All Posts by Fiona Teo

The New Secondary Posting Exercise: What You Should Know

The New Secondary Posting Exercise: What You Should Know

The Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) is a rite of passage for children studying in Singapore. Although the PSLE has undergone several changes in the past, the nerves and worry that afflict parents, teachers and students alike have remained largely the same.

Yet, should this be the case? This is one of the key questions — among other concerns revolving around an overemphasis on grades at the expense of holistic education — that have prompted the Ministry of Education (MOE) to redesign the PSLE scoring system and, accordingly, the secondary school posting exercise.

Here’s what you should know from 2021:

  • PSLE results are traditionally released in late November. The confirmed date will be released one week beforehand.

  • Students may choose to return to their schools to collect the results or view them online (via the SEAB website).
  • Each of the four subjects — English, Mother Tongue, Mathematics and Science — will be given an Achievement Level (AL) of 1-8, 1 being the highest grade possible.

  • The PSLE score is the sum of the four ALs. Hence, the best achievable at the PSLE would be 4. The lower the total AL, the more options the student has when considering secondary schools.
  • Students will be posted to a secondary school, based on their AL from 2021 and personal school choice ranking.

  • There will be cut-off points to enter a school. Schools with an affiliated primary school will have two sets of cut-off points: one for affiliated students and one for non-affiliated students.
  • The AL cut-off point range for each school will only be released in early 2021. However, MOE has shared the estimated cut-off points for each school category — government or government-aided, autonomous and independent schools. They are as follows:

How does the new system differ from the previous one?

Although the new system featuring ALs is similar to the old system in principle, the crucial difference lies in the execution. At first glance, the introduction of ALs does not seem to represent a groundbreaking shift in Singapore’s education system.

However, it joins subject-based banding* as a signal of MOE’s move towards creating more diverse and passion-focussed schools. The key effect of ALs is that students are more broadly differentiated. Instead of the 200+ scores that a student can potentially have, today’s primary school graduates can only have one of 32 ALs.

What does this mean for your child?

For the student, this could mean less comparison between themselves and their peers. After all, there is not much to compare when a friend scores the exact same number as you — a more statistically likely scenario under the new scoring system, compared to the old one.

Furthermore, the broadened differentiation also means that more schools across the three school categories potentially accept a larger number of students. In other words, students are now eligible for and can choose from a wider pool of schools.

Keeping this in mind, it becomes more beneficial for students to consider aspects of any given secondary school choice other than its cut-off point. When multiple schools have the same cut-off point, the students should feel more free to select their preferred one based on things like school niche, CCAs, culture and more.

*By 2024, the Express, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) streams will be replaced by subject-based banding (SBB), which empowers students to dive more deeply into the subjects they are more passionate about.

Find out more about SBB here (link to: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/full-subject-based-banding-an-impor tant-move-to-maximise-12227146).

How To Maximise Learning Online

How To Maximise Learning Online

To borrow the words of Ernest Hemingway: the normalisation of digital learning happened gradually, and then suddenly. Like it or not, e-learning has become part of our new normal. 

There are perks to learning online, but some of us cannot help but take note of the negatives. For one, studying via the computer screen glues us to the digital device and increases our screen time to horrific amounts, leading to short-term effects such as neck and eye pain—not to mention longer-term implications on our posture and health. 

Next, there is a certain ease to face-to-face learning, as opposed to communicating through the screen. Experts have analysed this and found that the crux lies in body language; specifically, when we are unable to observe non-verbal cues of the people we are communicating with, our brains need to work harder to fill in the gaps. 

Whatever your bone to pick with online learning, let it be known that there are ways for you to harness the power of digital learning whilst side-stepping its more undesired side-effects. 

Here are four easy tips for you to implement:

Limit Screen Time

Although this first tip might sound counter-intuitive, it is crucial to ensuring that you don’t suffer too much from what some have called “Zoom fatigue”, or general malaise from staring too much at your devices. Both of these things negatively affect your mood and productivity, making learning seem more like a chore than it should be! 

Be strict with your screen time. When it is time to log off and rest your eyes, do so — take a solo walk around a neighbouring park (or around your house), help out with household chores, or engage in the non-digital hobby of your choice!

