Thursday, October 30, 2014

How to Manage a Healthy Lifestyle during A-Level Stress - 5 Essential Tips for All A-Levels Students

How to Manage a Healthy Lifestyle during A-Level Stress

by James Timpson (Submit your guest post to us and get published here)

The period leading up to your A-levels and the weeks of the exams themselves can be a particularly stressful time. With stress often comes a lowered immune system, which means that you are vulnerable to picking up colds and flu, just what you want to avoid when you need to study.

It is important therefore, to take particular care of your health prior to and during exam time. The key areas outlined below are a good place to start.

Manage a Healthy Lifestyle during A-Level Stress
Manage a Healthy Lifestyle during A-Level Stress
Get Enough Support

It is important to not feel alone when you are going through such a stressful time. Firstly, educational support is necessary to ensure you can raise any issues or concerns about the syllabus or exams. Oaklands College advises that a high level of tutor support will help all students to perform to the best of their abilities.

Secondly, reach out to family and friends and don’t be afraid to let them know if you are struggling with revision or with exam nerves. It is surprising how reassuring a few calming words from those who know us best can be.

Channel Stress

A healthy outlet for stress is through exercise. Undertake an activity or sport that you enjoy, whether that be running, cycling or getting together with friends for some team sports.  Some experts suggest Jiu-Jitsu can be extremely important in the process of learning as a martial art can encourage an increase in confidence for the student. This confidence, alongside channelling some of the stress that builds up at exam time, is the perfect antidote to your nerves.

Eat Well

To ward off coughs and colds and to ensure that your brain has enough energy to keep it fuelled through all those days of revision you need to eat a well-balanced diet. This should include: protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, plenty of fruit and vegetables and of course the occasional treat to keep you going. Don’t eat too many sugary items though, as this can lead to your blood sugar taking a dive, which in turn can leave you feeling particularly tired and anxious.

Also remember to drink at least eight glasses of water a day. Dehydration can lead to tiredness and an inability to concentrate, not what you need when there is a large amount of revision to be done.
It’s easy to skip meals, or to make something quick and not very nutritious, when you feel like you should be studying all the time. However, this is not going to stand you in good stead during exam time. You also need some time away from your books and laptop, so mealtimes can be the perfect excuse to relax a little and catch up with friends and family.

Avoid Stimulants

Alcohol and cigarettes are never a great health choice, and if you are turning to them because of stress, they are not going to help. The same is true, but to a lesser extent, of coffee and energy drinks. They might give you an initial boost but they are soon going to lead to you feeling exhausted. Where possible steer clear of all stimulants during revision and exam time.

Get Plenty of Sleep

Another important factor is to get plenty of rest, both whilst you are revising and during the time that you take the exams. It might seem a good idea to stay up late and go over your notes again, but it is far better to do it when your brain is refreshed and well rested in the morning.

The other factor is that when we are tired even small issues can seem a lot worse and this can magnify the stress that we are feeling.

The best way to get to sleep before an exam is to switch off from all laptops, screens and mobiles at least an hour before bed. Take a bath and then just relax for a while, maybe read a book that has nothing to do with your coursework.

All of these healthy living ideas will add up to you feeling much more relaxed and in good form in time for your exams. Probably the final piece of advice is to keep your exams in perspective. Even if you feel that a paper doesn’t go very well it’s best to put it behind you and move on to the next one. It’s always difficult to tell if you have done well or not and furthermore worrying isn’t going to help you get a different result. Keep focused on the last day of exams and before you know it the summer will lie ahead, free of study and stress.

► Read more on How to Manage a Healthy Lifestyle during A-Level Stress - 5 Essential Tips for All A-Levels Students

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Fight to the Finish - How to Avoid a Stressful Finish to A-Levels

Scholarship Offers

Closing Date: Scholarship Openings
10 November 2014: Tawaran Biasiswa Pendidikan Lembaga Minyak Sawit Malaysia (Malaysian Palm Oil Board, MPOB)
15 November 2014: Chevening BAE Systems Scholarships
Open throughout the year: Intel Malaysia Scholarships

SPM 2014 Tips and Trial Papers

A Fight to the Finish - How to Avoid a Stressful Finish to A-Levels

by James Timpson (Write a guest post and share your tips with us)

Studying for A-Levels can be a stressful time, both for the student and for the family as a whole. Address these four key areas to ensure that the best results possible are achieved on the day:

How to Avoid a Stressful Finish to A-Levels

Lower the Stress Levels

When you are caught up in exam fever it can seem like the outcome is the only important thing in the world and that there is a huge amount riding on the result, not least entry into university or better job prospects. However, no one performs at their best if they are under a huge amount of pressure.

While it is important to recognize A-Levels are a key milestone in your life and that good results will be valuable to your future career, they should also be put into perspective. Worst case scenario, an exam can always be repeated, and while this is not something anyone wants to happen, you might just find that by taking the pressure off a little, you perform better first time round.

Preparation Is Key

When it comes to exam revision for A-Levels preparation is key, and the earlier you can start revising the better. Some areas you should consider at the start of your revision are the following:

  • Understand the syllabus and what you need to cover
  • Read the examiner’s report from the previous year, this will give you a feel for what you should be doing and what you should avoid
  • Look at past exam papers, so you get a feel for the format of the questions
  • Consider what revision techniques work best for you, and don’t be afraid to try alternative options, such as mind mapping
  • Create a revision timetable, but make it a little flexible, so that if you don’t stick to it to the letter, you don’t abandon it all together
  • Don’t procrastinate and spend much longer preparing to revise, than actually getting down to revision

It Takes Discipline

Sometimes students are slow to start their revision because they feel overwhelmed by the amount of work that lies ahead and they are just not sure what to tackle first. This is why it can sometimes be helpful to take a revision course in any or all of the subjects being studied. This can help to organize your thoughts and to make sure you are focusing on the key areas of the syllabus.

