Friday, August 28, 2015

How to Get Band 7 or Better for All IELTS Components

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Tips on Scoring Band 7 in All IELTS Components

Guest post by Jessie Yarrow (Share you education tips with 40,000+ Malaysian students)

How to Get Band 7 or Better for All IELTS Components
The International English Language Testing System, commonly known as IELTS is one of the most famous international tests in the world. It has a universal appeal and is given by students as well as professionals alike.

IELTS is not an easy nut to crack as it is concerned with the English language. Languages cannot be mastered in a day or a week. They have to be learnt phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence and sometimes, word by word.

Students who want to score as high as band 7 or above should know that preparing for the IELTS requires dedication and planned preparation. Following are some tips which can help you in preparing for the test.

1. Go beyond the study books

There is a lot of material like books and journals on how to score band 9 in IELTS. While such resources can be beneficial, depending only on them may be unwise. In order to get a good score in IELTS, students must explore all the possible ways of learning English and practise them.

Going beyond books means students must not restrict their target to the test; instead, their target should be mastering the English language. They should utilise all possible means to master it.

It includes accessing web portals which can help in learning English, interacting with people who know good English through social media. Internet can be used as a highly effective resource to learn English.

2. Prepare for all sections

There are 4 sections in the IELTS exam, listening, reading, writing and speaking. All four need good preparation and practise. It should also be remembered that different sections need different ways of preparation. For example, in order to hone listening and speaking skills, one must listen to English in its actual accent and practise speaking it.

One of the common mistakes done by students while preparing for IELTS is ignoring a particular section of the test. Some students may think that –for instance- they are good at reading or listening and may not consider it necessary to prepare for it resulting in marks lower than what they had anticipated. So, it’s necessary that students take all the four sections of the exams seriously.

While preparing for a particular section, students should focus all their energies for that particular section only. For example, if a student is preparing for reading, then they should dedicate a day or two just for reading and should not deviate to other sections during that time.

3. Previous papers are a treasure : use them

It’s very essential that students get accustomed to the test pattern of IELTS so that they can prepare accordingly. It’s always a good idea to go through previous papers of the tests to get familiarised.
IELTS British Council

Previous papers, if solved, will give students an edge and they will be able to react to the real paper much faster.

There are study resources available on the British Council’s official portal too which can be utilised to prepare for the test.

4. Get help

People who have passed the IELTS are resources themselves. Those who are attempting the test can get help from those who have passed it as they can provide insights, especially about the listening and speaking sections of the exam in which preparations cannot be done merely by studying.

By asking advice from those who have appeared for the test, students will know what kind of questions to expect in the various sections of the test. They will also get guidance as to which resources can be used during the preparation and how to use them.

Students can also avail the services of professional trainers and get trained for the test. Professional trainers have much greater expertise and experience in training and can guide the students more effectively.

Going through newspapers, reading novels and books will prove to be a huge boost to enhance the reading skills. A good reader can also become a good writer. Writing short passages and getting them reviewed will also help. It must be remembered that punctuation and grammar is very important in writing.

As far as the listening and speaking sections are concerned, students must practice speaking in English with someone who is well versed in the language. Watching English movies with subtitles, listening to English radio stations will also help.

Due to the popularity of IELTS, professionals have taken the reigns of guiding and training students for the test. Students can now get in touch with experts so that they can be guided and instructed on how to prepare for the test and how to improve on their weaknesses in all the four sections.

Jessie Yarrow is a passionate blogger from London. She writes articles on various topics such as Education, gadgets, travel...etc. As of now she is focusing on Univariety, which provides professional career guidance for school students and also connects them with admission officers of various international universities and test preparation experts.

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Friday, August 14, 2015

How to Turn SPM English / IELTS / MUET Essay Writing into a Pleasant Experience

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How to Turn Essay Writing into a Pleasant Experience

Guest post by Lily Wilson (Share you education tips with 40,000+ Malaysian students)

Panduan MUET Guide Tips
Panduan MUET
For most of us, essay writing is as painful as pulling off our fingernails…with an ice pick…while dancing a jig. However, it does not have to be. Yes, your professor (unsuccessfully) already tried everything. Give this foolproof method a try; you (and your cat) won’t be disappointed.

