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Monday, June 20, 2016

HOTS Versus Spoon-feeding - Perspective from an SPM Student

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Malaysia Students

  1. 30 June 2016: Fully Funded IATSS Forum Leadership Training Program in Japan 2017
  2. 31 July 2016: Yayasan Tan Sri Lee Shin Cheng (IOI Group) Scholarships
  3. 31 July 2016: SEARCA’s Graduate Study Program Full Master's and PhD Scholarships
  4. 31 August 2016: Yaw Teck Seng (YTS) Foundation Scholarship Programme
  5. 36 Scholarships for IPTA Undergraduate Students
  6. Throughout the year: Intel Malaysia Scholarships

HOTS vs Spoon-feeding

by Kai (Share your thought-provoking opinions with 50,000+ students in Malaysia!)

Starting from the year of 2013, teachers, students as well as guardians had come to know a phrase, which have later become the hottest topics among the educators as well as students. HOTS, a word which really means “hot” for the candidates sitting for the exams, or more appropriate that it is so for certain candidates. In 2013, UPSR, PMR and SPM had changed their “face” by introducing High Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) questions which brought to us a lot of Facebook status updates shortly after the papers like “Owh, today’s questions’ gonna kill me!!!” or “OMG! I spent all night to memorise the Moral definitions but only two came out in the exam!”. And it tells us that, those “alien”, “uncommon” and “unfamiliar” questions had dawn a big bomb on majority of the candidates.

Well, I was one of the students, sitting in the exam hall, cracking my head to think of any possible answer for those “alien” questions which we’ve never seen before, during the SPM 2013.
SPM KBAT HOTS Questions
Soalan KBAT sebanyak 40% UPSR dan 50% SPM pada tahun 2016 -  Kementerian Pendidikan Malaysia

I have to admit that, they were not easy questions. Nevertheless, I was HAPPY for those kind of questions! It proves that the spoon-feeding way of teaching that we used to at schools is no longer applicable.

Let’s just talk about the Moral subject. In my school, our teacher used to print a big pile of notes and distribute to us. And we were required to read and memorise the notes. For example, for Moral the notes included the definitions for 36 moral values (you should memorise them without leaving out any word), name of government agency (which we used to translate them from Chinese to Malay), name of acts related to certain moral values (that you even think you were taking papers for Law), keywords (you know they are from the definition but you simply forgot which part of it) which is necessary for the essay part of the questions…and so on. After all, having Moral class in school is just about memorising the notes and learning the answering techniques, and you even wonder, is this what so-called Moral?

Today, the introducing of HOTS questions tells us that, from now onwards we should emphasise on the ability to think instead of memorising skills of students. And that’s what education should be! In order to train students answering the new style of exam questions, I could even imagine teachers entering classes without their Moral textbooks and start their classes with any topic, subsequently guiding students to give responses on the topic. Those topics could be on our nation history, modern issues, future development, self-development, self-reflection, etc. etc. There are too much to be discussed on, and there are too much that we students had never learnt from the textbooks. And now, it has become the teachers’ obligation to lead, to give exposure and to guide students: to think on their own!

I wouldn’t say the Moral questions in SPM 2013 are difficult, since we can answer those questions based on our observations from daily issues, and a little own opinion and analysis and judgement. What we need to do is to speak our hearts out sincerely and honestly. And I wouldn’t deny that the answers would reflect the way we think in our daily life.

Some students might say: “You are good student and you are good in manipulating words and language, of course you could say so.” However, I am definitely against the thoughts. The ability of thinking is the basis of human being. Would you agree that students in the so-called “worse classes” do not have the ability to think and to feel? Of course they have! What they lack of are the courage and confidence to speak their opinions and feelings out. And right now it’s the chance for them to learn and practise how to voice out their thoughts. Isn’t it the way we learn? Once they are given the chance, they gain the confidence, and they tend to think and analyse more. At that time, those KBKK (Kemahiran Berfikir secara Kritis dan Kreatif) questions wouldn’t be a big problem anymore for them.

As such, teachers ought to make full use of the time in their classes, to create opportunity for students to think and to speak. At the same time, wise teachers would grab the chances to inculcate positive values in students, teach them to look at the good things in their life, to appreciate, to do good things to others, to analyse, to comment, to improve current state etc. Nevertheless, this really depends a lot on the interactions between teachers and students, plus the teacher’s attitude whether he/she could accept students voicing out their own thoughts.

Guiding students to think is like TEACHING students how to fish; while giving notes and spoon-feeding students with all kinds of knowledge without any self-learning would be like giving students buckets and buckets of fish. And it’s really vital, whether students are following a TEACHER, or a FEEDER during their school time.

The saddest part is, I would guarantee 60% Moral teachers wouldn’t think this way. What they would do is searching for more notes on the Internet, thinking of all possible questions that might come out, and urging the students, “you all better read the notes I’ve given. You don’t think Moral is easy and you don’t need to study....”

At least that’s what the teachers in my school would do.

I would say, revising teacher’s notes would never be enough, since you will never know what would come out during the exam. Why don’t read some other enlightening and insightful materials other than school notes and reference books? I’m pretty sure that will really help a lot in answering your KBKK or HOTS questions.

We wouldn’t want our nation to be as ignorant as we were during the colonisation era, do we? And what would be the most important part that the modern society requires for further development? Would it be workers with superb memorising skills? To memorise what? Since almost everything had been computerise nowadays? Would it be creative and innovative humans? Yes, of course we need them!

Kai had finished her SPM in 2014 and had her sweet time during National Service in Kem PLKN Semarak. She is an enthusiastic student towards almost all sorts of activities. Outdoor or indoor, sports and adventurous, reading and writing, anything will do. An introvert and extrovert at the same time. Enjoys photography.


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Monday, June 13, 2016

Why You Can Score Higher Without Having Tuition Classes

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Malaysia Students

  1. 15 June 2016: Putrajaya Perdana Berhad Scholarship Awards 2016
  2. 30 June 2016: Fully Funded IATSS Forum Leadership Training Program in Japan 2017
  3. 31 July 2016: Yayasan Tan Sri Lee Shin Cheng (IOI Group) Scholarships
  4. 31 July 2016: SEARCA’s Graduate Study Program Full Master's and PhD Scholarships
  5. 31 August 2016: Yaw Teck Seng (YTS) Foundation Scholarship Programme
  6. 36 Scholarships for IPTA Undergraduate Students
  7. Throughout the year: Intel Malaysia Scholarships

Why You Can Score Higher Without Having Tuition Classes

by Eassie (Share your thought-provoking opinions with 50,000+ students in Malaysia!)

Having tuition classes seems like a necessary part of a typical Malaysian student’s life. When I was in high school, I had taken a few tuition classes before I realized I can score higher and be happier without having tuition classes. When I was a Form 5 student, I gave up all my tuition classes and started to tutor myself. (By the way, there is no way my parents can be my home tutors. ) Since that time, I benefit from it. Why? I conclude several reasons:

1. Have more time to rest and relax.

Have more time to rest and relax.
We are people, not machines, and even a machine will be less efficient if it keeps working for too long. If you just have tuition classes for 1 or 2 subjects, then it is fine. Otherwise, it is too much. Normally, we have to cope with about 10 subjects in SPM. Just imagine if a student goes for tuition classes of almost all subjects. Seriously, I have lots of friends who did that, some of them even went to different tuition centers to have tuition classes for the same subject. It takes about 2 hours for a typical tuition class. So, when did they rest? I think they are all IRON MEN. When they were tired, they just can’t focus in the classroom and catch up what the teachers said. Or, they didn’t concentrate in tuition classes. So, you have nothing to lose to rest more. You can study more efficiently after that. Remember, your brain, is just like a worker, will protest and strike if you don’t give it a break.

