Three 90 Rank pointers share their secret to studying for A levels in Singapore

by | Jul 2, 2021

90 rank points.

That is the ultimate end goal of almost every JC student. Ever wanted tips on how to achieve it or had questions for those who did?

In this article, we interviewed three 90 rank pointers to gather their insights on how they studied for A levels and got them to answer your burning questions.

Hopefully, this article will help you prepare better for the A levels examinations and survive JC!

A, B and C are all JC students who graduated in 2020.

Could you give a short introduction about your life in JC?

A :

I’m from Eunoia JC! I took HELM (history, economics, literature, math) at H2 level.

I had 2 leadership positions, Vice-Captain of my House and Exco of my CCA. I was also a School Ambassador but that was more of an ad hoc position.

B :

Hi! I was from Temasek JC, and I took 4H2 PCME (physics, chemistry, math, economics) with H3 Chemistry. My CCA was basketball, and I held a few leadership roles, including class representative.

I also took part in a few competitions and facilitated some school activities, such as orientation.

C :

I took BCME (biology, chemistry, math, economics) at the H2 level in Raffles JC. I also played badminton for the school team, and am a 1st Dan Taekwondo Black Belt out of school!

How were you able to achieve 90 rank points for A levels?

A :

Discipline, good planning and initiative! Always seek ways to improve.

B :

That’s quite a difficult question. I would say that the two most important factors for me were consistency and practice.

In terms of consistency, one thing that I found very beneficial was doing tutorials.

Besides that, there were also many small tests, exams, and other such checkpoints. Revising for them helps break down information to recall.

Personally, practice means doing the papers that school provides, especially before exams.

C :

I think this was a combination of hard work, intelligence, and luck. As our batch was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, we had some pretty big topics taken out for each of the subjects which helped to lighten the workload.

Also, due to the circuit breaker (CB) and just COVID-19 in general, I had fewer commitments and more time to study for A levels.

Thus I started my revision earlier. This helped me to take things slow and not have to cram everything at the last minute.

When is a good time to start revising for A levels?

Girl thinking

A :

I think everyone has different ideas on when they should start.

Some of my friends only started hardcore studying after prelims and still did well. Others had built up a steady pace since March.

Personally, I prepared for all the exams I took. I took that as steps towards studying for the A-Levels.

But I started studying very consistently and with more effort about 2 weeks after my mid-year examinations ended when I got my papers back and could start focusing on my weak points.

B :

I started revising more before prelims. At that point, most school activities had stopped and I could focus more on studying.

Honestly, I think how early you should start revising depends on two things, how consistent you have been previously, and what your idea of revision is.

If you have worked hard consistently throughout the two years, and your basic understanding of the subject matter is alright, revision becomes more of practising application questions and fine-tuning content.

Else, it would involve understanding content, which will take a lot more time.

Also, it would probably consume more time if your revision includes re-reading/re-making your notes. So just budget your time according to what you have to do!

Was it more hard work or intelligence that led to scoring 90 rank points for A levels?

A :

Hard work! Intelligence is built from hard work. No one is born with the innate talent and knowledge to simply do well at the A levels with no effort put in.

B :

I think this varies depending on the subject.

For more content-heavy subjects, hard work played a more important role. For General Paper, some kind of intelligence is necessary.

For content-heavy subjects, hard work can get you very far. There is only a fixed scope of things to learn, and getting factual information like definitions and stock explanations will get you quite a lot of marks.

Even though there are application questions that may seem intimidating, sufficient practice and exposure to them can help.

Furthermore, not all application questions are necessarily challenging, and for A levels, they will have some easier questions.

What was your A levels study routine like?

Studying

A :

I decided to adopt my teacher’s plan after he shared what he did for his own A levels preparation.

I’d try my best to wake up as if it was a normal school day and aim to start work at 8-830am.

Most of the time I would fail so I often started at 9 am! Which is still quite decent! I would then study in time blocks like so:

  • 8/9am-12pm
  • 2 pm-5 pm
  • 8 pm-12 am when I am studying at home or,
  • 6 pm-8 pm when I choose to stay in school to study and eat dinner with friends.

Of course, I would take breaks like 10 minute walks around the school campus when things got tiring, or grab a snack with my friends.