1. Be Spontaneous!

Often we are our worst critics, which mean that there is one important element missing from our writing. Pick up your favorite piece of writing and it is highly likely you will find it in there. Spontaneity is one difficult thing to fake. When writing your first draft, dial the settings of your internal editor to mute. If you stop to cringe at every mistake you make, you’ll never be spontaneous. The mark of a good piece of writing is that it flows smoothly. Revisit for nitpicking but for now, just let the spirit move you!

Being over conscious about the mistakes will block your thinking ability. Mistakes do happen, but they can be rectified later when you proofread the content. Writing comes from passion and a strong willpower to give an opinion about an issue or enlighten everybody regarding a topic. So, don’t be harsh and write with a free mind.

2. Act On It!

A general design that will work for most essays goes something like this:
  • State your topic - be gentle and take your time to introduce it.
  • Support it – now trot out facts and pieces of evidence in support of your topic.
  • Rinse, Lather, Repeat – do #2 again.
  • Get up close and personal – now give your personal opinion regarding the topic at hand.
  • End It – summarize the first four steps to form a conclusion.
This isn’t the design, it is a design. If it does not fit your essay, remodel until it does. If it does, why fix something that isn’t broken?

Writing with a definite purpose, not just maintains the flow, but also helps impart knowledge to the readers. Keeping the right format is essential to make a spellbinding content. A wall of content never looks good, so add sub-headings and points to give the writing an attractive look.

3. Don’t Drag It Out!

So the boy elf decided that he’d go join the war against the exceptionally evil warlock and once he had him under his control, he was going to end him and then he’d have pie…lots and lots of pie.

Wait, who was going to get pie? The exceptionally evil warlock? Didn’t the elf want to kill him? Wasn’t he already dead? This is what a really long sentence does to the reader. Any reader, be it your teacher or your cat (more on that later), will be jarred by an extremely long sentence. Avoid long sentences like you would avoid the plague. They are the bane of smooth pieces of writing that take you along for the ride.

Make sure to maintain a balance in the writings because sometimes, we drag the content a bit too far, hence resulting in a confusion as to what has actually happened in the above written lines. Keeping sentences too long or short can be frustrating. A sentence continuing for three-four lines is as frustrating as a sentence of three-four words. So, make the proper use of conjunctions and punctuation marks.

4. Read Up On It!

Read what you like because it is highly probable that is what you will love writing about. Pick up a book or an article by your favorite writer and re-read it, noticing how they write. Pay attention to sentence structure and the verbosity (the lack of it) and then model your writing after it. Reading various sources will also aid you in forming your arguments while addressing that topic in a phd essay from Good English Essay Writing.

Writing about a topic calls for some prerequisite research in order to provide an unbiased view about the topic. Readers like reading content with great substance, so read a book, an article, a novel or an e-book to gather as much information as you can about the topic, so as to be able to present an in-depth information in the essay.

5. To Err Is To Be Human With Lower Grades!

Now comes the hard part. Editing puts the fear of god in world famous best-selling authors. They would rather do anything than revisit their work and dissect it like they dissected frogs in the Biology lab. Even so, they do it. So man up (or woman up) and read your work with a critical eye. Once you are done with the second draft, give it a read-over to ensure no mistakes have escaped your eagle eyes. Done? Good, I will admit I had my doubts. Moving on!

It is an arduous task to find the errors in the writing because you believe the content is fine, as you have written it. Grammar is the biggest enemy of the writers because it is perceived differently by different writers, so the grammar, which is fine to you may be wrong to someone else, so you have to take the help of a professional service in order to get the content edited and mistakes removed.

6. Let Me Hear You Say It!

Yes, editing your work is important, yet when you continue to read the same piece of text for the umpteenth time, you’re bound to miss out on some errors. How do you rectify these seemingly invisible mistakes marring the perfection of your masterpiece? Simple, you let the computer (or your pet cat) read it back to you. The change in activity and tone — your cat is not going to mimic your inflection, would it? — will help you grasp some of the errors you would have missed otherwise.

The errors in your essay can easily be detected once you start hearing it from a voice software. Determining the errors will become easier and thus, you can save yourself from the embarrassments that you would have suffered in the hands of the readers.

7. Challenge Yourself!

Participate in challenges, like the NaNoWriMo. Not only will you get better at writing, regular practice will help you fall in love with the art that is writing. Do not let your newly acquired grasp at essay writing get rusty. Frequent use will polish off the rough edges.

Always stay in touch with the new writing styles and methods, and try to incorporate them in your writing. This will bring freshness into your content and will keep the readers interested as well.

