By Anamika Ragu (23A01A) and Cece Cao Chenxi (23A01E)
Ah, so you have just begun thinking about your subject combination in JC, and have chosen to start with Raffles Press articles to aid you in your research. Fret not, as we have created a detailed compendium of all the mathematical possibilities your J1 year holds.
Note: As this article is meant to inform (potential) J1 students on their subject combination, detailed information on H3 Mathematics has not been included. Feel free to reach out to relevant seniors and teachers to glean that information instead!
To take H1 Mathematics, or not to take H1 Mathematics? If math is not your strong suit, or if you are simply curious about taking a H1 subject, chances are this question might have popped up in your mind. Yet with the majority of the student population taking H2 Mathematics, the concept of taking H1 Mathematics may seem unfamiliar and uncertain to many. Through this section, we hope to address any concerns with taking H1 Mathematics, as well as switching from H2 to H1 Mathematics.
Why should you take H1 Mathematics?
With H1 Mathematics being the road less travelled, why do students take up this subject instead of its H2 counterpart? After considering the experiences of several H1 Mathematics students, one writer included, we found that the answers boil down to three main reasons.
- Math has never been their forte.
As the ‘easier’ math subject, it is no surprise that those who find Mathematics to be daunting are often more comfortable taking H1 Mathematics. As many H1 Mathematics students have struggled to keep up with math in the past, it is only practical to take on H1 Mathematics and learn in a comparatively less stressful, slower-paced environment.
- They want more time to focus on other subjects, given the fewer topics covered in H1 Math.
While the H2 Mathematics syllabus is broad, introducing topics most have never seen before in secondary school, the H1 Mathematics syllabus is comparatively less extensive and complex. Most topics taught in J1 are a throwback to those taught in secondary school, allowing students to re-familiarise themselves with the syllabus and strengthen their Mathematics foundation. With the multitude of new content taught in JC, taking H1 Mathematics is optimal for those weaker in Mathematics, so that more time can be spent studying other subjects.
- They are not interested in university courses that include H2 Math as a prerequisite.
For students who are more inclined towards the Arts and Humanities, Mathematics is seemingly inconsequential to their future careers (refer to the section on H2 Math below for greater detail). Hence, those who do not see themselves working in a Mathematics-related field often elect to take H1 Mathematics. As a H1 Mathematics student quipped, “I know all the math I would need [to do] in the future can be done on a phone calculator.”
If you can relate to any of these reasons, H1 Mathematics is perhaps the right path for you. If you relate to all these reasons, you are highly encouraged to take H1 Mathematics. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to consult your subject teacher for a better evaluation of your Mathematics capacity.
However, as all decision-making goes, do weigh your options carefully. Since some university courses require a pass in H2 Mathematics, taking H1 Mathematics would mean you are no longer eligible to read courses such as Engineering. But fret not, for there are still many doors open for H1 Mathematics students—for example, popular courses such as Medicine, Law and Business do not require H2 Mathematics, though it may be perceived as useful nonetheless. For that reason, it is highly recommended to look into the subject prerequisites for courses you are interested in before making your decision.
What is H1 Mathematics like?
So now, you may have a better gauge of whether you should take H1 Mathematics. But what are H1 Mathematics lessons really like?
Typically, there are 2 tutorial lessons spread across the week, and are relatively slow-paced to make room for everyone to catch up. Given the smaller class size, lessons in J1 are held in one lecture theatre with the entire H1 Mathematics cohort. In Y6, lessons are more focused, and the cohort is separated into smaller classes with their own teachers. After each topic, quizzes are held to consolidate your learning, and contribute to 10% of your final grade.
Perhaps one of the biggest differences between H2 and H1 Mathematics is that there are no lectures to be viewed for H1 Mathematics, which may be another plus if you would like to focus on lectures for other subjects. Furthermore, there is only one book containing lecture notes for the entire syllabus for the year, unlike H2 Mathematics where there are multiple books corresponding to each topic.
Make no mistake however – though the workload in H1 Mathematics is relatively lighter, consistency is still key to doing well. Like all subjects, H1 Mathematics still requires regular practice to achieve the optimal result for your End-of-Year exams, and the A-Levels. If you find yourself requiring more help, the H1 Mathematics teachers are always available to clarify your doubts!
Switching from H2 to H1 Mathematics
H2 Mathematics can be a challenging subject, and if you find yourself struggling to keep up with the pace of the lessons, spending hours on revision only to achieve sub-optimal results during CTs, or facing mental stress from the subject, it may be in your favour to consider dropping to H1 Mathematics. This is even more so if any of the aforementioned reasons to take H1 Mathematics resonate with you.
Once you have made your decision, It is recommended to drop to H1 Mathematics as soon as possible to adjust to the H1 syllabus, and especially if taking H2 Mathematics has begun to affect your studies for other subjects.
Remember that this is nothing to be ashamed of: everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and taking on a H1 subject rather than its H2 counterpart is far from a representation of your overall academic capabilities. Instead, it simply means you are aware of what you can handle at a healthy level, and have taken action to be kinder to yourself. After all, with the A-Levels looming ahead, it is practical to have as smooth-sailing a journey as possible, rather than taking on a subject you struggle with for its prestige. At the end of the day, being able to excel in all your subjects reflects better than one subpar grade in your results slip.
