How to remember everything for exams?!! [Tips] As you progress through the education system, its not surprising you will need to memorize more and more material. As such, I can almost hear you and your compatriots screaming in agony, asking how to remember everything for exams?!! This is especially pertinent in some subjects that are concept heavy like H2 Biology. Having seen many batches of students through the H2 Bio A levels exams successfully, I have a collection of tools to help my students do just that. Let’s first talk about the concept of memory before we dive into the tools. How to remember everything for exams: some facts about memory There are 2 major types of memory. Short and long term memory. From the education perspective, short term memory is the temporary placeholder as information flows in when a student studies. In contrast, long term memory is when some of these information final passes through a conduit into the part of the brain that stores these information with more permanence. The major problem is that when students study, they expect that the information will flow into long term memory automatically. Unfortunately, they don’t! Which is why many exasperated students complain about having spent time studying but coming off the exercise retaining little if any information. This can be a frustrating experience! So why is that the case? Recognition is not the same as knowing If you stare at your notes long enough you will begin to RECOGNIZE the sequence of occurrences of text. Recognition gives a false send that you know the material. However, recognizing is not the same as knowing. Knowing is the understanding of source material in all dimensions. One thus have the ability to easily answer questions relating to or cover the particular area without referring back. A lot of students when they try to memorize facts, do not spend time knowing what they are studying. As such, they recognize the string of words but do not truly know the material. And hence cannot recall even after spending time ‘studying’. Distraction during studying sessions I have written in the past about how handphone use can be distracting and counter-productive to learning. You know why that is the case? Let me try to explain it. There is a connection between short and long term memory all the conduit between them is very ‘narrow’. This is logical because it doesn’t make sense to remember every single detail every single second in our lives. Otherwise we will run out of memory space in which we fill in memories for the long term. Therefore the longer we ponder over things the more likely they will be successfully go pass the conduit from short to long term memory. Ever seen unhappy spouses bring up obscure events in the past in arguments? Now you know the answer!! The problem therefore with the handphone is that when one is constantly distracted that academic information is replaced by the tweet or news or text message. What information you are trying to process is now lost because there was no chance for it to squeeze through the narrow conduit to long term memory. So if you want to really learn, put away that phone! If you want to check for more information using the phone, make sure you don’t let to irrelevant apps or news articles distract you along the way. How to remember everything for exams: first step Once you understand what prevents you from knowing and how does it relate to long term memory, it’s time to go through the actual process of studying. At this stage, you have to read actively through your source material. Meaning, thinking, asking questions and forming opinions during this time. For example, where does this link from a previous chapter? Do I agree? Can I cite a relevant fact to support this current material etc. Then, look for people for other sources of knowledge including youtube videos, friends, tutors and see if the information corroborates. And if they don’t why? This is the part that takes up most of the time which is why the last minute cramming is futile because one will skip through this process. An important reminder, many students end up re-writing notes instead. This is another futile exercise because no actual learning is taking place. The brain is just recognizing a series of text from one and copying it to another. I show my students that is the case by asking the same questions week after week. In most cases, they write it down somewhere only to again be stuck by the same question again the following week. Especially when they miss out on the actual studying after writing the notes. How to remember everything for exams: recall Once a chunk of the learning is done, put aside the source material do a quick recall for at least 30 seconds. Can you recall the key points of what you have just read? After the next chunk, can you recall the previous recall session? The study by Karpicke and Roediger show that students who repeat the routine of learning and spend time recalling afterwards are more likely to correctly answer questions afterwards. If one cannot complete this with ease, that means the knowing part is lacking. Then proceed to the next tool before revisiting recall. How to remember everything for exams: Feynman technique This technique was first referenced by Richard Feynman, a Nobel prize physicist who tried to make hard concepts easier in the university classes he taught in Caltech. First identify what you don’t know and then re-learn this. The easiest way is to seek a consult session and directly clarify. If not look for YouTube or Khan academy videos that cover the topic. Although they are instant and valuable sometimes the scope may be below or above what is required for the syllabus. In which case, it make sense to look for a tutor for help, here’s a checklist for you to narrow down your search. Once past the first step, imagine a friend who needs help and simulate the explaining to him/her. If you can’t do it, go back to the previous step looking for another source of material. If you are able to, then try to simplify your understanding further so that you can explain to an imaginary junior who has yet to contact this syllabus. Try using analogies, funny stories or real life events etc. The success of this ensures that you are now in a