Lily Wilson is a 34 year-old homestay freelance academic writer. Lily runs her personal blog AnAwfulLotofWriting and works as a contributing academic writer at

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Monday, July 27, 2015

SPM 2015 Tips: How to Score A+ in SPM Chemistry

How to Score A+ in SPM Chemistry

by Lucas Ting (Email us your SPM tips to share with 40,000 students)

SPM Tips: How to Score A+ in Chemistry
SPM 2015 Tips: How to Score A+ in SPM Chemistry

Many a time SPM Chemistry can be an absolutely interesting subject among the three science subjects namely Physics, Biology and of course, Chemistry. Unfortunately, students nowadays find Chemistry a daunting subject and thus, fail to even pass the examinations, not to mention the SPM examinations which are just around the corner. In line with the education outcomes outlined in the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025, here I have written several ways to score A+ in SPM Chemistry.

Well, the rule of thumb is to understand and master each chapter. In Chemistry, a chapter is interconnected to one another. Therefore, if you cannot understand the first few chapters, which are mostly basic knowledge in Chemistry, you will then suffer in the following chapters. It is like you have a broken chain. In other words, you ought to start understanding the earlier chapters now if you have not mastered them. It will be a helpful way too if you can ask yourself a lot of questions which in turn develop your critical thinking skills.

Chemistry is mostly about understanding. Chapters which require memorisation are only a few. It is, thus, a strict no-no for you to memorise Chemistry concepts. You can memorise the electrochemical series (ECS), the colours of salts, the names of the chemical processes, but not the rate of reaction, ionic and covalent bonds, just to name a few. If you have a hard time to understand them, immediately find someone who can lend you a helping hand!

Doing exercises is particularly important to score A+ in Chemistry. Repeated exercises ensure that you truly understand a chapter. But, in my opinion, understanding comes before exercising. Only if you understand one chapter very well, then you may proceed to exercises. This makes quality learning process occur. Someone once said that Rome was not built in a day. The point I want to make is only continuous exercises will help you in Chemistry. Besides, choose the exercises which have contents adhere to the current syllabus for Form 4 and Form 5, and target those sitting for SPM examinations.

It is no doubts that you can score an excellent result in SPM by doing past year questions. It is a fact too when it comes to scoring A+ in SPM Chemistry. Past year questions, not only shows you how the questions are set, have given you a view on how the answers are marked schematically and what the popular questions are. More often, your teacher will provide you past year questions to complete, but it will be great if it is provided topically. Such past year questions are already made available in bookstores (Analisis Bertopikal). You will have a much clearer idea on what will be tested. You can go that extra mile by going on certain websites and with their multimedia-rich contents, you can download and do trial papers too, if time allows.

In an effort to score A+ in SPM Chemistry, I can guarantee that your chemistry will improve by leaps and bounds. Bear in mind that you will only reap what you sow. Good luck!

Lucas Ting is a form 5 leaver who scored straight A's in SPM 2013 and is eager to share his learning method with everyone else out there. Now, he has completed his pre-tertiary education at Kolej Matrikulasi Labuan.

SPM Chemistry Note Form 4 & 5

SPM Chemistry Note Form 4 & 5 from Rossita Radzak

Even More SPM 2015 Tips Available at Malaysia Students Blog

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

SPM 2015 Tips: How to Study Chemistry, Biology & Physics?

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How to Study Biology, Chemistry & Physics for SPM?

by Fabian Yii (Email us your exam tips to share with 40,000 students like YOU)

BONJOUR guys! I am pretty sure that there are some of you out there who are facing much trouble or difficulties when it comes to preparing these three pure science subjects for the upcoming SPM. Just CHILLAX, dude! After all, you have come to the right place to seek help!

My very first tip to you would be:

UNDERSTAND The Core Concept Of The Topic

Now, this is extremely crucial if you wish to study smart. I mean, it’s definitely more time-saving if you first comprehend the core concept of the covered topic before proceeding on to the details. This happens because you know what the topic is talking about and you got a rough idea of the entire thing. Hence, IDENTIFYING the core concept is the first step you should always start off with. After that, you have to UNDERSTAND it CLEARLY by hook or by crook, and always ask yourself: What the general idea or the logic of the topic is?

