Many parents often asked us: “Is there still time for my child to do well in O Level or IP?” Every June holidays, we receive many phone calls from anxious parents seeking help for their children who didn’t performed well for their mid-year examinations.
We understand their concern. After all, it’s just 4 months before their child sits for the national examination, GCE O Level or their IP examination. Doing well for the O-Level or IP examination gives their child more options to choose from for schools and courses to further their education.
From now till the O Levels, students must stay focused and adopt the correct strategies so as to prepare themselves confidently for the examination. For Chemistry, we suggest the following:
1. Build up Strong Foundation of Basic Concepts
Based on our decades of teaching experience, the root problem we noticed in students underperforming in examination is their lack of understanding of the fundamentals in Chemistry. The level of understanding in the basic concepts is way below par.
Building a strong foundation is the key when students prepare for the O Level Pure Chemistry or IP Chemistry examination, following a topic-by-topic approach. For each topic, students must revise and understand the underlying key concepts or formula, before moving to the next topic.
In Chemistry, it is important to know and master the topics taught in Secondary 3 first. For example, students must have very clear understanding of Secondary 3 basic essential topics such as Chemical Bonding, Writing Balanced Chemical & Ionic Equations, Acids & Bases as well as Mole Calculations. Chemistry is a much more abstract science subject compared to Physics and Biology because almost every topic is interrelated to another topic, especially those covered earlier in Secondary 3.
2. Pay Attention to the Usage of Keywords in Structured Questions
How many of you have your children telling you that they really pay attention in class and can understand what their teachers are teaching?
However, their examination results are dismay and they do not understand why.
This is because just knowing the key concepts i.e. “stories” is not sufficient.They will be marked by the examiners based on the correct keywords or key phrases written.
One of the main challenges that many Chemistry students faced is answering structured questions with the appropriate, specific, complete set of keywords.
For example, the correct keyword for a question could be “Graphite conducts electricity due to mobile electrons” but the common mistake that many students made is “Graphite conducts electricity due to mobile ions”. The reason for such mistake is often rote memorisation without truly understanding the structural properties of graphite and in examination they tend to write the wrong keywords. A-Grade students are able to write the correct keywords as they have their basic concepts to back up their choice of keywords.
Mastery of Chemistry involves strong foundation of basic concepts coupled with clear usage of keywords on top of their application skills.
3. Attempt Ten-Years Series Questions
Next, to put their understanding of each topic to the test, students are advised to start work immediately on the O Level questions as it will provide a reasonable gauge for their level of understanding on key concepts, their level of application skills and build up their confidence at the same time.
Since strong foundation is built on a topic-by-topic approach, the use of the Ten-Years Series (TYS) topical books is strongly recommended, preferably one that provides step-by-step detailed solutions. This allows students to check on the answers at their own convenience.
4. Keep Clarifying
Building a strong foundation consists of understanding the key concepts for each topic, testing the student’s understanding by working on the questions, and most importantly, clarifying any doubts and correcting any mistakes made.
Many students accumulate so many doubts over the years that it has reached a critical stage that these doubts, if remained unresolved will cripple their chance of performing well in the
O Level or IP examinations. They must start asking questions to clear their doubts in order to feel confident and prepared!
If your child is afraid of embarrassment, get him to ask someone who has the most up-to-date knowledge in Chemistry concepts and someone he is comfortable with, for example, his friends, his siblings, his teachers or tutors. With technology, he can even email or message his questions to someone he trusts.
Some TYS books even highlight mistakes that are commonly made, and this feature helps students learn how to avoid them during the examination.
5. Examination Strategies
“Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Taking examination is just like a game. Your child plays to win within a given time frame, and to win this game, your child must be prepared and aware of the rules of the game. The real opponent is himself.
Once your child has mastered all the key concepts for all the topics, the next step is to learn how to manage his time during the examination. He can attempt a full set of examination papers, under timed condition, to simulate the actual O Level examination. In fact, we put our students through such timed trial exercises in our weekly teachings so that they can understand and appreciate the importance of time management during examination. Through these timed exercises, they can also gain more exposure to a wide variety of questions which will future enhance and challenge their understanding.
I hope you find the content easy for your understanding and if you have anything valuable to add, leave me a comment below. Feel free to share this blog post with your friends.
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