competent level and can return back to the recall exercise of the previous section. Spaced repetition Since the first few steps take a lot of time and work, attempt them way before the exams so that you can build on your skill. However, how to remember everything for exams which are a few months down the road? This is where a technique I talked about previously: spaced repetitions can work to help you. In essence, the revisiting of the same content periodically to reinforce their presence in the long term memory. Tutors who does so in the classroom will further contribute to developing the long term memory of subject content. Attitude matters To really become subject masters and ace the exams. It is just as important to think that we are not perfect and there is still much more to learn. In fact after spending the better part of my life living, thinking and teaching biology, I still discover areas of inadequacy. Having a teachable heart means that you are open to soaking in related information to extend your existing knowledge. This allows you to tap on your existing knowledge and further reinforcing their long term memory placement. Also, it prepares you for all kinds of permutations of questions that may come out for exams. In fact a good way to build this humility is to go to 10 year series questions to check if you are able to tackle the questions successfully. In addition, even explain why the other options are incorrect. On the other hand, if you are not able to tackle the question successfully then identify where are the knowledge gaps and fill them up using the formats I suggest above. Bottomline I hope these tips on how to remember everything for exams will channel your efforts more effectively.
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Positive thinking can help improve grades (5 tips) Let’s get straight to point. Positive thinking is good for health. And if it leads to resilience against disease, then that can correlate with exam performance. On that note, ever seen someone who is an extreme pessimist or someone who is very sick trimuph in an exam? I have not either. For a student who has an important exam coming up, you’d grab every advantage to get ahead. And here’s 5 things I have my students practice as they head into their exams. Positive thinking: (1) realise how negative we are by default Every year, I do this simple exercise where I ask my students to volunteer for a simple activity so that I can show them how negative they are. I then go on to tell them it will be harmless and there will not be any shaming. More importantly, they will end the exercise with a big smile on their face. Expectantly, majority of students do not believe me and avert my gaze as I plead on. Finally, a brave soul comes up after an uncomfortable silence. Only to find out that I am passing him/her money, with no strings attached. I have just proven my point and that also leaves the rest aghast at their negativity and what it cost them. Whether it is people around us or ourselves, we are awash with negativity so much so that it has become the default. According to Dr Alison it takes effort to pull oneself out of the negativity. Positive thinking: (2) daily gratitude ritual Look at those who are successful. And you don’t have to look far to see that they incorporate some form of daily gratitude ritual. I do it myself too. Every morning, one of the first things I do is to think and feel the happiness from the 3 things I am grateful for. My students also adopt the same daily ritual. And when they return the next week, many rave about the positive effects. From improving relationships with parents, to more productive study periods. And when they come to the class more positive, that fuels their desire to learn and do better for themselves. As such, it creates a positive feedback loop. By the way did you hear about one of my student Nicholas Chan, the first ITE student to gain admissions into medical school? Even though his first start in education is full of adversity, his positive demeanour continues to bring him success. Positive thinking: (3) the glass is half full exercise In many situations even though things aren’t so positive, it can still turn out to be a glass half-full instead of half-empty situation. So I teach my students to do this at the end of the day. Recount something negative that transpired earlier. Then think what is positive about the experience. Over time this encourages one to become more resilient to negative thoughts. And then begin to find opportunities in adversity. Positive thinking: (4) I am excited! The Singaporean version of the A levels is HARD and leaves many anxious. This is a positive thinking trick that my students use during exams. When they start feeling anxious, they think to themselves to be excited instead. Then go to explain to themselves why they are excited. The rational is that even though the biological effects of both states are the same, whereas anxiety has a more negative connotation, excitement is the opposite. Those who tried this simple technique realise it snaps them out of negativity very quickly. Not only that and most importantly, they then channel the energy towards problem solving rather than have it overwhelm them instead. Here’s 2 journalist from the Atlantic who investigated the phenomenon further and reported on their experience. (5) Power to the group! Because the A levels is so challenging, it is really easy for the mind to derail going at it alone. That’s why in my classes, I get my students to band together. When the group comes together, support and help each other, each individual member benefits. They do so by producing the hormone, oxytocin. This in turn make the person more resilient to stress. Hence, it is also easier for individuals to enter into positive thinking frame of mind. In fact I am so happy knowing that many continue to be friends even after graduation even till this day. Since starting out in my class as strangers coming in from different schools and backgrounds. This is also the very reason why I encourage students to join my H2 BIO tuition group classes rather than 1-1. Bottomline I hope you enjoy these 5 pointers on how to get into positive thinking. Do you have any tips of your own? Let me know!
