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Comprehensive Guide to GCE A Levels

Comprehensive Guide to GCE A Levels, home tuition singapore, tuition agency, private tutor, maths tuition, science tuition, singapore tuition

Congratulations! Job well done to those of you who have just finished your GCE O Levels.

It was a tough run but A Levels is much tougher. However, fret not!

This Comprehensive Guide to GCE A Levels covers everything you need to know:

1. Entering Junior College
2. School Terms and Holidays
3. Junior College Subjects
4. JC Subject Combinations
5. Overview of JC Subjects
6. Preparing for A Levels
7. During the Examinations (Tips)
8. Post A Levels

This A Level guide covers every single thing for Junior College Education (A Levels) in Singapore. Sit tight!

1. Entering Junior College

After getting your GCE O Level results in January, you would have selected your 12 choices of Junior Colleges/Polytechnics and obtained your posting results end January.

The next day, you will have to report to your new school for orientation to begin!

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School starts on the 1st week of February and this is where you begin term 1 of your new school year.

2. School Terms and Holidays

Each School year has 4 school terms, term 1-4. Of which, Semester 1 includes both terms 1 and 2, while Semester 2 consists of terms 3 and 4:

Term 1 (Semester 1): 1st Week of February (JC1)/1st Week of January (JC2) – 2nd Week
of March
Term 2 (Semester 1): 4th Week of March – 4th Week of May
Term 3 (Semester 2): 1st Week of July – 1st Week of September
Term 4 (Semester 2): 3rd Week of September – 3rd Week of November (JC1)/End of A
Levels (JC2)

Each School year has 4 blocks of holidays:

March: 3rd Week
June: Whole Month
September: 2nd Week
December: Last School Day till Start of New School Year

3. JC Subjects Available

In Junior College, each subject has 2 levels of difficulty: H1 (“Level 1”) and H2 (“Level 2”).

There are 3 compulsory subjects that students have to take at H1 Level:

- General Paper (or Knowledge and Inquiry)
- Mother Tongue
- Project Work

In addition, students are required to take 4 Content Subjects (3 H2 + 1 H1/4 H2). Depending on your stream (Science/Arts), you are required to take a minimum of 3 core
subjects related to your stream and 1 contrasting subject.

– For example, if you are from the Science stream, you are required to take 3 H2 Science
subjects and 1 H1 contrasting art subject. (i.e. H2 Physics, H2 Chemistry, H2 Mathematics,
H1 Economics).

NOTE: Alternatively, some schools do offer special programmes known as the “Hybrid” stream
where students can have the option of taking Arts and Science subjects in any way they
wish to, subject to approval by the school.

Some of the Science subjects offered at GCE A Levels are as follows:

- Physics
- Biology
- Chemistry
- Mathematics
- Computing

Some of the Art Subjects offered at GCE A Levels are as follows:

- Economics
- Geography
- History
- Literature in English
- Literature in Chinese
- China Studies in English (CSE)
- China Studies in Chinese (CSC)

NOTE: There are also some other programmes offered only by some schools at H2
Level in JC such as Art, Knowledge and Inquiry (KI), Further Mathematics, Music, Theatre
Studies and Drama.

4. JC Subject Combination

With so many Science and Arts/Humanities subjects to choose from, students might be unsure of what the best route to take – most suitable JC Subject Combination.

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The 2 main streams will be the Arts stream and the Science stream. The contrasting subject in the Arts stream is usually Maths and that for the Science stream is Econs. 

Large majority of the students in Science stream will end up taking:

- BCME or PCME (Biology/Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Economics).
Popularly viewed as the “safe choice” that grants eligibility for almost all university courses. 

For the Arts Stream, the most common JC subject combination would be: 

– HELM or GELM (History/Geography, Econs, Literature, Math). 
Students also can take ELL (English Language and Literature), Arts, or even a 3rd Language.

– However, it is not recommended to take both Geography and History together as the content itself would literally kill anyone. It is said that History is divided into International History and SEA History, which SEA History itself contains as much content as the whole of JC Economics.

5. Overview of JC Subjects

All overviews are written based on the H2 Level unless stated otherwise.

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1. General Paper (H1)

Consists of 2 papers: Essay Writing, Comprehension. There are 12 questions set on different topics in Paper 1. Students are only required to answer 1 essay question.

– Examples of topics are Literature, Science, History, Politics, Philosophy, Current Developments, Crime, Environment, Technology, etc.