Alternatively, consider these points to make your study effective:

  • Start revising as early as possible so that you don’t leave it all to the last minute. Ideally you will be preparing your revision as you go through the coursework
  • Break your revision down into manageable sections and focus on one a day
  • Make a revision book or revision cards, so that you have one central place to refer to your notes
  • On occasion revise with friends, so that you can ask each other questions and give each other some support
  • Try working in different places. Some people find being outdoors helpful, so take your revision cards on a walk and get some air. Others find they need the quiet discipline of a library to get them to focus
  • Revise in short bursts. Research has shown that the brain can only concentrate for a maximum of 40 minutes. Set a kitchen timer and focus fully until the bell rings. After that take a short break of 5 to 10 minutes to stretch, get a drink, or some air and then return to your studies

Eat Well and Rest

The final piece of the puzzle, to ensure you are in peak condition for exam time, is to take care of yourself physically. Studying can be tiring, on top of the fact that you are nervous for the exams, so eat well and get enough sleep. This is part of the reason that you don’t want to leave a lot of revision until the last minute. There is nothing worse than sitting an exam when you have been awake most of the night revising.

These tips should stand you in good stead once the exams arrive. Stay calm, know that you have done all you can in the lead up to the day and walk into the examination hall confident in your abilities.

► Read more on A Fight to the Finish - How to Avoid a Stressful Finish to A-Levels

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Learn How to Save Money the Right Way

Closing Date: 10 November 2014: Malaysian Palm Oil Board, MPOB Scholarship Offer / Tawaran Biasiswa Pendidikan Lembaga Minyak Sawit Malaysia
SPM Straight A+'s for Dummies
SPM Guide: Tips on How to Get Straight A+'s for SPM

Learn How to Save Money the Right Way

by Miley Adalson (Share your great tips and get featured here!)

Knowing the roughness and toughness of college life isn’t certainly a rocket science at all. Every college student wishes to make the best of their tenure while being more considerate towards their parents’ limited budget. A similar situation is reflected in Malaysian students as well.

College life is the one final step of students’ life before they start off on their true defining moments of adulthood for which they subsequently attain a job, get married and raise kids of their own. This article was drafted to help upstarts and youngsters to persevere the monetarily challenging environment of their college days. Given below are perhaps the most basic and insightful considerations that you will need to take into account while studying in Malaysia:
Save Money Tips: Malaysian Student Deals

1. Make A Financial Budget Plan

It is always important to determine how much you are spending from time to time. Maintain a separate journal with you to keep a track of all that you spend daily, weekly and monthly, because this will allow you to be more financially aware and savvy. Consequently, you will know how much more you need for your expenses or how much you need to hold back for other basic necessities such as food and clothing. This method has proven to be effective, especially when it helps you save your parent’s hard-earned investment for something more useful like your college funds.

2. Malaysia Student Discount Card

This card is free and truly lives up to its title. Malaysian students can use this to save up to 60 percent of what they spend on retail stores. It is easily made available to college students from all over the country.

By using this card, students are able to save up on textbooks, learning material, food, transportation and products from retail stores. Students may also find that most discount prices range between 5-15 percent and are already set up for anyone with a proper Student ID.

3. Prioritize The 10 Percent Rule

Unless you are doing some kind of part time job, you are basically living off of your parents’ investment in the form of an allowance. The money that you get from them is not for your amusement or unrelenting spending spree, it is a part of their trust in you. If you don’t want to hurt your parents’ pride and trust, you will have to be more firm and restrictive of where you throw that money at. This is why it is advisable for you to adopt a 10 percent saving method, which means if you get a monthly allowance of RM 400, you have to save up to RM 40 for emergency situations. Aside from allowances, this rule additionally applies to PTPTN and MARA loans as well as scholarships.

4. Discounts For Conveyance

This step is targeted to those students who dwell in the Klang or the Selangor valley. All they have to do is to sign up for Rapidpass Pelajar Integrasi which costs about RM100 a month for bus, monorail and LRT, or a Rapidpass Pelajar Bas pass which is RM 50 monthly for bus services. These services are guaranteed to give students as much transportation as they need for a month.

KTM tosses a 50% discount for those students who wish to travel all over peninsular Malaysia. If all else fails, then you might want to resort to carpooling your friends’ rides and split the fuel money.

5. Start Investing

Don’t be a spendthrift or a person whose role is basically all about spending and start investing. Not only will you be saving on money but you will be earning some as well which will be your own income. You will be able to earn a good sum of interest following your commitment to investment. Be sure to read up various financial magazines, annual and financial reports to be more aware of the risks involved before you even try to opt for a suitable area to invest in.

6. Be Careful Of Your Credit Card

According to reports constructed by Department of Statistics, about 50 percent Malaysians under the age of 30, which most prominently indicate the college attending population, are declared bankrupt. If there is one thing that you cannot afford is being accounted for the many number of expenses that go beyond your budget. Be careful not to mishandle your credit card and use it only when the situation is most dire.

7. Using The Resources Of Your Institution

You will find that colleges offer resources and activities that provide a great means to save money. A conspicuous example would be that of your colleges very own internet connection. No matter how much time you spend on research or, at some point, mindless browsing, the cost of all that surfing and browsing will be borne by the university, and not the students themselves.

As one of the most expert assignment writers Miley Adalson offer education consultancy to students around the world. Her passion includes writing creative, fictional materials and someday be able to write like her favorite inspiration, JK Rowling.

► Read more on Learn How to Save Money the Right Way

Friday, October 10, 2014

Malaysia Budget 2015 (Bajet 2015) Allocation for Education: Students, Fresh Graduates & Schools

Malaysia Budget 2015 (Bajet 2015)

What implications does it has to students, youths, fresh graduates, teachers and lecturers in Malaysia? Read on the excerpts of Prime Minister Najib Razak's budget 2015 speech below.
Malaysia Budget 2015 (Bajet 2015) Report & Analysis
Malaysia Budget 2015 (Bajet 2015) / PicCredit

From Prime Minister's budget 2015 speech:

77. Currently, human resource is among the key factors contributing to prosperity of a nation. Wealth creation is no longer solely dependent on resources such as petroleum, oil palm or minerals but also includes ideas, creativity and innovation as well as people’s skills including invention of new products which are capable of driving economic growth and nurturing new entrepeneurs.

