Cram me like you do (replicated from Facebook)

Mock exam is over. We rejoiced in entertainment (in particular, karaoke), games, movies, gathering. The impending one week break serves too well to relegate books to the bottom of priority list and alleviate us from the stress of exams before the ultimate blow: the A2. Do we deserve it?

This is debatable.

On one thought, we underwent double (if not more) toil to master the year-long syllabus in three months. Therefore the end of mechanics paper liberated us from the hurdle of exams. But have we prepared well? Or, rather, do we have sufficient time to prepare well?

First of all, syllabus completion is already a great deal for both lecturers and students, and at one point all of agreed that this cannot be done in just six hours of classes. Yes, A2 materials were partially covered before our AS, but little could be done when revision period sets in (a period when our myopic mind suggested us it was better to focus on AS stuff first to ace that exam). It was also not uncommon to find ourselves forgot those materials when the third semester came, forcing ourselves to revise those notes again. As mock exam drew near, lecturers would be like “it’s okay, you just have to ace the final A2” and we would be like “let go one subject to do well in the other three”, suggesting the gravity of time constraint.

As if these were not enough, we had admission tests like UKCAT, BMAT, IELTS, SAT (a.k.a. Stress And Tension), and essays (like personal statements and US college essays that potentially eat up your time). The tests aren’t easy: some are even harder than A-Levels especially for those without very robust language foundation like me. Don’t we find ourselves in pressure cooker?

The choice

It sounds like I have resentment at A-Levels, but I don’t. My point is, are we making right choice by opting for 18 months course instead of 24? Insiders know too well that the A-Levels syllabus is tailored for two years in UK, and yet most Malaysians went for 18 months. Why do we do so? Are we saying out loud that we are smarter than the Brits? Are we saying that the two-year-course is too relaxing and we should shrink to 1.5 years? What’s more, when we aspire for the insane 4A*s, fighting hard to be the top 10% in each subject, and eye on prestigious schools (like C or O).

Some may say 24 months course is “too relaxing that one may slack”, but knowing the academic rigor of A-Levels (especially CIE, the exam board under which we enroll for exams) I don’t think it can be relaxing even in this sequel. Rather, the extra time allows us to ruminate on the facts we learned on textbooks, and we don’t have to cram the facts hastily. The former gave the room for self reflection until we understand things completely, while latter on guarantees superficial comprehension, gained through perfunctory approach.

What’s more? We can involve ourselves in college ECAs. In Sunway we have ALSTAR, but since we have only 18 months and the last two semesters are for exams, can we remain active beyond the first semester? Furthermore, one course mate, enrolled under 24 months programme, set up his own club in Sunway. Do we (18 months fellows) have this luxury?

Regret or not?

I don’t know. I chose 18 months because of its popularity, and that only 14 people in our batch chose 24 months (as opposed to nearly 400 for 18 months) would make me feel “lonely” if I chose otherwise. It seems like the Malaysian culture is shaped like this: choose the fastest path if possible. I may not agree with this (especially after cramming facts for mock exam this time), but admittedly, changing public’s perception is very hard (if not impossible with only individual power). In this case I even “have” to join this predominant culture.

Having walked through 14 months of this arduous journey, what else should I do? Just work hard for the following three months and put in all effort into university applications (and I believe my comrades in my batch feel the same way too).

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