The student-ministry game 1-Preps

Those in IMO 2012 will never forget problem 3: The liar’s guessing game, solved completely by only 8 of the contestants and had its mean score exceptionally low: 0.412 out of 7. (Note: I only understood the solution of second part of the problem after looking at the official solution in May, since I was fully baffled by the posts in AoPS and IMOMath website.)

Now here’s the alternative version of the game played by Malaysian students and the Examination Boards (under MoE) where I was the player for the game in 2013: In a game, each player can play a combination of games consisting of around 10 subjects. For each subjects, the game maker will set a series of questions and students would need to answer the questions. Players can make as much preparations and they can, and can even predict the questions that will be asked by the game maker. The format of the questions is fixed, and is known to the players.
After the game, the game maker will give a grade to players according to the response of the players. Is it true that the grades obtained depends on preparation of players?

The answer to the problem is rather subjective: but the answer from me is: agreed to some extent since the it depends on numerous factors and preparation was one of them.

Jan 2012-Sep 2013: Full time preparation as a student.

1. School
What’s next after getting straight A’s in the primary game (UPSR) and junior game (PMR)? Preparation for the next (and probably the last) game under the government. As classical quotes says, “never miss class and homework”, but since the beginning of the year I was absent in the class, periodically in a monthly basis, since I had to attend IMO trainings and competitions. Classmates could see me busily chasing up the syllabus and homework, and I sometimes needed to take a shortcut by copying friends’ work. Till the end of the year I was still in homework debt: I skipped 2 chapters in Form 4 Mathematics homework.
(Disclaimer: I’m not looking down at Mathematics, but since I am strong at it, I preferred finishing other homework first and put it at the bottom of the priority)

2. Tuition
On top of that tuition was a supplementary for students, and all of us (except a few, including one who score #2 and 11A+ in SPM) attended tuition classes for at least half of the total number of subjects. People keep saying that I’m independent in studying as I only signed up for 3 tuition classes for linguistic subjects, but 3 is enough to put me into stress.

However, frankly saying, I did benefit from the tuition classes, especially from the techniques of composition. It worth noting that for BM and BI we get to know the types of questions with high potential to be released in our exams. As usual, practice makes perfect.

There’s some difference in the materials for tuition: English is the one which covered the most out-of-syllabus things (which adds spices to essays), such as advanced grammar, while Chinese is the only one free of tactical approach towards exam (simply because we can’t do it anyway!)

3. Examinations
There were 7 school examinations: 4 in Form 4 and 3 in Form 5, the last one being the SPM Trial Examinations.
Chemical paradox: It worth noting that I “failed” in my first Chemistry test with 76 for missing key words and incorrect techniques, and when I reached my climax of 91 in the final exam (form 4), the teacher said with great hyperbole, “this is the type of results obtained by the student who was absent for 5 months.” Well, I still didn’t get the relation between the two statements.
Trolls: there were moments where the paper was set brutally hard, and it was out of everybody’s expectation. I survived majestically in the form 4 final additional maths troll, in which my classmates were uprooted by the windy conditions of the paper. I finally could enjoy the complacency of being in the top 5 (only once throughout 2012-2013). However, I wasn’t that lucky in the disaster in Form 5 mid-term for Moral paper, leaving me a C+ and less than 25-th percentile throughout the class. Damage was done in others’ results, but not as severe as mine.
Absence: In August 2012 I attended the IMTOT Summer Conference with Justin in Teberda, Russia, which spanned 2 whole weeks (1-14 August). This gave me a good reason in skipping the 3rd exam of the year (only 2 subjects taken): just great enough for me after skipping class during IMO 2012. I would then have a hard time in chasing the half-year syllabus in September to prepare for finals.
Besides, I skipped 2-3 subjects each in first two exams in form 5, and biology was an unfortunate victim for both. The teacher was worried because of this, especially when biology is one of the killer subject in obtaining A+. Though it may be fortunate for me to sit for the trials, her impression towards me didn’t show a significant improvement as I jumbled up all key words in Paper 2 Essay. I passed the benchmark of A+ with very narrow margin in the end, special acknowledgement to my high score in Paper 3.

Post-trial period: Final miles.

Now, we had done our postmortem, and the evaluation chart of trial exam subject grading of each student is published nakedly on the class notice board. I finished at #9: tie with another girl (this is not school ranking, just show that 8 people get better grades than me) at CGPA 0.2. What can we do for final backups? Dim the lights and here we go (quoted from Ryan Secreast in American Idol XD):

1. State papers. If I ever had a chance to tidy up my storeroom I would be aware of how freaking thick my file of state paper is. Basically, 11 subjects and approx. 5 states in average for each paper. Plus we need answer scheme, yeah. My school claimed that it allocated more than 10k in buying just the Penang papers. Wow!

2. Seminars. A lot of seminars available, but I chose only the critical ones: BM (by my tutor, KKLeong), BI (by my tutor, Mr. Sarvana) ans 3 Sciences (one in school and 2 under Elite tuition centre). Again, thick handouts, and instead of spotting questions I was concerned more on the techniques.

3. Self practice. I bought a lot of reference materials and usually rushed it before school exams. A practical realization of problem would be: could I finish all essays? Nope (too time consuming), but sometimes it suffices to read at the answers lol. Also, in the end of the day the practice focused more on heavy Science subjects, so linguistic subjects depended heavily on tuition materials.

Now, enough with material cramming, and it’s now the day before the start of exam. Have a good night sleep, and face the final challenge in my school life.

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