In order to make this clear, I would like to give you an example of Physics chapter 4.1 (Understanding the Uses of the Cathode Ray Oscilloscope). The core concept (thermionic emission) is: Electrons will be emitted from the surface of a HEATED metal. After you understand this, then only you can proceed to the mechanism of the cathode ray oscilloscope. This is just a simple example so it is rather easy for you to understand the concept. Nevertheless, there are some other complicated topics such as radioactivity which you may find them hard. Don’t panic! Ask yourself the aforementioned reddened question. It’s generally related to quantum mechanics so you are advised to first understand the nature of an atom.

(Note: I make this as the preceding tip considering the implementation of the Higher Order Thinking Skill (HOTS) which requires more cognitive processing in order to answer this type of question. As long as you clearly understand the core concept of the covered topic, this should not be a big problem.)


Get Yourself Familiar With All Of The IMPORTANT Scientific Terminologies

You have to know all of the IMPORTANT scientific terminologies out there in the syllabus in order to answer essay questions particularly BIOLOGY. By the way, what are the IMPORTANT terminologies? Well, you need not to screw yourself up in this case— they are usually those highlighted NOUNS in the reference book. However, most students find it downrightly tedious and grueling to MEMORISE those terminologies.

Hey, my piece of advice is: Don’t Memorise Them INTENTIONALLY! In fact, PLAY with the terminologies. Regard them as your fellow friends; after all, you never forget your friends’ names, and you even MOCK at certain funny names, am I right? The same goes with these terminologies. For instance, xylem tissue— I can always remember xylem tissue transports water and mineral salts as its pronunciation sounds like shishishi which gives me the impression of FLOWING WATER, and MINERAL WATER comprises MINERAL SALTS. See, isn’t it fun to learn a new word in this way?


Utilise Your Imagination To Full Extent

“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”

Well, Albert Einstein did tell us the importance of imagination. You might have encountered this before— getting tired of the wordiness of the reference book after an enduring time of study. Worse still, you start to lose interest in your study and get distracted easily. Why this happens? It’s because you are forcing a great deal of WORDS into your brain, and of course study gets dull after some time. Thus, don’t just read the lengthy words all the time; instead, you might as well create an image in your MIND in associating with what you are studying.

As a VERY, VERY simple illustration, imagine acid (e.g. hydrochloric acid) as a father while base (e.g. potassium hydroxide) as a mother; when they get married (reacted), a baby (product/salt) potassium chloride (notice that chloride is the surname, HAHAHAHA) is born (formed). The parents are very joyous, and they can’t manage to hold back their tears. (water is formed in the process) GUYS, look at how imagination makes the whole thing much more interesting than it was though this is just a very simple example; but it certainly gives you a rough idea on how this works!


Brush Up On Your Knowledge Frequently

“Good grief! Everyone knows this!”

I know this might be your response right now, but hold on; I am going to teach you a study hack, but the prerequisite is, you must have the knowledge fresh in your mind while doing this. NOW, come back to the topic, recall what you have studied REGARDLESS of when and where you are at the moment. It can be while you are waiting at the bus stop, strolling in a park or even when you are EATING! If you are muddled up right now, I apologise for my bad explanation; I will give you an example to make this clearer.

Let’s say you are now eating, what will be in your mind? Well, there are two possibilities— you are either thinking about how delicious your meal is, or, sad to be told, the opposite of it… HAHA!

OR, if you want to brush up on your knowledge, there is a third possibility! That is— I am chewing the rice now, so salivary amylase is helping to digest complex carbohydrate into maltose. When I swallow the chewed rice (which is now in a ball formation called bolus), it enters my stomach and so on…

YEAH, that’s how you can prevent your knowledge from getting rusty even though your REFERENCE BOOK is not with you at that moment! However, do this in an adequate manner, or else you may eventually get yourself into indigestion @.@


Be Observant

As a student who studies science, one MUST be observant.

I mean, scientific phenomena are all round us no matter you are conscious about them or not. For instance, gravitational pull is incessantly acting on every matter on the earth though you were not aware of it when you were small. Hence, be observant about the phenomena that are happening around us, and TRY to explicate the science behind them. Besides, try to explain how something (e.g. machinery etc) works based on what you have studied. To sum up this part of the article, I would just say, observe the scientific phenomena or things around us, and endeavour to explain them to yourself based on your knowledge. Through this, you will find it easy to deal with application question.

For example, ask yourself how does soap gets your oily hands clean when you are washing your hands using it.

All in all, if you want to get good grades in these 3 subjects, you have to UNDERSTAND the CONCEPTS completely. Bear in mind, it’s all about INVESTMENT— invest your time and energy WISELY and study SMARTLY!    

