Friday, 11 January 2019

How to approach a new chapter

Students have been asking me how I study. I always point them to this blog but since it's the start of the year, let me summarise some study techniques that I used when I was in school. In this post, I will give a general guideline on how to approach a new chapter. Do note that there are other elements to studying (read my other posts) and this is merely a short summary focusing on understanding a chapter.

Read through the notes beforehand
Right! Read through the notes before you step into the class. Read it on the way to school or read it the night before like a storybook. You may not understand it, but even reading word by word helps. It gives you an idea of how the notes are arranged and allows you to glance through some of the new words (you may not even see some technical terms before).

At times, the new chapter is linked to previous chapters and you may even develop some linkages on your own. This is definitely helpful when the teacher also makes link while teaching (you won't feel lost!).

Make notes during lesson
During the lesson, make notes. Whatever the teacher says, capture the important points and write down. Use short forms. Scribble. There is no right or wrong short forms. Develop your own, as long as you understand what you have written.

Review notes
After the lesson, read the notes again, together with what you have written. Add on notes if needed. From personal experience, I always have things to add on to my notes during review. I would recall something that the teacher said or link to another knowledge that I knew beforehand. Write them down.

Do homework
It is important to do homework. Doing homework makes sure that you are learning the right thing (if you get it correct) and points out any wrong concept (if you get it wrong). Doing homework also prepares you for the test and exam.

Ask questions and discuss
If you have any question, ask. You can ask your friends, parents/siblings/cousins, teachers, tutors, or anyone. Questions can be qualitative or quantitative. It can be a discussion on topics such as “do you think World War II can be avoided?” or simply a question “how to do integration by parts?”.

Do more (timed) practices
This is very important; in fact, this is the phase that prepares you for the exam. Time yourself when doing questions, do not spend more than what is allowed. When you are doing full year paper, make it like exam condition. Ask your family members not to disturb for the next x hours, lock yourself in the room, do it like you are in the exam hall. Always challenge yourself to do faster and more accurate the next time round.

For students without tuition, it’s not an issue. You have to be more proactive and seek resources. There are assessment books everywhere and past year papers are sold throughout Singapore. Buy them, do them and get help from friends/teachers etc (see above).

For students with tuition, make full use of the tutor. Bombard the tutors with questions (especially for 1-1 tuition). Ask for more practices. Discuss topics with the tutor. Listen to and apply the tips given by the tutor (students usually feedback that the tips I give are not given in school. I believe there are countless tips out there and believe it or not, I am learning from my students everyday).

Hope this post helps. All the best for the new year! :)

Saturday, 25 March 2017

How To Feel Confident During Examination

Just when we are all preparing for the mid-year examination, let's talk about exam confidence.

Students always tell me that they "don't feel confident for tomorrow's exam". The next few questions they ask are:
1) Do you always feel so confident?
2) How do you feel so confident, even for English/GP that you always failed?

Well, the truth is I did not always feel confident, no matter how much effort I put into revision. Ironically, the papers that I felt the most confident in were English and General Paper, the ones that I always failed.

However, I know the importance of confidence. With confidence, one will feel good and will tend to do well, assuming all revisions have been done. The question is, how do I make myself feel confident?

I am a Buddhist. I pray before going for examination. If you have a religion, pray to your God. Trust that God will look after you, because you have done your due diligence studying for the exam.
I used to believe in myself only, believing that only I can control my own fate. So, if you are a free-thinker, trust yourself more during the period of examination. You know that you have done your best and the last lap is only to write down and/or apply whatever you have learned.

Whatever you never study, won't come out
Do I really know everything before I enter the exam hall? Do I always score full marks during practice? No to both questions. I told myself that whatever I don't know, won't appear in the exam paper. True enough, I was correct 95% of the time. What about the other 5%? The marks lost were insignificant to affect my grade.

