Revision time

Tried-and-tested ways to prepare for year-end exams

Compile notes, review key concepts, mistakes and do more past-year papers, say educators

Mr Ang conducting a mathematics class for junior college students. He encourages students to create their own study notes, and, like other educators, said that studying on the day before an exam is too late.
Mr Ang conducting a mathematics class for junior college students. He encourages students to create their own study notes, and, like other educators, said that studying on the day before an exam is too late. ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Review key concepts, attempt more past-year papers, and look through past mistakes. These are some of the tried-and-tested methods educators urge students to use to ace their year-end examinations, which start from this month.

Educators told The Straits Times that with the exams around the corner, students are worried whether their preparations are enough.

Physics tutor Tony Chee, 35, who gives tuition to about 150 secondary and junior college students, said: "Closer to the exams, students usually feel there is much content to absorb. As a result of time constraints, they are more stressed and this may affect their revision."

He added: "Some may tend to talk and joke less with one another. They also carry their notes with them when they are eating."

Mr Chee, a former Public Service Commission scholarship holder, said students should compile summary notes for each subject in the form of lists or mind maps, and review common mistakes made.

  • Staying on track in prepping for exams

  • • Draw up a study plan ahead of the exam season, and start revising early. •Allocate enough time to go through each subject, and set aside even more time for the challenging ones.

    • Sum up key points, and compile study notes or a mind map. Take time to structure and make sense of information; try not to memorise.

    • Write down and talk through what you have learnt.

    • Review your notes at a desk, not on your bed.

    • Try practice papers to familiarise yourself with key concepts.

    • Do not be afraid to consult a teacher or a friend if you have problems understanding a topic.

    • Take short, regular breaks - 15 minutes for an hour of revision, for instance.

    • Look up common mistakes made in past tests and exams, and learn from them.

    • Reward yourself occasionally - maybe with a movie - to stay motivated.

    • Get a good eight hours of sleep every night.

    Calvin Yang

"This will ensure that they do not later find themselves running out of time for revision, just before their exams," he added.

"I would advise students to read out and write out some key points as they revise, for it helps to use at least three of our senses together to digest certain key ideas."

Experts agree that while there are revision tips to help students perform well, leaving everything till the day before an exam is too late.

Mathematics tutor Gary Ang, 37, who has more than 100 students, said: "Quite frankly, the day before the exam is too late for learning anything. It is more important to increase their confidence, by reminding them of the things they know well and solving some exam questions."

Mr Ang encouraged students to create their own notes, and to stay calm when answering questions that they may not have come across.

"There has been a trend of having one or two such questions in exams like the O and A levels," he said. "Students need to know that they have been taught the skills needed to solve the questions. They just need to keep calm and think of a way out.

"It is a test of how well they can think on their feet."

For Mr Matt Winchester, academic manager at the British Council's Marsiling and Toa Payoh centres, the way to prepare for exams is "practise, practise, practise".

He said stress is a major concern.

"Some cannot sleep, others cannot eat and tempers can flare," he said, adding that both children and their parents are under a lot of pressure during the exam season.

But Mr Ang, who has been a full-time tutor for over 12 years, said some stress is good for students.

"They are so young. I don't think sheltering them from stress will prepare them for bigger things in the future," he explained.

Educators were mixed when asked if grades are still important.

Mr Chee said society still places a lot of trust in the grading system as it is the most objective form of assessment. "There is little room for students to get around this way of assessing them except by studying hard and trying their best," he said.

General Paper tutor Irwin See, 37, a full-time tutor for seven years, said: "It may seem to students that grades are all-important. But they must always remember that their worth is not tied to their grades."

At a discussion organised by Milo Singapore last month, a panel which included an educator and a psychologist discussed how kids can move beyond grades to develop important values such as resilience.

Dr Sanveen Kang-Sadhnani, principal clinical psychologist at Thomson Paediatric Centre, said: "Resilient children are willing to make mistakes, and they learn from them.

"They eventually grow up into hardy adults who can survive in today's competitive environment."

Mr Edmund Lim, a former primary school principal, said: "Parents should help their child set goals to progress towards. No doubt exams are important but they are only a milestone in a person's life journey."

Mr Lim, who has over 20 years of teaching experience, encouraged parents to use results as feedback.

"Not all children may achieve top scores, but they have the ability to make progress at their own pace," he said. "It helps to celebrate the success of a child. The child will feel motivated to continue learning."

Mr Winchester hopes parents can take a step back and recognise their children's efforts. "Make sure (the kids) appreciate that they are more than their exam results," he added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2016, with the headline Tried-and-tested ways to prepare for year-end exams. Subscribe