Cater To Your Learning Style

The internet is replete with multiple forms of media, which includes text, audio, images, videos, and any combination thereof. Furthermore, the nature of most e-learning is such that you are not confined to just one space. 

These two factors are excellent news for kinaesthetic, visual, and auditory learners who may find that online learning supplements them with what in-class learning could not. 

For kinaesthetic learners, explore how you can understand new concepts from the comfort of your own homes. For visual and auditory learners, make use of the millions of educational podcasts and videos to bolster your learning. 

For all learners: if you find that you are unable to understand certain concepts, remember that a world of knowledge is available at the click of the mouse. You can easily search for any content that you want to know more about.

Practice Writing Skills

Here at Creative Campus, we have noticed that some of our older students benefit from the ability to type out their essays instead of using the good old pen-and-paper. 

Indeed, if you are a fast enough typer, you will find that essays get done a lot more quickly when they are typed. This is largely a result of the lower physical effort needed in typing, as well as the ability to edit as you go; there’s no need to painstakingly squeeze in or cross out whole sentences when you can simply insert or delete them in a few quick taps. 

So, why not make good use of this affordance? Practise the key skills of  planning and crafting essays on your digital device. When you return to physical writing, you will find that your essay-writing skills have improved. 

Communicate More With Your Teachers

Last but not least, it is important that you communicate regularly with your teachers. If you find online classes lacking or excelling in certain things, make sure to voice them to your Teachers whenever possible. After all, they are trying their utmost to adapt to the new learning format as well.

What Creative Campus Has In Store For Your Child!

Classes are Now Online. No pre-recorded lessons.

Every lesson is "live".

  • We still offer students the full 2-hour "live" teacher-student interaction 
  • Classes mimic in-person sessions very closely.
  • Prompt and thorough marking/feedback.

Acing PSLE English

  • Part 1- Acing PSLE English Paper 1 and Orals 
  • Part 2- Acing PSLE English--The Complete Strategy
  • We aim to empower and arm students with key skills to meet the requirements for that English A and A*.

Tips to Boost Language Scores in GP

Tips to Boost Language Scores in GP

Now that we have familiarised ourselves with language tips, it’s time to roll up our sleeves even further to focus on the facts – the facts and figures that you will submit to your GP examiner, that is. In other words: content.

While language comprises approximately a third of your total score out of 100, content makes up the other two-thirds, according to the rubric
General Paper Higher 1(2017) (Syllabus 8807)  It is thus evident that having good content is crucial to doing well.

Unlike the language score, however, which is neatly encapsulated under the “Use of English” criterion regardless of paper, ‘content’ differs between GP Paper 1 and Paper 2.

In Paper 1 (the essay), the content component differentiates students based on how well they present an argument to the examiner (see * below)

Paper 2 is a little more complicated, as it contains comprehension questions that
test your literal comprehension, vocabulary, and inference skills; a summary question; and an application question (AQ). 

For the comprehension and summary questions, your content score depends on how well you answer the questions according to a pre-set answer key; for the AQ, your content score would be based on how well you identify the author’s key arguments and respond to them.

If you win one, you win them all

While all components are tricky in their own way, GP students generally have more chronic issues with the essay and AQ components, as those require more complex techniques.

Truth be told, the key to a good essay and AQ are not too different at their core. Both of them reward*:
  • the strength of your premise (the underlying logic of your argument),

  • the comprehensiveness of your elaboration/explanation,
  • the suitability of your examples, and
  • the proficiency in which you link your points, both within a body
    paragraph and across body paragraphs, and so on.

As such, this blog post will provide a few tips and tricks to tackling the approach you should take with essay and AQ questions.

Bookend your Body Paragraphs
A cogent essay (and that includes AQ responses!) is all about structure. Specifically, a bookended structure, like so:

Image source
[https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2013/07/13/09/36/bookends-155762_960_720.png]

Thus, the first and last parts of your essay’s macro-structure – the introduction and conclusion – should echo each other. In the same way, the first and last sentences of each body paragraph should also echo each other.

The importance of this cannot be understated: ensure that both (1) a topic sentence and (2) a summary/sum-up/linking sentence exists for each body paragraph, and that (1) and (2) present the same point (i.e. they are ‘twins’).