78. Consistent with the people’s economy, it is the Government’s aspiration to increase the component of wages to GDP from 34% currently to 40% by 2020.

Measure 1: Strengthening Teaching Professionalism and School Performance

79. The education sector will continue to be strengthened in line with the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013 – 2025. For this purpose, the Government will allocate RM56 billion to the Ministry of Education for various teaching and learning programmes. Emphasis will be given towards strengthening schools which require guidance and special assistance. In this regard, a sum of RM250 million will be allocated for School Improvement Specialist Coaches and School Improvement Partners programmes.

Measure 2: Empowering Trust Schools and Building New Schools

80. The Government will expand the Trust Schools programme which started in 2011. To date, 30 Trust Schools have been set up benefiting nearly 20,000 students and 1,500 teachers. Under the programme, Principals are accorded autonomy and are highly accountable for the management as well as the teaching and learning process in schools. As such, the Government plans to expand 20 more Trust Schools in Johor, Sarawak, Selangor, Perak, Negeri Sembilan and the Federal Terrritory of Kuala Lumpur with an allocation of RM10 million in 2015.

81. The Government will also build 12 new schools comprising seven primary schools, three secondary schools and two boarding schools nationwide.

Measure 3: Mainstreaming Technical and Vocational Education

82. By 2020, at least 46% of jobs will require technical and vocational qualifications. For this, the Government will increase the student intake in vocational and community colleges through the Vocational and Technical Transformation programme and upgrade colleges. For this purpose, the Government allocates RM1.2 billion.

83. Currently, applications for entry into Technical and Vocational Training (TEVT) programmes received by the Ministry of Education far exceed the capacity of 20,000 places. To open up more opportunities in this field, the Government will allocate RM100 million immediately to Ministry of Education for 10,000 placements in technical and vocational private colleges. Further, RM50 million will be allocated to MARA to implement TEVT programmes.

84. To encourage private companies, the Government proposes that the existing tax incentives be enhanced as follows:

First: Double deduction for scholarships awarded to students in vocational and technical courses at the certificate level;

Second: Double deduction on expenses incurred by a company to implement a structured internship programme for students at diploma and vocational level; and

Third: Further deduction on training expenses incurred by an employer for employees to obtain certificate qualifications from accredited vocational and professional bodies.

Measure 4: Development and Maintenance of Education Facilities

85. To ensure a safe and conducive learning environment, the Government will allocate RM800 million for the following:
- National Schools RM450 million;
- National-type Chinese schools RM50 million;
- National-type Tamil schools RM50 million;
- Religious schools RM50 million;
- Fully residential schools RM50 million;
- Government Aided Religious Schools RM50 million;
- MARA Junior Science Colleges RM50 million;
- Registered Sekolah Pondok RM25 million; and
- National-type Chinese Secondary Schools (Conforming Schools) which use the national curriculum RM25 million

86. The Government is pleased to announce that the electricity and water bills of all National-type schools under the Ministry of Education will be paid in full up to a maximum limit of RM5,000 a month compared with RM2,000 previously.

Measure 5: Sponsoring Education

87. In 2015, the Government will allocate RM3 billion for sponsoring education of which RM1.9 billion will be given to the Public Services Department, Ministry of Education RM759 million and Ministry of Health RM258 million.

Measure 6: Expanding MyBrain15 Programme

88. The Government has introduced MyBrain15 Programme to produce 60,000 PhD holders by 2023. To date, 34,525 students are pursuing post-graduate studies with a cost of over RM386 million. In 2015, RM112 million will be allocated for this programme. MyBrain15 Programme, which is currently for the private sector, is proposed to be extended to civil servants and employees of statutory bodies who are keen to further their studies on part-time basis in local higher learning institutions.

Perbadanan Tabung Pendidikan Tinggi Nasional (PTPTN)

Measure 7: Tabung Pendidikan Tinggi Nasional

89. Since the establishment of Perbadanan Tabung Pendidikan Tinggi Nasional (PTPTN) in 1997 to date, 2.1 million borrowers have taken loans worth RM47.8 billion. However, as at 31 August 2014, only RM5.36 billion or 46% of RM11.76 billion has been collected.

90. Sadly, 174,000 borrowers have not made any payments since 2010. As such, the Government will take appropriate new measures to recover the outstanding loans.

91. It is a sin to die without settling one's debts as the soul will not rest in peace.

92. To encourage repayments, the Government proposes that a 10% rebate is given to borrowers who continuously make repayments for 12 months until 31 December 2015. An additional 20% discount will be offered to borrowers who make lump sum repayments from today until 31 March 2015.

93. Since 2005, National Education Savings Scheme (SSPN-i), SSPN-i account holders with a monthly household income not exceeding RM2,000 have been enjoying matching grants. To encourage more parents to become depositors and obtain the same benefits, the Government proposes contributors' monthly household income limit be increased to RM4,000.

Measure 8: Enhancing Graduate Employability

94. To date, it is estimated that 53,000 graduates remain unemployed after six months of graduating. To enhance graduates' employability, the Government proposes that the curriculum and skill training programmes at public skill training institutions as well as institutions of higher learning be reviewed. For this, Talent Corp will provide RM30 million for Industry Academia Collaboration programme where universities, Government entities and industries will collaborate to develop the curriculum for the internship programmes and industrial training.

Malaysian University English Test (MUET)

Malaysian University English Test (MUET)
Malaysian University English Test (MUET)
95. In addition, graduates’ self-confidence and English proficiency skills will be enhanced. Currently, students need to have a minimum of Band 1 in Malaysian University English Test for entry into public institutions of higher learning (IPTA). Beginning next year:

(i) for entry into IPTAs the minimum MUET band will be increased according to the field of study, for example:
(a) Arts and Social Science courses - Band 2
(b) Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) courses - Band 3
(c) Law and Medical courses - Band 4

(ii) to graduate, students must achieve
(a) Arts and Social Science courses - Band 3
(b) STEM courses - Band 4
(c) Law and Medical courses - Band 5

96. In the second quarter of 2014, there were a total of 13.5 million jobs, an increase of around 1.6 million jobs compared to 2010. To safeguard the welfare of workers:

(i) The Employment Act 1955 and related labour acts will be reviewed, including better terms and conditions of employment, appointment and dismissal, flexible working arrangements and termination benefits;

(ii) The JobsMalaysia portal will be improved to meet the needs of an increasingly dynamic labour market;

(iii) The Government will introduce an Employment Insurance System aimed at assisting retrenched workers by giving temporary financial assistance as well as providing opportunities for reskilling and upskilling; and

(iv) Providing technical training and education assistance to Indian youth, particularly those from low-income families with an allocation of RM30 million.