Fabian Yii Photo
Fabian Yii, a SPM 2014 candidate, got A+ in all three pure science subjects. Science never fails to tickle his fancy since small and even to date. He hopes his tips would give you much help, or if not, at least boost up your confidence level. CHEERS! Visit Fabian's personal blog to connect with him!

Even More SPM 2015 Tips Available at Malaysia Students Blog

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Oh My English! A Self Journey in Mastering English

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Oh My English! A Self Journey in Mastering English

by Atiqah (Submit and share your story with 40,000+ student readers like YOU)

Getting my primary education in a developed city, I easily got access to various reading materials & being taught by skillful and creative teachers. Hence, English (as well as other subjects) had been my favourite subject since I was seven. But the fact is, when you are studying in a city school, most of the kids there are really, amazingly clever. (Well, I guess it’s because they’re genetically clever since their parents are either doctors, engineers & have whatsoever jobs that need a good university education. My second theory is, since their parents are mostly graduated from universities, their children had been taught at home earlier before they enter the school.) .The competition was really tough to get  number one in the class list whenever there’s examination. So, I was considered as an average student with a high potential to be more successful (as stated in my report card :p ) though I was in the first class out of five at that time. But, hey! Such thing had never been in a thinking of the 7 years old kid! The only thing that I cared was that I love going to school & learn new things everyday (though I don’t like doing homeworks :p)! And for sure, I had a good time playing with my friends and doing crazy ‘kids things’ that will make my parents angry. Everytime there’s examination; I’ll try to do my best & then hoping I don’t get the 15th and above position in the list. That was my target because I knew my classmates would do better than me.  Teheheee….

When I was eleven years old, I changed school. That was mainly because my family had moved to my mom’s hometown for several personal reasons. So my status from a ‘city kid’ (budak bandar) had changed to a ‘rural kid’ (budak kampung). Making friends at the new school was never a problem for me at that time. Well, kids get along easily, right? Besides, all new students will easily be known by the entire school because they are the ‘new faces’ there. But, what shocked me the most is that (yes, I could hardly believe it up until now!) I was considered as one of the cleverest student in the school! Yes, you don’t get it wrong; I was among a few of the top scorer at the new school back then. Though the fact is, every time there’s examination, my marks were still merely the same as what I got at the previous school, which is between 70% - 90%. Only a few times I got more than 90%. But still, in my new school, I was considered as a very clever student & I quickly become well known among not just the students, but also teachers and parents! (Fact: Everything is quickly wide-spread when you’re living in a village). But one thing that they amazed most about me is that, I have a good English skill compared to the rest of them. Of course, when I was in the previous school I had never been considered like that. (I’m saying this as a matter-of-fact, not to show off, & the English skill that I mentioned earlier only applied to my writing skill. There’s no oral test in UPSR right? Hehe). Hence, I became their second reference person after their English teacher every time we got English homework.

Then, the next ‘surprise’ came. Some of my friend’s moms met me personally & asked me to help their child with English subject mainly, as well as other subjects of course. Ok, I got no problem with that. I’ll try & help whenever I can. But, the next request made me fell silent at first. They ask me how & what did I do in order to excel in my English. At first, I was like, “Oh my God! How should I know?? I just did whatever my teachers asked me to do back then in the previous school, & when I came home after school, my mom will help me to reinforce whatever that I had learned that day”. However, I only keep such answer to myself & replied them, “Ouh, sorry I really don’t know”, and smiled shyly. But as that question become more frequent, I usually replied by telling them I love reading books and my family will usually bought me English storybooks apart from my mom become my teacher at home.

Well, that is half true because I think the major contributing factor at that time was the environment itself. I mean, I was surrounded by creative & experienced teachers, have lots of reading materials (storybooks, magazines) easily available from various bookstores & school library as well as my friends themselves at that time. Compared to the new village school, I can see that the teachers weren’t that creative & I can hardly found bookstores here. If I want to buy any books, I’ll have to ask my dad to bring me to the nearest town. But still, the reading materials & books available were very limited. Some of the magazines that I usually bought when I lived in the city such as ‘Kuntum’ & ‘Dewan Pelajar’ were hardly to be found. And if there’s any, it was usually outdated by a few months back & the latest issues were not restocked yet (or they don’t restock it anymore, I’m not sure with that). Library? Forget it. It was just almost the same as the bookstores that I told earlier. So, what choice do these kids have to improve their English?