10 tips for busy students to get more time If there’s something busy students desire and cannot have enough of, it will be carving out more time. There are a million things to do but only so little time. So let’s cut to the chase and focus on the tips to get you more time. Busy students: (1) set your goals Busy students frequently end up doing what feels like a lot. However, if they are not important, you will end up spending the time and effort but still not make any progress. The key is down to something I have written about in the past. The most important exercise for busy students is goal setting. Once the goal is set, then all that don’t matter in getting you to achieving your goal should be cleared out of your schedule. That brings you clarity and will likely create a huge swath of time. Busy students: (2) developing keystone habits Keystone habits are good routines busy students can develop so that it can in turn increase producitivity. That then reduces the amount of time wasting therby creating more time for doing important things that count towards achieving goals. One of the most important keystone habits is developing great sleep hygiene (read more about the sleep hacking article I written). Sleep is most important for the learning process, if you don’t sleep well you don’t learn. However, many students will choose to sacrifice sleep time thinking they can cram more content in preparation for the exams. Let, me ask you this. Will you be ok in wasting all that effort AND TIME? Of course not, since so much effort and time is put in. So why then do you want to jeopardise the effort and not give your brain the chance to consolidate it to get ready for your exams? Busy students: (3) fail to plan is planning to fail Many busy students end up fire fighting most of the time. Rushing from one deadline to another rather than getting ready for the final exams. In order to get ready for the final exams, one will need to consolidate the theoretical knowledge. Because this is the hardest to do and requires the most time, it will require the most will power to decide to what to start. Will power is like money in a wallet. If you keeping spending, eventually the wallet empties. No matter how much your head tells you, you need to work on the materials, you just can’t get to it. That’s because there is no more will power left. What I tell my students to do is to plan the 3 critical tasks the night before. When the actual day arrives, you will just ease into it. This saves you the will power to actually spend on the doing rather than the planning to do. Eventually, the little time you have will be used well. (4) Busy but happy student The 3 critical tasks also means that it is easy to remember. The hard limit also ensures the task must be really important to make it into the list. And finally it is relatively easier to complete the tasks knowing there is only 3. That in turn builds a feel-good factor making you want to do productive work everyday. This builds a positive association with the act making you want to do it and therefore spend less will power in the process. Therefore what little time you have, you actually look forward to it! Busy student: (5) Automate your routine This is an extension of the planning point above. You will often find the most successful people talking about their routines. Routines are great because this reduces the need to decide whether to do or not. Remember these activities take up precious will power. By the time you actually decide to do it, the will power is all but gone. What I do instead is to input my daily routines into an app. And let the app remind me what I need to do next. The app has been of tremendous help for my students especially some of them who forgets to attend my classes! I use ToDoist. It saves me a heck load of time