2. Plan your time based on your style.

Plan your time based on your style.
What I often hear from the other students is ‘I have to go for … tuition today’, but not ‘I want to revise … today’ or ‘I would like to read … later’. The schedule is always fixed and filled with lots of tuition classes. Not interesting, not free, not happy. You can enjoy planning your study time without having tuition classes because you have plenty of time! Just understand what you are good at and what you are not, you can study whatever you want based on your mood and progress. Most of the students are able to study hard, but lazy to think. The style which tuition teachers say and teach may not suit you. Think about what really suit you. Some people need to speak out so they can remember, some have to write down, some can just read and some have to do lots of practices and discussions. How about you? Study in your own way and don’t rely on tuition classes.

3. Keep away from tips, learn truly.

Keep away from tips, learn truly.
Tips from tuition teachers may give you a shortcut, but watch out, there is no real shortcut in learning. You always have to pay the price, sometimes $$$, sometimes it is more than that. You may lose your abilities to learn, to understand and to master. And these are extremely important in your future study and career. Maybe you will say ‘I just refer to the tips but not count on them’. However, trust your laziness, if you get an easier way, you will not choose the harder one. Studying on your own brings the most knowledge. True knowledge will help you get good results in a consistent way. Exam tips are not always accurate and even when they are accurate, they can’t give you what you really need.

4. Be less stressful and more confident.

Be less stressful and more confident.
Tutoring yourself will make you more independent and know about yourself better. This is why you will feel less stressful and more confident on exam days. People will be nervous when they have less knowledge and preparation. Maybe, you will be nervous about whether the tips are accurate, or whether the questions are familiar to you. However, for people who study on their own, they really understand the knowledge they study and know very well what questions they can’t do. I always could predict my score quite accurately as I finished my paper. So, if everything goes as your prediction, there is nothing to be afraid of. If there is nothing to be afraid of, you will perform more excellently and get better results. There is a rule, 20% of your exam result depends on what you study before and 80% depends on how your performance when sitting for the exam.

To study on your own with no tuition classes, there are a few advices you need to remember. First, you must be highly self-disciplined. If you just watch TV and go online instead of going to tuition classes, sorry, you are not suitable to be your own tutor. Second, concentrate in class, especially if you have a good teacher. When you meet academic difficulties, please ask your teachers, friends or search the internet.

Lastly, this is the most important, if you just can’t score in any subject even though you already worked very hard, try to have a tuition class because you may study in a wrong way. However, not just follow what tuition teacher says, but learn how they prepare their notes and give guidance to students. Once you find the right way to learn that subject, then you can try to study on your own. Good luck!

Eassie, 18, have graduated from Jit Sin High School with the result of 8A+’s and 2As in SPM examination. While waiting for the enrolment of Cambridge A-Level course, she took part in this writing contest because she was bored at home. She was very courageous as she still tried to write an ENGLISH essay although her English was average. She believes that there are three things she needs to live a wonderful life: love, laughter, and money.


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Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Malaysia Public Holidays 2017 Calendar (Kalendar Cuti Umum Hari Kelepasan Am Malaysia 2017)

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Malaysia Students

  1. 8 June 2016: High Commission of India AYUSH Scholarship Scheme 2016-2017 for Malaysian citizens
  2. 12 June 2016: CIMB ASEAN Scholarship Awards
  3. 20 June 2016: Biasiswa Yayasan Bursa Malaysia Undergraduate Scholarship
  4. 30 June 2016: Fully Funded IATSS Forum Leadership Training Program in Japan 2017
  5. 31 July 2016: Yayasan Tan Sri Lee Shin Cheng (IOI Group) Scholarships
  6. 31 July 2016: SEARCA’s Graduate Study Program Full Master's and PhD Scholarships
  7. 31 August 2016: Yaw Teck Seng (YTS) Foundation Scholarship Programme
  8. 36 Scholarships for IPTA Undergraduate Students
  9. Throughout the year: Intel Malaysia Scholarships
2016 Malaysia Calendars:

Malaysia Public Holidays 2017 (Tarikh Hari Cuti Umum Malaysia 2017)

The Malaysia Public Holidays 2017 Calendar (Jadual Hari Kelepasan Am Persekutuan & Negeri 2017) below is useful for your next holiday trip planning and you have no more excuse not to buy overseas flight tickets during next AirAsia free seats / zero fares promotion.
Malaysia Public Holidays Calendar 2017 Kalendar Cuti Umum Malaysia

Malaysia Public / National / Federal Holidays 2017 Calendar (Kalendar Jadual Hari Cuti Kelepasan Am Persekutuan Malaysia)

  1.         January 28 (Saturday): Chinese New Year (Tahun Baru Cina)
  2.         January 29 (Sunday): Chinese New Year Second Day (Tahun Baru Cina Hari Kedua)
  3.         May 1 (Monday): Labour Day (Hari Pekerja)
  4.         May 10 (Wednesday): Vesak Day (Hari Wesak)
  5.         June 3 (Saturday): Agong's Birthday (Hari Keputeraan Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong)
  6.         * June 25 (Sunday): Hari Raya Puasa
  7.         * June 26 (Monday) Hari Raya Puasa (Hari Kedua)
  8.         August 31 (Thursday): National Day (Hari Kebangsaan)
  9.         * September 1 (Friday): Cuti Hari Raya Haji / Qurban
  10.         September 16 (Saturday): Malaysia Day (Hari Malaysia)
  11.         September 21 (Thursday): Awal Muharam (Maal Hijrah)
  12.         * October 19 (Thursday): Deepavali (Hari Deepavali)
  13.         December 1 (Friday): Prophet Muhammad's Birthday (Hari Keputeraan Nabi Muhammad S.A.W. / Maulidur Rasul)
  14.         December 25 (Monday): Christmas (Hari Krismas)

State Holidays 2017 (Jadual Hari Cuti Kelepasan Am Negeri)

