By Adelyn Tan (16A01E) and Esther Gao Yan Xin (16S03N)
In the second part of our interview with the Raffles Guidance Center, we discuss the tangible steps that one can take to move past the promo results, and make the best of the post-promo life.
Press (P): Beyond emotions and the mentality we can adopt when facing our results, what are some concrete steps that students who are disappointed with their grades can take so they can move on?
Mei Hui (MH): Some concrete steps to take would be to do a good post mortem review. One thing students tend to do when they get their papers back is that they focus on their grades, which is fine for the first few minutes because it’s emotional and all that, but when all the dust settles, it’s important to look at the mistakes you’ve made in the paper. What are your areas of weakness? Is it that you make a lot of careless mistakes? Is it because your conceptual understanding of a certain topic is not there? Is it your time management that’s at fault? Really be very specific and review the whole paper. If you’re very concerned, make an appointment to speak to your tutor about it and see what are the things you can do to really improve in that area.
The second thing is: it’s a good opportunity to really think through the whole past year – it’s a time of self-reflection, to examine what are the things that could have been done better, what are things you need to change, if you were to do whatever you did this year next year, would that be a good thing or a bad thing? Once you’ve gone through that whole thought process and you’re ready to actually change – that’s actually the most important, because no one can force you to change if you yourself are not motivated to change. If you really think you want to make some changes, then definitely go and speak to people around you about what they’ve been doing, so you can find out what are the right things to do. Teachers, good students, you can speak to the counsellors as well and we can point you in the right direction. There are also a lot of study skills and resources in the library if you prefer to read something rather than talk to people – that’s also fine.
The next thing you can do is really to draw up a revision plan for the holidays to revise all the subjects you’re weak in. If you have not done all your tutorials, the holidays are a good time to catch up on all the tutorials. They are meant to be done; they should be done. If you haven’t done them, do them.
P: Other than that, are there any tips on how we can spend our time productively during this post-promos period?
MH: That really depends on your grades and what you hope to achieve in the holidays. If you’re quite content with your grades and you’ve done well, then the holidays are a really good opportunity to go and get some real life experience. Go and get an internship, maybe do some part-time work, get some job shadowing experience. Beyond this, looking in the long term, you’ll be thinking of what kind of university degrees you want to do and that’s related to the career you want to pursue – doing some work experience would give you a little bit more insight into the kind of person that you are and what kind of job you might like. That’s very valuable. It’s the only window of opportunity you have within the next year, except after your A Levels. Even if you find it’s something that you don’t like – if you find out that you don’t like data entry, or you don’t like doing sales, then that’s something that you learn about yourself, that you’ll be sure to avoid.
If you feel that you need to work on your grades, then definitely draw up a realistic revision schedule for your holidays. Do your best to cover especially your weakest topics and areas. One of the key mistakes that a lot of students make is that they spend too much time trying to input the information into their brains, but they don’t actually do a lot of the extracting out of information from their brains. They don’t spend enough time doing actual practice. That should be remedied – a lot of people don’t do as well as they ought to because they lack the practice. Do more practice, because practice will help you determine what are your weaker areas and it also gives you good experience for taking the A Level papers.
Finally, this is one of the only long breaks that you get in your whole JC life. You should also take this opportunity to rest and recharge, because Year 6 is going to be a really long, hard slog, and you want to make sure that you meet that year with your batteries recharged, you have paid off your sleep deficits, and you are really well rested and in the best shape and condition to meet next year. Next year, you will have to go through four exams.
P: We’ve been talking more from the perspective of those who are disappointed with their results. How about those who are actually quite pleased with their results? What should they look out for when they talk about academics with those who are weaker?
MH: It’s not nice to boast about your results – good for you, you’ve done well, it’s good your hard work has paid off – but don’t flaunt your results. Don’t be too high and mighty. But if people approach you for help, then be nice enough to offer your help to people who do need the help. If you feel kind enough, offer to tutor some of your friends.
The approach really depends on how close you are to these students. If you’re very close, then maybe you can just offer. If you’re not so close, then wait for them to ask, and help. Do the kind thing! Obviously you’re doing something right. Would you share your notes, put it on a google drive for the class? Or if you have done extremely well, best marks in an essay, would you be kind enough to actually put that up so other people can learn from your essay and writing? Think about how you can help other people.
P: Is there a different way in which science and arts students should approach results? For science students it seems easier to get an A, but also easier to fail, whereas for arts students it’s difficult to fail, but it’s not easy to get a straight A either.
MH: Generally it’s very hard to do well for humanities subjects, but it’s also very hard to fail, which is good. But for a science subject, if you don’t study, you probably will fail. It’s very easy to fail, but I guess if you do put in the work, it’s perhaps a bit easier to get an A. Is that fair? It’s just the difference in the subjects, which is why I advise students to always choose what they’re really interested in. Sometimes what you think is the easiest A is not the easiest A.
P: Any admirable cases of students who did not do well for Promos but improved tremendously afterwards, in Year 6? How can we learn from them?
MH: There are definitely cases of students who didn’t do well for Promos but improved a lot. At the same time, there are not that many. If you think that it’s easy to do, it is really not. It does require you to change a lot of things that you have been doing and change is actually very hard for most people. It’s not just the intent to change, but the actual execution of it, to persist for something long enough for it to become a new habit.
First of all, it’s very hard to break old habits, and then to be able to keep at it long enough that it becomes a new habit, it’s difficult. It’s doable, it’s not impossible, but it’s tough. But it’s definitely worth doing. There is definitely hope – I had a conditionally advanced student who actually did well enough at their A Levels to make it into NUS Law. There are cases like that. But they did put in a tremendous amount of effort.
I want to be very wary here – I don’t want to say that “it can be done, it’s possible, lots of people do it, it’s very easy”. It can be done. But it’s not easy. Very few people manage to do it.
P: How about students who have been retained, or conditionally advanced? It’s hard to deal with doing badly for your Promos, but dealing with retention is so much harder. Is there any additional advice to give students who are being retained or conditionally advanced; any targeted advice for them?
MH: For those who are conditionally advanced, doing badly for your Promos is a symptom that something is wrong, but what that something wrong is could be very different for each student. The best thing to do is to figure out for yourself specifically what is it that you’ve been doing wrong. It’s helpful to go for academic counselling sessions. Sometimes you might not be able to see what it is you’ve done wrong if you’re not getting external feedback. Decide how much you really want it, and then actually go out and do it and follow through with whatever changes that are better so you don’t repeat your mistake. It’s fine if you make mistakes, but don’t repeat them. Learn from them. That’s how you can make it a valuable learning experience.