Updated: Feb 17
For the JAE students, we know what it means once prelims have ended.
I had a classmate in JC by the name of K. (Yes, I have a lot of classmates who did questionable things in JC.)
Yours truly and his class back in 2009, 09S19
K was a strong independent woman who believed in herself more than anyone. She was ready to question authority and was never afraid to ask difficult questions. She might have been a feisty individual but she stayed within her lane. She still conformed herself to the structure and rigor of TPJC.
However, once the prelim exams ended, she stopped attending school. No, study leave wasn't granted by the school yet. According to her clique of friends, she felt suffocated by the structure of classes in school. She felt structured revision and the timetable was holding her back by preventing her from intensive revision. In her view, the school has already delivered all the contents of the syllabus and hence, does not add value to her preparation for her A levels.
Since the end of the prelim papers in mid-September, K never stepped into the compound of TPJC. She didn't even collect her prelim papers and result slip! None of us saw K in the school compound again until the first official written paper of the A levels.
I get it.
Many of you actually resonate with K.
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"Leave me to study on my own and I will definitely do better!"
Schools often allocate a number of weeks prior to the national exam as study leave. This study leave is meant for the student to have the flexibility to manage their own revision schedule. We are no longer restricted to the confines set by the school timetable.
However, the study leave allocated differs from school to school. All schools allocate at least 2 weeks prior to the first seated written paper as the study leave period. Some schools offer a significantly longer period while other schools simply restructure their timetable to just a few hours of class a day. This may prove frustrating for some students.
K's swagger when we saw her in the exam hall after she vanished for 2 months.
We all look forward to the study leave. We save time on transport. During the study leave, you have the option to wake up whenever you like, sleep whenever you like, and study whenever you like. You have full control. You can choose to work only during the time window that you feel you perform best.
We don’t have to drag ourselves out of bed. We don’t have to survive on just a few hours of sleep. And most importantly, I can fully focus on my revision with minimal distractions. I can structure my learning and revise the subject I want, how I want, when I want, and where I want.
Most importantly, you get to cry on r/SGExams whenever you like!
Personally, I would always visit the National Library Board @ Bugis. I would go to the study lounge at 8:30 am and be ready to secure my seat when the doors open at 9 am sharp. I would have my revision package ready and all other materials I might need. I get comfortable in my seat and start immediately until lunchtime.
After a short lunch break (approximately 1.5 hours), we go again.
My day at NLB ends by 6 pm and I would head home for dinner. In between, I will have small breaks to just look across and admire the Intercontinental Hotel before getting back in the grind again. I usually complete 3 sets of practice papers and complete a minimum of 2 subjects per session at NLB. All in all, study leave will grant you the room to fully focus on your revision intensively.
"What could possibly go wrong?"
You’re right. Most of you are bright minds of Singapore with significantly higher PSLE scores and IQ than me. If only your teachers could fully appreciate your brilliance and realize how much their "rendered help" is actually hindering you from achieving your full potential.
Yes, you are!
For some of you, flexibility does allow you to stretch beyond one’s imagination. It is common to find people who perform better in the wee hours. There are people who perform better when the sun has set and while others perform better simply because of the serenity during the wee hours when everything has died down.
It is only during the wee hours that you can sit down for long hours, fully focus on the task at hand, and achieve a state of flow. Your brain is most active at night and absorbs the most amount of content, thereby maximizing your learning.
However, leading such a lifestyle for an extended period of time may prove counterproductive. (And I don’t mean just academically.)
We don't need a research paper to tell me about the detriments of lack of sleep.
It will be difficult for you to restructure your sleep cycle back to normalcy. You have been burning the midnight oil to study and waking up later in the day as a result. Most national exam papers are to be taken in the morning. Papers such as H2 Math, H2 Chemistry, and H1 GP are all taken at 0800H. It is highly likely that you will struggle to get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep on the eve of the exam when you have been sleeping at 4 am for the entirety of the study leave.
True, some might decide to start restructuring their sleep cycle back a few days prior to the exam week. However, time is lost for your revision because you would lose sleep, feel less rested on a subsequent day, and lose focus. In other words, when you disrupt your sleep cycle, there will be time loss incurred. It is just a matter of when you pay it back.
Well, I guess it works for sleep too.
Worst case scenario – you struggle for the entire week to get your sleep cycle back. You attend the 0800H exam feeling groggy. You just cannot seem to focus on the H2 Math paper in front of you and cannot recall anything despite spending hours revising prior. All that build-up and effort to only not perform when it mattered the most.
School still has a substantial role in your revision
They lost 4-0 eventually. BUT NOT THE POINT. It works. Really.
Most schools would have some structured program (I hated the night study program) to help those in need. Generally, they would pick out prelim papers or set their own mock exam modeled after the A levels and invite their students back for a time trial. It will be a classroom setting under exam conditions. This is essentially prelim version 2.0.
After the paper is done, teachers would go through, in their eyes, the important questions and highlight to students the key learning point to take away. Take advantage of such arrangements. You don’t get many "simulated exams" in your run-up to the A levels. Furthermore, if your teacher points out certain key learning points, it probably is very important for various reasons. I attended most of them.
I hear the protest already.
"My school teachers are shit!"
"My school doesn’t care."
Welp, I doubt many of you actually support your school's decisions like that.
Fine, that could be true. However, who is to say you can’t create your own exam condition? Go to school during regular school hours. Find a quiet spot, ideally, a classroom, with a set of prelim papers ready by 8 am. Once the clock strikes, 8 am, simulate the start of the exam and complete the paper as if it was the A levels.
In doing so, you acclimatized yourself to the exam conditions. You are training to perform during the morning exam papers. You maintain your daily lifestyle to fit the exam schedule. You adjust your body to wake up and perform at peak conditions during the exam paper timings. Hence, when taking the real exam, it will just be another run-off-the-mill day.
The worst thing that could happen is a panic attack.
You minimize the probability of a major fuck up.
It’s just another day at work for you.
It will be bittersweet
We all have our unique individual fond memories of study leave. For me, it was meeting my friends from other JC to study together. We would exchange materials, consider their school’s method in a certain question and just hang out over lunch during our breaks.
Been spendin' most their lives, livin' in the gangsta's paradise
Study break is the time when you feel you are the only person in control of your destiny. Your teacher has given you everything. Your tutor, I, have imparted every small tip and trick I have. We have directed you by letting you pick our brains. The rest is up to you.
In case it matters to you...
K didn't make it to a University.