Do not compare answers
After every paper, students tend to compare answers. If you find that all your answers are the "generally accepted correct answers", you feel very happy and confident. On the other hand, if you find that most of your answers are different from your friends, you feel down. Why take this risk? Go straight home and prepare for the next paper.

Take exam in peace
In one of my previous posts, I discussed 4 unorthodox ways to tackle examination. Those methods were supposed to make us feel good and enter the exam hall with a peace of mind. As long as we feel good, we feel confident and vice versa. Read that post again!

There are of course many other methods to feel confident, but ultimately it's all in your mind. Learn to control your mind and heart and you would have won half the battle.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

GCE O Level: A Comprehensive Guide To Chemistry

Introducing my new book:
GCE O Level: A Comprehensive Guide To Chemistry

The ‘O’ Level Chemistry Comprehensive Guide is written with one main goal in mind, to provide students with handy revision notes, facilitating revision before the examination.

This book contains everything students need to know before taking the ‘O’ Level Chemistry Examination. It is written in point forms as much as possible to make revision painless. Useful examples are included for better understanding. Important diagrams and graphs are provided where necessary.

Understand the points, diagrams and graphs in this book and students will be well equipped to tackle the ‘O’ Level Chemistry Examination.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

GCE O Level: A Comprehensive Guide To Physics

Introducing my new book:
GCE O Level: A Comprehensive Guide To Physics

It contains all you need to know to score well for O Level Physics.

It is written in point forms as much as possible to make revision painless. Equations are written in boxes for easy reference. Important diagrams and graphs are provided where necessary.

Understand the points, diagrams and graphs in this book and you will be well equipped to tackle the Physics Examination.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Hunger For Grade or Knowledge?

Over the years, quite a number of students ask me if results are really very important. They know its importance, but have doubts at times and are not sure of the extent of importance.

I throw back a question to them, "what do you want in life?"

I don't know
If you don't know what you want in life, result is very important. It can land you a place (in most courses) in a university, which in turn can land you a well-paying job. Some may argue that it would be better to find out what you want in life first. This was also my thought years ago. However, over the years, I realise that not many people know what they want, especially when students are aged 15-18. In addition, what you want now may not be what you want next year, not to mention when you are 21 or 25 years old. Hence, study hard for good grades first. This will open up more doors for you.

I know
If you know what you want to work as, read up more on it, work towards it. It may not be a bad thing to drop (if possible) or to score not so well for some "useless" subjects. Naturally, you will get good grades in the subjects that matter.
I had a student who wanted to be a lawyer. She had plans to go overseas for studies. Her only request was not to fail Math, as Math was not the main requirement to get a place in the university. I supported her decision to spend close to no time in Math. She used the "extra" time to read up on General Paper and articles that she deems are important. In the end, after spending 4 lessons with me just before A Levels, she passed her Math for the first time and got herself a place in the university of her choice, reading law.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Keep A Notebook

As you may have known by now, writing down my TODO list in a notebook has been part of my life since I was in school. Even when mobile phone calendar and applications were growing in popularity in 2007, I opted to use my notebook/organiser instead of switching to technology. This idea may seem outdated to many, but there are always good reasons to keep to the primitive method.

Easy access
Open the book and there you are, your TODO list staring at you. Of course one may argue that a phone is more accessible since we are staring at it 24/7. However, I find it faster to flip pages than to scroll through the different days to arrange my timing.

Easy edit
Change time? Cancel, write.
Change day? Circle, draw an arrow to another day.
Compare this to highlighting a bunch of text, cutting, placing the cursor at another place, pasting. All using a finger.

No distraction
Once the mobile phone is in our hands, most people have the tendency to delete emails, to read Facebook update and to reply messages. Few people can resist the temptation of all the notifications.

Write ideas immediately
There are many times when ideas just come to our mind, be it the answer to a Math question or a solution to a programming problem. Take out the notebook and scribble. It is not easy to record ideas and mathematical formulae using a mobile phone, and many times a computer too (at least for me).