97. In 2011, Skim Latihan 1Malaysia has enabled aound 45,000 graduates from the low-income households and rural areas to obtain jobs. The Government supports CSR effort by the employers in its implementation through double deduction incentive to companies for the purpose of tax computation until 31 December 2016. I propose the tax incentive be extended until 31 December 2020.

Measure 10: Globally Recognised Industry and Professional Certification Programme

98. To intensify upskilling and reskilling programmes, the Government will introduce a new programme, namely Globally Recognised Industry and Professional Certification Programme or 1MalaysiaGRIP with an allocation of RM300 million in matching grants between the Government and the Human Resources Development Fund to train 30,000 workers.

Measure 11: Double Shift Training

99. The Government will increase skills training programmes in institutes under Department of Labour (JTK). The training programme is for students with Malaysia Skills Certificate (SKM), university or college graduates as well as industrial workers particularly semi-skilled workers. In order to optimise the 32 JTK training institutes, the Government will leverage the double shift training capacity for full-time programmes comprising 176 courses with high demand in the labour market. With intake of two times per year, an estimated 48,000 students will be trained in the five year period of implementation with an allocation of RM570 million.

Measure 12: Promoting Startups

100. The Government aspires to position Malaysia as a choice location for Startups in the region. Among the efforts is the establishment of MaGIC which aims to create a more conducive ecosystem to facilitate the Startups to commence operations. To attract more expatriate entrepreneurs establish Startups in Malaysia, the paid-up capital for Startups is set at RM75,000. Eligible expatriate Startup entrepreneurs will be given Work Pass for one year.

All Primary and Secondary School Students Get RM100 Each

135. To ease the burden of school expenses incurred by the parents and guardians of students, particularly for low-income group, the Government will continue the schooling assistance programme. Starting January 2015, a RM100 each will be given to all primary and secondary school students with an allocation of RM540 million which will benefit 5.4 million students.

1Malaysia Book Voucher Programme (Baucar Buku 1Malaysia, BB1M)

136. In addition, for the purpose of purchasing reference books and instruments the Government will continue to implement the 1Malaysia Book Voucher Programme with the assistance of RM250 per student. A sum of RM325 million will be allocated for this programme and is expected to benefit about 1.3 million students.

Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M)

181. Taking into consideration the increased revenue collection from GST and the affordability of the Government, we will increase BR1M from RM650 to RM950. The assistance is for households with a monthly income of RM3,000 and below. It will be disbursed in three instalments of RM300 each to be paid in January and May with the balance of RM350 from September 2015.

182. For households with a monthly income between RM3,000 and RM4,000, the Government will increase BR1M from RM450 to RM750. This assistance will be disbursed in three instalments that is RM200 to be paid in January and May while the balance of RM350 from September 2015.

183. For single individuals aged 21 and above and with a monthly income not exceeding RM2,000, BR1M will be increased from RM300 to RM350 a year. This assistance will be disbursed early next year.

► Read more on Malaysia Budget 2015 (Bajet 2015) Allocation for Education: Students, Fresh Graduates & Schools

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

SPM Tips 2014 & SPM Trial Papers Collection

SPM 2014 trial papers and SPM tips 2014

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SPM 2014 Countdown to SPM Date (Tarikh SPM 2014)

SPM Straight A+'s for Dummies
SPM Guide: Tips on How to Get Straight A+'s for SPM

Exclusive SPM Tips for SPM 2014

Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) Trial Papers 2014

SPM 2014 Exam Timetable (Jadual Waktu Peperiksaan SPM 2014)

Jadual Waktu Peperiksaan SPM 2014 Exam Timetable

► Read more on SPM Tips 2014 & SPM Trial Papers Collection

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Guide to Applying to Cambridge University from Malaysia

Write for us!

Help us help our junior students in Malaysia. Share with us your application process and interview tips for applying to world's top universities. Send in your personal experience in writing and get published here.

Posted by Celine Wan

This blog post of mines was written two years ago. Since it has captured the attention of many recently by consistently being one of the most popular post for these past few months (deadline to apply to OxBridge is coming soon), I thought it would be great to repost this here!

Cambridge University Application Guide

Dear self,

After all the mayhem, there is one ultimate lesson that I've learnt, and I'd like to share it with my readers here (I'll publish more of my application experiences next time :D After the entire process is done that is, because Cambie is the first to be completed; hence the first to be publicised. Stay tuned!):-

"Do not listen to what others have predicted for you. Just because a want is difficult to achieve, doesn't mean that it's entirely impossible. The only absolute way for you to be certain that you'll never get it is if you never try, and for once, believe in yourself and stop listening to others' opinions about you (just because they found it difficult or they can't do it). What's there to lose?"

Just saying. Since I got comments like "why bother applying. it's just a waste of time"

Random: Please tolerate my perpetual abusal of rhetorical questions and parentheses. It's a habit for me to type this way when I'm mentally-- and informally-- talking via writing. (well, when you read, you're dwelling into the inner thoughts of others, and this is how I really sound like in my mind. Pretty pathetic I know)

When I've decided to apply to UCAS, it was a week before the Cambridge application deadline. So you can guess: sleepless nights because I started my UCAS from scratch! Not to mention the additional essays and stuff in COPA. In all honesty, I do not think that Cambridge even bothers about your essays because I wrote mines in 5 days or so. If they do care, I don't know how I got accepted (or maybe it's because I work best under stress). The reason why I applied to Camby despite the 5 days mania is because of the course structure. I really wanted to apply to Oxford but I soon realised that they only have the general engineering route, and I was immediately taken by Camby's Natural Science route (it's Chemical Engineering via Natural Sciences if you don't get what I'm talking about). There's a general engineering route too. Some may say that Bio or Phy Nat Sc is the same but for Chemical Engineering, it should be physical..? But I'm determined to do lots of Chemistry in my tripos! And so, I've applied to Cambridge and not the latter. (not because it's more famous for science and oxford, the arts...okay..)