In particular, many students are ‘distracted’ by their examples or elaboration, such
that these specifics unduly bleed into the sum-up. Always check to make sure that this isn’t the case!

Essence of the Argument in One Word As mentioned in part one of this two-part series link: https://www.creativecampus.com.sg/top-10-tips-to-ace-gp/, using words or phrases that suggest chronology between points (like ‘firstly/second/thirdly’) is fine and dandy – to an extent.

To write an easier-to-understand essay, your topic sentences must capture the essence of your point in one line. Easier said than done, you say? Not quite – you can actually compile a list of information-rich adjectives that capture the essential meaning of your arguments.

These adjectives usually describe either the nature or the significance of each specific point. For example, adjectives like ‘cognitive’, ‘biological’, or ‘philosophical’ describes the nature of a particular argument; since they are so broad, they can be as easily used in an essay about Artificial Intelligence as an essay about healthcare.

On the other hand, we have adjectives like ‘institutional’ (defined as ‘at the level of the institution’, meaning things like government and schools, depending on your particular topic) and ‘systemic’ (relating to a WHOLE system, not just one part of it).

These adjectives, if used, give the examiner information about how significant your point is in comparison to a more surface-level point that deals with only one aspect of the argument.

Over the course of the year, try to identify the nature of arguments as well as their overall significance, then think of adjectives that capture these meanings. By accumulating lists of these words, you not only create a useful cheat-sheet for yourself; you also practise your AQ skills. Talk about killing two birds with one stone!

When Planning, Think in Umbrellas

This final trick is linked to all of the previous ones, and can be implemented during your planning process. Instead of relying purely on numbered lists, try visualising your points in terms of umbrellas under umbrellas under umbrellas. 


In other words: umbrellas all the way down.

  • Your thesis statement should be the biggest umbrella, encapsulating the most abstract and general idea; namely, your overall stand.
  • Under that should be each of your points, which are the clearly-defined and articulated reasons/explanations/factors pertaining to your general stand.
  • Under each point should then be your examples, which will need to relate directly to your point.
What this does is help you plan in a way that corresponds with the final flow of your argument on paper. At the same time, you can check that your examples are appropriate.


All that will be left to do is fill in the explanatory gaps, and voila!

Improve Your Vocabulary in Creative Writing and Composition

Improve Your Vocabulary in Creative Writing and Composition 

There are many ways to improve your vocabulary. Here are some ways you can hone your word-building prowess:

Part 1: Use Idiomatic Body Parts 

Parts of the body have long featured in how humans express ourselves. Not only do body parts feature heavily in metaphors and idioms alike, there are entire songs dedicated to them! For example, a well-known nursery rhyme goes, "head and shoulders, knees and toes". After all, our bodies and accompanying bodily sensations are the most direct things that we physically experience. Here are some idioms related to body parts:

Head
The head contains the brain, arguably the most important organ in the body. Is it any wonder then that there are a slew of idioms dedicated to the head? Examples you may hear and use in your everyday life include:

  • head start (an advantage)
  • off the top of my head (without careful thought, often due to lack of time)
  • bury one's head in the sand (to ignore an unpleasant reality)

Shoulders
Surprisingly, there are many idioms dedicated to shoulders, which are associated with providing support for one's body. You could...

  • be a shoulder to cry on (someone who listens well to someone's problems)
  • have responsibilities fall on your shoulder
  • give someone the cold shoulder (ignore someone)

Knees... and Toes!
If you bring someone/something to their knees, you have defeated them. What if you're the bee's knees (excellent quality)? There are several more toe-related idioms than knee-related idioms, and these include:

  • toe the line (obey the rules)
  • keep someone on their toes (keep someone alert and prepared)
  • tread on someone's toes (offend someone)

Test Yourself
Can you complete each of the following body part idioms?

