2 weeks ago, I talked about the 3 most common reasons why your child is struggling for A Math. Whether you’re a parent of a Secondary 3 or 4 student, it is certainly true that A Math is a tough subject to score for. If you have not read the post that I’m referring to, please do so now, as it will give you better context on how you can better apply the tips that I am going to mention here.
For those who’ve read the article, you may be wondering how to score A for A Math. Regardless of whether you’re a parent or student taking A Math, I believe these tips will be useful!
Now before I start, I want to say that none of the following tips are going to be radically changing your child’s results if they are done in isolation. Too often we seek for that “one thing” that will change our lives, conquer all our problems etc. I will tell it truthfully to you now- life does not work that way.
This does not mean my tips won’t work. Rather, you should be patient and extremely meticulous in implementing them. If you do so, I am certain that your child’s grade for A Math is going to improve. Sorted out our expectations? Great.
(Note: To avoid repetition, I will use “he” to refer to your child. However, the tips are still totally applicable regardless of your child’s gender!)
Let’s look at the three tips now
Conquering the difficulty level of A Math
As much as digital devices rule our lives, the traditional method of writing down our own notes still apply in this day and age. Your child can and should create his own notes.
The first time he does so, he should be doing this while he is learning the topic. This will help him to reinforce the new concepts that he is learning. In addition, this will further clarify his doubts as he gains awareness of what he is weak at.
The second time, he should be doing so when exams approach. This is because he will have a better understanding of what concepts are essential. The other superfluous concepts can then be eliminated. As shocking as this might sound, I honestly believe that many of the notes on the market are too thick. They make a great guide when a student first starts learning, but I feel that they contain too much content for last minute revision.
You want your child to make his own notes a Swiss army knife. He should be able to identify commonalities among different topics so that once he learns a skill, he can apply them across several topics.
You can direct your child to my resources page, whereby I upload notes on different topics regularly. (I am in the process of consolidating the notes and questions.) I’ve carefully handpicked examples that will best illustrate certain points and eliminated details that are not as important.
Jump in difficulty of questions
Since exam questions are typically a lot harder than the questions that your child does in the textbook, the simple way is to purchase prelim papers from Bras Basah and give them to your child to do right? Well, the solution is not quite simple.
Since usually only prelim papers are sold on the market, this means that there are many topics in the prelim papers that your child has not learnt about. Looking through the prelim papers and only attempting the topics that he’s learnt will lead to other problems. For example, your child may not be able to differentiate between questions that he/she has not learnt vs questions that he/she simply does not know how to do.
If you’ve learnt A Math or other higher math courses before, you can help your child by looking through the papers and sorting the questions. It will be ideal if you can sort the questions by their difficulty level so your child knows his/her standard. For me personally, I like to sort questions into 3 levels of difficulties.
The first level is the most basic level, which contains questions that illustrate the concept. You’re less likely to find this sort of questions in prelim papers so you can skip this level when sorting prelim papers.
The second level is the intermediate level. The bulk of questions in prelim papers falls under this category. It’s tough to explain what makes a question intermediate versus difficult, but a tip I can share is look at the marks. Generally speaking, a 6 or 7 mark question is an intermediate question.
Lastly, we have the third level, which is the advanced level. Usually these questions appear towards the end of the paper. I use two criteria to identify the advanced questions. If they are either especially complicated or tedious, I tend to sort them under the advanced level.
Of course, this takes a lot of time. I can certainly attest to this because I’ve spent hours on sorting the papers into various topics of different difficulties!
However, I truly believe the value of doing these topical practices. I’ve seen too many students who complain that the jump in standard between normal classroom practice and exam practice is too great. Of course, many students manage to overcome that gap when they study intensely for O Level. However, I feel that if students are allowed to practise topical exam questions right when they learn the topic, they can avoid a lot of the pain and self-doubt that accompany students who are faring badly.
Whether you choose to sort the questions yourself or join a tuition centre, I believe this is a distinguishing factor, so please do your research carefully before joining any place!
Time management. If you’re a professional, you know that most people are always looking for the best or upcoming time management hack that will dramatically increase your output by 20X. Well, I don’t have such a tool. Instead, I have a reliable system which I’ve developed over the years and has served me well for my A Levels and university life. I believe they’re good enough for your child.
I will not go into all the details of my system, as they require modifying the small details to suit different personalities. Hence, I shall just lay out a few principles that will be helpful to your child. I took some of them from books I’ve read over the years like 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management.
Because scheduling is such a personal thing, I will be addressing the following portion to your child. If you will like your child to read this, please let your child look at this article at this point of time. However, if you don’t find it too weird, feel free to continue reading too!
Rule number one: Carry a notebook around. Simply buy a notebook. You can use a cheaper notebook from stores like Typo or you can use a quality notebook like Moleskine. I have both and they both have served me well.
After you’ve gotten your notebook, open it up to note down when you’re given a assignment or homework. If you’re required to hand it in by that week, do make a note on the day you’ve to submit it. Else you can just note it down on the current day as homework.
Once you’ve noted down the day of submission, start by planning when you will start doing it! Doing so helps me reduce a ton of stress and procrastination as I know exactly when and how much I’ve to do for an assignment.
When you reach Friday afternoon, or the afternoon of the last working day of that week, simply start planning what you’ve to do over the weekend. Need a break? Simply make sure you’ve accounted for all your assignments and revisions, then you can take a break without feeling guilty!
Rule number two: Set a time limit for how long you’re going to spend on an assignment/question. I know this sounds obvious, but I think many of us neglect this point. We like to think that by spending more time on studying, we are naturally going to get better. This is definitely not true! Many of us neglect effectiveness and efficiency, opting to simply work hard but not smart. This is a grave mistake. Once we spend a certain amount of effort and time on something, usually we will start regressing pretty sharply.
What’s the time limit you should set? I suggest setting a limit of 10 minutes on a question. If you fail to make any progress for 10 minutes, I will suggest moving on to other assignments/questions. Of course the exact timing is dependent on how fresh you are, the time of the day etc. Knowing the exact timing to move away needs practice and iteration. If you are interested in refining such details, feel free to contact me as I work on performance psychology.
Alright, I’m done talking about studying tips for now. Please return this device to your parent if your parent handed you this article!
I suggest heading over to Coursera’s Learning How to Learn series should you/your child be interested in learning more about the art of studying. I’ve learnt a ton from that free course and found it really helpful.
If there is any topic that you will like me to go through more in depth, feel free to contact me via my Facebook or leave me a comment below!
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