Homerton College
Homerton College
My interview was held in Malaysia and I had to pay 100 pounds for that (all worth it)! People would normally get shortlisted during this stage (though I think everyone gets the interview if they're having their interview 'overseas' like me). In Malaysia, we would have one 30 minute interview but if you would like to be interviewed in Cambridge, then it's 2-3 interviews in total I think. Some have claimed that it's easier to enter if you go to UK because you'll personally see your tutor/decision maker and not the medium/messenger. But I'm not going to take my risk, because it's only under the assumption that a messenger reporting your interview would reduce your chances of admission. They are still the "Cambridge fellas" anyway. Oh, I've made an open application (despite the myths that it's harder to get accepted this way) because I want to avoid being asked why I want that college during the interview xD Haha I'm so so lame. I think I almost applied to Homerton College though. Because it looks pretty and stuff. But Cambridge is beautiful full stop.

Since I've applied for Chemical Engineering, I was required to take a Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) on a separate day from my interview (which is a day or so after). It's a one hour paper consisting of 50 questions. I had a 76% or 78% for the mock test (which is available online) and was pretty satisfied with it, till I know of a friend who got a 86% for it T_T I don't think this is significantly important too because some colleges don't even bother about your TSA. And we don't get to know our actual TSA results. But since I'm an overseas applicant being interviewed in Malaysia....I really don't know, for it's made compulsory regardless of the college I'm allocated to. Also, since I'll be interviewed in Malaysia, I was required to write a 30 minute essay (written assessment) in place of a second/third interview.

I had my interview in Taylor's College and my written test in Sunway College two days after. Speaking of TSA and written assessments (I'll start with that), our essay was right after our TSA. We were in the hall with the rest of the Cambie applicants (not including BMAT and stuff). There were lots of Caucasian people in the hall too, obviously representatives of the university. They weren't smiling so I got a little nervous; not to mention that they were wearing formal suits! I got really emo after the test because I wasted 10 minutes after my TSA wondering what was happening-- when everyone else was working on their essay! I thought my 20 minute work would ruin my entire application. The questions are very technical and course-related. So know your stuff. TSA was generally fine, though I couldn't solve approximately 5 questions or so (not enough time). After the tests, I went window shopping with my long lost friend-- Xuelin-- AND WE GOT INTO THE SAME COLLEGE! (still can't believe it) She is my best friend since I started my A levels...we were once classmates until JPA took her away...

Then came (actually this was before my TSA and written test) the notorious Oxbridge interview: what everyone has been talking about since I entered college. Unlike other interviews, an Oxbridge interview involves a lot of technical questions and doesn't bother much about your life and eca. Familiar with Taylor's College (I graduated there so duh!), I involuntarily wore a turtle neck t-shirt, jeans, and a pair of snickers. I thought that was okay, because based on the sample interview video in Emmanuel College's website (the one for Chemistry), I saw that the boy was wearing t-shirt and jeans.. so I thought it was okay here too...........The look on my face when I noticed that EVERYONE was wearing (I only saw ==) a suit!!! WITH A TIE!!!AND I WAS WEARING A T-SHIRT AND THREE QUARTER JEANSSSS Got so embarrassed I felt looked as if the Cambridge interview didn't matter at all to me -_- (but it really really did!). I had my interview in a really quiet meeting room (pin drop silence kind of quiet). It was bad enough that I could hear myself breathing, the chair was so big and I was sitting at the very end of the long table! And he was next to me! It felt nothing like my casual chat in Starbucks for my MIT interview (got gobsmacked when I heard someone brought an invention in his interview). In fact, the one for MIT lasted for an hour till I had a really bad stomachache after that (from talking while drinking). Still, 30 minutes was just too fast.

Side note: Mock interview was kind of helpful.

The Caucasian man must've obviously been a Chemistry expert because all his interviewees applied for Chemical Engineering and the like. He was very friendly and PROBABLY tried to calm me down when he noticed my tensed up demeanor. He smiled and said "I see that you've got 4A*s in your A levels *smiles* Good good, Cambridge likes that *smiles and stares at me*" I got so nervous from the silence all I could do was to smile back. I think my hands were shaking when he gave me a pen and a paper. Then the questions began. (my 4 subjects in a levels were: bio,chem,phy,maths.. i didnt take further maths but im currently self-studying it, including economics lol)

If I have readers who are applying to Oxbridge, here are my advises (otherwise you can ignore this bit of my post)

Guide to Applying to Cambridge University from Malaysia

Based on experience in an Oxbridge interview, I would say that I am generally lucky to not get creepy questions like "talk about a banana" and "how is snow formed?" (true story, friend who applied for medicine in Oxford got these questions). There are many more really awkward questions but I don't know if I'm allowed to tell them all here without formal approvals. So I'll just let that be. There isn't any standard/general model of a Cambridge interview too because some have claimed that theirs were strictly A levels, and some totally awkward (not even course-related I was shocked!). In summary, we can't really prepare much for it because based on my opinion, the questions are devised in such a way that last minute preparations will not be that helpful anyway. I've prepared random questions after re-reading my personal statement (because some have been asked based on that) and general questions like "why Cambridge?" Anyway, the questions that I got are not strictly based on A levels. I would generally feel that it has nothing to do with it. Why? I was given random mathematical equations and was asked to draw them out. I was also asked to interpret the graphs he drew. There are many more questions that are pretty surprising (as in, one wouldn't expect to even think of such a question). I had 3 "long" questions in total which was a combination of maths and chem (but everything included a lot of critical thinking). I had spent most of my time 'problem-solving' them on the spot. The interviewer had helped me along the way too, i.e when I got stuck during the 'deduction process.' Although 3 questions seem to be short, I'd spent most of my time "developing my thoughts" so it's something like I'm "learning on the spot."