Ultimately, you know yourself best—in the hectic flurry of JC life, H1 Mathematics can be a much-needed change of pace. There is something extremely comforting to know you are not alone in trying to make sense of the complex world of Mathematics, and the H1 Mathematics department has crafted a place without any judgement towards your Mathematics ability. And who knows, you might just get your first A in Mathematics sooner than you think!
Taking H2 Mathematics is largely regarded as “the convention”, subjecting it to many misconceptions. For one, as previously established, it is not a status symbol. Moreover, it would be a mistake to assume it maintains the rigour of Secondary school Mathematics. After all, the ‘A’ in A-Levels stands for Advanced, and many H2 Mathematics students report one of their biggest challenges to be adapting to the increased demands of every question.
Having presumably met the prerequisite of passing the O Level Mathematics Paper 2 (or its equivalent) to qualify for H2 Mathematics, all that is left for you is to find out a little more about what exactly this subject entails, and whether you foresee yourself coping with the commitment well in the next 2 years.
The H2 Mathematics curriculum prepares every student for two 3-hour papers, marked out of 100 and carrying 50% of the total mark each. Students are primarily trained for Paper 1 and complete most of the Pure Mathematics portion of the syllabus in Y5, before moving on to Probability and Statistics in Y6. If you would like to learn more about the workload or learn ahead, you are highly encouraged to read the SEAB A Level Syllabus, which explains the subject requirements in great detail.
So, what is it really like?
In a regular week, H2 Mathematics takes up three 50-minute blocks, usually comprising tutorials where tutors run through content previously taught in online lectures (which students are expected to watch beforehand), released several weeks in advance to afford students with ample time to learn the content and complete related tutorial questions.
Tutors also take this time to go through tutorial questions, which are attached to every unit’s lecture notes for students to practise what they have learnt and acquaint themselves with various question types. This, too, is expected to be completed before actual lessons.
Put simply, lecture notes are worksheets with blanks or incomplete solutions to be completed along with the tutor during recorded (or very occasionally, physical) lectures. Tutorial questions are a list of practice questions students will complete and compile in any form they choose (a book, foolscap sheets in a ring file, or even scrap papers that are difficult to keep track of, though it is highly frowned upon) independently.
After each unit has been taught in its entirety (i.e. all lectures completed and tutorial questions taught), students will sit for a short class quiz which accounts for (based on the units the Mathematics department chooses to weigh into students’ grades) 5% of students’ final grade.
Lastly, question demands are significantly higher. A three-mark question in H2 Mathematics can very possibly require twice as much working or ‘brain power’ as compared to that of an ‘O’-Level Advanced Mathematics Paper. This may seem daunting at first, but with sufficient practice and attention paid in tutorials, it is entirely possible to master.
Deciding your subject combination is not light work. There is no doubt that you will be considering higher education and career opportunities as possible implications of your decisions now—it is good to be aware of the doors you may inadvertently close in deciding your subject combination.
H2 Mathematics is useful for (and very likely a prerequisite for, though it depends on the university you aim to attend) business analytics, most engineering courses, computer or data science courses, and most science & technology courses. Fields relating to the humanities and/or requiring hard practical skills in the sciences (e.g. medicine) generally do not require H2 Mathematics, but it may be useful nonetheless. At the end of the day, it is best to do your own research by visiting universities’ admissions pages or speaking to your seniors or qualified professionals such as your schools’ career counsellors.
As with any other subject in JC, H2 Mathematics can be a manageable, and even enjoyable endeavour if you maintain the discipline of managing your time well. When in doubt, do not be afraid to ask questions in class or book consults with your tutors to master what you are unsure of.
At the end of the day, the best advice we can give you is to choose something you will not resent, be it for the subject itself or the implications of it further down the road. Who knows? Perhaps this subject holds the potential to lead you to your greatest passion :)
On H2 Further Mathematics:
If you are interested in H2 Further Mathematics, feel free to read this article to find out more.
Prerequisites: To read H2 Further Mathematics, one must first qualify for H2 Mathematics. Students are strongly recommended to have a strong foundation in and a sustained interest in mathematics as Further Mathematics can be quite challenging otherwise. Regardless, appeals are always possible as interest is a crucial factor!
General experience: As mentioned, a good aptitude in Mathematics is expected. The pace of content covered is quite fast as H2 Mathematics and H2 Further Mathematics content is covered at once, so consistent work is key. All lectures are online, and there are similar class tests for various topics (refer to H2 Mathematics section above for more details)
Future prospects: The subject may be especially useful in the case of engineering majors (or similarly mathematically grounded subjects) in university, though not much more useful for a career than H2 mathematics otherwise, but may assist in relevant scholarships.
Comparison Table of H1 Mathematics, H2 Mathematics, and H2 Further Mathematics
Note: the order of topics may vary from year to year, though the general content through the two years is unlikely to change drastically.