  1.         January 1 (Sunday): New Year 2017 (Tahun Baru 2017)
  2.         January 14 (Saturday): Yang di-Pertuan Besar Negeri Sembilan's Birthday (Hari Keputeraan Yang di-Pertuan Besar Negeri Sembilan)
  3.         January 15 (Sunday): Sultan of Kedah's Birthday (Hari Keputeraan Sultan Kedah)
  4.         February 1 (Wednesday): Federal Territory Day (Hari Wilayah Persekutuan)
  5.         * February 10 (Friday): Hari Thaipusam
  6.         March 4 (Saturday): Anniversary of Installation of Sultan of Terengganu (Hari Ulang Tahun Pertabalan Sultan Terengganu)
  7.         TBC: Sultan of Johor's Birthday (Hari Keputeraan Sultan Johor)
  8.         April 14 (Friday): Good Friday
  9.         April 15 (Saturday): Declaration of Malacca as a Historical City (Hari Perisytiharan Melaka Sebagai Bandaraya Bersejarah)
  10.         April 24 (Monday): Israk dan Mikraj
  11.         April 26 (Wednesday): Sultan of Terengganu's Birthday (Hari Keputeraan Sultan Terengganu)
  12.         May 7 (Sunday): Hari Hol Pahang
  13.         May 17 (Wednesday): Raja Perlis' Birthday (Hari Ulang Tahun Keputeraan Raja Perlis)
  14.         * May 27 (Saturday): Awal Ramadan
  15.         May 30 (Tuesday): Harvest Festival (Pesta Kaamatan / Pesta Menuai)
  16.         May 31 (Wednesday): Harvest Festival (Pesta Kaamatan / Pesta Menuai)
  17.         June 1 (Thursday): Perayaan Hari Gawai Dayak
  18.         June 2 (Friday): Perayaan Hari Gawai Dayak
  19.         June 12 (Monday): Hari Nuzul Al-Quran
  20.         July 7 (Friday): Georgetown World Heritage City Day (Hari Ulang Tahun Perisytiharan Tapak Warisan Dunia)
  21.         July 8 (Saturday): Penang Governor's Birthday (Hari Jadi Yang di-Pertua Negeri Pulau Pinang)
  22.         * September 2 (Saturday): Hari Raya Qurban / Haji Hari Kedua
  23.         TBC: Sarawak Governor's Birthday (Hari Jadi Yang di-Pertua Negeri Sarawak)
  24.         October 7 (Saturday): Sabah Governor's Birthday (Hari Jadi Yang di-Pertua Negeri Sabah)
  25.         TBC: Malacca Governor's Birthday (Hari Jadi Yang di-Pertua Negeri Melaka)
  26.         October 24 (Tuesday): Sultan of Pahang's Birthday (Hari Keputeraan Sultan Pahang)
  27.         TBC: Hari Hol Almarhum Sultan Iskandar
  28.         November 11 (Saturday): Sultan of Kelantan's Birthday (Hari Keputeraan Sultan Kelantan)
  29.         November 12 (Sunday): Sultan of Kelantan's Birthday (Hari Keputeraan Sultan Kelantan)
  30.         November 27 (Monday): Sultan of Perak's Birthday (Hari Keputeraan Sultan Perak)
  31.         December 11 (Monday): Sultan of Selangor's Birthday (Hari Keputeraan Sultan Selangor)
Note: * Subject to change (tertakluk kepada perubahan).

Kalendar Jadual Hari Kelepasan Am Malaysia 2017 Persekutuan & Negeri

To be updated once the official version is available.


► Read more on Malaysia Public Holidays 2017 Calendar (Kalendar Cuti Umum Hari Kelepasan Am Malaysia 2017)

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Malaysia through the Eyes of International Students / Foreigners

Malaysia through The Eyes Of International Students / Foreigners

Guest post by Fabian Yii (Share your views with 50,000+ Malaysian students)

If you are a prospective college or university student, this post is for you. Well, a lot of things are going to change when you embark on this new journey of life. One of the most prominent things is that you will make a lot of new acquaintances, and chances are, whether you like it or not, you will have to deal/interact with students of different nationalities. Now, the good news is that perhaps you can get to know a little more about international students/expats prior to your commencement of studies after reading this post.

1) North South Korean: Mr. Kim Chiun a.k.a Kimchi 김지운 (Yongin)

Korea National Flag
"I had been in Malaysia for more than 4 years. I just went there for learning English, and personally I wanted to learn the Islamic culture and Malaysian culture. Actually I never had any opportunity to learn Islamic culture and Malaysian culture in Korea. That is why it fascinated me so much! I watched one episode in documentary about Southeast Asia and the cultures displayed there were so awesome."
Why did you choose Malaysia over other Southeast Asian countries?
"I guess Malaysia is one of the safest countries in SE Asia? I heard that there is no natural disaster in Malaysia. That's the only reason why I believe it is the safest. Obviously, Nasi Lemak would be one that I would never forget about Malaysia but I also really enjoyed listening to the Islamic prayer. That prayer was like morning alarm. Most importantly, Malaysian taxi driver!! I was like so excited for thrilled taxi ride! Misconception is that many friends of mine always think that Malaysia does not even have any access to the internet. However, obviously it is not true."
South Korean: Mr. Kim Chiun a.k.a Kimchi 김지운 (Yongin)
Kimchi on the left side of the picture is shown photobombed by a stranger photobombing a stranger
"Malaysians always think that all Korean men are damn handsome like how actors are in drama. Malaysians are very friendly in general but taxi drivers are rude to Koreans and Japanese (in my opinion). UMMMMM......The most peculiar norm I find is that all Malaysians do not have to go military service unless they are selected to do so, and female also have to go military service. In Korea, females are exempted."
Is there anything that you would like to add on?
"How to make Nasi Lemak??? Haha I really miss Nasi Lemak!!"

2) Canadian: Mr. Brandon Liew (Edmonton, Alberta)

Canada National Flag
"If I were to guess, I've stayed in Malaysia for about a total of 10 months due to family trips when I was younger. I came to Malaysia for vacation with my family."
Canadian: Mr. Brandon Liew (Edmonton, Alberta)
"I won't forget the food. The food is both delicious and cheap. I probably wouldn't forget how hot and humid the weather is there too."
Anyhow you have survived the hotness in Malaysia! What were the misconceptions you had about Malaysia before coming here?
"I can't really answer this since I've been to Malaysia ever since I was young. However, from the Malaysian friends I've had in Boston, I initially believed that Malaysians were not super fluent in English and had a limited understanding of popular culture in America. I was proven wrong once I made a lot of Malaysian friends at Berkelee and learned that for some of them, English is their first language, and that they are up to date with the latest pop culture in America."
Canadian: Mr. Brandon Liew (Edmonton, Alberta)
How about Malaysians's misconceptions of your home country? 
"This is hard since I've never asked any Malaysians. I can't think of many misconceptions other than the myth that Canadians say 'eh' a lot. I mean we do use it at the ends of our sentences, but not that much. Canada isn't any nicer or polite than Americans either which is evident through some our riots at sports events and racist crimes."
Canadian: Mr. Brandon Liew (Edmonton, Alberta)
"The Malaysians that I know are personable, easy to talk to, and very lively people. I've found that if they are passionate about something, I can usually feel it quite easily."
Canadian: Mr. Brandon Liew (Edmonton, Alberta)
"Malaysian slang can be quite interesting to decipher sometimes. Not sure if it's a norm, but the way that Malaysians mix and combine different languages to speak 'Manglish' is both marvelous and difficult for me to understand sometimes."

3) Japanese: Miss Julie Sasaki (Tokyo)

Japan National Flag
"This is my 4th year in Malaysia; I came here to study under the Canadian curriculum in Sunway. The languages in Malaysia are so unique because everyone mixes different dialects and slang. And I would never forget the heat in Malaysia. So hot! Why do I see people wearing long pants/shirts OMG!"
Japanese: Miss Julie Sasaki (Tokyo)
How does Malaysian stereotype Japanese in general?
"Everyone is an otaku (a young person who is obsessed with computers or particular aspects of popular culture to the detriment of their social skills) / we eat sushi everyday / everyone watches anime / there are still ninjas around! These are all the misconceptions. Malaysians in general are open minded, easy to mix with, understanding."
Japanese: Miss Julie Sasaki (Tokyo)
Ah, are there any norms you find particularly peculiar?
"People who ride motorcycles wear their jackets from the front / people can order things without a menu (mamak, hawker stores etc)"
People who ride motorcycles wear their jackets from the front
pic courtesy of paultan.org
 *Like... this? ONLY IN MALAYSIA*