and more importantly will power. Busy student: (6) Plan mindless entertainment I know this is easier to say than do. I lose countless hours on YouTube videos and I know some of my students do so on NetFlix. Because it is so enjoyable, your brain begins to reward you for procrastinating. And so you look forward to doing it over and over. On the other hand, work priorities decrease. In fact the behaviour is no different than someone who is an addict. So how do you fight procrastination? Let me tell you a secret, you don’t! Daniel Pink, a best-selling author observes that a person have daily times of peak performance and troughs. Identify you trough periods and use that time to binge all you want. Fighting against what you enjoy doing will further deplete your will power. As you approach the end of the trough period, take a quick hot/cold shower to topup the will power and then jump into completing your 3 critical tasks. Now think about it, you are not going to be productive anyway during that period. Might as well save it for relax and recouperate so that you can come back stronger. Isn’t that time well spent? Busy students: (7) take breaks! The period when you are doing your best work must be milked for all its worth. I tell my students to implement the Pomodoro technique (I talk about it in great detail) and it is a resounding success and they are still using it as exams approaches. Interestingly, the most important part of the technique is actually the break! This period allows your brain to go a particular way of thinking thereby helping you to solve difficult problems. Here, deploying the time is efficiently increases productivity. Busy students: (8) batch the to-dos The idea is simple. If you have momentum, don’t stop. Instead right on it sail to intense periods of productivity. Automobiles behave in the same way. It takes tremendous energy to go from stop to start. However, once the vehicle is moving, it takes very little effort to keep it in motion. This is also known as coasting and unsurprisingly, consumes very little fuel. You will begin to realise you finish what you set out to do in no time at all. (9) Turn off notifications or the phone! Busy students have busy phones . And the phones are really distracting. Don’t believe me? Watch this hilarious video to see what happens when teenagers have to put their phones down with the notifications on. Whilst it is extremely funny, it is also sobering to see how it disrupts attention. If you keep looking over, you can’t concentrate (I talk about handphones in classrooms here). And when doing so, you don’t use your time well. Don’t forget, during exams if you can’t concentrate in long periods of time without touching your phone, you are setting yourself up for failure. (10) Stop being a perfectionist I know many students fault themselves if they can’t follow the recommendations above to the tee. Don’t. Know that whilst there are some good days. There are also some bad ones. It can be as simple as suffering from sickness. The key idea is that once the bad day ends, you forgive yourself and resolve to do better the next time. Being at ease reduces stress levels (which is already high). And having a positive outlook correlates with mental performance. I have an article talking about how to reduce anxiety. If you can minimise the down time then you create more time to do productive work. Bottomline I hope you enjoy these pointers. At the same time I’d like to point out that you should ease yourself into some of these pointers. If you try to implement all of them at once, it will be too daunting. But when you get there, you will experience the synergistic effect and jump leap and bounds. And I leave you with this quote by Abraham Lincoln: Give me 6hrs to chop down a tree and I will spend the first 4 sharpening the axe.
