Usually I write articles on insights and actionable tips and tricks on how to attain excellent results. In this article, I will be heading a different direction. I will be talking about what you should do if you did badly for O Levels, or any major national exam.
So you did badly for O Levels.
Whatever the cause, you may be extremely worried and confused right now. You’re asking around on the internet what you should do. You are seeking guidance from your secondary school teachers and seniors. I can totally relate to how you are feeling right now. Surprisingly, I was once in the shoes of someone who did badly for his exams before. But before I delve into the crux of this article, let us define some terms. I am going to define “doing badly” in two ways. The first is objectively, you can’t get into a majority of schools. The second is subjectively, you fell short of going into your ideal course/JC.
Either way, many of you think that you’ve to settle. Perhaps you feel that you simply need to move on to the next stage of education. Perhaps your parents looked at you disappointingly and asked you to consider another course. I’m here to tell you a little secret. You don’t have to settle. I’m going to suggest a rather unpopular path. It is unpopular as not many people have done it before. Yet I believe that if you don’t wish to settle, this is the best path for you.
Here’s the path- you should retake your O Levels.
As unpopular as this decision sounds, let me tell you a little more about me. Back in 2013, I received my A Level results. I was from RI’s Integrated Program, and quite frankly, I got lazy. I didn’t study back then. So when I received my results, was it any surprise that I only got Cs and Ds? I was lost. I was afraid. In fact, I could only get into the least popular public university course.
But from this fear and confusion, I became determined. I believed in myself. I believed that I can do much better.
I made a choice back then. I made a choice NOT TO SETTLE.
If you feel the same way as I did back then, please read on. Even if you feel totally defeated, so long as you’ve some fighting spirit left in you, please listen to me.
After my NS, I took a year off to study for A Levels. So while my peers were in university, I was studying for my A Levels. But it all paid off. I did well enough to get into one of NUS’ most competitive course (Computer Science). I got a UAS of 85.5. I went from having no course to choose from to having an abundance of choices.
I am writing this because there were so many people asking me if I wanted to simply go to a private university. I had so many friends warning me of people doing even worse when they took A Levels for a second time. I want you to know- that doesn’t have to be you.
If you are starting to believe in yourself right now, let’s look at the common objections.
- It’s a waste of time. Some say a year is too long to be wasted on retaking a major national exam. Let me repeat that: they say a year is too long to be wasted on retaking a major national exam. If you don’t get the irony by now, think about it. You’re literally going to spend decades working. And while failing to get into a good JC/good diploma is not the end of the world, it may throw you further away from attaining your dreams. We should do our best at each stage to move ourselves closer to our goals. So don’t think of it as wasting a year. Think of it as investing in your own future.
- What if I do worse? That’s another common worry. We hear the worst case scenario- someone did worse than they did for the first time round. Well let me present two cases to you:
- If you did really badly (you’ve almost no options for your next education stage), you can’t really do much worse. As the saying goes-when you hit rock bottom, the only way is up.
- If you only missed your ideal course/school by a few points, then quite honestly you’re not far off. You just have to refine a few issues. So how likely is it that you’ll do worse?
Interested in retaking now? Good, let me share my path with you.
When I decided to retake my A Levels, I know something has to change. Not only must I work way harder, I must also work smarter. Let me be blunt right now- you’ve to want to do well to score well at O Levels. I don’t mean just talking about it. I mean really putting your heart and soul in. There’s not much I can help you in terms of working hard. The bulk of my tips helps with studying smarter.
Still with me? Let’s look at 2 key factors:
- I was extremely interested in performance psychology. I wanted to learn what is the best way to learn, the best way to revise. I wanted to learn how to best organize my schedule so I’ll be at maximum efficiency. So I learnt from the greatest. I devoured books. Here’s a list:
- I wanted the best materials. I realised having the best materials meant that I can cut out all the fluff. So I chose the tuition centres I attended carefully. And I realised that there are commonalities to the best tuition centres. There are commonalities to the materials that they use. The best tuition centres usually have the best materials. I cannot tell you what are the best materials for most O Level subjects are- I did not take O Levels. But from teaching other A Math students, I can tell you what makes the best A Math content. Which is why I start my own A Math classes nowadays.
Lastly, let’s look at some common difficulties.
- Many people will believe that you cannot make it. The fact is, the statistics are not in favour of private candidates. However, know something- you can choose to be an outlier. You don’t have to fit the trend. It is all on you. If you’re a parent reading this, have faith in your child!
- Getting judged by others. I didn’t suffer much for this, but I know of others who were judged because they retook the exam. All I can say is that it does not matter to me whether they judge me now. I am so sure of my success that their opinions do not matter. You should adopt the same mindset.
And that is all, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you for reading till the end. I hope I am able to help some of you wandering folks out there. Please like my Facebook page and share this post if you know of anyone who is lost after doing badly.
And if you’re still with me, thank you!
I know this will be a controversial piece, but I certainly hope this will make some of you reconsider. I always believed that hard+smart work equals success, but most people fail at the smart part. Which is why I focus on sourcing the best materials. Don’t fall into the mentality that you’ll never get to where you want to be.