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Mr Chen's anecdotes.


For most JC students, only 2 exams truly matters.

First, the A levels. (No shit, Captain Obvious.)

Second, the internal JC1 promotional exams.

Most students would have been through an internal evaluation by April. It usually comes in the form of a lecture test, short quiz, or non-graded test. Most students were shell-shocked by the marks they received. For the first time, they received a single-digit score. This causes panic and hysteria in some.

JC exams are indeed difficult. Some might take longer to integrate and absorb the content delivered. You may be able to complete your revision in time for the JC1 promo exams but you might not have mastered the topic. This is completely fine.

However, it is best to identify the integral topics to master for the JC1 promo exams in order to, at least, pass the exams. You don't want to get retained.

This is the first of a 4-part series. An article will be written for H2 Math, H2 Chem, H2 Physics and H2 Biology.

(Follow @vantage_tutor on Instagram to get video updates whenever a new article is released)

Table of Content:

Atomic Structure & Chemical Bonding

For O level and Secondary 3 chemistry, the first topic taught is atomic structure and chemical bonding in most schools. The study of atoms and how they form compounds and molecules are the bedrock of chemistry. Essentially, we are studying substances at the sub-atomic level.

In A level H2 Chemistry, atomic structure, and chemical bonding can be confusing for some. The concepts learned in O level chemistry are a simplified model. For A levels, we consider orbital energy levels and as a result, circumvent rules that we learned previously in secondary school.

Molecules are able to form an expanded octet. Dative bonds can be formed. Dot and cross diagrams can involve up to 8 atoms. We even consider the shape of the molecule. Even though the structure for the explanation of physical properties remains the same, we dive in-depth into the specific interactions that it forms.

The type of interactions form depends on many factors

This topic is highly likely to take up a significant portion of your promotional exam paper. They are likely to test every aspect of chemical bonding, from dot and cross to explanation of melting point and boiling point. The only tricky question is one that would involve dative bonds or dimers. Setters usually disguise molecules with the ability to form dative bonds in a variety of ways. However, such questions are usually easy to score once you identified the possibility of dative bonds. Sheer memorization could secure you the marks.

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Mole & Redox

Another topic that is taught and tested in the promo exams is mole and redox. For most students, this is their favorite. Ultimately, it's just math (us being Singaporeans) and the structure of solving the question is almost identical to those we learned in secondary school.

The main difference between A level mole and redox and that of O level is that it now involves a dilution factor. On top of that, students are also required to identify the unknown oxidation state through the calculation of the moles of electrons. You may still apply your secondary school structure of solving but it can be very confusing. Hence, it would be best if you practice intensively using the new methods taught to you in JC.

This topic would appear in your exam multiple times. One question could appear in the form of titration while another would appear integrated with energetics. Most schools test this topic intensively. This is their way of preparing you for the practical component of your H2 Chemistry without testing the practical exams for the promos.

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Energetics is another calculation-intensive topic. It is also commonly tested in paper 4 of your H2 Chemistry exam. For students who have no prior experience in physics, this may be less intuitive to you. One of the most commonly asked questions is the calculation of the enthalpy change of neutralization which involves a formula using heat capacity. Another is the Born-Haber cycle of an ionic compound. All these questions are rather straightforward if you understand the definitions of each enthalpy change. You may struggle for a while but you will get it in no time.

The area that proves to be most challenging is the drawing and application of the Hess' Law cycle. Multiple reactions and their respective enthalpy change would be presented to you. You will be tasked to solve for the enthalpy change of the stated reaction by drawing a Hess' Law cycle.

Most cycles tend to be confusing causing students to become disillusioned during the exams. This disillusionment will cost the student a lot of time during the exams and some might not complete subsequent easier questions as a result of time constraints. Furthermore, Hess' Law cycle questions can be easily 15% of your paper. Hence, it is important that students practice sufficiently prior to the exam.

Promos is not hard

Believe it or not, the JC1 promotional exam is likely to consist of reasonable questions. The school will try their best to not retain you and ruin your life.

The exam is a gauge for the school to filter out the weaker students towards an alternative path. Not every student is able to take the A level exams in 2 years. Not every student has the aptitude to do H2 chemistry. Not every student is suitable for the JC system.

If you are really meant to take the A levels and are sufficiently competent, the promo exam would be a boost to your confidence. You can take pride in that you managed to crawl back from a U in the lecture test to a respectable C or B for your promotional exam. You now have a foundation to build on.

For those who struggle but want to stay on in a JC, you have my admiration. You are giving your best and refusing to give up. For a person who is already down, you would dread to hear this but you might need help. Most students' knee-jerk reaction upon failing consistently is to cry on r/SGExams. (Alternatively, they google "H2 Chem Reddit" and end up here instead.)

No doubt, tuition is expensive and not everybody can afford a private tutor. (You can always form your own group too.) However, a competent H2 chem tutor would be able to identify your weaknesses and strengths and make your money worthwhile. We will refine your weaknesses and develop a strategy going forward that would maximize your chances of scoring a distinction for A levels. (If you let us).

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