Creativity juice
Somehow, I find that I feel smarter and more creative using pen and paper. I am able to write, cancel and draw all sorts of diagrams and flow charts immediately. I guess there is no need to further explain why this is faster than using an electronic device.

Record important notes
The notebook can be used to write down the important notes for a subject which we are taking. Whenever we feel bored, take out and review the notes. Before the exam, take out and go through it once.

A notebook which I used to write important formulae

I also solved some tutorial questions while in the train.
A one-for-all notebook can serve many purposes. However, as we are living in the electronics world, take a step back and embrace the old style. We might get more from it than we would ever imagine.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

H2 Math Paper 2 Questions?

Every year, after the first paper, my students would never fail to ask me for advice on the topics to focus on for the second paper. No exception this year. The only exception is some of my students, on different occasions, told (and encourage) me to publish them on my blog.

Anyway, here are the 4 topics that I think will appear in paper 2. But please students, do not just study these 4 topics. By now, no matter what questions appear, you must be confident enough to handle them.

What if I am wrong? I am not a good guesser, as I always tell my students. :(
So what if I am correct? Hmm... Then yeah! :)

Vector geometry
- All your planes, lines, points.
- Distance, foot of perpendicular, intersection, mirror image etc.

Differential equations
- Well, nothing much to say.
- Most likely some population growth or some shadow on the floor that changes length.

Sequence and series
- Mathematical induction with method of difference.
- Maybe there will summation sign somewhere.

Complex numbers
- The lovely Argand diagram.
- Of course the range of argument and the longest/shortest distance is our favourite.

All the best for paper 2! Remember to enjoy the paper like I always do! :)

Monday, 19 October 2015

Failure Is The Mother Of Success

Failure Is The Mother Of Success

"Failure Is The Mother Of Success"

We have all heard this many times but how many of us feel really demoralised after a failure? How many of us actually believe this statement immediately after we failed? At least not me. It's not that I am pessimistic, it's just that immediately after a failure, I can't possibly expect myself to succeed on my next try without doing anything right? If I can succeed, I won't fail now right?

We face failures every now and then. It's not how heavy we fall, it's how we climb up and move on. It's not how many times we fail, it's how we take it and proceed from there.

If you have been reading my blog, you would have realised that I fail quite frequently. Some of my major failures in studies include doing badly across all my subjects in secondary 2. I was warned of being retained in secondary 2 for failing 3 subjects, including English, in my common tests and obtaining borderline passes for the rest. Even in university, I also failed many times, especially in programming. For the two programming courses (C and C++) I took, I did not manage to finish the practical examinations and many of the sit-in programming assignments, not because I did not have enough time, but because I just could not understand the whole thing.

Every time I fail, I feel dejected. Every time I fail, I feel like quitting school. In secondary 2, I had the thought of leaving school because I kept doing badly and I did not have the mood to continue studying. Luckily for me, my late grandmother and parents encouraged me. Instead of scolding me for doing badly, they told me to "take it slowly, retain if needed, don't rush". I managed to scrap through and in secondary 3, I consulted my cousins. My results picked up and I gained some confidence. I worked harder and my results went up north further. This cycle continued and studies have never been a problem since (except for English of course).

As much as you may fail now, do not give up. It is easy to give up, never easy to persevere. But I promise you, when you succeed after failing, the level of satisfaction is second to none. Continue to work hard towards your goal and build on your little successes, your little successes will add up to a great achievement that you deservedly own!

Take some time to read this article on Mr Joshua Soh. He took 6 years to pass his O Levels. He did not give up when he failed and he became the managing director of CISCO.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

The Official Website For Samuel Li Tuition

Finally, my tuition website has enough information to be officially announced to the world!

I have been a web developer for many years, building many websites and web applications for others. Now, I finally have the time to build one for myself! Fear not, I will still share useful stuff in this blog. The website is meant purely as an information site for my tuition services.

