If you find yourself on this page, it is likely that you have yet to find an answer to ‘how do I improve my grades?’. If you find yourself struggling with one subject in particular, this section would be for you.
The subjects covered are as follows:
- H2 Mathematics
- H2 Chemistry
- H2 Biology
- H2 Economics
- H1 General Paper
For most, this subject is one of the easiest to score, evinced by the high distinction rate. Do not be afraid to consult your tutor to clarify on harder topics such as Applications of Integration, Complex Numbers etc. The graphing calculator seems daunting at first, but everyone would go through the same process of learning to use it. I feel that something that set me apart from others is that I took time to explore my graphing calculator. I even participated in a graphing calculator competition!
Knowing shortcuts to questions that do not require working provides you with more time to work on more tedious questions that require working, and is also foolproof (unless you make careless mistakes)! Other than that, there’s nothing much other than to just practise! Leading up to the prelims, I completed around 8 years worth of prelim papers and managed to score 96 for my prelims!
I used to struggle with chemistry so much in secondary school, such that my final grade in Sec 4 was 50+. When I told my Chemistry teacher that I wish to take it in JC, she responded, ‘Do you have nothing else to take?’
This carried over to JC, where I scored an S for Promos. Having a strong foundation in Chemistry is very important. Having someone to clarify basic concepts was crucial for me to improve, yet school tutors do not have the time to go through the entire syllabus with you. Making Sense helped me with that. Despite the fact that during classes, we are going through the syllabus just like in school, content is made easy and understandable despite my weak foundation. If I had any questions, I could just ask the Making Sense tutors without feeling shy.
My comeback story begins here, as the next test in J2, I managed to top my class scoring an A. Everyone including my tutor was really shocked. This built up my confidence. As I continued studying the syllabus with Making Sense, I had extra time to catch up on J1 topics. The Making Sense hotline was very useful as I could clarify my doubts with the tutors and they reply very quickly! I truly feel that Chemistry is an extremely difficult subject to play catch-up as every topic is intertwined with one another. So do not be afraid to seek external help before it’s too late.
If you want to avoid this situation, you MUST start now. Start going through basic topics like mole concept and redox, making flashcards on the way for anything you would forget.
Since I don’t take Biology, I got someone else to help out:
Biology is a content subject; meaning that there is a lot of memorisation involved. With the large amount of information, there are some that may be just good to know and are not in the syllabus. Use the SEAB learning objectives to identify which are content points that could be tested in the A-Levels. Match this with your school notes to separate important and supplementary information.
There are some standardised paragraphs that you can just memorise and regurgitate during exams. (E.g. Cancer as a multi-step process. Why is the population the smallest unit that can evolve. What is the role of O2 in photosynthesis etc). Hence, to do well, you would need to explore and find the best way for you to retain information. I personally recommend flashcards. Just be careful not to chunk too much information in each card as you’ll feel discouraged if you cannot memorise the entire chunk word-for-word. Split up the chunk into easier bite-sized portions as much as possible to make memorising more efficient.
Before the school lecture starts on new topics, it would be good to familiarise yourself by watching a simplified video about the topic online. (Amoeba Sisters is a good resource that gives you a broad overview of the topic.)
To score better, how you practise also matters. It is easy to be too lenient with yourself when marking papers. Read other schools’ answer sheets and highlight keywords that you missed out so that you can remember the next time.
The amount of work you need to do independently is heavily dependent on your tutor. My tutor basically did not revise with us Firms & Decisions at all as it is widely regarded as the hardest topic in H2 Economics, despite the fact that we could still be tested on it in CSQ. Yet, the very first F&D essay I wrote in an official examination was for the A-Levels. Basically, my view is that it is extremely inefficient to have to study an entire topic by yourself reading the school lecture notes. This was because my school’s notes are convoluted and much of the content is merely supplementary.
If you do end up having to practise a lot by yourself, I would recommend writing at least 1 essay every week for your teacher to mark and give feedback. Let’s say you find it difficult to start: you can try starting with only writing part (a), before moving on to writing only part (b), and finally conquering an entire essay. I would also suggest doing an essay plan and checking your answer before writing any of your essays. It would be a complete waste of time to write an essay that has blatantly wrong points.
I used to tell my friends, if the limiting factor of how well you do for a subject is time, it is a poor subject. The restrictive time constraint teaches us to “profit satisfice”. Focus on writing the most important parts instead of zeroing on every single detail and not finishing the paper.
I think most people know what needs to be done, but for some reason don’t do it (me included).
Many of my friends have greater trouble scoring for the essay portion. It is really important that you decide on 3-4 pet topics. (Perhaps 2-3 more common ones e.g. politics, technology, media and 1 niche topic e.g. handicrafts (yes I’ve seen it before)). Preparing for a niche topic in Singapore’s context would also help with AQ in Paper 2 (zoos and fast fashion have been tested).
A game changer for me was getting hold of my school’s free news subscription to Straits Times and New York Times. Even if you’re lazy (like me), the push notifications will bring headlines related to your pet topics to your attention. I really want to advise you to start building a habit of reading the news while you are on the way to school. You can succinctly note down well-written paragraphs and focus on opinion pieces if you consider yourself less “woke”. Effectively condensing the news article is good practice for the summary section of Paper 2. This ensures that ample evaluation can be shown in your essays instead of redundantly detailed evidence.
I hope this guide has been really useful for you. For me, it is as if I’m helping my younger self get through the labyrinth of JC life. You can do it! Just remember, please please prioritise your mental health over that additional hour of studying. Studying that additional hour would negligibly impact your results, but taking a much-needed break is much more important.
And as my friend says, things in life are never black and white. It’s about finding the balance by navigating through the many shades and hues of grey. I wish you guys all the best in finding that balance point and having a fun, fruitful and fulfilling JC life!