Do I need tuition [Answers to question] I am sure many JC students will ask the question to themselves sometime during the 2 years,”do I need tuition?” I hope with the the following points I can give you a clearer perspective. Do I need tuition? Accessing expertise Notice how professional athletes always have a coach. In fact some of the coaches are as famous as the athletes. For example, legendary swimmer Michael Phelps has Bob Bowman as his coach during his record breaking years. Why is that? This is because a coach will notice if the game is off for the athletes as well as help make small adjustments so as to bring the performance to the next level. Likewise, an academic tutor can bring drastic improvements in performance for their tutees. The benefit is that you are leveraging on the years of experience a tutor has so that you can speed ahead of the competition. Even though you are perfectly fine doing academic work independently, time unfortunately is not on your side. I have written about how the Singaporean A levels is one of the hardest versions around. Furthermore, you only have less than 2 years to cover the entire syllabus. Finally, teachers force students to participate in CCAs and I talk about how this is not desirable for students. All these conspire to work against you in your goals for A levels reducing chances of university admission offers. Do I need tuition? Isn’t my school teacher enough? The A levels exams is high stakes, but you may not have the luxury of a great teacher or school as I have mentioned. Frequently, the teachers are newly promoted from junior schools, new to the program or even fresh graduates. As such, they come without any experience in guiding their students towards academic excellence. Not only that, because of the numerous responsibilities the teachers in school do not have the time to track individual performance. They are not able to give individual feedback so that students can learn from their own mistakes and progress. Imagine an average swim coach barking orders for his swimmers to swim faster. Swimmers are lost not because they aren’t aware they are slow. But because they are not sure which part of their swim is hindering their speed. For some it can be ineffective hand pulling, or not having rhythmic kicking, and yet others incorrect body positions. Achieving subject mastery Do you remember your past when you are interpreting things in a certain way only for someone to come in and provide a completely different perspective? If you are working on your own, you will likely be thinking things in a certain way as a result of your experiences. There is nothing wrong with that but it is very narrow and not sufficient to achieve subject mastery. And in order to do that, then you have to practice much, think deeply as well as make connections across topics. In my H2 Biology tuition, I make sure students gain all 3 from me. I liken this process to the concept of anti-aging for example. Many approach the concept at a surface level with some going under the knife in addition to other medical procedures to look younger. Whilst they do appear to be younger on the outside it doesn’t reflect what is going on inside the body. To slow down the effects of aging, cells and organs beneath the skin are equally if not more important. So anti-aging efforts should not only target the exterior but the insides too. For example, if the liver is not working optimally, then the detoxifying function is sub-optimal. This then reduces the bodily function since toxins accumulate and interfere with biochemical reactions within cells. This may in fact speed up biological aging contrary to what a person seeks to achieve in the first place. So why aren’t the person who is seeking to slow down aging looking at the root of the problem? Perhaps it is because that’s what he/she knows to do based on his/her life experience to date. And that precisely is my point isn’t it? I cannot afford tuition Some students think that by saving money off tuition they may be doing a service to their parents. Let me bring up another example to show you that this thought can be a case of ‘penny wise pound foolish’. Consider that by hiring a coach to achieve mastery and then going on to do well opening up opportunities to earn money. This is what describes Roger Federer worth about USD94 million as of June 2019. And how important his coach is to bringing him out of a performance slump. And according to this article a professional tennis coach gets USD1000/week according to this article. Therefore one can work out the returns on investment with the figures above. Likewise, if a student does really well in the exams. This can subsequently open up scholarship opportunities local or overseas, access to highly competitive courses, even potential parents hiring him/her to coach their kids! This returns can be multiple-fold. Bottomline So I hope I have given you at the very least another perspective answering your question, ‘Do I need tuition?’. Before I end let me refer you to what world renowned surgeon Atul Gawande have to say on the same topic for he too even hired a coach to observe him in surgery so that he can break through his performance plateau. Most importantly I hope you find exam success in the near future.