4) Hong Kongese: Miss Amanda Chong

Hong Kong National Flag
"I have been staying in Malaysia my whole life but I've always traveled back and forth between Hong Kong and Malaysia every 2/3 months or so to visit my dad since he's working and based in Hong Kong. I'm in Malaysia for educational purposes and also because my mum's a Malaysian; not forgetting Malaysia's good food as well!"
Hong Kongese: Miss Amanda Chong
"There's a lot to love Malaysia for and one of the biggest reasons would be the sunny weather that Malaysia has all year-round. Believe it or not, coming from a country with four seasons is actually quite troublesome - imagine having to check the weather every day before heading out so you know what you've got to wear/ prepare and also imagine having to shop for crazily expensive seasonal clothes every 2 years or so, definitely not something that I look forward to personally! Furthermore, Malaysia is a beautiful country filled with richness in diversity, culture and opportunities! This comes from many factors such as its unity between races, it's thriving economy and more! I love how the country and its people has always been so accepting of not only me but many other fellow expats as well. Perhaps, that's one of the reasons why I feel extremely heavy hearted to leave the country for good in the coming fall as well."
Hong Kongese: Miss Amanda Chong
" I've always grew up here so I don't have much misconceptions about the country but I do have a lot of friends back in Hong Kong who thinks that Malaysians can only speaks Malay since it's (Malay)sia! Not only that, there are also a lot of misconception of Southeast Asians consuming the weirdest foods from durian to fried bugs but I think that's just one of the many cultural specialty of this region of the world."
Hong Kongese: Miss Amanda Chong
"Since Astro on Demand is quite huge in Malaysia, Malaysians tend to assume how Hong Kong actors act in these shows are how we, Hong Kongese would act in our daily lives as well. Think, extremely fierce-constantly annoyed and that's what many Malaysians would think of us."
Hong Kongese: Miss Amanda Chong
"One norm in Malaysia that I can never understand and feel comfortable with is the extremely gender-centered mindset that a lot of Malaysians I've noticed to posses, even though they might not necessarily realize it. This can range in several areas in the Malaysian society, from jobs to titles and even household roles! I've noticed that there's a lot of constraints to jobs in Malaysia especially. For example, people would easily put a title to one's gender/sexuality based on one's job title. As for household roles, Malaysians tend to assign these roles/responsibilities to women only especially due to the mindset that men are supposed to be the bread maker of a family. However, with the recent awareness around feminism and gender equality, I do notice some movement in this mindset so that's great!"
Hong Kongese: Miss Amanda Chong
"In my opinion, Malaysians in general are extremely friendly, kind and helpful! Although there may be a handful of people that aren't as described but there can't be a full basket of perfect apples without a couple of rotten ones so I completely understand that."
Hong Kongese: Miss Amanda Chong
"Malaysia has always and will be home to my heart and I strongly urge the youth of Malaysia to always come back to their very own roots here in the future. I know the country might not seem as bright now but there are a lot of hidden opportunities that you've never realized it's there and I believe that the future of the country lies in your hands. Good luck!"
Thank you Amanda! It was really elaborate!
Fabian Yii


Kindly visit Fabian Yii's blog (www.fabianyu.blogspot.com) to check out the complete list of interviewees on the post "What do people from other places around the world think about Malaysia?"

Fabian Yii was an SPM 2014 candidate. He scored A+ in all three pure science subjects. Science never fails to tickle his fancy since small and even to date. He previously shared his SPM tips on this blog: How to Study SPM Chemistry, Biology & Physics?


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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Choose Form Six Not STPM

Choose Form 6 Not STPM

by Jaclyn Sam (Share your thought-provoking opinions with 50,000+ students in Malaysia!)

Most of us would think that both are the same. Well, Form 6 is a program and STPM is an examination after you complete Form 6. To those who already have your fancy plans to study in some expensive colleges and set your mind to study abroad, you might want to think twice. As the following will tell you the difference between Form 6 and STPM.

Form Six 6 / STPM

Like most of us, I used to think Form 6 is a tougher passport to degree. Well, could you tell me which pre-university isn’t? Let’s lay downs the stereotypes of Form 6: difficult, wasting time and pressure. Am I right? In fact, what I have mentioned is STPM and not Form 6. Form 6 the exact opposite of what I mentioned.

What is Form 6 actually then? Form 6 is fun, is about time management skills and easy. Yes, EASY. Unlike most people, I took Form 6 out of convenience not because my parents ask me to or I really want to enter local public university but because I could not decide. Being the second youngest among my cousins, I have seen the way my cousin studied for STPM, sleeping at 2.00a.m to understand Krebs cycle or to master probability. I told myself, I AM NEVER GOING DOWN THAT PATH. Here I am done with it, and actually did not regret a moment of it.

See the thing with STPM is that all the studying and no fun and that is just a part of it. But in Form 6, everything is much easier for you, trust me! In Form 6, priorities are given to Form 6 students. Most likely, teachers offer you club president, at least board of directors of the club to help us. We needed more than they do anyway, for university applications, scholarships and whatnot. Teachers help you as in they are willing to spend couple of hours after school to tutor you. Who would do that, say, in A-Level? In A-level, every minute lecturer spend is money unlike teachers in school who understands what you are facing.

In Form 6, classes are small; I had 14 classmates in my class, the smaller the class, the closer we are. You will meet people of different backgrounds and speaking different languages. Yes, different languages! Having a group of friends who speaks English only, I had to adapt to mandarin speaking classmates in Form 6. Though I am Chinese but I am not well-verse in mandarin. That was difficult. As time passed, you learned to adapt and learn something new from others.

Form 6 is about adapting and accepting changes. Form 6 establishes a strong foundation for you to find out who you really are! You must be wondering in 18 months, did I become a different person? As exaggerating as it sounds, Yes, I did.

The magical thing in Form 6, it brings students together, you make instant friends and friends you never thought you would be friends with.  Neither is 18 months short nor is it long, but it definitely gives ample time to grow and be mature. You value time more than you are in form 5. When I was in form 5 than I took 10 subjects while Form 6 I took 4 subjects and I made the most out of every day. You are motivated to study because STPM is tough.

And where do you get less than RM3.50 lunch every day, if not school? You tend to save so much more while in school than in colleges because once in college, people treat you like adult, no more subsidies.

I asked most of my friends, what changes most in them after taking Form 6? Majority said they become more mature than most of their friends who are in college. Those 18 months changes the way you see things, instead of reacting to words, you try to understand the situation. In the 18 months, you would know what you want. Believe me or not? Yes, it does.

In Form 6, school doesn’t separate you between the smart kids and average kids; you choose what major you want to be in. Say, all this while you have been in the first few classes, in Form 6 you will be mixed with everyone whether you are a smart kid from the first class or the average kid from the fourth class. The thing is, people tend to have stereotypes towards who and who from so and so class but in Form 6, stereotypes do not exist you mix with everyone. Seeing people out of your comfort zone makes you a better person and changes your perspective.

So what about STPM? STPM is part of Form 6 but not the entire thing. STPM for me was tough, really tough but Form 6 was easy. Get that right. Taking STPM does not mean you will end up in local public university for those who see it that way, STPM broaden your options from local public university to private university or abroad.

Why not spend 18 months in school and experience all these? Because once you are in university, you will be glad you did it whether you choose to go local public or private. Is not wasting time, what’s the rush? You have the whole lifetime ahead and did you know most of us spend more than 50 years working? What is another 18 months in school?

One more thing, why spend a hefty on private pre-university when you can spend less than RM 100 for pre-university? Go figure, guys!