Q1. turn a b______ e___
Q2. play by e___
Q3. right u______ one's n____
Q4. up to one's n____
Q5. work one's f_____ to the b____
Q6. b_____f___ in one's s________
Q7. pat on the b____
Q8. b____ of contention
Q9. by the s____ of your t_____
Q10. A______s heel

Answers

A1. turn a blind eye (to sth)
A2. play by ear
A3. right under one's nose
A4. up to one's neck (in sth)
A5. work one's fingers to the bone
A6. butterflies in one's stomach
A7. pat on the back
A8. bone of contention
A9. by the skin of your teeth
A10. Achilles heel

STAY TUNED FOR PART 2... subscribe to our monthly newsletter where we share more tips!

Top 10 Tips to Ace GP

Top 10 Tips to Ace GP: The Lowdown on Language

For junior college students, General Paper (GP) is possibly the last English paper in your lives – the ‘final boss’, so to speak.

Even though the requirements for GP seem straightforward, scoring well is not as simple as it seems. Hopefully, these tips can help you do just that.

Before we begin, a note for the uninitiated: students will have to sit for two papers as part of the GP examination. Paper 1 requires you to write an essay, while Paper 2 is a comprehension piece that additionally includes a summary and application question.

Doing well in all of these components thus requires you to master different skillsets. This blog post will focus on language. Why?

If you look closely at the rubric , “Use of English” – referring to the standardness of your grammar and appropriacy of your vocabulary use – takes up 35% of your total score upon 100.

Having a good sense of how you can use language to your benefit is thus a third of the battle won.

If you don’t pride yourself on “bombastic vocabulary”, don’t worry. As long as your grammar is adequate, you have a fighting chance at a good GP grade!

Choose your synonyms wisely

This is especially pertinent when writing summaries and answering ‘in your own words’ questions: do not think that word X can freely substitute the word Y just because the dictionary/thesaurus states that they are synonyms!

Often, dictionaries need to condense immense amounts of word-related information into tiny pockets of data. Resultantly, the  ‘synonyms’ they provide are acontextual – meaning, blind to the way that word X is actually used in the passage. For example, the word ‘candid’ means frank or forthright; however, a  ‘candid photo’ cannot be rephrased as ‘forthright snapshot’.

When you use ‘synonyms’ inappropriately, you show the marker that you are merely rephrasing for the sake of it, which does not bode well for your “Use of Language” score.

Hence, you must consider if the synonym you want to use suits the context at hand. If you are having trouble with force-fitting literal one-to-one rephrases (for example, if you can’t think of a good synonym), try paraphrasing more broadly. For example,

This is for all the people who struggle with essays and AQs. I am a huge fan of signposting, which is the practice of using key words and phrases to guide your reader through your piece.

Signposts express the relationships between concepts in your essay, allowing the reader to understand your flow of logic better.

There are two main types of signposts that you can use. Firstly, there are what people call major signposts, which are the signposting phrases that go at the start of each paragraph.

  • In your introduction, you can write something like “in this essay, I will…” or “this essay argues/discusses/outlines…” (depending on whether your essay is argumentative or discursive in nature).
  • In your body paragraphs, you can use signposts that suggest chronological order, like “firstly/secondly/thirdly/lastly”. If you want to get fancy with it, you can employ variations like “first and foremost” or “the penultimate (second-last) reason is…”.
  • However, a better GP argumentative essay would use major signposts that indicate your specific line of reasoning, especially when you’re introducing contrasting arguments e.g. “however”, “on the other hand” and “in contrast/contrarily/conversely”.
  • Most students know the obvious, yet highly unimaginative, signpost for conclusions… “in conclusion”. Switch it up, surprise the marker! Other than using variations like “to conclude/in sum/summing up”, you can simply make statements such as “it is evident/clear from [insert argument] that [insert stand]”.

Then, there are what I like to call minor signposts, which are signposting phrases that go inside paragraphs. Minor signposts relationally link the various ideas that you introduce within each body paragraph. These A.R.E.:

  • Addition – “furthermore/moreover/in addition, [elaborate]”. Sometimes you have to clearly express causality between factors, in which case you can use e.g. “A causes/gives rise to/leads to/brings about/engenders B”, “A incites/triggers/sparks B”, or “A expedites/accelerates B”.
  • Reiteration – “again”/”similarly”.
  • Evidence – “for example/instance”, “examples include…”, “…, which proves/evinces/shows that…” are all useful phrases to use.

To reiterate, using signposts makes your arguments/discussion more easily understandable to the marker. Their usefulness cannot be overstated!

