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Mr Chen's anecdotes.


Most Secondary 3 students struggle to pass Physics for their weighted assessment and/or mid year exams. For some, the failure might extend to the End-Of-Year (EOY) exams. The consistent failure would lead one to question his own ability and aptitude in the subject which may ultimately lead to some dropping from pure physics to combined physics for O level altogether.

What most secondary 3 physics student don’t realize is there are only a few core topics that they need to master in order to pass the exam. These 3 key topics are heavily linked to one another and they easily make up approximately 35% of your score for your end of year exams.

In order to pass physics in Secondary 3, master of classical mechanics is a must.

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Graphs, everywhere.

Kinematics, branch of physics and a subdivision of classical mechanics concerned with the geometrically possible motion of a body or system of bodies without consideration of the forces involved (i.e., causes and effects of the motions). (

Kinematics is usually the 2nd topic taught to secondary 3 students in both pure and combined physics syllabus. This is because one needs to fully understand and appreciate the effects of forces before they can explain the cause of these effects.

Kinematics usually requires calculations and a minimum level of math. Very often, kinematics question would include a graph of

  1. Displacement-time graph

  2. Velocity-time graph

  3. Acceleration-time graph

Don't let it scare you ;)

Students are expected to derive any of the kinematics quantities by using the graph presented. For example, a student can calculate for acceleration via the gradient of a velocity-time graph. While the displacement of an object can be calculated via the area of a velocity-time graph.

Students who resort to memorizing are usually the ones who struggle to score in this topic. Similar to other academic subjects, a full appreciation of how to derive quantities is required in order to excel. This is more true than ever in the context of physics and specifically, classical mechanics.


Dynamics, branch of physical science and subdivision of mechanics that is concerned with the motion of material objects in relation to the physical factors that affect them: force, mass, momentum, and energy. (

Following the introduction of kinematics, most teachers and tutors in Singapore would teach dynamics. In kinematics, students learn to quantify the effects of forces. In dynamics, beyond quantifying forces, we also learn to explain the cause for the effects seen in motion of objects.

Similar to kinematics, dynamics also requires calculations and a minimum level of math. In the chapter of dynamics, students are required to fully master the 3 laws of newton.

  1. Newton’s 1st Law

  2. Newton’s 2nd Law

  3. Newton’s 3rd Law

That was precisely how it happened... With an iPhone in hand.

Each of Newton’s law are tricky in their own ways. Newton’s 1st law is often tested in the MCQ section of a exam paper where students are expected to spot key phrases such as “constant velocity” or “no acceleration”. This will in turn help them deduce the other forces when given a free body diagram.

Newton’s 2nd Law can also be a struggle because it requires application of math and also an appreciation of a free body diagram. Students are to accommodate all the different forces in a free body diagram and calculate the resultant force. Subsequently, acceleration can be calculated. The list and myriad of questions that could be tested based on Newton’s 2nd Law is endless.

Newton’s 3rd Law requires a different skill compared to all the aforementioned. It requires explanation and elaboration. For some students, expressing their ideas and understanding in words and putting it on paper has been a bane since young. Many claim to understand but few are able to substantiate with keywords included in their answers.

You after your grades experienced "free fall".

A common question that would require the application of all 3 laws is the concept of free-fall. Student are expected to explain how an object eventually reaches terminal velocity due to the action-reaction pair of weight and air resistance. Such question would either provide you with a velocity-time graph to explain or have you both explain and sketch the graph.

The strict and uphill requirement of calculation, explanation and amalgamation with the preceeding chapter of kinematics makes dynamics a standout chapter for most students. More importantly, it is also a pitfall for significant number of secondary 3 students.

Energy Work Power (EWP)

Work, Energy and Power are fundamental concepts of Physics. Work is the displacement of an object when a force (push or pull) is applied to it.

A keen pair of eyes (which is essential for physics) would be able to tell how all the preceding chapters come together for this.

The most commonly asked question in EWP.

The final chapter of the big 3, in my opinion, is energy work power (EWP for short). Fortunately, most students are already well-accustomed to explaining energy transfer due to Primary School Leaving Exam (PSLE) in Singapore.

However, the myriad of formulas required in this chapter daunts the math-averse student.

Summary of formula in EWP.

From the picture above, it is evident how EWP relates to kinematics. Motion is involved. Velocity and acceleration is involved. They all concern kinematics. Furthermore, the most fundamental formula for energy is given by the product of force and distance travelled by the force (dynamics). Hence, the learning curve of this chapter may be steep for some is not only due to the heavy calculations involved. It also includes the possibility of an amalgamation of concepts tested from all 3 in one question is incredibly real.

What YOU can do about it

Singaporean students are known to be a tenacious bunch when it comes to examinations especially national ones like O level and N level. Most would want to grind it out on their own independently. However, few embark on the correct route for revision. Teachers are there for guidance but may not always be readily available.

We, at VANTAGE TUTOR, are known to guide students through chapters individually first before attempting questions that require an amalgamation of concepts from a variety of chapters. Our physics tutors pick out questions which test solely on one topic and we repeatedly attempt questions of similar nature in order to maximize your understanding. Only after you have mastered the individual concepts then we move on.

Precisely because of our experience in picking out such questions, we have not only learnt to compose a question on the spot, but also compiled a booklet of exam questions sorted out topically. You are welcomed to download the free O level physics question and notes bank sample today!

We are sure that you will benefit from the O level physics question package. You may contact us to purchase or to engage us as your private tutor. We look forward to hearing from you!

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