Jaclyn Sam, 24, had completed STPM in 2011 and graduated from UNIMAS. She pursued Social Science, major in International Studies. She did biology in STPM and found out that it was not her cup of tea. Found her passion in social science while working in Borders. She enjoys reading fictional books as well as National Geography. She believes knowledge is power. With knowledge, she believes we can make the world a better place. She aspires to work with United Nations and to teach as well.


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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Malaysia top 10 basic credit cards suitable for university students with low income

Saving money as a student on your credit card bills

Guest post by Sabrina Warmerdam (Share your tips with 50,000+ Malaysian students)

All of us know that students don’t have all the financial resources they would like to have as they have to finance their studies. Also, as student are usually not big spenders it's more beneficial for them to have a credit card which they don’t have to swipe a numerous amount of time each year to get an annual fee waived.

Malaysia Top 10 Basic Credit Cards for Students with Low Income

Students try in every way to save some money, so why not while using a credit card? A credit card has several features on which you can save some money.
  1. Pay attention on the annual fee rate, some credit cards have an annual fee (which can be either waived or not) and some credit cards have no annual fee at all. 
  2. Make your decision after you checked the interest rate of the credit card. Some credit cards have a lower interest rate compared to other credit cards.
  3. Check all the benefits and features of the credit card and make up your mind from which features you want to benefit. Credit cards do often have benefits for spending on petrol, retail and overseas. You can earn Air Miles with some credit cards and some of them have the benefit of a travel insurance. It’s important to all check these and to make up your mind whether you want to benefit from them or not. 
Only 6% of all credit cards available in Malaysia can be considered as basic credit cards. Therefore, it is very hard to find these cards. A basic credit card has the following criteria:
  1. Has no annual fee / or annual fee waiver
  2. Requires RM 2,500 monthly income at most
  3. Is available to anyone
So, of all the cards which met the criteria above, we made a top 10 list of basic credit cards and some helpful information.

Malaysia Top 10 Basic Credit Cards

1. BSN Classic Card-i


BSN’s Classic Card-i is one of the basic cards with a relatively low interest rate of only 13.5%. To be eligible for this credit card, your minimum income should be at least RM 2,000. So next to the fact that the card has no annual fee and is eligible to anyone, you can also benefit by earnings points. For each Ringgit spent on retail and petrol, you earn one point and for each Ringgit spent overseas you earn 2 points.

2. Maybank 2 Gold Card


Maybank’s 2 Gold Card has the lowest interest rate among the basic credit cards, only 8.88%. One downside of this credit card is that you should at least earn RM 2,500 each month in order to be eligible for this card. However, on the other hand you will also benefit from the fact that you can earn points while using this credit card. For every Ringgit spent on retail and overseas you’ll earn 5 points, for every Ringgit spent on petrol and flight purchases you will earn 1 point. Also, these points can be exchanged for Air Miles, namely, 4.77 points can be converted into 1 Enrich Mile, 1 KrisFlyer Mile or 1 Asia Mile.

3. CIMB Islamic Platinum


CIMB’s Islamic Platinum card is one of the several basic credit cards with an interest rate of 15%. Furthermore, you are eligible for this credit card when you have a monthly income of at least RM 2,000. Next to this, you can save some money by earning points while using your credit card. For each Ringgit spent on retail and petrol, you’ll earn 1 point. For each Ringgit spent overseas, you’ll earn 2 points. These points can be exchanged for Air Miles, 6 points can be converted into 1 Enrich Mile.

4. BSN Classic Card


BSN’s Classic Card has, compared to the other basic credit cards, a relatively low interest rate of only 13.5%. Furthermore, if your monthly income exceeds RM 2,000, you are eligible for this credit card. Next to these facts, it is always nice to save some more money by earning points while using your credit card. For each Ringgit spent on retail and petrol, you’ll earn 1 point. For each Ringgit spent overseas, you’ll earn 2 points. These points can be converted into Air Miles, 5.5 points can be exchanged to 1 Enrich Mile.

5. Maybank Ikhwan Gold Card


Maybank’s Ikhwan Gold Card has, just like a lot of other basic credit cards, an interest rate of 15%. To be eligible for this credit card, you should at least earn a monthly income of RM 2,000. Furthermore, with this credit card you can also earn points in order to save some more money. If you spend one Ringgit on retail, petrol and overseas, you’ll earn 1 point. Also, you’ll get 5% cashback on spending in selected grocery outlets.

6. AmBank Gold Card


AmBank’s Gold Card is also a basic credit card as it has no annual fee and is available to anyone. Furthermore, it has an interest rate of 15% and a minimum monthly required income of RM 2,000. You can save some more money with this credit card by earning points while using it. For each Ringgit spent on retail and overseas, you’ll earn 1 point. These points can be exchanged into Air Miles, 10 points can be converted into 1 Enrich Mile or 1 BIG Point. Next to the points and Air Miles, you can also benefit from a travel insurance of up to RM 500,000.

7. OCBC Titanium Blue/Pink


OCBC’s Titanium Blue / Pink credit card has a 15% interest rate, and a minimum monthly required income of RM 2,000. Furthermore, you can earn 0.1% cashback on retail and petrol spending and 1% cashback on spending overseas and online tranasactions.

8. CitiBank Choice Card


CitiBank’s Choice Card is also one of the basic credit cards. You are eligible for this credit card if your monthly income exceeds RM 2,000. Moreover, the credit card has an interest rate of 15%. Also, Citi Bank offers a few benefits while using this credit card. For each Ringgit spend on petrol and retail, you’ll earn 1 point. These earned points can be converted into Air Miles. 6.5 points can be exchanged for 1 Asia Mile, 7 points can be exchanged for 1 KrisFlyer Mile, and 8.5 points can be exchanged for 1 Enrich Mile.

9. Public Bank – Petron Gold Card


Public Bank’s Petron Gold Card is also part of the 6% basic credit cards. It has an interest rate of 15% and you are eligible for this credit card when your monthly income exceeds RM 2,000. Furthermore, with this card you get a 0.5% cashback on retail, petrol and overseas spending.

10. Hong Leong – I’m Card


The I’m Card of Hong Leong has an interest rate of 15%. Furthermore, you are eligible for this credit card if you have a monthly income of RM 2,000.

Choosing a credit card can be a difficult task as there are hundreds of credit cards available in the Malaysian market. However, narrowing your choice down to a basic credit card can make your search a lot easier and besides save you a little money too.

Sabrina Warmerdam is a data analyst intern at CompareHero.my, an online comparison website for credit cards, personal loans, and broadband. Next to comparisons, we regularly publish blog articles with insights about financial topics, e.g. Best Travel Credit Cards and Saving Money on Broadband.


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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Gap Year Is Part of a Growing and Expensive Trend

Editor's note: Some Malaysian students take Gap Year before enrolling into formal tertiary education. Read our previous posts on gap year experiences here:

Malia Obama’s ‘Gap Year’ Is Part of a Growing (and Expensive) Trend

By MIKE McPHATE, first published at The New York Times

 The White House announced that Malia Obama, 17, would be delaying her college start date. It didn’t say how she would spend her year. (Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)
It sounds awfully nice: A yearlong postponement of schoolwork.

The White House announced on Sunday that Malia Obama, the president’s older daughter, would be among the thousands of students to take a so-called gap year between high school and college.

The hiatus from classrooms, textbooks and tests has become an increasingly popular choice. The idea is that university-bound students go on an adventure, do something meaningful and, if all goes to plan, arrive at campus a year later more mature, focused and attuned to their goals.

Still, despite growing acceptance of the gap year, or bridge year, by university administrators — and its ready adoption in other parts of the world — many Americans continue to view it with trepidation.