In conclusion (just for the interview), the most important element is not the answer, but the process of getting it. Also, an interview is to see if you're teachable; thus, try not to act too stubborn, pompous, or anything else they'll not favor from a prospective student. More importantly, don't get too upset about getting anything wrong. Because I had one wrong out of three very open-ended, subjective questions and emo-ed till I received my offer. Even when I had the final question wrong, my interviewer asked me why was the correct answer--well-- the correct one! The 'lol' moment when I figured that out. It is expected to be hard anyway because they don't expect you to know that answer immediately, but a progressive discussion till you get it. Moments of serendipities :')

like this!
like this!
Note: during my application process is actually the time when I really got to know Cambridge. I didn't know they frequently have formal halls which includes wearing robes (so Harry Potter!) and the colleges are just places where you eat and sleep. You'll be studying with everyone from your course and have personal tutors from your college. And I got asked a couple of times if the Cambridge is in the UK or US, because the US Cambridge is in New England, which is where Harvard and MIT is (yes harvard and mit is in cambridge). So yeah, UK or US, WHO CARES! The England Cambridge is in Cambridgeshire to be more specific (like Oxford in Oxfordshire). The US's Cambridge is in Massachusetts (MA). Want to know a dirty little secret? I didn't know what was MIT, KCL, LSE, Imperial, UCL, etc till I entered college (but I know about harvard, cambridge, and oxford since primary school). Nor do I think that it's even possible for me to meet people who've actually attended Oxbridge and the like.

The outcome

Guide to Applying to Cambridge University from Malaysia
Am I dreaming?
Am I dreaming?

Till then!

One Year in Cambridge University: Awesome Experience Shared

► Read more on Guide to Applying to Cambridge University from Malaysia

Sunday, September 28, 2014

5 Top Tips to Make Your Revision Timetable More Effective

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5 Top Tips to Make Your Revision Timetable More Effective

Guest post written by James Timpson (Submit your essay and get read by 26,000+ students like YOU!)

Making a revision timetable may be at the bottom of your list of priorities, yet without one you will find it difficult to utilise time efficiently. A good revision plan will help you identify material that needs a bit of extra work, which will reduce your stress and anxiety come exam time. If you don’t know where to begin, these 5 tips may help you out.

1. Divide time between subjects wisely

When making your revision timetable, the first thing you'll have to do is decide how much time to allocate to each subject as not all of them will require the same amount of attention. Break down each of the subjects into different categories based on your confidence. Allocate more time to subjects that you find more challenging, and less time to the ones that you are more comfortable with.

The natural thing to do would be prioritising subjects you like and alienating the ones you find more challenging. Address your weaknesses early in the revision programme to ensure your confidence is balanced across the subjects. In addition, it’s very important to not overload the brain with information as retaining could be a challenging task.
 If you’re feeling stressed give yourself a break.
If you’re feeling stressed give yourself a break. / PicCredit

2. Mix up your subjects

According to researchers at Oaklands College, revising the same subject all day can negatively affect your concentration levels. Instead, mix up your subjects to keep yourself engaged as time goes on. Most students end up revising all their least favourite subjects together. Do not take this approach as it could prove frustrating and disheartening. Alternating between difficult and easy subjects will provide you a much needed mental break while you study.

Revision can be made more effective depending on the methods you choose. Balancing your weaknesses and strengths is ideal as mentioned above, mix up your subjects to compliment each other. E.g. your weakest subject is chemistry, therefore allocate a sufficient amount of time and follow the session with one of your stronger subjects. Repeating your weakest subjects hinders your focus and could become a detriment to your revision programme.

3. Allow for breaks in your timetable

Don’t make the mistake of cramming all your revision into one sitting. You’ll get much more done if you study in short spells and take frequent breaks. With shorter study periods, your concentration will be much higher. Frequent breaks will also give you time to walk around, stretch, and get yourself a nutritious snack, all of which are important stimulants for the brain.

By arranging a revision timetable like this, you will feel more confident going into the exam period and will have a fresh approach to the chaotic programme. Student’s perception of revision is the stereotypical design of cramming information in a short period, however the pro’s outweigh the con’s when devising short breaks between subjects in your timetable.

4. Use memory techniques

Use practical techniques to improve your memory. For example, make notes while reciting information out loud. Simply reading out of a book for hours on end may not cut the mustard. Making notes and summarizing facts while you read will help you more effectively retain information. While it may be tiresome and tedious, it will yield positive results. You could also use different colours to highlight facts and information that require extra emphasis.

The brain retains relevant information if certain layouts are highlighted or underlined to emphasize importance. Certain diagrams can become useful such as; brainstorms or mind-maps to categorise large amounts of information and enforce order to your notes. Evidence has shown that these methods are extremely effective with highlighting certain keywords in your choice of colour can be an advantage too.

5. Change your setting frequently

To keep yourself motivated and interested in studies, change your setting frequently. For example, if you usually study alone in your room, consider studying in a group with other students. In fact, studying with others could really help you stay motivated if you lack enthusiasm. If you just want to get out of the house then perhaps the library or a quiet cafe will help?

Even if you have a very short amount of time left before your exams, with a smart revision timetable you could still get a lot done. If you’ve got some time left and truly feel like you’re lacking in a particular subject you could even consider taking a part-time college or online course to strengthen your knowledge. Even degree-level institutions such as the University of St. Albans often offer additional short courses to help you improve your grades.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

5 Top Tips to Avoid Procrastination

5 Top Tips to Avoid Procrastination

Guest post written by James Timpson (Share your stories with 26,000+ students like YOU!)

Procrastination is the bane of revision and when you’re preparing for exams there’s nothing more boring than trolling through your notes and trying to fill in the blanks. It’s hardly surprising that most people leave it until the last minute. If this sounds familiar, then these five tips may help.

