Monday Enrichment Programme Preview ‘19: The Olympiads

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By the Olympiads

For the academically inclined who wish to challenge themselves with competitions on their favourite subjects, the Olympiads provide a conducive platform for students to hone their skills and practice adequately for the Olympiads. There are four different olympiads in total: three for each of the sciences, as well as math. Looking forward to stimulating your brain every Monday morning? Look no further, for the Olympiads promise an intellectual challenge.

Biology Olympiad

By Izavel Lee (19S03D) and Cameron Goh (19S03D)

Do you want to show off to your friends by identifying random plants growing by the pavement? Or maybe through calling Teddy a Felis Catus instead of a cat? Or perhaps by reciting all 10 steps of the Krebs Cycle? Then look no further than the Biology Olympiad! For the student who wants to go beyond the H2 syllabus and be challenged in preparation for the Singapore Biology Olympiad (SBO), this MEP is the way to go.

The SBO training programme aims to prepare participants for the titular Singapore Biology Olympiad, held in November or December each year. This Olympiad consists of 2 rounds: a theory round and a practical round. The former involves 2 multiple choice papers, and participants who score well enough can qualify for the practical round. The practical round comprises four practicals, each testing on one of four themes: Animal Biology, Plant Biology, Molecular Biology or Biochemistry.

While there is a selection test to qualify for this programme, no prior experience in science competitions is required, so don’t be afraid to sign up. Once you are in the programme, an SBO alumnus will give a series of lectures to walk you through a diversity of biology topics, ranging from developmental biology to population ecology. The lecturer is a former SBO medallist, so you’ll certainly be in good hands. In addition, you’ll get to do cool practicals like prawn dissection, leaf sectioning and DNA extraction!

Can you spot the difference?

However, the training sessions alone are insufficient to prepare you for the SBO. For their own self-study, participants are usually advised to read the textbook Campbell Biology, which spans a whopping 1500 pages. A common adage by professors and seniors alike is that you should ‘read Campbell cover to cover’, so if you want to do well for the SBO, prepare to spend your post-promos period studying even more biology while your friends celebrate. Apart from having strong theory knowledge, having good data analysis skills and hands-on technical skills will also be beneficial in overcoming the battery of tests you’ll have to face.

The bible of SBO – 1500 cozy pages

Preparing for the SBO is definitely no easy feat. In the previous batch of 21 SBO participants, only 7 made it to the practical round. But if you are passionate about biology and want to learn more about it than you’ll ever need to know, then the Biology Olympiad might just be MEP for you.

Physics Olympiad

By Hai Xuan (19S06D)

As the name suggests, this elective program is all about preparing students for the Singapore Physics Olympiad (SPhO), a physics competition which many schools across Singapore participate in annually. Unfortunately, the program will only be open to students who have passed a selection test, but if you have a strong interest/passion for physics, and would like a challenge for yourself, you are strongly encouraged to sign up for the selection test!

The competition itself will first involve a theoretical round, whereby students are given 4 hours to solve 10 questions in total. Those who perform well in the theoretical round will be selected to participate in the practical round about a month later. The practical round requires students to conduct experiments and gather data.

Since this is a training program, you can look forward to intensive training sessions every Monday afternoon conducted by our very own school teachers. There will also be additional training sessions conducted by seniors or external trainers nearer to the competition date. The content taught departs significantly from what is taught in the H2 syllabus. While some of the concepts are similar, most of them are explored in much greater depth, and a larger emphasis is placed on the application of concepts to solve complex problems (perfect for anyone who hates memorising definitions :D ).

Each training session is roughly 2.5 hours, and usually focuses on one topic: mechanics, electricity and magnetism and optics, to name a few. Prior to the session, students will usually receive a set of notes and problems which they can and should look through in their own time. During the session, the teacher will first explain the relevant concepts before walking through the solutions to some of the problems.

To do well and benefit from this program, you need to be highly motivated and self-initiated. While there are weekly training sessions for you to attend, these sessions alone are simply insufficient by themselves. For example, going to a session without first attempting the problems provided will only ruin your precious opportunities to improve your problem-solving skills. Many of the concepts taught also require time to digest and fully understand, and lots of practice before you can comfortably apply them to problems you are trying to solve. It is also very helpful if you enjoy engaging in discussions, since they will more often than not expose loopholes in your understanding of the concepts.

With all that said, there is nothing to be afraid of. While it may certainly seem overwhelmingly daunting at first, you can be rest assured that improvement will eventually come with enough time and practise. If you are interested, do look out for the selection test which will take place soon!

Chemistry Olympiad

By Lee Han Wei (19S06C) and Grace Chia Yong Yong (19S06H)

Have you ever wanted to learn Chemistry beyond the school syllabus? Do you feel bored during lectures because you find it too easy? And, most importantly, do you have a burning passion for Chemistry? If so, Chemistry Olympiad wants you!