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Positive thinking can help improve grades (5 tips) Let’s get straight to point. Positive thinking is good for health. And if it leads to resilience against disease, then that can correlate with exam performance. On that note, ever seen someone who is an extreme pessimist or someone who is very sick trimuph in an exam? I have not either. For a student who has an important exam coming up, you’d grab every advantage to get ahead. And here’s 5 things I have my students practice as they head into their exams. Positive thinking: (1) realise how negative we are by default Every year, I do this simple exercise where I ask my students to volunteer for a simple activity so that I can show them how negative they are. I then go on to tell them it will be harmless and there will not be any shaming. More importantly, they will end the exercise with a big smile on their face. Expectantly, majority of students do not believe me and avert my gaze as I plead on. Finally, a brave soul comes up after an uncomfortable silence. Only to find out that I am passing him/her money, with no strings attached. I have just proven my point and that also leaves the rest aghast at their negativity and what it cost them. Whether it is people around us or ourselves, we are awash with negativity so much so that it has become the default. According to Dr Alison it takes effort to pull oneself out of the negativity. Positive thinking: (2) daily gratitude ritual Look at those who are successful. And you don’t have to look far to see that they incorporate some form of daily gratitude ritual. I do it myself too. Every morning, one of the first things I do is to think and feel the happiness from the 3 things I am grateful for. My students also adopt the same daily ritual. And when they return the next week, many rave about the positive effects. From improving relationships with parents, to more productive study periods. And when they come to the class more positive, that fuels their desire to learn and do better for themselves. As such, it creates a positive feedback loop. By the way did you hear about one of my student Nicholas Chan, the first ITE student to gain admissions into medical school? Even though his first start in education is full of adversity, his positive demeanour continues to bring him success. Positive thinking: (3) the glass is half full exercise In many situations even though things aren’t so positive, it can still turn out to be a glass half-full instead of half-empty situation. So I teach my students to do this at the end of the day. Recount something negative that transpired earlier. Then think what is positive about the experience. Over time this encourages one to become more resilient to negative thoughts. And then begin to find opportunities in adversity. Positive thinking: (4) I am excited! The Singaporean version of the A levels is HARD and leaves many anxious. This is a positive thinking trick that my students use during exams. When they start feeling anxious, they think to themselves to be excited instead. Then go to explain to themselves why they are excited. The rational is that even though the biological effects of both states are the same, whereas anxiety has a more negative connotation, excitement is the opposite. Those who tried this simple technique realise it snaps them out of negativity very quickly. Not only that and most importantly, they then channel the energy towards problem solving rather than have it overwhelm them instead. Here’s 2 journalist from the Atlantic who investigated the phenomenon further and reported on their experience. (5) Power to the group! Because the A levels is so challenging, it is really easy for the mind to derail going at it alone. That’s why in my classes, I get my students to band together. When the group comes together, support and help each other, each individual member benefits. They do so by producing the hormone, oxytocin. This in turn make the person more resilient to stress. Hence, it is also easier for individuals to enter into positive thinking frame of mind. In fact I am so happy knowing that many continue to be friends even after graduation even till this day. Since starting out in my class as strangers coming in from different schools and backgrounds. This is also the very reason why I encourage students to join my H2 BIO tuition group classes rather than 1-1. Bottomline I hope you enjoy these 5 pointers on how to get into positive thinking. Do you have any tips of your own? Let me know!
10 tips for busy students to get more time If there’s something busy students desire and cannot have enough of, it will be carving out more time. There are a million things to do but only so little time. So let’s cut to the chase and focus on the tips to get you more time. Busy students: (1) set your goals Busy students frequently end up doing what feels like a lot. However, if they are not important, you will end up spending the time and effort but still not make any progress. The key is down to something I have written about in the past. The most important exercise for busy students is goal setting. Once the goal is set, then all that don’t matter in getting you to achieving your goal should be cleared out of your schedule. That brings you clarity and will likely create a huge swath of time. Busy students: (2) developing keystone habits Keystone habits are good routines busy students can develop so that it can in turn increase producitivity. That then reduces the amount of time wasting therby creating more time for doing important things that count towards achieving goals. One of the most important keystone habits is developing great sleep hygiene (read more about the sleep hacking article I written). Sleep is most important for the learning process, if you don’t sleep well you don’t learn. However, many students will choose to sacrifice sleep time thinking they can cram more content in preparation for the exams. Let, me ask you this. Will you be ok in wasting all that effort AND TIME? Of course not, since so much effort and