Sometimes, an essay topic may be particularly complex. Sometimes, a paragraph may seem impossible to paraphrase. At these times, you may have issues with content, let alone language!

If you ever come across this situation, focus on content (after all, it’s two-thirds of your total grade). Ensure that your sentences are grammatically sound and that your points make sense.

For tips on how to improve your content, refer to our next post 🙂

GP Classes

As time is required to cultivate the skills needed for the GP components, we urge students wishing to improve their GP grades to enrol in classes ASAP.

Our GP classes with Ms Geraldine Chew are filling up fast, with an average of 2 seats remaining for each class:

  • Thursday 7pm
  • Saturday 12pm

However, we are looking to open other GP classes conducted by teacher Mr Ten Ting Kai on one of the following days and timings:

  • Tuesday 7pm
  • Saturday 2pm
  • Sunday 2pm

To find out more about Mr Ten, click on this link Meet Our Teachers

Do contact us at 6455 3063 or chalk@creativecampus.com.sg to enrol your child and/or for more information.

Want more GP-related information?

We share some insight into the GP 2019 Papers 1 and 2 General Paper 2019 post mortem

For more information on our GP programme, visit GP tuition

For the Love of Poems and Puns

For the Love of Poems and Puns

Valentine’s Day is smack in the middle of February. As such, some people also call it the Month of Love – including us. To commemorate this lovely fact, this post is dedicated to celebrating the L ♡ V E of what we do best – English!

Have you ever pondered on Valentine’s Day card greetings? While the classic type is oft-adorned with simple, swirling penmanship, fancier cards may feature cut-outs, pop-ups, graphics and the like – providing a pleasant visual surprise for the recipient.

Other cards may be fancy, but the cards that we fancy are those plastered with adorable wordplay – who knew! Be it poetry or puns, linguistic surprises always catch our heart. But how do they work?

Poetry

The romantic nature of poems is a tale old as time – or at least, as old as Shakespeare. Some say that it was Shakespeare’s 154 love sonnets that pioneered the modern conception of poetry as romantic.

Indeed, several of the Bard’s pieces are truly iconic in their description of love. I dare say that many of us are familiar with the first line of Sonnet 18: “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?”
(Bonus points if you can fill in the next sentence! Answers below)

Because poetry uses both the aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language, it can be effectively used to convey depth of love for someone or something. Of course, poetry can be flipped onto its head and thought of as
humorous. Case in point? “Roses are red, violets are blue…” (What are the next two lines?)

Puns

While we’re on the topic of humour, let’s not forget puns! Puns, also known by the technical term ‘paronomasia’, are rhetorical devices that intentionally exploit the similarities between words for comedic effect. Many puns rely on linguistic phenomena such as homophones.

(Sidenote: If you were not privy to the January edition of OnCampus, our monthly e-publication, homophones are words with the same pronunciation, but different meanings. You may sign up for future issues of OnCampus on the bottom of this page.]

As you may expect, homophones and near-homophones are a prolific source of Valentine’s puns.
A pun that uses total homophones would be something like “would you be(e) mine?” In this case, ‘be’ and ‘bee’ sound the exact same. This pun is usually accompanied by bee/honey imagery, as in this vintage Valentine’s Day card.

“Would you be(e) mine” graphic:

Image Credit to https://live.staticflickr.com/5557/15189206665_ddc68211bf_b.jpg

Meanwhile, a pun that incorporates near-homophones might be something like “lettuce (let us) romaine (remain) together forever”.

“Lettuce romaine together forever” graphic:

image credit to https://live.staticflickr.com/1569/24575440269_1e6a68d86c_b.jpg

Here, “lettuce” and “romaine” (which are strewn on the ground in this picture) do not have the exact same pronunciation as the intended words, but they are close enough that the reader immediately thinks of the desired meaning behind the statement – “let us remain together forever”.

Near-homophones are more common (and perhaps, more delightful!) in Valentine’s greetings. Here are some of our favourites, for you to share with your loved ones this Valentine’s:

  • You’re soda-lightful (so delightful).
  • You’re the loaf (love) of my life.
  • I love you like no otter (other).
  • You’re one in chameleon (a million)!