Chemistry Olympiad is one of the many Monday Enrichment Programmes offered by RI. Strictly speaking, it is the school’s training team for SChO (Singapore Chemistry Olympiad). For those who may be wondering, you have to sign up for the enrichment programme in order to have a chance to take part in the Singapore Chemistry Olympiad. So, what is SChO all about?

The SChO is jointly organised by the Singapore National Institute of Chemistry (SNIC), Chemistry Department of National University of Singapore and the Ministry of Education. The inaugural Singapore Chemistry Olympiad was launched in 1989 and has been an annual event since then. The competition is open to JC 1 students. It consists of a theory test and a practical test, each of approximately 4-5 hours, taken over two days in November.


Chemistry Olympiad training sessions are typically held on Monday mornings from 7.55am to 9.15am. From term 2 onwards, some lessons are also held on Wednesday afternoons from 2.30-4.30pm in addition to Monday morning trainings. Intensive training for the olympiad commences immediately after the Year 5 promotional exams. Students are required to come to school for trainings almost every day for theory sessions from 7.50am to 11am, and there will be practical training sessions in the afternoon as well. Based on previous batches’ experience, this will be the most hectic period, as Olympians have to prepare for the H1 Project Work ‘A’ levels examination at the same time.

When you sign up for Chemistry Olympiad, you are required to sit through a selection test. After the selection test for the olympiad programme, about 35 students are offered places in Chemistry Olympiad. Throughout the year, 2-3 internal selection tests are held, typically one in April and one in August to choose approximately the top 20 students to represent RI to take part in the SChO. In 2018,  21 students were selected to represent RI in SChO.

While Chemistry Olympiad is indeed rigorous and requires a lot of hard work, there are many perks of being a Chemistry Olympian:

1) You get to do fun experiments!

Two reflux and 1 pump setup, as demonstrated by Chem O students

Practical training sessions are especially interesting as students are given the opportunity to synthesise various compounds and perform experiments that H2 students are not given the chance to carry out. Chemistry Olympians get to carry out experiments involving reflux, recrystallization, TLC (Thin Layer Chromatography), and hone their titration skills to perfection.

2) You can learn H2 + some H3 Chemistry topics in advance :D

H2 Chemistry becomes a breeze for many Chemistry Olympians due to extra hard work they have put in for the competition. The Y5-Y6 H2 syllabus is considered foundational knowledge in SChO. It is highly encouraged for students to read up on some of the advanced topics from textbooks such as Klein (for beginners) before moving to advanced content in Clayden (Organic chemistry) or Atkins (Physical chemistry) to have a better understanding of the SChO topics tested.

3) Road to IChO (International Chemistry Olympiad)

 The road to participating in the IChO starts from participating in the SChO. If you perform well in the SChO, i.e. obtaining a high silver or gold medal, you will be invited to take part in the Phase I training of IChO, where you will have the chance to learn even more Chemistry during weekly IChO trainings conducted at NUS.

Most importantly, being part of the Chemistry Olympiad training team will give you the opportunity to pursue our passion. It is indeed amazing to see Chemistry under a new light— to think creatively, to understand unknown reactions, and to explore the complexities of molecules. This newfound understanding that has made previous batches of Chemistry Olympians zealous for more – to dive deeper, to go beyond the syllabus, and to improve their grasp of concepts.  

Truly, Chemistry Olympiad is an unforgettable experience in Y5-6. There will be so much to explore, so much to learn, and so much to discover. If what you have read above appeals to you, your inner calling and thirst for knowledge, don’t forget to choose Chem O for your Monday Enrichment Programme! May the odds be ever in your favour!

Math Olympiad

By Joshua Ong (19S02A) 

The Math Olympiad MEP is quite self-explanatory: the MEP is all about preparing for math Olympiads. So if you love math, you’ll probably enjoy this: it’s just more math! On Monday mornings, we do Olympiad-level problems and learn useful theorems/methods that are commonly used in olympiads. Usually, we are given a set of problems to try for an hour, before an external mentor goes through the solutions in the remaining time.

Math Olympiad Question

Unfortunately, there isn’t much more that we do, because the MEP is primarily trying to gear us up for the Singapore Mathematical Olympiad (SMO) Open, which is usually held in early June (this year, it’ll be held on the 6th of June). As such, the MEP ends in Term 2, and you’ll no longer be able to attend sessions once Term 3 starts. So, if you’re looking for a family, or a place to make friends, Math Olympiad is probably not going to be as helpful in that aspect as compared to other MEPs like GCEP and ISLE, which actually have trips.

However, if you are passionate about math, and enjoy participating in Olympiads, this is definitely the MEP for you! Nothing like a little warm-up for your brain in the morning, eh?

Do be warned that there will be a selection test for this MEP though, so you’ll probably need some Olympiad experience to get into this MEP. (Fret not – you don’t need to be at an SMO gold or silver level to pass the selection.)

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