A Level Study Methods: A guest post by PP @youraverageSGkid

Hello readers! Today we have a guest! A few weeks ago, me and PP from @ YourAverageSGKid got in touch for mutual guest posting! I’m here to present PP’s post for you all, and you’ll find my guest post on his site, too (I’d probably reblog it.)!

Examinations, something that I have become all too familiar with. As a medical student myself, examinations are the bread and butter of what I do. Having said that, I would like to think that I have somewhat mastered the art of tackling examinations, at least written ones for that matter. Having been a student for the past 13 years, I have modified my study techniques over the years and I would like to share them with you in hope that it can inspire you to find a study technique that will work best for yourself. In this post, I will write about how I studied for the Cambridge GCE A Levels (equivalent of the 12th grade curriculum in India) and share with you what I did to attain my As.

Before I begin, I would like to give put out some disclaimers: 1) I am not a perfect student, I wasn’t always an As student, 2) I did not have extra tuition for any of my subjects, I attained my As purely through implementing my own study methods, 3) I am just sharing what I did and I understand that my methods may not work for everyone but feel free to experiment and tweak it to suit your learning needs!

For the A Levels, I took a subject combination of Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and Economics, all at H2 level. In the following paragraphs, I shall go into detail and break down what I did to prepare myself for these subjects. 

Since secondary school, Physics has been my best subject 👌🏼 and so I was pretty confident about taking it for the A Levels. Nevertheless, I constantly reminded myself not to be overly complacent and underestimate the rigour of A Level physics. Additionally, to be strong in physics, one’s mathematics must be relatively decent too and so my math was pretty good as well.

For these 2 subjects, I did not make any notes at all as I felt the essence of doing well in them lie in practice✍🏼. So with that, once I understood the physical and mathematical concepts taught in my lectures, I was busy attempting practice questions from topical review assessment books that I can find in bookstores. I spent quite a bit of money purchasing these assessment books but I was able to justify the cost to myself as I was already saving money by self-studying and not going for tuition. 

If you are considering doing the same, you can always check online to see if there are free PDF versions of assessment books/practice questions from other schools which you can download. This will save you a lot of money and you comes with the additional benefit of having unlimited tries 🤩!

TL;DR – Learn the concept, attempt practice questions until you can’t get them wrong 

I took a different approach to studying chemistry as compared to what I did for physics and math. Chemistry, whilst also being science subject, involves a certain degree of memory work and hence I resorted to doing notes for specific topics which require intensive memorisation😪. Examples of such topics include transition elements where we were required to know the various chemical equations in full as well as all organic chemistry topics whereby we had to know all the reactions and its mechanisms in detail. 

After making notes for these topics, I would periodically test myself on how much I remembered by covering my notes and attempting to rewrite the chemical equations/ reaction mechanisms on a piece of rough paper. Now as I look back, I realise that I have been unknowingly practicing active recall and spaced repetition. After I have managed to memorise all that I ought to know, I start doing practice questions, similar to what do when I study for physics and math. 

If you are considering doing the same, you can use Anki 😍 to help you with the active recall and spaced repetition. For assessment books, online free PDFs or 2nd hand books are you best bets!

TL;DR – Create notes for content heavy topics, implement active recall and space repetition to boost memorisation, attempt practice questions until you can’t get them wrong.

As a math and science student, econs was definitely the hardest subject for me. Whilst I enjoyed econs lessons and understood the concepts taught, I always fared poorly when it comes to formal assessments. I was consistently failing (<45%) my case studies and essays for as long as I remember 😢. For a period of time, I felt as though my econs was hopeless and that it was destined to be counted as my H1 subject in the computation of my final university admission score (UAS). However, during the December holidays of JC1 (junior college year 1; in Singapore, you are given 2 years to learn the A Level content and study for it), I found a study method that really helped me improve my econs.

Essentially, what I did was to revise everything that was taught in JC1 and also create templates 👍🏼 to answer specific questions that are pretty commonly asked. For instance, I would have a template for answering questions on Market Failure or one for answering questions on Price Elasticity of Demand/Supply. My template contained all the key phrases which are the marking points that examiners look out for. Having these templates helped me to better structure my answers so that they are comprehensive and are not missing out anything when it comes to explaining the various econs concepts. Now you may be wondering how do I know what the key phrases/marking points? Well, I simply looked through many econs marking schemes from the Ten Year Series (TYS) as well as those from other school promotional (promo) and preliminary (prelim) exams to deduce the various key phrases/ marking points! 💯

Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

When I entered JC2, I continued doing the same for the new econs concepts I learnt. When I was preparing for common tests or exams, I will first memorise the various templates that I have created for myself. Additionally, I will practice econs by doing case study questions as well as write essay outlines. As time is extremely tight during econs exams, I find it important to practice doing a whole econs paper from time to time just to make sure that my time management is on point. However, constantly doing econs practice papers in full is of a much lower yield than just doing the case study questions and writing essay outlines in my opinion. Writing essay outlines are much faster than writing the essay itself and as they say, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” and so planning the essay is actually more important than writing it. With the time saved by writing essay outlines instead of full essays, you can expose yourself to more types of questions and the different ways a similar question can be asked so that you will be more prepared to face a variety of questions in future!

TL;DR – Learn the concept, create answering templates, memorise answering templates, attempt practice questions until you can’t get them wrong 

Conclusion

So there you have it, an in-depth guide to how I studied for my 4H2 subjects at the A Levels. You may or may not have noticed, but regardless of subject, there is always one commonality in all my study methods – EXPOSURE to a multitude of questions. I truly believe that if you want to score well, you must first and foremost fully understand what you are learning. After which, you have to attempt as many questions as possible such that you are exposed to all types of questions which can be asked. Many a times, similar questions are re-used in exams with little tweaks in the question stem such that certain values or conditions are different. Exposing yourself to a wide variety of questions will equip you well to answer all types of questions in the actual exam as they will feel familiar to you. And, since familiarity breed confidence, I’m sure you will be more confident when tackling your exams too!

If you have read this post all the way, I hope you have managed to learn a thing or two. Let me know in the comments if you personally use a study method that is similar t0 mine or what your custom study method is! I would love to hear from you all how you cope with preparing for the A Levels.

ALL THE BEST FOR YOUR EXAMS AND HAPPY STUDYING! 💪🏼

PhattyPaikia (PP) is a medical student from Singapore, currently studying at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine. In his free time, he loves to write about his medical school journey, share productivity tips as well as discuss topics related to money. Through his blog, which you can check out here, PP hopes to share what it is like to become a doctor in Singapore and inspire fellow students to lead the most productive and fruitful lives during their teenage/early adult years. Apart from blogging, PP is also a keen reader and an avid adventurer who regularly participates in many outdoor activities.