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.

About The Author

Miss Fiona Tan is a Teacher Associate at Creative Campus. As a Hwa Chong Institution and NUS alumna, she is particularly familiar with what it takes to excel in demanding exam conditions.