1. Start in the morning

Revision expert Justin Craig states that most people find the morning to be the most productive time of the day. There’s nothing like waking up, cracking on and getting all of your work done before the afternoon. Not only does this make the days feel longer, but it gives you more free time to relax and recuperate – which is half the battle.

The second you’ve had breakfast, set yourself a goal and see it through till the end. The longer you leave it the more creative your excuses will become, and before you know it you’ve wasted the whole day. Having a “Do it now” attitude will prevent delays. While it may be difficult to begin with, after a few days your mind and body will start to adapt.

Top Tips to Avoid Procrastination
Top Tips to Avoid Procrastination / PicCredit

2. Reduce your workload

This may seem counter productive, but it’s far better to get a little bit done than nothing. For example, it can be pretty daunting to look at your schedule and realise that you need to write a 2,000 word essay. However, if you split that up across five days, it’s now a mere 400 words – not quite so bad is it?

Don’t worry about completing entire projects in one sitting. Spreading it across multiple days will not only make it much easier to manage, but will improve the overall quality of your work.

3. Don’t prioritise small tasks

Of course you’ll need to get the smaller tasks out the way as well, but don’t do them to compensate for bigger tasks. Answering emails and reading research notes, etc., needs to be done, but is it really a priority?

Don’t kid yourself; prioritise by order of importance. Whatever you do make sure you tackle at least a small portion of a bigger task, otherwise you’ll just end up overburdened when all the smaller tasks are out of the way.

4. Get some company

According to The Happiness Project, studies have shown that we enjoy activities more when we have a partner. If you think you’d work better with someone by your side, choose your study partner wisely. If you’re not careful they could be an even bigger distraction.

Find a study partner who makes an effort to do well themselves. Their good habits will inspire you to try harder. If you don’t have any close friends doing the same course as you, ask your tutor to arrange an after-hours study group.

5. Create a schedule

Create both long and short-term schedules and stick to them. Having a detailed plan in front of you will inspire you to stay ahead of the game. Creating a schedule will also help you pinpoint problem areas so you can make extra time for them.

At the beginning of each week make a detailed plan outlining what you expect to achieve by the end. Then, at the beginning of each day – before you start working – write down a list of everything you want to achieve by the end of that day. There’s nothing more satisfying than crossing something off a list!

When it comes to revision everybody is different and what could work for others may not work for you. Try to find a routine that you find beneficial, even if it doesn’t stick to conventions. Sometimes it’s the oddest and most ‘out there’ ideas that work.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

UM Ranked at 151 in QS World University Rankings 2014/2015 (UKM: 259, UTM: 294, USM: 309, UPM: 376)

Source: London-based QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) World University Rankings 2014/2015

Rank    University
1           Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US
2           University of Cambridge,UK
2           Imperial College London, UK
4           Harvard University, US
5           University of Oxford, UK
5           University College London (UCL), UK
7           Stanford University, US
8           California Institute of Technology (Caltech), US
9           Princeton University, US
10         Yale University, US
22         National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore
28         University of Hong Kong
31         University of Tokyo, Japan
31         Seoul National University, South Korea
39         Nanyang Technological University (NTU)
151       Universiti Malaya (UM)
259       Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM)
294       Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM)
309       Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM)
376       Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM)

Universiti Malaya World University Rankings
The Malaysian Insider wrote:
All five institutions improved on their rankings compared to last year.

In the survey last year, UM was ranked at 167th while UKM at 269th. UTM and USM were both at 355th and UPM was in the 411-420 ranking.

The criteria used by QS to rank the universities are academic reputation, employer reputation, student to faculty ratio, papers per faculty, citations per paper, internationalisation, and student exchange programmes.

The QS Rankings grades a total of 863 tertiary institutions out of over 3,000 that it assesses.

Universiti Teknologi Mara made the biggest jump, up from the 701-plus level to the 651-700 group.

However, the International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM) did not improve its position and remained in the 501-550 tier.

In a statement today on the latest QS World University Rankings, QS Quacquarelli Symonds said with the exception of IIUM, all the other universities had improved or remained stable in three out of the six ranking indicators.

The indicators were Academic Reputation, based on 63,676 academic responses and representing 40% of the weight; International Faculty which weights 5%; the research impact indicator; and Citation per Faculty which weights 20%.

"USM is the only institution that has improved across all six indicators," the organisation that has been ranking universities in the world for a decade said.

► Read more on UM Ranked at 151 in QS World University Rankings 2014/2015 (UKM: 259, UTM: 294, USM: 309, UPM: 376)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Education in Malaysia: A Teacher's Perspective

Written by Izz Adha, first published as his public Facebook post last week. It has gone viral on Facebook with more than 13,000 likes and 8,000 shares to date. Have something to say? Send us your guest post and get published here.

Hari ini saya mengamuk di sekolah. This is not who I am. You will never see me this way again. Usually, if I am mad, I will disappear. Today, I sent three girls to the principal and called the parents of three boys. These are the problematic students from the first day I was here. They don't listen, they enter and leave the class as they want, they don't do homework, they don't do classwork, they don't do group work, they talk as they please, there is absolutely no manner in them, they don't go to surau for prayers, they bully other students, they make fun of other students, they choose to leave the class, and walk by every 5 minutes to scream over the door to disturb the class.

You know who they are?
The girls are a PPD and teachers' daughters
The boys are nelayan and social workers' sons.

One of their dads came to school after I talked to his wife on the phone. He said "He never says he had homework, and he always says that everything is well in school." I showed him his mark (21, failed) and his worksheet that I collected every day after class. Blank. Empty. I told him, "I am not toying with you. He doesn't care and do his homework. I am not mad that he didn't do the work; I am disappointed that he did not put an effort." to which the father replied "He's so kind at home." Other teachers who taught his son jumped to the opportunity to tell him the truth too. He was shocked.

The girls, on the other hand, cried, begging the principal not to call their fathers because who they are at home are the opposite of who they really are outside. Mind you that these are some of the most problematic students in the school yet none of their parents know about it.

Before this fiasco, I was teaching them how to write an essay and asked them to write an essay. They asked me to translate every single word. Cikgu, "Yang" apa? Cikgu "Dengan" apa? Cikgu "melaksanakan" apa? Cikgu macam mana nak mula karangan?