Before I end this post, please say hello to this nerdy logo that my best friend Jia Li has designed, using my face as her inspiration! :| Not only is she a good designer, she is also a good Economics tutor, do look for her if you need one!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Gifts For My Students

bookmarks for samuel's students
A peek into the process

It is the time of the year again!

This year, I will be making bookmarks for my students.
I am still in the midst of finding quotes for the hand-made bookmarks.

Students, wait for yours! The quote on your bookmark is specially chosen for you and it carries a message I want to bring across to you.

Hope you like your bookmark!

Friday, 4 September 2015

Happy Teachers' Day

samuelmath logo
Happy Teachers' Day to all the teachers and ex-teachers out there!

- Teachers form a great part in my growing up years, including university
- Without teachers, I won't have the necessary knowledge to be where I am now, whether successful or not, I am happy with where I am now.
- Without the scoldings and criticisms from my teachers, I doubt I would have learned as well as I did.
- I may criticise some teachers along the way, but deep inside my heart, I know that all my teachers really care (I am lucky to get good teachers all the time) and want us to learn well and do well in life.


Monday, 20 July 2015

Planning For Examination

"Prelim is in one month's time. A Levels will be starting on 1st November. What should I study today? If I study Math, what about Chemistry? But then Physics is my weakest subject. How?"

Does the above sound familiar? Have you ever asked yourself such questions before? Students have been asking me how should they study. I am going to share my way of planning for exam here.

1.5-2 months before exam
Things to prepare
- A piece of writing paper
- Long ruler and basic stationery
- School timetable
- Exam timetable

1) Draw 3 columns and label the headings: Date | Exam for the day | Study for the day
2) Fill up the dates and days under the 1st column, all the way till the last day of the exam.
3) Fill up the exam subjects under the 2nd column, beside the respective date.
4) One day before each exam, write down that subject(s) under the 3rd column. On the last day of exam, write the word "PLAY!" under the 3rd column.
5) **Fill up all your subjects under the 3rd column. Spread them out across the 2 months.
6) Paste this exam timetable on the wall or stick it on the refrigerator.
7) ^^Follow the exam timetable closely. When you feel that you need a change, use a different colour pen to cancel the subject for the day and replace it with another one. Be sure to add the subject you've just canceled to another day.

exam timetable planning

exam timetable planning

** I follow a way of filling up the "study for the day" column.
1) If that day is a school day, I will write the subjects for the class on that day. Firstly, the teacher will most likely give some assignments. Secondly, the teacher might go through a new topic which I will need to go through again after school.
2) If that day is not a school day, I will write more subjects. This is to stress myself to study more on a weekend, for example.
3) I tend to put subjects which require memorising (History, Geography) on a weekend.
4) I will never put 2 subjects which require memorising on the same day.
5) I tend to give more time to subject which I am weaker in. For example, in secondary school, the most number of occurrences in my timetable is Social Studies and the least number is E Math.
6) I tend to group my weakest and strongest subject together on the same day. This is because I spend less time on my stronger subject and so I will have more time for the other one.
7) Do not leave more than 5 days break for each subject. If I study Math on Monday, the latest I should study it again is on Saturday.

^^ I always use a black pen to write my plan, and a red pen to make amendment. Using different coloured pens help you better track your changes.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

GCE A Levels H2 Mathematics Book 2nd Edition

H2 Math Book Samuel Li

I would like to thank everyone who has been supporting me with regards to my JC Mathematics book, since I started selling it in March last year.

For the past one year since I launched my book, buyers range from parents, students to tutors. I've been lucky enough to receive feedback from them, from grammatical and spelling mistakes to how I can improve the book, both content-wise and physically.

Yes, I hear you and here are some changes I have made:

Double Sided
The book is now not as bulky as before (about half the thickness) and you can save some energy in carrying it around.

New Binding Method
The previous two types of binding did not allow for the book to stay at the page you were at without having something to press against it. I have found a new binding method. Now you can flip to any page you want easily. Every page can now be your cover page too, making reading easy!

