their category (e.g. unrestricted electives) if you’re only looking for courses of a certain type.


The dreaded STARS (Student Automated Registration System) that every NTU student has to go through before each semester is the system that NTU has for module registration.

It’s a headache for many because it works on a first-come-first-served basis; in other words, fastest fingers (and Internet speed) first. That’s probably how it came to be known as Star Wars among NTU undergraduates.

NTU has its own user guide to STARS, so do read it to fully understand how it works.

Some of you NTU freshmen might’ve heard of a STARS planner as well (you had to plan your timetable here before actually doing STARS), but this doesn’t exist anymore. It’s been streamlined to just STARS.

As NTU freshmen, however, most of your first semester’s modules have probably already been registered for you. Your first STARS experience will be in your second semester.

To change anything in your timetable (e.g. adding/dropping modules, changing timings, etc.) you have the add/drop period.

Add/drop period

In a nutshell, the add/drop period is the time when you can add modules you might’ve previously been eyeing and not been able to get or drop modules if you went for the first class and didn’t think it was for you.

You can also change your class’ index number (which determines your tutorial group and time) or swap index numbers with another student in the same class.

Add/drop period is during the first two teaching weeks of the semester.

When you add a class to your timetable, you will not be allocated to that class immediately, but placed on a waitlist instead. Every night at 2200hrs, the system will allocate you to one of the classes placed on your waitlist.

You can check the class you got registered for via your NTU email or in STARS!

NTU also has a guide about the add/drop period, so do familiarise yourself with the system.

Some schools have their own student-initiated Sheets/Excel spreadsheets to make add/drop and swapping modules easier!

Social sciences sheets page

If you’re an NTU freshman from the School of Social Sciences (PPGA, Economics, Psychology, Sociology), there’s a Sheets page for each major so you can exchange index numbers with others from your respective class!

Sometimes, they might create a new spreadsheet for the new academic year, so be on the lookout for the new link, which will be sent to your NTU email.

NTULearn/NTU Blackboard

Now that you’ve finally settled your class schedule, it’s time to check NTULearn (also known as NTU Blackboard)!

NTULearn is the platform where you can see all your registered classes, the names of professors and tutors for that class, and most importantly, the place you go to download class materials that your professor uploads.

Most professors will post weekly readings, slides for lectures/seminars, and any other learning materials related to that course. It’s also where you go to upload your assignments through the plagiarism checker, Turnitin (if your professor uses this method of submission).

Also, you can get email notifications in your NTU email each time the professor/tutor has a new post on updates for the class (e.g. change in venues/class cancellation/etc.), so be sure to check it regularly. NTU freshmen, do bookmark the page for easy access!

Simply log in here to access NTULearn.

Student Link

NTU student link

Student Link is an NTU intranet page for all sorts of administrative functions.

But as NTU freshmen, all you need to know for now is that you can access your degree audit and exam timetable here.

NTU degree audit

All NTU freshmen should take note of the degree audit page: it shows you the modules you’ve registered for, their index numbers, course type, and your exam results once they’re released.

Just a quick run-through on the acronyms (some might not be shown in the picture):

  • P = prescribed
  • C = core
  • UE = unrestricted elective (now called “Broadening and Deepening electives”, BDE, for NTU freshmen from 2021 onwards)
  • GER = general education requirement (replaced by the “ICC curriculum” for NTU freshmen from 2021 onwards)
  • LA = liberal arts
  • STS = science and technology
  • BM = business management

You might’ve noticed in the picture that I’ve got a column for “prescribed electives type” with different acronyms.

Starting from AY (academic year) 2021/22, NTU freshmen will have a different set of module types known as the ICC curriculum, so the above types may not apply to you if you’re an incoming NTU freshman.

After exam results have been released, your degree audit page should be updated within a few hours. It should look something like this:

NTU degree audit page exam results

It includes your GPA for that semester, as well as your CGPA (cumulative grade point average), and total AUs earned.

As NTU freshmen, do check it to stay on track with the number of AUs you need to clear to plan for upcoming semesters.

GPA exemptions, S/U grading and pass/fail modules

Freshmen year GPA exemption

Being NTU freshmen, maybe you didn’t do so well on your first exam(s) in NTU. That’s totally fine!

NTU recognises that not everyone will immediately be able to cope with the rigour of university, that’s why GPA exemptions for NTU freshmen exists.

The details for the freshmen year GPA exemption are listed below:

NTU gpa exemption

After your freshman year, you’ve only got S/U grading and pass/fail modules to rely on if you don’t want your GPA to be pulled down by a certain module.

S/U grading

S/U stands for satisfactory/unsatisfactory. It’s an option you can exercise if you don’t want a module to be counted into your GPA, though I don’t recommend using it in your freshman year.

Unlike NUS, NTU only allows students to S/U a module before receiving their results, not after.

There’s also a quota of 12 AUs that you can S/U, or about 4 modules. And you cannot S/U any core or major prescribed modules.

For more details on S/U grading, refer to this handbook.

Pass/fail modules

This is the last line of defence for maintaining your GPA (if you’re no longer a freshman) without much effort—pass/fail modules!

As the name suggests, these modules are only graded as “pass” or “fail” in your degree audit, not a letter grade. This means they also don’t count into your GPA!

Because of this, these modules are always oversubscribed. As NTU freshmen, you might not stand a chance against more senior students whom the system will prioritise when registering for these modules.

pass fail module

The course content site should indicate as above which modules are pass/fail.

Final notes

There’s a lot of information to take in as NTU freshmen, but trust me, all this will be second nature to you after your first year!

I hope that all you incoming and/or potential NTU freshmen found this guide helpful in pointing you in the right direction for all the resources you may possibly need in your 3/4 years at NTU.

Going to polytechnic instead? Do check out Studyramen’s polytechnic tips article on do’s and don’ts for freshmen in 2021!

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