The first third of A levels

Officially returned after some time of blogging respite! Reason: bombarded by the seemingly obnoxious semester exams. This was exasperated by the news (or it really is) of how hard the papers are, and how about being pulverized by the papers?

Let the article start now.

There’s a reason to choose Sunway College, mainly: the hostel (offered FOC to bursary students) allured a lot of people. Single room. Looked like great temptation, or, rather, interpreted as these scholars need undisturbed study environment. Looked like A-levels are for nerds.

Some others are: oh yeah Aeon (Sunway Pyramid) is within our turf, so that we can have outing as many times as we want (not what a nerd does) and attend weekly trading campaign to swap money with goods. Last, but not least, this college is estimable in its A-Levels (one of three with Fellowship Centre Award!) Despite all its plus points, there are two speckles that made me huffy (as listed below).

A short orientation in July (which I practically missed some of it) before I returned from the fantasy of IMO to take the 18-month-challenge. I now remembered, during the first week of my return itself I already heard grudge from my housemates, “class test tomorrow!” Umm…A-Levels are really marks orientated, I thought, significantly disquieted by this system after habituated to the quarterly assessment system in high school. My situation was no better as well, since what I faced was surprise test! (Luckily that’s maths). Legions of tests and exercises before September because of the policy of sending results to our parents. That’s all to say.


Timetable is the first spot. Looking at the timetable of my class, (Group 12: Double maths, econs, physics (12A)/account (12B)/chem (12 C) ) you can easily get yourselves disgruntled. Why? Mainly because of imbalance (8 hours on Wed while 5 on Mon) and breaks in between (that we had to stay back for N hours before the next class). In contrast, those pure science students have consecutive lessons in a day, and, concomitant early dismiss. Well…this is not my main grudge since I’m OK to spend some idle time at school. It was the other aspect of timetable arranging. As students from 9B attend 3 classes with us (1 with 12A, 2 with 12B), it turned out that we could hardly squeeze in any replacement class in the normal 8-5 slot (except for Fri we stop by 3:30pm). This happened to us for Physics class and we had to use up the time beyond 3:30pm, which may curtail the plan of some classmates of going home. Bygones be bygones, but please arrange a better timetable for us for the following semesters.

As for classes, we received the most stress from mathematics, partly because of us being Further Maths students (this explains why 80% of our class tests are from math). While it’s inappropriate for me to complain to my friends (their ammunition being “shut up, IMO gold medalist,”) still, it is imperative to have a balance of workload between 4 subjects (actually, we finish math before starting further math, which would alleviate this situation compared to our friends in other colleges). Nevertheless, it is good that I learnt quite a lot during the incipient of this journey: how mechanics link maths and physics together in A-Level syllabus, and the beauty of calculus: all maths people know that integration has no chestnut formula. Don’t believe it? Try to integrate ln sin x dx from 0 to pi/2–credits to Justin who showed me (you will get nowhere in finding its indefinite). Of course, differential equation in general is a conundrum for me now (excluding those with directly separable variables, and now, complementary function which, somehow has the remnant of quadratic equations)

Physics is enjoyable, many thanks to my lecturer, Mr. Kingsley. He is exacting in complete and specific definition and explanation, like density of any sample of an object, and using relative velocity instead of relative speed in the textbook. Meanwhile, he brought us into the world of intricate models like electrons and molecules, and think of them squirming in this special world. “Put yourselves in their shoes,” he added. This enhances our understanding, and I found my physical mind unlocking gradually 🙂

Econs? Well, its “right and wrong” nature makes things elliptical, leaving me flustered. As a game between human and resources, it concerns not only on resources appropriation and allocation, but also psychology and geopolitics (at macro level). Knowing the distinction between Keynsian and neo-classical is too parochial; somehow we have to muse on the reasoning behind the proposal, and think “which makes sense”? Unfortunately, the A-Levels doesn’t provide such thinking box in the textbook, where we only learned more through the presentation period the lecturer granted to us (besides the debate between the two guys with different economical ideology, both who have tonnes of knowledge).

Extensive Xtermination And Massacre (EXAM)

Really that ruthless, that students got into higgledy-piggledy? Not really, if you do not care at all. But if everyone treats every mark as important as wealth, and believe the rumour (or, possibly real news) that the paper would be inaccessible, I guess the whole crowd would reduce into brouhaha.

Pure math: Let’s start with this killer paper, consistent with the adage saying “eat that frog”: do the hardest first. Being a combined paper running across P1 and P3, we were given 2 hours 30 minutes to grab 100 raw marks. When I opened the paper……eye transfixed, amazed at how the lecturer expected us to play with algebraic expressions. It worth noting that how I stared at a 5-mark-question for a minute or two before the key idea in-fluxed into my brain. 50 minutes left as I finished the paper, and luckily I fixed a major mistake on graph, along with some other typos. “That’s amazing, as others who managed to finished the paper have less than 10 minutes left,” my friend responded while listening to me saying. A hearsay about the reason on the hard paper: to prepare us for Further Maths, “and terminate your hubris.”

Applied math demanded less thinking, but more circumspection. I remembered getting frustrated in fixing 5 or 6 errors throughout the paper (hopefully that was all).

Physics: “Let’s sweat together,” by head of physics prior to the exam. Indeed, the lecturer who set paper 2 for us this time came out of a killer paper that deprived a lot of time from candidates last semester, and even the best among them managed only 3/4 of it. “Damn we are going to hell,” the whole physics crowd turned into salvo. It turned out that we over-hyped the paper as the originally difficult paper was moderated, but still, time was tight for us-with one hour for Paper 2, it means that for 60% of the questions we have to write within one second after reading the question.

Econs, perhaps, was the seemingly easiest one as the questions relied a lot from A-level past years (provided you studied past years before the exam). TS was even incredible: the teacher just recycled the entire paper from the past semester paper! I didn’t know whether I was lucky that I didn’t get to look at the semester paper beforehand, but that’s not important anymore-I’ll probably drop soon.

Now allow me for my pent-up second grudge. The teachers have a tacit with students on NOT to privy past semester papers. When I stepped into the college, I already found the library incomplete not to have past semester papers. It turned out that, the papers are hermetic that we aren’t supposed to know from A to Z. A possible rationale: they wanted to reuse some questions. So what? Is it that hard to devise a new set of questions, or at lest, cull from the past years (or better still, from other boards)? The problem to students, is, most past years actual paper couldn’t measure up with the difficulty set by school teachers (esp math and physics). Don’t we have a right to have a picture on the difficulty of the papers? If they are to continue the practice, please, give us sample questions to solve our pre-exam fret.

Back to the question, are we nerds? This is true if you are to compare with other Pre-U programs in the college. E.g. my friend (who transferred from Foundation to A-Levels) cited that, there was a convivial party session, opened to all students in Sunway College, which garnered support from every programme except A-Levels. Corroboration with the general perspective of we being nerds. But, studying aside, we do have social activities, mainly contributed by student ambassador and volunteerism. This is good as we are not complete nerds yet, and we know how to take actions in the margin. After all, its one-month break now. “Enjoy your break, because you will be in the hell when you return next year”, says Ms Amy, my Applied Math teacher. Time to “unnerd!”

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