For Paper 2, 1 or 2 passages of continuous prose will be set. There will then be a range of questions (AQ) which require you to comprehend, infer, interpret, explain, evaluate and summarise.

2. Project Work (H1)

One year coursework that is to be completed in JC1. Students will be given 2 topics to choose to work on at the start of the year. There are 4 parts to this course work (in chronological order):

Preliminary Idea: Individual work which requires students to individually choose a topic and come up with a short report on a rough project idea.

Written Report: Students will be placed in small groups of 3 – 5. You will then work on a written report (2500 – 3000 words) and come up with the entire idea of a project. This report is to be submitted as a group item (1 per group).

Oral Presentation: You are then required to present on your project to a panel of 3 examiners (internal/external).
Each person will have about 5 minutes of presentation. After which, there will be a QnA section where you are required to come up with a response on the spot.

Group Project File: This is your final submission. Inside this file should contain all of your Preliminary Ideas, Evaluation of all materials used in your project, as well as your individual Insights and Reflections.

3. Mathematics

Consists of 2 parts: Pure Mathematics (Calculus, Vectors, Functions, etc) and Probability & Statistics (Probability, Sampling, Regression, etc).

Paper 1 only tests on Pure Mathematics, but Paper 2 tests on both Pure Mathematics and Probability & Statistics.

4. Physics

Consists of 4 papers: MCQ, Structured Questions, Longer Structured Questions, Practical (SPA)

– Students will learn in depth about Measurements, Newtonian Mechanics (Kinematics, Dynamics, Motion in a Circle, etc), Thermal Physics (Thermodynamics, Ideal Gases, etc), Oscillation and Waves, Electricity & Magnetism (Electricity Fields, Electromagnetism, Electromagnetic Induction, etc).

5. Chemistry

Consists of 4 papers: MCQ, Structured Questions, Free Response Questions, Practical (SPA)

– Students will learn in depth about Matter (Atomic Structure, Isotopes, etc), Structure & Properties (Chemical Bonding, Acids & Bases, Periodic Table, etc), Transformation (Stoichiometry, Thermochemistry & Thermodynamics, Reaction Kinetics, Chemical Equilibria, etc), Organic Chemistry.

6. Biology

Consists of 4 papers: MCQ, Structured Questions, Long Structured and Free-Response Questions, Practical (SPA)

– Students will learn in depth about Cell & Biomolecules of Life, Genetics & Inheritance, Energy & Equilibrium, Biological Evolution, Infectious Diseases, Impact of Climate Change.

7. Computing

Consists of 2 papers: Lab-Based (35%), Written Paper (65%)

– Students will learn in depth about Algorithms & Design (Abstraction, Modularity, Programming, etc), Interface & Interactions (Interacting with Computers, Interacting with Data, Interfacing Computers, etc), Systems Engineering (System Development Cycle, Project Management Techniques, Network Applications, etc).

8. Economics

Consists of 2 papers: Case Studies (40%), Essays (60%)

For paper 2, students are required to answer at least 2 questions, 1 on Microeconomics, 1 on Macroeconomics.

– Students will learn in depth about The Central Economic Problem (Scarcity, Marginal Costs & Benefits, etc), Markets (Demand & Supply, Firms & Decisions, Market Failure, etc), The National and International Economy (Macroeconomics Aims & Policies, Globalisation & the International Economy, etc).

9. Geography

Consists of 2 papers: Structured Essay Questions (50%), Data Response Questions (50%)

– Students will learn in depth about the Tropical Environments, Development, Economy & Environment, Sustainable Development, Geographical Investigation.

10. History

Consists of 2 papers: Shaping the International Order (Source-Based Case Study + Essays), Making of Independent Southeast Asia (Source-Based Case Study + Essays)

– Students will learn in depth about Shaping the International Order (Cold War, Global Economy, International Peace and Security), Making of Independent Southeast Asia (Political Stability, Economic Development after Independence, Regional Conflicts & Cooperation).

11. Literature in English

Consists of 3 papers: Reading Literature, The English Renaissance, The Mind
and Self in Literature

– Paper 1 consists of 3 sections: Poetry, Prose, Drama
– Paper 2 focuses on English Writing from 1509 to 1660, where students will study 3 texts out of those provided in the syllabus document.
– Paper 3 explores the relationship between the mind and self as represented in
Literature. Students will study 3 texts out of those provided in the syllabus document.