time is put in. So why then do you want to jeopardise the effort and not give your brain the chance to consolidate it to get ready for your exams? Busy students: (3) fail to plan is planning to fail Many busy students end up fire fighting most of the time. Rushing from one deadline to another rather than getting ready for the final exams. In order to get ready for the final exams, one will need to consolidate the theoretical knowledge. Because this is the hardest to do and requires the most time, it will require the most will power to decide to what to start. Will power is like money in a wallet. If you keeping spending, eventually the wallet empties. No matter how much your head tells you, you need to work on the materials, you just can’t get to it. That’s because there is no more will power left. What I tell my students to do is to plan the 3 critical tasks the night before. When the actual day arrives, you will just ease into it. This saves you the will power to actually spend on the doing rather than the planning to do. Eventually, the little time you have will be used well. (4) Busy but happy student The 3 critical tasks also means that it is easy to remember. The hard limit also ensures the task must be really important to make it into the list. And finally it is relatively easier to complete the tasks knowing there is only 3. That in turn builds a feel-good factor making you want to do productive work everyday. This builds a positive association with the act making you want to do it and therefore spend less will power in the process. Therefore what little time you have, you actually look forward to it! Busy student: (5) Automate your routine This is an extension of the planning point above. You will often find the most successful people talking about their routines. Routines are great because this reduces the need to decide whether to do or not. Remember these activities take up precious will power. By the time you actually decide to do it, the will power is all but gone. What I do instead is to input my daily routines into an app. And let the app remind me what I need to do next. The app has been of tremendous help for my students especially some of them who forgets to attend my classes! I use ToDoist. It saves me a heck load of time and more importantly will power. Busy student: (6) Plan mindless entertainment I know this is easier to say than do. I lose countless hours on YouTube videos and I know some of my students do so on NetFlix. Because it is so enjoyable, your brain begins to reward you for procrastinating. And so you look forward to doing it over and over. On the other hand, work priorities decrease. In fact the behaviour is no different than someone who is an addict. So how do you fight procrastination? Let me tell you a secret, you don’t! Daniel Pink, a best-selling author observes that a person have daily times of peak performance and troughs. Identify you trough periods and use that time to binge all you want. Fighting against what you enjoy doing will further deplete your will power. As you approach the end of the trough period, take a quick hot/cold shower to topup the will power and then jump into completing your 3 critical tasks. Now think about it, you are not going to be productive anyway during that period. Might as well save it for relax and recouperate so that you can come back stronger. Isn’t that time well spent? Busy students: (7) take breaks! The period when you are doing your best work must be milked for all its worth. I tell my students to implement the Pomodoro technique (I talk about it in great detail) and it is a resounding success and they are still using it as exams approaches. Interestingly, the most important part of the technique is actually the break! This period allows your brain to go a particular way of thinking thereby helping you to solve difficult problems. Here, deploying the time is efficiently increases productivity. Busy students: (8) batch the to-dos The idea is simple. If you have momentum, don’t stop. Instead right on it sail to intense periods of productivity. Automobiles behave in the same way. It takes tremendous energy to go from stop to start. However, once the vehicle is moving, it takes very little effort to keep it in motion. This is also known as coasting and unsurprisingly, consumes very little fuel. You will begin to realise you finish what you set out to do in no time at all. (9) Turn off notifications or the phone! Busy students have busy phones . And the phones are really distracting. Don’t believe me? Watch this hilarious video to see what happens when teenagers have to put their phones down with the notifications on. Whilst it is extremely funny, it is also sobering to see how it disrupts attention. If you keep looking over, you can’t concentrate (I talk about handphones in classrooms here). And when doing so, you don’t use your time well. Don’t forget, during exams if you can’t concentrate in long periods of time without touching your phone, you are setting yourself up for failure. (10) Stop being a perfectionist I know many students fault themselves if they can’t follow the recommendations above to the tee. Don’t. Know that whilst there are some good days. There are also some bad ones. It can be as simple as suffering from sickness. The key idea is that once the bad day ends, you forgive yourself and resolve to do better the next time. Being at ease reduces stress levels (which is already high). And having a positive outlook correlates with mental performance. I have an article talking about how to reduce anxiety. If you can minimise the down time then you create more time to do productive work. Bottomline I hope you enjoy these pointers. At the same time I’d like to point out that you should ease yourself into some of these pointers. If you try to implement all of them at once, it will be too daunting. But when you get there, you will experience the synergistic effect and jump leap and bounds. And I leave you with this quote by Abraham Lincoln: Give me 6hrs to chop down a tree and I will spend the first 4 sharpening the axe.