And here’s one for the Science kids. Can you figure this out?

  • I sulfur when you _________.

Answers

1. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 begins with “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate”

2. The original short poem goes “Roses are red / violets are blue / sugar’s sweet / and so are you”. However, we’ve heard more than one student come up with their own creative stanzas 

3. “I sulfur (suffer) when you argon (are gone)”. Sulfur and argon are
both chemical elements.

How To Deal With The Year Ahead

Small Fish in a Big Pond: how to deal with the year ahead

3 bulletproof tips students can arm themselves with

In a blink of an eye, we are on the cusp of a new school year. For all students, every new year is a frightening prospect: not only will there be a brand new curriculum, but also a fresh set of challenges. The questions of “how to handle the more difficult/increased workload?” and “how to juggle my academic and extracurricular commitments?” frequently recur.

Feelings of stress run especially high in the milestone years, where students have to take their national exams (P6, secondary 4) or enter a completely new school (primary 1, secondary 1, junior college/polytechnic/other institutions).

During these important years, we may feel like ‘small fish in a big pond’, unsure of where and how to start the year right. Here are some tips on getting the headstart you need:

  • Have a Trusted Circle of Confidantes

The importance of social ties cannot be understated. A close friend, or
group of friends, is not only a good emotional support system; they are
also your go-tos for academic or administrative concerns!

Have a question about transferring CCAs? Ask a friend for advice! Have a question about your math or mother tongue homework? Ask a classmate! Feeling blue? Talk to a friend!

Here’s a pro tip: Include your teacher in this circle of friends. Due to their position in school and teaching knowledge, teachers can often give you advice or help that your peers cannot.

  • Be Organised
    There are few things worse than realising that you have misplaced your revision notes on the day before an exam. How do you prevent that situation from happening? ORGANISE! Some quick and easy actions you can take right now include:
  • For languages, use a notebook to compile new vocabulary or grammar pointers. Writing information down has been proven to help memory recall. Moreover, you will have a consolidated source of key knowledge at the end of the year.
  • Get file dividers for subjects that are tested topically, e.g. science, geography. Remember to file your worksheets promptly!
  • Declutter weekly! Take already-marked worksheets and old notes OUT of your school bag, and file/place them neatly in a location that you can access at a later date (for review and revision).
  • Don’t allow homework or corrections to pile up!
  • Don’t Overdo It

In a busy school schedule, time is precious. More often than not, we have more things than we can fit on our plate!

There are typical “crunch times” in which you can expect yourself to feel overwhelmed by the amount of things you have to do (e.g. before exams, before major CCA events). For these periods, my succinct advice is to do your best (and talk to your support system)!

However – just like an Olympic athlete peaks right before their event, a student should peak at the times that matter most – exams and CCA events.

If you want to maximise your mental and physical well-being, as well as maintain good performance during exams/competitions, try not to jampack your whole year with activities.

Since we are currently at the start of the year, simply focus on easing yourself into the hustle and bustle of the year ahead.

Wishing you all the best!

Effective Steps To Surviving The IP

Effective Steps To Surviving The IP

Being in the Integrated Programme has its perks – and make no mistake, it is a privilege that students in the IP track have more autonomy to explore academic subjects as they want. That said, this is not a privilege that one should take lightly.

Before you commence on your IP journey, be prepared to make certain tweaks to your mindset. To borrow the words of Dorothy from Wizards of Oz: Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas primary school anymore.

Your Worst Competitor Is...

One might think that in the absence of an entire national exam (the O Levels, typically slated for a student’s fourth year of secondary school), competition between peers would be less stiff. I honestly think that – just like it is outside of the IP scheme – the degree of competition mostly depends on one’s school environment.

My own IP classes were fortunately far from dog-eat-dog, but I did feel a constant pressure to keep up with my peers in the programme. Others may argue that competition in IP is bound to be more tense, given its reputation for being ‘elite’. 

But this post is not about debate. What I can confidently say is that your internal sense of competition is bound to increase, given the entrance requirements and expectations of the IP, no matter the external environment. That is:

  • Your peers will naturally seem more well put-together than you, and you might consequently feel a sense of inferiority.

