A Study Guide to the A Levels from a UUUSE to AAABB student
As a student who has just graduated from JC, there are many things I wish I did differently when it comes to my academics. While it all turned out fine in the end (I hope), there were many missed opportunities on the way which made me realise that a guide like this would have been really beneficial for a student like me. I hope this guide will help anyone that feels lost or confused, so you can be off to a good start in JC.
Part 1 will cover 3 tips to help facilitate your studying.
Why is it important to start early?
As you may know, the JC syllabus is overwhelmingly huge with completely new subjects such as General Paper and Economics which would seem foreign to most of us. Not to mention, the sheer amount of content to memorise and concepts to understand makes last-minute studying virtually impossible. Subjects of an interconnected nature such as Chemistry require students to understand concepts and apply them to other topics, further emphasising the importance of following the pace of lessons. If you think that you can get by without studying and doing your tutorials consistently, you will be in for a surprise.
Even if you truly believe in yourself, that you can play the catch-up game in J2, you will be missing out on crucial opportunities on the way. When I look back, I truly regret not studying harder at the start. In J1, my grades were terrible (UUUSE for CTs) as I was too focused on CCA, resulting in me neglecting my studies. As my high-flying friends received emails for early application for scholarships and applied for their H3s, I regretted not working harder earlier. When applying for leadership positions in CCAs (which would happen around the middle of J1), the teachers-in-charge would also consider the feedback of your tutors and how you are doing academically. I can only imagine that it would be devastating for someone to dedicate their time and effort to their CCA and not be chosen for a leadership position because of their grades.
Starting early would also create a buffer for disruptions to your life as a JC student. Be it sports season, a pandemic or getting into a relationship, building a strong foundation for your academics serves to reassure you that despite these obstacles, you can make the best of the situation.
So now you may be wondering, what does it truly mean to “start early”?
Understanding study tools
Firstly, you must understand the tools you have at your disposal. In my journey as a JC student, there are 3 tools I used for my studies.
- Past year papers
Anki/Quizlet are flashcard applications that aid in memorising content. I was first introduced to it only in the middle of J2. By then, the hassle of creating flashcards and clearing hundreds of them proved to be too much for me to handle. This also echoes the first point which is the importance of starting early. I only managed to make a deck for H1 Physics as there was less content (I had 88 cards only) and recall questions were prevalent.
To fully harness the power of this tool, there is one thing we must have: self-discipline. Why flashcards work is because it utilises active recall and spaced repetition to help us remember content.
This is an example of a flashcard I had on AnkiWeb:
As you can see, depending on the level of difficulty of the question, the next time the question appears will vary. For example, if I found the question to be easy, the question will only appear 4 days later.
Making the cards is already rather dry and studying cards daily could prove to be a chore, especially at the beginning when you would be getting most cards wrong. But do not worry! Everyone starts somewhere and remember that it is already the most efficient way to study many of the subjects. Do keep in mind that if you do accumulate a backlog for whatever reason, you MUST set aside time to clear it. If not, the activation energy (EA) will simply keep increasing and you would have to clear them anyway.
Past Year Papers
This is rather self-explanatory, but how you do the papers make a difference. Cramming all of your practice papers the day before is simply inefficient as you are unable to consolidate all the information. Plan your schedule and spread out your papers so you have time to properly review each paper and understand the mistakes you are making. Almost every paper will also have a challenging question that most of us would be unfamiliar with. Compiling these questions into one document together with your friends and looking through it the day before the exam would be very beneficial as you would be able to handle the “differentiating” questions in the paper.
Do not be afraid to seek external help by going for tuition. Personally, I have very poor self-discipline when it comes to academics, and tuition helps by ensuring that I will be studying during the hours I’m at tuition. Most of the time, what is covered during tuition would coincide with when lectures are released in school, so tuition really serves to reinforce what is covered in lectures. When the content is already familiar to me, I would speed up the lecture to 1.5x and precious time is saved. It also helps me feel more confident in attempting school tutorials. Making Sense will also be providing flashcards through Quizlet for Chemistry students, saving students a lot of time making hundreds of cards for H2 Chemistry.
But you may wonder, how should I decide on which tuition is the most suitable for me? I believe that it is highly dependent on your individual learning style; if you find yourself dozing off during lectures, you might not be suited for a large class as the tutor’s attention is divided with other students. Instead, you might prefer 1-on-1 tuition that offers personalised feedback and tackles your individual problems. On the contrary, if you have a long attention span, you would be able to follow and thrive in large classes. Here at Making Sense, we offer both standard classes and personalised learning to cater to every student’s needs.
How to plan your time
With everything going on in JC, it is easy to get overwhelmed and live day-by-day. However, planning your time is a really underrated strategy that I only made use of in the middle of J2. Depending on your level of self-discipline, you may simply wish to plan your week by creating a daily to-do list, or go further by planning blocks of your time on a calendar app or a physical calendar.
Personally, I utilised both a to-do list and a calendar app. The to-do list I use on my phone (TickTick) allows me to tick off tasks after completion, positively reinforcing productive behaviour. Simply put, it makes me feel better about myself!
The calendar app I use (Google Calendar) allows me to have separate calendars e.g. one for academics, one for fitness and one for friends and family. At one glance, you know what you have on everyday, reducing the chance of clashes. Events can also be colour coded e.g. different subjects under the Academics calendar, catering to everyone’s needs.
No matter which way you choose to adopt, planning what you need to do and by when is crucial in JC, helping you to stay on track.
A master of time management would definitely understand the importance of prioritising. You must decide what is important to you and not succumb to peer pressure. You have tuition but your OG is going out? Attend your tuition and do not waste your parents’ money.
That’s it for Part 1! Stay tuned for Part 2, where I’ll be covering 5 tips to help you get started.