Why are gap years becoming more popular?


Some parents worry that their children could veer off track academically and never recover, but higher education experts argue that the opposite appears to be true. Studies have shown that not only do the students go on to perform better than their non-gap-year classmates, they also tend to end up in more satisfying careers. (Although, researchers note that self-selection could play a part as gap-year students tend to be more affluent).

“For some reason there’s some concern around — ‘Does it contribute to academic atrophy?’ What we’re finding is absolutely not,” said Ethan Knight, founder of American Gap Association, an accreditation organization. “If anything, it connects the theory that they’ve been exposed to over their many years of education to the reality of what’s going on in the real world.”

A growing number of colleges and universities, including all eight institutions in the Ivy League system, have been signing on to the idea as a constructive choice for incoming freshmen. Harvard University, where Malia plans to start in the fall of 2017, has for decades been urging members of its incoming class to consider it.

And the case has only grown stronger with the rising intensity of competition to get into elite colleges, according to an essay written by William Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions, and two other school officials.

“Faced with the fast pace of growing up today, some students are clearly distressed, engaging in binge drinking and other self-destructive behaviors,” the authors wrote.

One remedy, they suggest, is to take time out. For the scores of incoming Harvard students who heed the advice each year, the authors added, “The results have been uniformly positive.”

Are gap years expensive?


In the reaction to Malia’s decision on social media, some people have pointed out, occasionally with a note of contempt, that the financial barriers to embarking on a gap year can be too much for some families. A yearlong, immersive, international program, for example, can run about $35,000.

But university administrators also note that gap-year plans come in a variety of forms, some of them at no cost. AmeriCorps’ City Year, for example, pays students stipends to teach. Another popular program, Global Citizen Year, provides financial support — more than $6 million since 2010 — for students to pursue experiential learning.

But those programs can be highly competitive. City Year, for example, says it selects only about one in four applicants.

“It’s hard to do it if you don’t have the resources,” said Chris Yager, the founder of Where There Be Dragons, which leads international programs.

But, he added, organizations that target gap-year students often tend to be driven by a sense of mission rather than profit, and many programs, including his, offer at least some level of financial assistance. “People who are doing the gap-year programming, right now at least, they’re all really principled people,” he said.

Then there are those gap-year plans created by students who possess rare initiative. Robert Clagett, the director of college counseling at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, Tex., recalled one who spent the first third of her year tending llamas at a monastery in North Dakota. The next third, she worked for a judge in Oklahoma City, and, finally, she volunteered at an orphanage in the Dominican Republic.

“It’s not unusual for students to spend maybe half their gap year with a job,” Mr. Clagett said, “maybe living at home, or an internship where they make some money, and then spending the second half of the year traveling or having whatever kinds of experiences they’re hoping for.”

Which schools offer gap-year programs?


More universities have begun formal gap-year programs that take varying approaches to enrollment and the providing of aid, including Princeton, Tufts, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Elon University.

At Princeton and North Carolina, for example, freshman-year enrollment is deferred and at least some financial help is provided, while Elon considers participants enrolled and charges its regular tuition. Another program offered by the New School in New York City also treats students as enrolled and offers up to a full year of academic credit.

Florida State University is among the latest campuses to start offering scholarships to gap-year students. Late last year, the public institution said applicants could get up to $5,000, and sent an email to the entire incoming freshmen class urging them to consider deferring their freshman year.

“We wanted to spearhead this effort in higher education and to be a leader, and to showcase gap years as an important part of the educational system,” said Joe O’Shea, the university’s director of undergraduate research and academic engagement.

“We’ve had a really strong response so far,” Mr. O’Shea added. “It’s been really exciting.”

O.K., but what do students say?


There is growing evidence that as more students discover that postponing their freshmen year is an option, many take the opportunity.

The exact number of young people who take gap years is not known, but the American Gap Association said its surveys indicate that it has been on a sharp rise for at least a decade. At the same time, attendance at the national circuit of USA Gap Year Fairs has seen explosive growth in recent years, organizers say.

This is all great news, said Mr. Clagett, the St. Stephen’s administrator, who is a longtime proponent of the gap-year movement.

Asked if there is any downside to gap years, he paused. In about 40 years of working in higher education, he said, “I have yet to work with a student who has regretted taking a gap year.”

In a letter to The New York Times, Aaron Schwartz, a Princeton student, said his gap year in Urubamba, Peru, was “the best decision of my life.” Returning volunteers are not only enriched academically, he said, but they are imbued with a new sense of civic responsibility.

“So my advice? Do something different. Go on an adventure. Learn a new language. You won’t regret it.”


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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Exam Tips: How to Score A in CIE AS and A Level Biology

Guest post by Daniel Lim (Share your exam tips with 50,000+ Malaysian students)

I got 4A for my AS Level in October 2013 and 4A* for my A Level in May 2014. The 4 subjects that I took were Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics and Biology. Do you want to know how to score in AS and A Level for these 4 subjects? Here, I am posting the complete tips for AS and A Level. These tips are intended for all students who are sitting for AS or A Level in May 2016 or October 2016.

AS & A Level Biology Tips:

One of the 4 subjects I took was Biology. My percentage uniform mark for Biology was 90% in AS Level and 92% in A Level. Do you want to know how to score in AS and A Level for Biology? Here, I am posting the complete tips for AS and A Level Biology.

CIE AS & A Level Biology Exam Tips

1. Studying tips

  • When your teacher is teaching in class, pay attention to what your teacher says. Make sure you understand everything taught by your teacher. If you do not understand anything, ask your teacher or friends.
  • You need notes or reference books that are complete.
    • For AS, I recommend you to use my notes. You can download my notes here.
    • For A2, I recommend you to use this reference book:
      Cambridge International AS and A Level Biology, by C. J. Clegg (Hachette UK)
  • When studying a chapter, read through all the explanations in my notes or in the reference book sentence by sentence. Make sure that you truly understand each sentence before moving on to the next sentence. Certain topics may require understanding of earlier topics, so make sure you understand those topics. You should also try to relate them to what your teacher had taught in college or school.
  • You should be actively involved in all experiments carried out in college or school because this can help improve your practical skills which are essential for Paper 3 and Paper 5.
  • Then, you have to remember everything that you understood. You can memorise the sentences in my notes or in the reference book, or you can also create your own sentences that have the same meaning and memorise them. If you create your own sentences, make sure that you do not change the original meaning, do not leave out any important points and do not change the important keywords and scientific terms. However, do not just memorise without understanding. Once you have understood, it will be quite easy to remember and you will be unlikely to forget any of the points.
  • For certain facts, there may be no explanation for them so it is not possible to understand them. In that case, you have to remember and memorise those facts.
  • You have to regularly revise every topics again and again. When revising, go through all the explanation and facts in my notes or in the reference book. Make sure that you do not forget anything that you have understood previously. Regular and repeated revision will help you to remember all the explanation and facts for a long time.
  • When you have understood all topics, you have to do past year A Level questions. They are available on the internet. After doing the questions, refer to the mark scheme and do self marking. The mark schemes can usually be found on the same website as the past year questions.
  • You should understand how the mark schemes are used. In the mark schemes for Biology, most marks are independent of any other marks, which means that they can be scored without other marks also being scored, unless otherwise stated by the mark scheme. If any biological term is underlined or highlighted, it means that the exact term must be used in the answer and no other term is acceptable even if the meaning is the same, but grammatical variants of the term is accepted. If any non-biological term is underlined or highlighted, it means that either the exact term or other terms with the same meaning must be used in the answer. If any words are placed in brackets, it means that the words need not be present in the answer for the mark to be scored. In the mark schemes, A means accept, I means ignore while R means reject.
  • When doing revision before exam, you should first go through the subtopics that you think is more difficult or that you may have forgotten. Then, go through other topics as well if possible.
  • To prepare for Biology Paper 3 and Paper 5, you should go through all the past year questions and the mark schemes. Find out how every question is marked and which points need to be included in the answers. The pattern of questions set is similar for every year and you should familiarise yourself with the pattern. Usually, the same type of questions will have similar mark scheme, so this can help you when answering exam questions. You should remember the answers for questions that are common.