  • The curriculum will seem way tougher than what you personally think you can handle, and you might consequently feel a sense of inferiority.

You see where I’m going with this? Do prepare for the fact that your worst competitor (AND critic, all rolled into one) might be yourself. 

If you’re struggling in a competitive environment, many will tell you, “don’t compare yourself to others”. I think it’s important to add: if you feel negatively overwhelmed, don’t compare yourself to who you think you should be, or the stage you think you should be at! This brings me to my next point … 

Give Yourself Time and Space

The IP scheme was introduced in 2002 for the express purpose of allowing students “broader learning experiences that would develop their creativity, critical thinking, intellectual curiosity and leadership skills” (MOE, 2002). These are soft skills in which progress is often not linear, nor immediately visible. 

  • Don’t let your fear of not being ‘good enough’ inhibit the fun and joy that you’re learning to have
  • Grant yourself enough time to get used to the demands of the programme, which may seem all-too-rigorous at the start.
  • Give yourself space to experiment with new ideas, even if it means you risk making mistakes. The IP allows students more freedom to play around with different aspects of academic thought, so make the best of it.
  • If you’re facing extreme difficulty, talk to your friends or adults you trust. There’s always a way out!

Create your Own Structure

It is no coincidence that many students who leave the IP midway to pursue an alternative path cite the same reason: because the programme gives so much flexibility, structure has to be self-imposed. 

Taking personal responsibility and staying disciplined thus become crucial to surviving the IP. From CCA and leadership positions to the choice of subjects taken, it is you who will be in charge of carving your own path in the programme. 

I remember doing a lot of introspection in the programme, as I had to decide what choices to make on my own. I cannot say that I made the best ones as a carefree teenager, but I genuinely appreciate the freedom of choice which I was given.

When push comes to shove in the sixth (and last) year of the programme, discipline becomes all the more important. One obstacle that I, and many of my friends, experienced was the transition from blithe independence to the ‘now or never’ mindset that teachers started to drive home.

From my experience, friends who had experienced the O-Level crunch – and were therefore used to the levels of discipline necessary for staying on track – were more mentally equipped for the A-Levels. Still, you need not fret so long as you cultivate discipline within freedom.

New Ideas For Learning English

3 Powerful And Effective Skills To Write, Speak And Communicate With Impact

Now that we have hopefully put things into perspective, let’s put them into practice. I have compiled a fresh list of ideas that ideally will inject new life into your English learning.

Keep your ears perked

While I believe that books in their written form are timeless artefacts, they are not the be-all-end-all of language improvement. This is especially so if you are not a learner that thrives on written linguistic stimuli. 

  • Want to read more but prefer auditory input? Try audiobooks! There are many such sites (audiobooks.com ; audible.com) and mobile applications (e.g. Google Play Books) that allow you to access an extensive variety of titles whenever you like.


  • Want to make the most of your commute? If you have earphones, podcasts (or audiobooks, as previously mentioned and informative videos are great for enjoying on the go! TEDTalks or How Stuff Works, which are available both as podcasts or as videos, are tried-and-tested channels that cover an immense number of topics. Feel free to find any channel that you like and will continue enjoying; consistency is after all, key to improvement.

Build your reading stamina 

If your purpose is to excel in school comprehensions and essay writing, I still do suggest that you ensure you have the stamina to understand or write an entire short text. If need be, you can slowly build up your ability to concentrate on texts:

  • Short attention span? Try reading shorter books, like novellas, short story compilations, or poetry collections! They still help you concretise your command of the language, and as a plus – you gain exposure to a more diverse range of writing styles.

  • Read when no one’s looking! Next time you come across an event brochure, advertisement, or any sort of non-conventional media material – pay attention to how its written or laid out, try asking yourself questions about its purpose, and challenge yourself to structure your thoughts into full sentences. This is of course good practice for VTC, but much more importantly – it’s good practice for life! Who knows, maybe you’ll end up wanting to go for the event!

Make conscious effort

Will Smith famously once said, “if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready”, and it’s a good motto to prepare for exams by. Once you make conscious effort at the beginning of your learning process, it becomes much easier to keep it a habit. 