What was important was that I set a routine for dedicated studying and tried my best to follow it. Thus, even if I did not follow it exactly, I would not fall far from what I had intended to do.

I also made to-do lists for the day. Normally I would try to complete 1-2 things in each time block. If I was doing a full paper, I would just finish that paper, mark it and go for my break when I was done as all my papers are 3 hours long!

B :

Every week, I would set goals for the week – which papers I would finish, what topics I would look through. Based on how I felt that day, I could vary what I did.

During the study break, I would wake up around 7.30 am -8 am on weekdays. I get easily distracted at home, so I usually went out to study for A levels at my school library.

As I get ready, I mentally make a to-do list. I always start with a math paper (either paper 1 or 2, not both, I value my sanity), followed by a short break.

Then, I would do maybe 2 other subjects, with breaks in between to nap or use my phone.

I usually stop work around 6 or 7 and go home. I use the time after dinner to mark my papers and rest.

On weekends, I still do my math paper, but I also take things a lot easier to recover after each intense week.

For example, I would wake up a little later, do a math paper, have lunch, take a nap and then start on another practice paper.

C :

In preparation for prelims, I had already started on some ten-year series papers after finishing all the other papers/questions our school gave.

Thus, my study routine was mainly doing A level practise papers, marking them and reviewing my mistakes.

I also made it a point to read the news every day. It was actually already a habit, so it was just more of not losing the habit and making sure I had the time to do so.

How did you strike a balance between your personal life and school commitments?

A :

I kind of merged the two! I studied with friends in school or on video calls.

My breaks were usually long so that I had time to chat with friends over lunch and more.

This was a great stress reliever and made studying more enjoyable. I could also ask my friends for help whenever I needed to!

But you definitely need to have the discipline to stop banter and conversations if they get too long.

However, I did sacrifice things like going out with my family or having a fun day out with friends.

I told myself that there will be plenty of time to do that after A levels. I would instead spend a lot of my dinner breaks at home with my family.

I also deleted all of my social media applications to stay on task.

B :

I always try to have dinner with my family. That way, even if I spend most of my time working on school stuff, I still get to talk to them over dinner.

On weekends, I usually stay at home, so I can spend time with my family.

Studying in school also kept me in contact with my friends. We took breaks and had lunch together, and helped each other with our work. It made studying feel less of a chore.

I also took some time every week to watch the TV shows that I follow to relax.

I also recommend exercising a little because sitting for long periods of time can cause discomfort. Even just stretching helps.

C :

In terms of balancing my personal life and studying, I honestly think that I achieved a very nice balance.

I adjusted my studying time around my personal life. I would exercise for an hour or more, take long lunches and watch 2-3 hours of TV at night (especially on weekends) as per normal.

I would sleep by 11 pm -1130 pm at night (I usually sleep at 1030 pm on school days) and wake at 8 am or 9 am if I was lazy that morning. Overall, I think I had a very nice work-life balance.

What study techniques did you use to study more effectively?

Student writing notes

A :

I walked around and spoke aloud to myself.

For history and economics, I also told “stories” about the case studies I learnt to my brother.

For math, I kept rewriting the formulas.

But my best tip is to constantly do essays for arts subjects! You will be constantly recalling and applying the content you have learnt and it will stick to you easier!

Personally, I wrote timed essays for literature quite often. So before A levels, my preparations mainly consisted of reading through my notes as most of them were already internalised!

B :

I will break this down for each subject.

For physics, I made a summary list of definitions and formulae for each chapter, which I bring around with me for easier reference.

The cool thing about physics definitions is that they are sometimes linked to the formula.

Use the formula as a way to memorise definitions. Practice is important because questions in physics do not usually vary much.

I keep these notes in my file so I can access them more easily.

Do the MCQ. Physics MCQ is (in my opinion) the hardest part of the whole paper, but it tests concepts very quickly and you can easily identify the problems in your understanding. They are also less time consuming than full papers and take less writing.

For chemistry, read the notes. I did not bother making my own notes because I found there to be too much content. Read the suggested answers.

Chemistry relies a lot on accurate phrasing and getting a good grasp of answers they expect can help.

For organic chemistry, I made mind-maps to link different compounds. For the periodic table chapter, there are some equations to memorise. I usually just memorise the reactants and products, then balance the equation myself.