GCE A Levels H2 Mathematics Book Samuel Li
Every page is your cover page

Other than improving the English, I have improved on the layout. I have also rephrased some parts to help you understand the book better.

Hope to receive more feedback! :)

Friday, 16 January 2015

Talk In AJC: Effective Learning

I am very honoured to be invited to give a talk to potential students of Anderson Junior College on 7th January 2015. In addition to sharing my AJC life, I touched on adapting to JC life, in particular the learning journey which is very different from Secondary School.

Talk In AJC: Effective Learning
I got this pair of AJ Bears as a token of appreciation. :)
The general feedback I got was that I am 'good and smart'. Hence, I am going to give a summary here and hope that it is useful to you too.

Give And Give
Part of learning is teaching. Teach your friends! They will ask questions which make you think more and in the process, know more.
Don't be selfish, share your notes! Sharing notes may be the first step towards a fruitful discussion with your friends. Sharing notes allows someone to vet your notes, in case you jotted down the wrong stuff.
In the process of giving, you are actually gaining. Remember the sentence which my Physics tutor told me, "The more you give, the more you get". So just give!

Ask And Ask
No question is stupid, ask any question. Although our best friend, Google, is always available, there are many questions which Google cannot explain well (at least to the level which students are comfortable with). Asking also kickstarts a conversation, and of course, you will learn more in the process of Q&A.

EQ Instead of IQ
We can never go far alone, whether in school or at work. Hence, make friends, not enemies. Take note of our own attitude, take note of how we treat people. Be aware of your surrounding, and take time to help those in needs. Form study group, it doesn't matter if you are the strongest in the group. The power of a team is more than the sum of the individual.

3 main slides with a few words were what I needed to bring my point across. In short, have fun together, learn together, help one another out and in the process, you would have attained not only good grades, but also good friends.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Ace Or Goal?

"Is it ok for me to just pass A Math so that I can spend more time on Physics?"

This is the type of questions which many students, especially the O Levels students, like to ask me. My reply will always be the same:
- What is your goal? Polytechnic or JC?
- What do you want to study in the future? Engineering? Marketing? ???
- What do you wish to be in the future?

After some discussion, they have an idea of what they see themselves to be in a few years' time. And a decision is made!

Ace the exam or aim for a long-term goal

Who doesn't want a perfect score? Who doesn't want to get straight A's? However, we have to realise that not everyone is interested in everything he/she is studying. Ultimately, students have to ask themselves what do they really want. What is the minimum requirement to enter the course they want in Polytechnic? What is the aggregate score to enter their preferred JC? Take that as the goal, work towards it. From my experience with the students over the years, most of them reach their target, with many "overkilling", scoring much better than needed.

My personal experience
My O Levels aggregate of 9 points just met the cut-off point for AJC. Entering NUS Electrical Engineering was the goal I set for myself. Since that was a relatively easy goal at that time, there was no pressure on me, I didn't feel really stress. I spent everyday doing the things I liked (Math, F.Math, Physics, Chemistry, Sleep, Eat). In the end, I scored a bit better than some people.

No pressure, realistic goal, listen to my heart and I did well.
If I started out wanting to be the top student, wanting to score full marks, I believe that I would be stressed out and would not do as well. This was the same when I was in NUS.

It's always good to have a few more A's. However, are you sacrificing your ultimate goal for that extra A in one subject which doesn't really matter? Is your own unrealistic goal hurting your confidence? Is pursuing that extra A pulling your overall score down?

On a side note, I was asked by two students (at different times) why did I encourage them to "just pass" the subject they don't like and not afraid that my reputation as a tutor might be tarnished as that subject is one of the subjects which I teach. My one-line answer will always be the same, "Why should I put my reputation above your personal well-being and life goal?"
Luckily, most parents trust me and support me. Even more luckily, these are the students who went on to pursue their dreams, with confidence!