This story is a little personal. It shows the struggles I faced for taking Combined Science – something I did not expect at all.
Since young, I had many distractions in life that detracted me from my studies. Computer games, going out with friends too often and the likes – not spending enough time preparing for tests and examinations.
To make it worse, the addition of other subjects (Humanities, Social Studies, Design & Technology, Home Economics etc.) made me unable to cope, leading to me having bad results for SA2 in Secondary 2.
Secondary 2 Streaming Exercise – Combined Science
The Secondary 2 Streaming Exercise happens at the end of Sec 2.
It streams students into classes and subject combinations they will take at the O Levels according to their Lower Secondary Results and their chosen subject combination during the Streaming Exercise.
As a result of not doing well in Secondary 2, I was only able to take either:
– 1 Pure and 1 Combined Science, or
– 1 Combined and no Pure Science
I was denied taking 2 Pure Sciences. Scoring a measly 49.5/100 (close to 0.0 percentile) for the Science EOY (SA2) exams in Secondary 2.
In the end, I chose the former. Pure Science was fixed to: Pure Biology, and Combined Science fixed to: Sci(Phy/Chem).
GCE O Levels – Unexpected Turn
Somehow after understanding what 0 percentile meant, I focused and studied hard for the O Levels.
I went on to do alright at the GCE O Levels – A1 for everything, except a B3 for English (L1R5: 8).
Seeing how well I fared with the O Level system, I chose the Junior College (JC) path. (See: JC or Poly?)
However, I was a little worried moving forward:
– My JC subject combination;
– If I could cope with the jump from Combined Science(Chem) to H2 Chem
Previous experiences online said that “Difficulty of Combined Science is Level 1, Pure Chemistry is Level 2, H2 Chemistry is Level 10“.
H2 Chemistry from Combined Science
I was interested in Science, but definitely not the Arts – only did Combined Humans(Geog/SS), so it was natural for me to go Science stream in JC (3 Science, 1 Arts subject).
With my Sec 2 Subject Combination in being Pure Biology, Combined Sci(Phy/Chem) – I wanted to pursue BCME in JC. (Then a Science degree, but that has since changed; prospects for Science graduates is very dim)
I entered a Junior College whose COP was 6 points at that time.
However while choosing my JC subject combination, I noted that there were subject prerequisites – minimum criteria before taking H2 subjects; specifically H2 Chem.
Subject Minimum Requirement – Almost Ruined My Future
The subject prerequisite for H2 Chemistry was:
Pure Chemistry: B3 and above, or Combined Science: only A1.
If I had made a mistake for just one question in either the Chem/Physics paper, I would definitely have not been able to take H2 Chem.
I would have been forced to take other combinations – hybrid (2 Science 2 Arts) which would have been disastrous as I had no interest and originally did not do well for Humanities.
– Taking H1 Chem for A Levels was also useless, as the subject prerequisite for most Science/Engineering degrees in NTU/NUS is H2 Chem. So taking H1 Chem was a huge no-no.
Do not take Combined Science for the O Levels
All the struggles and worries I faced in Junior College and after was because I took Combined Science.
My subject combination in Secondary 2 determined the subjects I took in the O Levels.
Which limited my Junior College Subject Combination due to subject prerequisites, afterall we would be taking more advanced level than in O Levels.
Furthermore, it affected the courses I was able to enter in University – I could not apply to any Engineering courses in NUS/NTU/SMU. The minimum requirements was a Pass in Pure Physics/H1 Physics; I only had Combined Science level Physics.
My Secondary School also was partially at fault here, having bad subject combinations in the Secondary 2 Streaming Exercise which did not make sense. Pure Biology and Combined Sci(Phy/Chem) – it only makes sense for a Polytechnic > Work route.
Lessons I learnt
Moving forward, I struggled in H2 Chem as the learning gap from Combined Science to H2 Chem is huge – H2 Chem requires Pure Chemistry foundation. This meant I had to start from the beginning, and catch up to my peers were learning at.
I went on to do alright at the A Levels as well, AAA/B for BCME.
One major lesson I learnt is to be able to learn effective studying techniques and methods and built on my foundation with the help from home tuition.
Who knows how I would have done if I started tuition earlier!