For math, practice. Do all the practice you can get your hands on. If you do not understand something, ask.

I made a small deck of flashcards on formulae, statistics answers and so on. This helped me revise key information before the exam.

For economics content, I made notes on Notion (a note-taking app). They have this function called a drop-down, so I type the question and the answer.

The answer is hidden until I click the drop-down, so it helps with active recall. It also helped to summarise the content, which can be quite repetitive.

Notion is also accessible on my phone, so I do not have to drag my econs file everywhere.

For certain chunks of information that I had difficulty with, I recorded myself reading my notes out so I can listen to it.

It might be strange listening to your own voice, but it helps when I am too lazy to read.

C :

I wouldn’t say I used any specifically. I never went to look up memorisation techniques.

What worked for me was to really take the time to understand my mistakes. Such as why I got something wrong and try to remember the answering technique/concept better!

If I still didn’t understand the answer/technique I would consult my friends.

Did you enjoy studying for every subject?

A :

I don’t think enjoy is the right word to describe my experience. I definitely found what I was learning interesting!

That being said, math was painful for me. However, I was rather numb by the time I hit the studying stretch near A levels as I had been studying the same content over and over again.

B :

No. There are some subjects that I like more, and even within them, there are certain parts that I like more than others.

It is perfectly fine to like some subjects more, but I think that finding at least one thing you like about each subject can help make studying less of a chore.

I also relish in the satisfaction of being correct, so that could also be a motivating factor.

Can you still score well if you started revision late?

Frequently asked questions

A :

YES, WHY NOT?

Nothing’s impossible if you are willing to put in the work. Just make sure to study for the upcoming examinations so that you start somewhere!

Use them to try out things to help you refine how you study and sit for exams

B :

Anything is possible. It depends on how much you have been doing before. I only started actively revising hard in June/July.

Although if you have not done any of your tutorials and have been getting poor grades throughout JC, it will be very difficult.

C :

I think it’s possible?

It would be a matter of prioritising important concepts to understand and things to memorise, and not spend so much time making aesthetic notes (something I am very guilty of doing).

It would be more of just working on concepts you’re weaker in and then at least finishing the TYS!

What are some tips you have for A level students?

A :

It’s okay to take breaks. Study at your own pace, but don’t be complacent!

The last stretch leading up to A levels is meant to be tiring and strenuous. You are meant to put in the most effort here.

Be sure to seek sufficient academic and emotional support from friends, your stress relievers and even your teachers! Consults with teachers are your best friend!

I know everyone is aiming to get 90 rank points at A-Levels. After putting in so much work, who wouldn’t like to get a perfect score as proof of how much effort they’ve put in?

But if you don’t, it is alright. It may sound less convincing coming from me, considering the context of this article but as long as you are happy and can get where you want to go, your A levels score will not matter much in the long run!

Overall, believe in yourself and work hard! 90 rank points is attainable if you work towards it.

B :

Be consistent! If you are just starting JC, working consistently will definitely make your life easier.

Focus on the parts that you are unsure about. I knew I was better at my sciences, so I worked more on economics.

Ask your friends for help. I made friends while studying in the library who were very good at certain subjects, and they were always willing to help.

If your friends ask you for help, practice explaining it to them. If you can explain it well, you understand it (and can consider a career in education).

Make good memories. Even though the focus is on studying for A levels, there are times in between that you will enjoy.

C :

Having a good work-life balance is really very important, don’t get your good grades at the expense of your health!

Burnout is a real thing so it’s super important to get rest and still relax and have fun with your friends/family!

Consult teachers if you don’t understand anything! I was lucky enough to have good friends who could answer all my questions but don’t be afraid to consult your teachers, I think they will be happy to help.

Analyse your past examination papers for your weaker topics and plan your A level study schedule accordingly.

It is also important to start planning early! This helps you do more targeted revision.

Lastly, I know it’s super cliche but not doing as well as you expected for A levels really isn’t the end of the world.

So don’t be too hard on yourself and go into the examinations knowing you already tried your best!

All the best to everyone taking A-Levels!

Final thoughts

There is no set way to obtain 90 rank points. At the end of the day, find out what fits you best.

Hopefully what these three 90 rank pointers shared will be of use to you!

As mentioned above, take care of yourself first, your results should not come at the cost of your health.

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