5 Tips for Back to Secondary School Success!
- Time Management
- Formulate an effective L1R5 strategy
- Concentrate on your weaker but compulsory subjects
- Setting realistic goals and tracking progress
- Get sufficient rest
The start of a new year will coincide with the commencement of the school term in Singapore from Primary to Pre-University levels. For upper secondary school students, they will be confronted by mounting pressures to achieve academic excellence in their forthcoming O-Level exams. At O Level Master, we firmly believe that forward planning is central to the academic success of all students and provide, here, the following tips to ensure a smooth transition back to school and as a spring board to their O Level exam Mastery.
1. Time Management
The average upper secondary school student will be contending with hectic schedule of CCAs, sports sessions, enrichment and/or remedial lessons over and above their regular school lessons. Without a clear study plan and adherence to a schedule, it would be easy to lose focus and precious time to less productive pursuits.
The average secondary student will require at least 6-10 hours of self study a week to assimilate and attain mastery of the O Level curriculum depending on their learning styles, rates of absorption and their need for practice. These study sessions should be pursued at a regular time of the week, preferably in a quiet and comfortable environment to optimise the students’ learning. For example, a particular student may find weekend afternoons in her room from 3-5pm the most conducive to her revise her O Level Chemistry concepts. It is paramount for the student to maintain discipline and adhere to the planned hours of self study for the planned schedule to be effective.
For some students, a supervised and/or group learning context and environment may be more effective in promoting learning. Tuition centres may offer a solution to enforce disciplined learning in this regard and may be included as a part of the student’s study regimen.
2. Formulate an effective L1R5 Strategy
The L1R5 is the combined score of six subjects (first language, usually English Language) grade plus the relevant 5 subjects’ grade) tested at the “O” Levels. The other 5 relevant subjects are:
• 1 science/maths subject
• 1 humanities subject
• 1 other science/maths or humanities subject
• 1 other subject from humanities or science/maths
The best score for one subject is A1 (1 point) and the worst is F9 (9 points). For a student that scored 6 A1s, his/her L1R5 score would be 6. Naturally: the lower the score, the higher the probability of the student securing admission to a good JC.
As such, selecting ‘O’ Level subjects which complement a student’s strengths in science / maths or humanities subjects can greatly confer an advantage to the student in attaining an optimal L1R5 score. Numerically oriented students should do well in Additional Mathematics, Elementary Mathematics and Physics. Scientifically curious students usually opt for the pure science subjects in Chemistry, Physics and Biology, whilst students who have strong inclination for the Arts and Humanities subjects pick up English Literature, Geography, History and Social Studies.
Students should also be alive to the possibility of benefiting from bonus points arising from these alternative strategies outlined in the table below when formulating their L1R5 strategy.
3. Concentrate on weaker but compulsory subjects
It is always a strong strategy to focus and spend more time on a student’s weaker but compulsory subjects such as English Language, Elementary Mathematics or Social Studies. By investing more effort in weaker subject(s), a student may be able to drastically improve (reduce) their L1R5 score several points, which will be the key metric to determining their ability to access their desired subject stream at a top JC in Singapore.
Each grade is allocated a grade point from A1 (1 grade point) to F9 (9 grade points). Since grades typically correspond to incremental bands of 5 percentage points, just a 10% improvement (from 50% to 60% in English Language) in results performance may translate into a massive 2 point reduction in a student’s L1R5 score. A1 grades are typically defined by a percentage score of 75 or higher. The table below outlines the corresponding percentage bands and grade points for each grade. Students are advised to improve on compulsory subjects with grades B3 and below.
4. Setting realistic goals and tracking progress
Students should be aware of the JC cutoff points for admission to their desired subject stream. Armed with this knowledge, students should be able to target which JCs or institutions are realistically within their reach and how much they would have to improve their L1R5 to comfortably achieve their goals. A historical list of JC cutoff points may be accessed here.
SMART goal setting should be employed i.e. students should arrive at Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Orirented goals. For example, a student who at the commencement of their Secondary 4 academic year may have scored B4 grade in her previous English exams and wishes to set a goal for herself to achieve an A2 grade for her ‘O’ Level English preliminary exams. The goal has all the above attributes of a SMART goal and is therefore one which has been well set.
Tracking one’s progress through tests and practice exams under simulated conditions will provide the student with invaluable feedback as to their progress and allow them to perform course corrections and adjustments to their learning along the way.
5. Get sufficient rest
An often neglected aspect of the student’s well being is rest. More frequently than not, taxing study, co-curricular and social schedules place strenuous demands on a student’s time and all too often, student’s indulge in these activities at the expense or neglect of their rest and sleep. High levels of fatigue, undue stress, inattentiveness, poor cognition and an increase in careless mistakes in general may be all attributed to insufficient sleep. Perhaps more worryingly, sleep debt is cumulative and the greater a student’s sleep deficit, the more telling the adverse effects on their academic learning and performance.
Studies have shown that the average teenager typically sleeps between 7 to 7 ¼ hours daily. This is far below their need for 9 to 9 ½ hours of sleep daily. This trend becomes more prevalent when considering the distraction of ubiquitous social media platforms which permit 24-7 communication between friends, peers and school mates. Such time consuming activities may be minimised through proper self control, discipline and assistance of oversight from senior members of the family.