12. China Studies in English

Consists of 3 papers: Case Study, Essay Questions, Independent Study

– Students will learn in depth about China’s Development and its Impact (Economic Growth Strategy, Economic Challenges, Economic Restructuring, etc), Governing China and its Challenges (Features of China’s Politics, Challenges Facing the Party, Governance, etc), Chinese Society and its Transformation (Changing Demographics, Social Organisation & Stratification, Society and State, etc), Rise of China and its Implications (Domestic Sources of China’s Foreign Policy, China as a Global Power, Sino-US Relations, Sino-Japan Relations, etc).

13. Knowledge and Inquiry

Consists of 3 papers: Essay, Critical Thinking, Independent Study

– Students will be learning from 3 assessment objectives: Understanding the Nature and Construction of Knowledge (Comprehensive and insightful understanding of knowledge, use a broad range of resources with a thorough and perceptive exploration of implications), Critical Thinking (Clear logical and relevant reasoning, with a full and perceptive evaluation), Communication (Clear, effective and accurate use of language).

14. Further Mathematics

Consists of 2 parts: Pure Mathematics (Algebra, Calculus, Discrete Mathematics, Matrices and Numerical Methods, etc) and Probability & Statistics (Hypothesis Testing, Random Variables, etc).

– Paper 1 only tests on Pure Mathematics, but Paper 2 tests on both Pure Mathematics and Probability & Statistics.

– Focuses on examination questions integrating ideas from more than one topic, into the contexts of problem solving and application of mathematics (i..e Movie Graphics, Electric Circuits, Financial Mathematics, Genetics, etc)

Students may also opt to take up H3 subjects in JC2, subject to JC1 promotional results. Subjects offered differs based on the school.

There are 2 types of H3 subjects: MOE-Based, University-Based. 

MOE-Based H3 subjects are 1 year long and you will take the exam along with your other A Level subjects.

University-Based H3 subjects are semester long university modules and you will take the exam midway in the year. (Lessons for University-Based H3 subjects are held in the respective universities)

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6. Preparing for GCE A Levels

Before the major exam arrives, there are many ways you can prepare yourself for it. After all, who doesn’t want to do well for the A Levels?

(a) Consultations

– Night study sessions and weekly consultations are the norm for A Level students. If you choose to not go for either of these, you’re definitely missing out!

– Many students make use of their after school/lesson time to consult teachers on concepts they are unsure of and you’ll realise that students in JCs are much more kiasu compared to O Levels.

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– You can approach any of your teachers to arrange for a consultation slot with them and they would be more than willing to help! Even if you do not have any questions to ask, it is also good to sit in your friend’s consultations as you can learn from each other. You never know if the question your friend asks was a question you always had but never realised it.

– For night study sessions, almost all schools have this programme for year 2 students and there will always be teachers on duty to help answer queries of students. Another plus point would be the free food and drinks that is supplied by either the school or the Parent Support Group!

(b) Ten-Year Series (Topical/Yearly)

Every subject has an assessment book known to all A Level students as the Ten-Year Series (TYS).

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This book compiles all Cambridge GCE O Level papers for the past 10 years (i.e. 2008 – 2018) for practice.

Ten-year Series allows for content mastery (topical TYS, sorted by topics), but also shows an example of A Level questions you might be getting.

Treat it like a bible, and you will definitely score a Distinction.

(c) Timetable

– This is one of the most useful tools to every student who wants to excel in their exams. Having a personal timetable helps to keep you more organized and ensures you don’t leave out any subjects or topics by accident.

– There are 2 main ways you can design your own timetable:

(a) 1 subject a day
(b) 1 topics per subject a day

– The former helps you focus on an individual subject a day as you are more focused on that subject. The latter helps students who find it harder to focus for long periods of time as you can keep your mind fresh when you switch between 2 or 3 subjects a day.

Tip: Be sure to include some rest in between your study sessions! Each study session should be about 2 hours to 3 hours long. Each break should be between 20 to 30 minutes and nothing more. This helps to train your focus and studying stamina for the actual paper during exams which are usually 2 hours to 3 hours long.

(c) Other School Papers

– Usually this will be given to you by your teachers once they finish teaching the syllabus somewhere midway in JC2. Try to do as many of this as possible as Cambridge gets a rough gauge of what type of questions to test from school papers!

– Try older papers first as Cambridge might test concepts that they have not tested in awhile. For example, if a question on science and technology for General Paper has not come out in 2 years, there’s a high chance that you would see it this year!