Do I need tuition [Answers to question] I am sure many JC students will ask the question to themselves sometime during the 2 years,”do I need tuition?” I hope with the the following points I can give you a clearer perspective. Do I need tuition? Accessing expertise Notice how professional athletes always have a coach. In fact some of the coaches are as famous as the athletes. For example, legendary swimmer Michael Phelps has Bob Bowman as his coach during his record breaking years. Why is that? This is because a coach will notice if the game is off for the athletes as well as help make small adjustments so as to bring the performance to the next level. Likewise, an academic tutor can bring drastic improvements in performance for their tutees. The benefit is that you are leveraging on the years of experience a tutor has so that you can speed ahead of the competition. Even though you are perfectly fine doing academic work independently, time unfortunately is not on your side. I have written about how the Singaporean A levels is one of the hardest versions around. Furthermore, you only have less than 2 years to cover the entire syllabus. Finally, teachers force students to participate in CCAs and I talk about how this is not desirable for students. All these conspire to work against you in your goals for A levels reducing chances of university admission offers. Do I need tuition? Isn’t my school teacher enough? The A levels exams is high stakes, but you may not have the luxury of a great teacher or school as I have mentioned. Frequently, the teachers are newly promoted from junior schools, new to the program or even fresh graduates. As such, they come without any experience in guiding their students towards academic excellence. Not only that, because of the numerous responsibilities the teachers in school do not have the time to track individual performance. They are not able to give individual feedback so that students can learn from their own mistakes and progress. Imagine an average swim coach barking orders for his swimmers to swim faster. Swimmers are lost not because they aren’t aware they are slow. But because they are not sure which part of their swim is hindering their speed. For some it can be ineffective hand pulling, or not having rhythmic kicking, and yet others incorrect body positions. Achieving subject mastery Do you remember your past when you are interpreting things in a certain way only for someone to come in and provide a completely different perspective? If you are working on your own, you will likely be thinking things in a certain way as a result of your experiences. There is nothing wrong with that but it is very narrow and not sufficient to achieve subject mastery. And in order to do that, then you have to practice much, think deeply as well as make connections across topics. In my H2 Biology tuition, I make sure students gain all 3 from me. I liken this process to the concept of anti-aging for example. Many approach the concept at a surface level with some going under the knife in addition to other medical procedures to look younger. Whilst they do appear to be younger on the outside it doesn’t reflect what is going on inside the body. To slow down the effects of aging, cells and organs beneath the skin are equally if not more important. So anti-aging efforts should not only target the exterior but the insides too. For example, if the liver is not working optimally, then the detoxifying function is sub-optimal. This then reduces the bodily function since toxins accumulate and interfere with biochemical reactions within cells. This may in fact speed up biological aging contrary to what a person seeks to achieve in the first place. So why aren’t the person who is seeking to slow down aging looking at the root of the problem? Perhaps it is because that’s what he/she knows to do based on his/her life experience to date. And that precisely is my point isn’t it? I cannot afford tuition Some students think that by saving money off tuition they may be doing a service to their parents. Let me bring up another example to show you that this thought can be a case of ‘penny wise pound foolish’. Consider that by hiring a coach to achieve mastery and then going on to do well opening up opportunities to earn money. This is what describes Roger Federer worth about USD94 million as of June 2019. And how important his coach is to bringing him out of a performance slump. And according to this article a professional tennis coach gets USD1000/week according to this article. Therefore one can work out the returns on investment with the figures above. Likewise, if a student does really well in the exams. This can subsequently open up scholarship opportunities local or overseas, access to highly competitive courses, even potential parents hiring him/her to coach their kids! This returns can be multiple-fold. Bottomline So I hope I have given you at the very least another perspective answering your question, ‘Do I need tuition?’. Before I end let me refer you to what world renowned surgeon Atul Gawande have to say on the same topic for he too even hired a coach to observe him in surgery so that he can break through his performance plateau. Most importantly I hope you find exam success in the near future.