Three Cheers for H3: Should I Even Consider It?

By Kimberley Yeo (13S05B)

ETA: This post has been amended on 15 October 2014 to reflect that the SMU H3 Game Theory module is no longer available, while the MOE Pharma Chem module is most popular. Read our previous feature on H3 History here.

With the impending release of the Y5 Promotional Examination results, many of us will now plunge into the craze of applying for H3s. (The rest of us will just be contented to stay out of the rush.)

So we’ve heard what is being offered and now we wonder: ‘Should I take an internal or external H3?’ ‘What’s in it for me?’ ‘Should I even bother applying?’ Chia Jia Jin (12S06F) has very kindly taken time off his Mega Mugging Madness to give Press the lowdown on these H3s.

There will be internal and external H3s, the most popular H3 being MOE’s Pharmaceutical Chemistry module. External H3s are conducted by local universities (namely NUS and NTU), and students will have to make their way there each week to attend lectures and tutorials. However, as these usually end around April or May, Jia Jin cautions those with commitments concentrated in the start of the year to take them into consideration: “You have to be sure you won’t have any heavy workload in the first half of the year because it’s going to be hell if you have 10,000 other commitments like sports season and organising Take 5. You’re just going to spontaneously implode.”

At the same time, this frees up your time towards the second half of the year when preparation for the ‘A’ Levels gets even more intensive. Internal H3s are taken together with the main bulk of ‘A’ Level papers and the syllabus is spread across the year, which may be more manageable for some. Jia Jin, a student councillor and a player on the school’s softball team, found the internal Physics H3 module, Essentials of Modern Physics, a better choice in his case.

Commitment-wise, H3s usually serve as an extension to the H2 and are not entire separate subjects. Some will find that certain topics overlap with the H2 syllabus as well: for example, Modern Physics is covered later in the H2 scheme of work. Hence, as long as you are interested and put in the effort, you should be able to cope just fine. H3 Pharmaceutical Chemistry has, however, been known to be the killer H3, while others like MOE H3 Geography, Literature, and History require students to conduct an independent research project over the course of nine months.

‘To take a H3 you need to be the 3 ‘H’s: Hardworking, Hinterested, and Hahaha I can’t think of anything else’

— Jia Jin (12S06F)

Now, why this obsession with H3s? The candidature has fallen slightly over the years, but, still, over 25% of the 2014 batch took, or are taking a H3. Many of us have probably heard that if you would like to apply for a scholarship, you need a H3. In theory, most boards require 10 Academic Units (AUs), a criterion which most of us should meet (4 H2s with PW, GP and MT count as 11 AUs while those taking a H1 in place of a H2 have 10 AUs). A H3 counts as 1 AU, so if you’d like, you could take 2 H3s for a grand total of 13 units and outshine everyone else with your brilliance. It is recommended that you take a H3 relevant to the scholarship you are interested in — that is, don’t take a Chemistry H3 just for the sake of it when your heart lies in the arts.

It is also best to have your fundamentals in place before pursuing the upper echelons of academia. Be aware of your capabilities as your H2s will count for more and spreading yourself thin can be your downfall. Then again, there will always be the few who can easily manage with 2 H3s. If you can then, why not?

All in all, Jia Jin recommends that those who are bored by the current syllabus and raring for a challenge to go ahead and apply. A H3 can be a good experience, especially if you intend to pursue research in the future. Moreover, you don’t need to be a natural genius, just genuinely interested. “It will seem pretty daunting at first because, there’re going to be all these smart-asses in your class who seem to be Newton reincarnated, but you’ll get the hang of it pretty soon if you pay attention in lessons and read the notes (a little) outside class. I’m not going to lie — it’s going to require extra effort (obviously), but it’s worth it if you like what you’re studying,” advises Jia Jin.

All the best to all H3 applicants! Most syllabuses are available online (try Stamford, or SEAB), so be sure to read up and know what you’re getting yourself into. You can also look for seniors and ask politely.

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