What did they learn in primary school? Why are their basics so poor? It is utterly difficult to prepare them for PT3 while having to teach them basics again that they were supposed to know, at the very least, during their six years in primary school.

How do you explain the complexity of this problem?

It is shocking to me because I came from good schools. I came from good primary school, then a good SBP, good middle school, and finally at a good MRSM. This experience was not expected, and I am thankful that I entered good schools. I am thankful that my mom humiliated me at report card days by telling everything about me, and exchanged numbers with teacher and called them every month — I am thankful for this. It is shocking to me because I came from schools, which environments built my interest to learn. It is shocking to me because my primary school provided me with ample and strong basics. As I write this, it is not to say that other teachers are not good, or other schools are not as good as my schools. What I mean is: I came from an environment that cultivates learning since I was a kid. I never thought of this situation before. It is a surprise to me because I never thought there are people out there who don't think education is important.

One of the teachers said to me; This is shocking to you because you come from a good school, and you are smart. This will not be surprising if you come from schools like ours.

So, how do you explain the complexity of this problem?

Are the teachers to be blamed?
Are the parents to be blamed?
The system?
The students?
The primary school teachers?
The Ministers?

Where do we even begin?

The teachers are giving up,
The parents are hopeless,
The system is troublesome,
The environments are demotivating,
The students lack interest.

I am not joking: a teacher confessed that she is teaching because of the money — and she is not the only one. I am not kidding: A few teachers gave up — and they are not the only teachers giving up.

My fear is that we are too busy building a better nation, by working harder, by creating better system, by raising the benchmark, and then quietly, without anyone noticing, we are demolishing every essence of education from its core; from home to school, from students to teachers.

The complexity of this matter demotivates and disappoints me — a fake teacher for a few months. What do you think of the real teachers who have taught for 15-30 years?

If everyone is to be blamed, then why we start with only one or two factors? A quote from an Ustaz I talked today: Kalau bumbung tirih (bocor), kita tak boleh dok letak timba kat lantai, kita kena tukar bumbung."

- - - - - -

First of all, I am not complaining. I am a temporary teacher who works during summer break, and I am leaving this school in 3 days. I am still studying. This is not complaining, this implies that I am worried about this situation. I volunteered to teach at different places before during breaks — from refugee camps to orphanage but the situations were different — because they don't have the privilege to learn hence an extra effort to acquire knowledge. However, that is not the case here. Some of them really don't want to learn. When something like that occur, you have to wonder what are the reasons someone doesn't want to learn?

Secondly, I am not blaming anybody but I am questioning everybody. Are we playing the roles we are supposed to play — as parents, as teachers, as students, as ministers? While there is an abundance of good teachers, students, parents, ministers out there, it doesn't mean that all of them are good. We are focusing on the problem right now, not to compare nor to compete on who is better. While the numbers of good students are increasing, that doesn't mean we have to ignore those who cannot perform.

Thirdly, I acknowledge the fact that they are various types of students, and I can't expect everyone to succeed in education. I acknowledge the truth that not everybody were born smart. Kids have different IQ and EQ, therefore, I am not expecting them to sit still and study. What I am expecting out of these students is an interest to learn — whatever that is. If you want to be a mechanic, then show your passion for that. If you want to cook, learn and cultivate your interest from now. I don't expect my students to be doctors and lawyers. I don't. My problem is different: They don't want to learn at all. Don't respect anybody. They don't even care.

Someone wrote among the comments "Kalau dah susah sangat jadi cikgu, kenapa tak berhenti je? Tau la gaji tinggi dan banyak cuti." Let me tell you something; This is not about the money. Right now, they paid me RM54/day. I have my own bakery and my own business. I have my parents' money. I have scholarships. If I want money, I don't have to be a teacher. This is not about money. This is about the education, and by default; it is about our future.

Teacher's Thoughts on Malaysia's Education System

When I was in primary school, my teacher gave me the first step into the world. She pushed to speak English. She pushed to conduct choral speaking; she made me join public speaking. She made me compete in dancing, boria, storytelling or science exhibition competition — and everything she did make me who I am today and allow me to experience the world differently. All I want, by writing this post, or by teaching, is to give the same experience to my students so they too, could experience the same things. Our students, no matter how smart they are on papers, are lacking skills in general. Thinking skills, speaking skills, writing skills, communication skills and other skills and these skills can only be installed and developed by giving everyone a fair chance to experience it themselves. If you want to be a sprinter, you don't think about sprinting on the track. You have to go to the field and run. If you want to be a writer, you cannot sit and think about writing, you have to write. Similarly, if we want our students to think outside what the examination questions are, we have to make them think outside the perimeter of textbooks by doing things. We need to give them the space they needed.

- - - - - -

I don't care about results. They can fail all they want. What's important to me is the knowledge. When you no longer want to seek knowledge — what is the purpose of living? Islam starts with Iqra'!, bacalah, read. If Nabi Muhammad (p.b.u.h) refused to read thousands of years ago, there would be no Islam today.

We are discussing on higher ground here; knowledge. One, anyone, must always learn. Learning and seeking knowledge is a continuous work. If we are not trained to seek, respect and love knowledge, we will grow up as someone who blindly follows instructions.

I've written many thoughts on education previously but as a student and as an observer. The reason I applied to be a teacher this time around is to see the system and the management from a different point of view; a view of a teacher.

- - - - - -

To all of you; Parents, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, uncles and aunties, grandparents, friends, seniors--anyone, who is related to a student, as you come home from work today, ask them about school. Ask them about homework. Ask them about each and every subject. Ask them about their teachers. Ask them about their interest. Get to know your sons and daughters. Then, tomorrow, or after the school holidays, call their teachers, visit their school and meet the teachers themselves. Ask them about your children. Ask them about their weaknesses and strength. Ask them what can you do to help. Ask them about their marks. Contact each other and keep updated.

There is a lot of work to be done and let's do it together.

(I'm a "he," by the way. Somehow, a lot of you think I am a woman.)

► Read more on Education in Malaysia: A Teacher's Perspective

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