– You should focus and analyse the different school papers to see which would benefit you best. Some schools have papers that are especially accurate for predicting A Level GP questions, some schools have highly analytical math questions that really test your concepts and foundations.

– There are also many free resources available online if you require more practice.

(d) Have a Quick Stress Relief Approach

– The exams can be really taxing and stressful. To avoid burning out even before the exams, it is always good to have a quick way to relieve stress.

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– Such methods can involve running, power nap (20 to 30 minutes), listening to music, watching quick animations.

– Avoid activities that can unknowingly stress you further such as gaming, watching TV or shows, long naps, surfing the net, etc.

(e) Have Good Studying Practices

– If you can’t study in a quiet environment, avoid going to public places (i.e. fast food restaurants). Instead, stay at home or in school and play instrumental studying music that you can find on YouTube. This helps you eliminate distractions and focus better.

– Avoid studying in environments that are too hot or too cold. The optimum temperature where your brain functions best is at 24 degrees Celsius, allowing you to focus better without sweating buckets or freezing into a snowman!

– Maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Try to consume more brain food such as walnuts and avoid oily and unhealthy food as they are not only bad for your brain, but they weaken your immune system as well. You don’t want to be falling sick during the exam!

7. During the Examinations (Tips)

This is the time to focus on your exams and nothing else! Erase every other burden you have from your minds! 

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Remember how you studied for your O Levels and put in place the same good habits that you had previously. It might be a different ball game with the increased difficulty and competition, but your preparation should be nonetheless similar.

(a) Timetable

– Have a different timetable for your exams as you need to design your timetable such that it suits the exams. Study the subject and only that subject today if the exam is tomorrow.

– If the subject is in a few days, study the subject about 2-3 days before the exam (if your schedule permits) and then study it again the day before.

– Be sure to cover every topic, every exam component, and every concept.

(b) Practices

– At this point in time, you can still attempt prelim papers of other schools but this is of secondary importance. For now, just grind your ten year series and attempt to finish every ten year series before your first A level paper if possible.

– Usually, MCQ papers for your sciences are the last. They would be around 1 week after all your other papers end. While you friends and classmates may be out partying, you should just bear with it for just 1 more week. Spend this time completing as many MCQ papers as possible. You can leave the celebrations till A Levels are officially over for you!

(c) Lifestyle

– This should remain relatively unchanged from the aforementioned.

– Adhere to strict sleep cycles. Sleep early every night, latest by 11pm. If you have a morning paper the next day, be sure to be in bed by 10pm! 

– Even if you have no morning paper, avoid waking up after 9am as you need to train your body to be awake by this time for future morning papers!

8. Post A Levels

(a) Find a Job

As you are now 18/19 years old, there are some positions you can consider taking up! Such positions include interns, tutors, waiters, salesman, etc.

This allows you to earn some side income to ease some burden off your parents who have been feeding you for the past 18 years.

This is also a good time to gain some valuable working experience and exposure to the working world. This is more applicable for the females as you would have nearly 9 months before university term begins.

For the guys, enjoy your 1 month of holiday before you would have to enlist into National Service to serve the nation!

(b) Waiting for Results

Results are often released in February the year after you take your GCE A Levels. 

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This is when you will can visit the websites of the various universities to view all the courses available with the course subject prerequisites and any other information that you need.

(c) Applying to University

You can apply to as many universities that you wish to and each university should allow you to apply for an average of 8 degree courses.

Applicants will be accepted based on academic merit. Due to high levels of competition, the choice order of courses will also determine the selection outcome.

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You would have to visit the individual universities websites to apply for courses there.

In some cases, interviews are also needed for them to shortlist course candidates as well as candidates for in-house scholarships (subject to you applying for it).

(d) Scholarships

There are numerous scholarship opportunities out there. The most common would be university in-house scholarships. These are often bond free and you would apply for them together with your course application. You will then undergo an interview with a board consisting of the faculty and school’s dean and directors.

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You may also consider looking to apply for scholarships at statutory boards and government sectors via BrightSparks. You will be required to fill up your resume on the website, along with submission of supporting documents. You can then apply for scholarships made available there and all scholarship providers would have access to your information. While most of these scholarships are bonded, there are an occasional few that are also bond free.

Another option would be to approach companies directly, to enquire if they offer undergraduate scholarships. You may drop them an email to enquire about this, along with a copy of your self-made resume. These scholarships are usually bonded to the company of the scholarship provider.

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