2. Paper 1

- Read the question and all the options carefully. Write any rough workings on the question paper if you need to. Cancel off the options that you consider as definitely wrong. Then, choose the most suitable answer among the options.

3. Paper 2 and Paper 4

  • Paper 2 and Paper 4 Section A consists of structured questions where you must answer all questions while Paper 4 Section B consists of 2 essay questions where you can choose any one of them. You can answer both questions in Paper 4 Section B if you have time. The examiner will mark your answers for both questions and choose the one where you score higher marks.
  • When answering, read the question and all information given carefully. Make sure that you know what the question is asking for. Answer the questions based on your knowledge and understanding on the relevant topic in Biology. Certain questions may test you on more than one topics. For some questions, you may have to apply what you have learnt in Biology in order to answer them. You have to think carefully and relate the question to what you have learnt. You may also be asked to give your own opinions.
  • When writing your answer, you can use the same or similar words or sentences as those in my notes or in the reference books if possible. However, sometimes you may need to make some changes in order to suit the question. You can also answer in your own sentences that have the same meaning. If the question asks on something that is not in my notes and the reference books (the question requires you to apply what you have learnt in Biology or give your own opinion), then you have to answer in your own sentences. For all questions, your answer must be specific and not too general. Give the most suitable answer according to the question.
  • You should use the correct biological terms in your answer. Do not replace them with other terms that are inappropriate, even if their meaning are the same. You should spell all biological terms correctly. If you can't do so, try to spell it in such a way where it sounds the same as the actual term when read out. Marks are usually not deducted for spelling errors in biological terms as long as it still sounds the same and that it is not easily confused with other terms. If you spell a non-biological term wrongly or if you make grammatical errors in your answer, marks will not be deducted for as long as the examiner can understand what you are writing. You are allowed to use suitable short forms in your answer, such as formula for chemical substances and symbols for units of physical quantities.
  • It is not compulsory to answer in continuous writing form. You are allowed to answer in table form, point form or other suitable forms. In suitable cases, you can also use diagrams, equations or graphs in your answer.
  • When answering questions on calculation, you should show all workings. You should not skip any important steps. You must also write the correct unit for the final answer if it is not provided. The number of marks allocated for the question usually shows the amount of working needed. 1 mark will be given for each important step and the final answer. Correct answer without working usually scores only 1 mark. If your final answer is wrong but some of your working is correct, you may still be given some marks. You are not allowed to write extra solutions or answers. If you do so and any of the answers or solutions is wrong, marks will be deducted. For a calculation question which requires you to use your answer from the previous question, even if your answer for the previous question is wrong and you use it for this question causing your answer for this question to be wrong, usually you will still get full marks for this question as long as your calculation for this question is correct. This is known as 'error carried forward'.
  • When describing numerical data shown in a graph or table, you should quote suitable figures together with their units from the graph or table. For graph, each set of figure that you quote should include both the x value and y value and you should quote the figures accurate to half a small square.
  • For questions that require explanation or description, your answer must be very detailed. You are advised to answer in complete sentences so that your answer can be easily understood. The number of marks allocated for the question usually shows the number of points needed in your answer. 1 mark is given for each correct point. Do not miss out any important points in your answer. You are allowed to write extra points in your answer, but you must be careful not to write any points that contradict one another. Marks will only be given for the correct points. For points that are not acceptable, whether they contain wrong facts or not, no mark will be given or deducted. However, for points that contradict one another, no mark will be given for both the points, even if one of them is correct. You are advised to write extra points if you are not completely sure of what the question is asking for.
  • For questions that do not require explanation or description, write the answer straight away. You need not answer in complete sentences. The number of marks allocated for the question usually shows the number of answers needed. You are allowed to write extra answers, but you must be careful not to write answers that contradict one another. Marks will only be given for the correct answers. For answers that are not acceptable, whether they contain wrong facts or not, no mark will be given or deducted. However, for answers that contradict one another, no mark will be given for both the answers, even if one of them is correct.
  • When drawing diagrams, make sure that all important details are included in the diagram you draw. You have to label correctly all parts in the diagram. Your diagram should be clear and neat.


4. Paper 3

  • During the test, read the question and all information given carefully. Make sure that you understand the experiment given. Certain parts of the question require you to record the readings from the experiment in a table. You should draw the tables before carrying out the experiment so that you can record your readings in the table straight away during the experiment. Then, carry out the experiment by following the steps given in the question exactly. You need to apply your Biology practical skills when carrying out the experiment.
  • Certain questions may require your knowledge and understanding in Biology to answer them. You may also need to give your own opinions. Your answer must be specific and not too general. Give the most suitable answer according to the question.
  • When recording readings from an measuring instrument, the number of decimal places used should be equal to half of the smallest division of scale of the instrument (For example, if the instrument's smallest division of scale is 0.1, you should record the reading to the nearest 0.05, which is 2 decimal places.) For digital instruments (except digital stopwatch), the number of decimal places used should be the same as that shown on the display. The reading should be recorded to the nearest 1s for stopwatch (both analogue and digital). In all cases, do not give more or less number of decimal places. You must also write the correct units.
  • When plotting graph, draw both the horizontal and vertical axis on the graph paper correctly. You should plot the independent variable on the x-axis and dependent variable on the y-axis. Label both axis correctly and state the unit (if any). Use a suitable scale for both axis and do not use any odd scales such as 3:10. Both the x-axis and y-axis need not start from 0 (unless otherwise stated by the question). The scales should be chosen such that the graph cover at least half of the graph paper. For line graphs, the markings on the scales should be 2cm apart, plot all points on the graph accurate to half a small square and the diameter of each point should not be larger than half a small square, then draw a curve or straight line that passes through all points on the graph if it is possible to do so, or if it is not possible, you can just use straight lines to join them point-to-point, and in all cases never extrapolate the line. For bar charts, draw blocks with equal width accurate to half a small square, where there must be space between the blocks and the distance between adjacent blocks should be equal, then label every block.
  • For questions on microscopy, you will be required to draw plan diagrams and high power drawings. For all drawings, use pencil to draw, draw as big as possible without drawing over the text of the question and leave enough space for labels, ensure that the lines you draw are thin, single, unbroken, clear & continuous and never shade or colour. When drawing plan diagrams, use low power objective lens of the microscope, show the outlines of the tissues, ensure that the proportions of tissues in the diagram you draw is the same as what you see and do not include drawings of cells. When drawing high power drawings, use high power objective lens of the microscope, draw only what the question asks, show the outlines of the cells, ensure that the proportions of cells in the diagram you draw is the same as what you see, show the cell walls of plant cells as double lines and where plant cells touch there should be 3 lines and show any contents of cells that you can see which may be nucleus, chloroplasts, vacuoles or others. Label your diagram if required by the question. Use a ruler to draw the labelling lines.
  • For any questions involving calculation, the number of significant figures of your answer should be equal to the number of significant figures of the raw value used in the calculation with the least number of significant figures. You should show all workings and do not skip any important steps. You must also write the correct unit for the final answer if it is not provided. You are not allowed to write extra solutions or answers. If you do so and any of the answers or solutions is wrong, marks will be deducted. For a calculation question which requires you to use your answer from the previous question, even if your answer for the previous question is wrong and you use it for this question causing your answer for this question to be wrong, usually you will still get full marks for this question as long as your calculation for this question is correct. This is known as 'error carried forward'.
  • For questions that require explanation or description, your answer must be very detailed. You are advised to answer in complete sentences so that your answer can be easily understood. The number of marks allocated for the question usually shows the number of points needed in your answer. 1 mark is given for each correct point. Do not miss out any important points in your answer. You are allowed to write extra points in your answer, but you must be careful not to write any points that contradict one another. Marks will only be given for the correct points. For points that are not acceptable, whether they contain wrong facts or not, no mark will be given or deducted. However, for points that contradict one another, no mark will be given for both the points, even if one of them is correct. You are advised to write extra points if you are not completely sure of what the question is asking for.
  • For questions that do not require explanation or description, write the answer straight away. You need not answer in complete sentences. The number of marks allocated for the question usually shows the number of answers needed. You are allowed to write extra answers, but you must be careful not to write answers that contradict one another. Marks will only be given for the correct answers. For answers that are not acceptable, whether they contain wrong facts or not, no mark will be given or deducted. However, for answers that contradict one another, no mark will be given for both the answers, even if one of them is correct.
  • When drawing diagrams, make sure that all important details are included in the diagram you draw. You have to label correctly all parts in the diagram. Your diagram should be clear and neat.
  • For all questions, you should use the correct experimental and biological terms in your answer. Do not replace them with other terms that are inappropriate, even if their meaning are the same. You should spell all experimental and biological terms correctly. If you can't do so, try to spell it in such a way where it sounds the same as the actual term when read out. Marks are usually not deducted for spelling errors in experimental and biological terms as long as it still sounds the same and that it is not easily confused with other terms. If you spell other terms wrongly or if you make grammatical errors in your answer, marks will not be deducted for as long as the examiner can understand what you are writing. You are allowed to use suitable short forms in your answer, such as formula for chemical substances and symbols for units of physical quantities.