  • Make a list. I have been guilty of wondering what a word or phrase means, looking it up once, and then having this entire situation repeat itself the next time I see that particular word or phrase. To combat this endlessly cyclical phenomenon, try keeping a word log of words you don’t know. Collect words from all the compres you’ve had, books you’ve read, and people you’ve met. Look them up, so you’ve a working idea of what the dictionary defines them as. Then…

  • USE THE WORDS! Challenge yourself to write any sentence using those words, or even better – use them in your everyday life. I promise you that they become much harder to forget once they become part of your everyday vocabulary!
  • Connect the dots. After a while, you’ll begin to recognise some patterns between words. A particularly good example of this are word affixes that most people have an intuitive understanding of. Let me give an example:

      dis-: has the sense of negation, like in ‘disbelief’ (not-belief) or ‘dissimilar’ (not similar)


      junction: a common enough word, like in ‘road junction’. We know that it’s “a point where two or more things are joined” (Oxford English Dictionary).


      Hence, if we see the word ‘disjunction’, we can safely assume that it means something ‘not-joined’, which is similar to its dictionary definition: “a lack of correspondence or consistency”.

    dis-: has the sense of negation, like in ‘disbelief’ (not-belief) or ‘dissimilar’ (not similar)

    junction: a common enough word, like in ‘road junction’. We know that it’s “a point where two or more things are joined” (Oxford English Dictionary).

    Hence, if we see the word ‘disjunction’, we can safely assume that it means something ‘not-joined’, which is similar to its dictionary definition: “a lack of correspondence or consistency”.

That’s all we have for today. Enjoy the process!

Additional links:

List of audiobooks, available online

List of podcasts suitable for teenagers

More about words

Valuable Tips To Improving English

A FRESH LOOK AT ENGLISH FUNDAMENTALS

Greek mythology tells of a king named Sisyphus, punished by Zeus for an act of deceit. In the story, Sisyphus is eternally tasked to roll an enormous boulder up a steep hill, only to watch helplessly as the boulder inevitably rolls down when it reaches the top. 

Today, the Oxford English Dictionary defines “Sisyphean” as “denoting a task that can never be completed”. A Sisyphean task – this is what I think of when friends and family ask me for quick and easy ways to improve their English.

To me, learning is a life-long process, and few can ensure learning that is both immediate and authentic. I can, of course, do my best to help. 

STICK TO THE BASICS AND GO WIDE

How many of us here have heard that to get better at a language, we have to listen, read, write, and speak? Although these so-called four ‘language skills’ seem simple in theory, many people either under- or overthink them, leading to much spinning of their wheels.

The fact is that neither discounting the practice of fundamental usage skills, nor obsessing over the kind of material to consume, is beneficial towards the learner. All listening, reading, writing, and speaking will be helpful; in fact, the more diverse the content you consume, the better.  

DEVELOP DIVERSITY BY READING ANYTHING KNOWLEDGEABLE 

There is no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ type of thing to read! When I was younger, literature reigned king, and so I was told to only read books. Today, primary school students take Media Studies, which is “designed to train students to be media literate individuals” (SEAB, 2017).

Indeed, improving our English means being able to understand any text, so that we can critically think about its content or communicate effectively with its author. 

To borrow the words of linguist Wilhem von Humboldt: language is the ‘infinite use of finite means’. English, like any other language, does not draw from a fixed pool of knowledge.

Outside the classroom – which is to say, in the grander scheme of things – English is used in multifarious ways. Reading (and listening, speaking, and writing) diversely is a surefire way to improve without even feeling like you’re trying. It’s like ‘learning by osmosis’!

EXERCISE YOUR BRAIN FOR BETTER RECALL AND MEMORY

I may be biased as a Linguistics major, but delving into the history of language and words is one of my favourite ways to improve. Have you ever looked at a list of irregular verbs and wondered why English grammar was so hard to master?

Have you ever looked at an idiom and questioned how exactly their meaning could differ so drastically from its literal one? Well, your answers lie in history – how English has changed over time. 

This video, for example, explains why irregular verbs even exist:

By looking up how a particularly difficult-to-remember grammar or vocabulary point has evolved over time to be the way it currently is, you equip yourself with a mnemonic device that will concretise your memory further. 

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