5. Paper 5

  • When answering, read the question and all information given carefully. Make sure that you understand the experiment given and know what the question is asking for. Answer the questions based on the experiment and its observations and results. You may need to apply your Biology experimental skills to answer some questions. Certain questions may require your knowledge and understanding in Biology to answer them. You may also need to give your own opinions. For all questions, your answer must be specific and not too general. Give the most suitable answer according to the question.
  • You should use the correct biological and experimental terms in your answer. Do not replace them with other terms that are inappropriate, even if their meaning are the same. You should spell all biological and experimental terms correctly. If you can't do so, try to spell it in such a way where it sounds the same as the actual term when read out. Marks are usually not deducted for spelling errors in biological and experimental terms as long as it still sounds the same and that it is not easily confused with other terms. If you spell other terms wrongly or if you make grammatical errors in your answer, marks will not be deducted for as long as the examiner can understand what you are writing. You are allowed to use suitable short forms in your answer, such as formula for chemical substances and symbols for units of physical quantities.
  • It is not compulsory to answer in continuous writing form. You are allowed to answer in table form, point form or other suitable forms. In suitable cases, you can also use diagrams, equations or graphs in your answer.
  • For any questions involving calculation, the number of significant figures of your answer should be equal to the number of significant figures of the raw value used in the calculation with the least number of significant figures. You should show all workings and do not skip any important steps. You must also write the correct unit for the final answer if it is not provided. You are not allowed to write extra solutions or answers. If you do so and any of the answers or solutions is wrong, marks will be deducted. For a calculation question which requires you to use your answer from the previous question, even if your answer for the previous question is wrong and you use it for this question causing your answer for this question to be wrong, usually you will still get full marks for this question as long as your calculation for this question is correct. This is known as 'error carried forward'.
  • For questions that require explanation or description, your answer must be very detailed. You are advised to answer in complete sentences so that your answer can be easily understood. The number of marks allocated for the question usually shows the number of points needed in your answer. 1 mark is given for each correct point. Do not miss out any important points in your answer. You are allowed to write extra points in your answer, but you must be careful not to write any points that contradict one another. Marks will only be given for the correct points. For points that are not acceptable, whether they contain wrong facts or not, no mark will be given or deducted. However, for points that contradict one another, no mark will be given for both the points, even if one of them is correct. You are advised to write extra points if you are not completely sure of what the question is asking for.
  • For questions that do not require explanation or description, write the answer straight away. You need not answer in complete sentences. The number of marks allocated for the question usually shows the number of answers needed. You are allowed to write extra answers, but you must be careful not to write answers that contradict one another. Marks will only be given for the correct answers. For answers that are not acceptable, whether they contain wrong facts or not, no mark will be given or deducted. However, for answers that contradict one another, no mark will be given for both the answers, even if one of them is correct.
  • When drawing diagrams, make sure that all important details are included in the diagram you draw. You have to label correctly all parts in the diagram. Your diagram should be clear and neat.
  • When plotting graph, draw both the horizontal and vertical axis on the graph paper correctly. You should plot the independent variable on the x-axis and dependent variable on the y-axis. Label both axis correctly and state the unit (if any). Use a suitable scale for both axis and do not use any odd scales such as 3:10. Both the x-axis and y-axis need not start from 0 (unless otherwise stated by the question). The scales should be chosen such that the graph cover at least half of the graph paper. For line graphs, the markings on the scales should be 2cm apart, plot all points on the graph accurate to half a small square and the diameter of each point should not be larger than half a small square, then draw a curve or straight line that passes through all points on the graph if it is possible to do so, or if it is not possible, you can just use straight lines to join them point-to-point, and in all cases never extrapolate the line. For bar charts, draw blocks with equal width accurate to half a small square, where there must be space between the blocks and the distance between adjacent blocks should be equal, then label every block. After that, draw the error bars based on the standard error or standard deviation if required by the question.
  • For the question on planning experiment, when writing the procedure, you must include the steps to change the independent variable, measure the dependent variable and control the constant variable, as well as other steps required to set up the apparatus. You should also state the potential safety hazards when carrying out the experiment and the ways to avoid them. If there is no significant safety hazard, just state in your answer 'This is a low risk experiment'. Besides, you have to state the ways to improve the reliability of the experiment such as repeating the experiment and calculating the mean or identifying anomalies. In the procedure, you should state the amount and concentration of the substances used. You are advised to answer in complete sentences so that your answer can be easily understood. You do not need to draw the diagram of set-up apparatus.


Related Post: Revision Notes for CIE AS & A Level Subjects (New 2016 Syllabus)



Daniel Lim Jhao Jian, 20, speaks English, Mandarin and Malay. His hobbies are surfing the internet, watching television and reading. His ambition is to be a doctor.

Daniel was born in Subang Jaya, Selangor, but he grew up in Kulim, Kedah. He lived in Kulim with his grandparents for 17 years. His primary school was SRJK(C) Chong Cheng while his secondary school was SMK Sultan Badlishah. After completing secondary school, he moved to Subang Jaya and he studied Cambridge A Level at Taylor's College Subang Jaya for 1.5 years. Currently, he is living in Johor Bahru, Johor and studying 2nd year of Medicine course at Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia.

These tips were first posted at Daniel's blog.


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