After getting 5A’s in my UPSR, I went into a religious school to continue my secondary education. This school is still in the same district with my second primary school. But since in this school, students came from all around the state, I became an ordinary student again. Yippieee!! (The truth is I hate being famous in my 2nd primary school because of various reasons.) However, for English subject I was still considered as among the best student. To cut the story short, I was still considered as a reference person when it comes to English until I finish my SPM.

Alhamdulillah, all praises to Him, I managed to get the JPA’s scholarship after I finished my SPM. It was something beyond my imagination because even from the beginning I realized there are thousands more candidates who are far better & eligible than me. Even during my secondary school years, I’m just an average student although I was placed in the first class.

From even the beginning (since my secondary years to be precise), I knew that I’m only good in writing. As for speaking, I had never been much exposed with this skill ( since all my family speaks Malay)  & even when I want to try to speak in English with my friends, they’ll give me such a look that will make me think, “Ouh, never mind. Just do what other people do, you won’t draw their attention & you’ll not be ridiculed. End of story.” I know it wasn’t a good mind set, but I don’t think I have much choice at that time. So upon entering the college that I’m studying now, I realized I can & I have to upgrade my English skill. Because; one, there are many students here from all over the country who can speak in English very well, & it had even been their main language. So, it is safe if I want to start learning to speak in English even I was quite shy at first, because I need to take a baby step. But since everyone are so supportive (my classmates especially), I had gain my confidence now to speak English, even at times, I got stuck & my tongue got twisted. Hehee... Secondly, the fact that I’m going to continue my degree in NZ & need to sits for IELTS had been a stronger driving force for me to upgrade my English skill. And during my second semester here, which had just ended a week ago, we’re focusing on speaking & writing components of the IELTS. And Alhamdulillah again, I managed to get band 7 over 9 for my speaking tests. This kind of things makes me feel confident that everything can be achieved as long as I trust in myself & work hard for it.

Being in this college also makes me realized that there’s always rooms to improve myself, be it in terms of my English skill or other aspects as well. Since there are a lot of people who are far better than me, I can always make them as my indicator to know which level I am and how much I need to improve.  And I know this time; I wouldn’t be ridiculed if I’m trying to change for the better, which make me feel really grateful with my decision last year to continue my studies in this college.

So before I end my writing which is already lengthy (hehe) I would like to share a few tips that I had been doing since I was a child to improve my English. I have to confess that I’m not even a very good English user actually; it just happened that I had been in a situation where some people are more disadvantages than me. And the tips that I’m going to write are actually just the basic ones, but maybe some of you out there had never tried it yet. And if you’re someone like my past, then it is highly recommended to you:
  • READ: Yeah, I know you guys might already feel bored with this word, but no, I’m serious. Reading does not just limited to books, novels & magazines, but newspapers, blogs and websites as well. I even actually read the English subtitles whenever I watch Malay dramas or movies. Trust me, it is very fun!
  • IMITATE: When I said imitate, I don’t mean to ask you to imitate your mother when she is nagging for your laziness! Haha. But instead, when you’re watching any English movies or dramas, try to imitate a dialogue or two that they said. This will help your tongue to be familiar with the English pronunciations. But not the cursing part, of course -.-
  • SING A SONG!: This is another way to make your tongue familiar with the English pronunciations as well as adding your vocab. Of course when you’re singing you’ll find new words that you’ve never heard of before! So you’ll get the same advantage as the first & second tips when singing. 2 in 1!
  • USE IT! : Whenever you got new vocabs, don’t forget to write it somewhere (make a note book if possible). This will help you to remember the new words better & try to make a sentence or two using the word. This is a typical tip from most English teachers actually ;)
  • As for grammar, all the 4 tips above will indirectly helps us with that. Because I’m actually not even that good when it comes to grammar (oh you can see it since the start of my writing right?). I don’t really remember all those grammar rules, but I can detect if there’s something wrong with the sentence structure through my experience in reading lots of things. But to be a good speaker, one don’t have to pay too much attention on grammar, but more to the vocabulary used & the sentence structure (ok, it is still part of grammar actually, but you got what I meant right? =.= )
I think that’s enough from me now. Though I know I had been writing too much and I’m not even sure if there’s anyone going to read what I’m writing up until this point, but if you do, lots of thanks & hopefully my writing will benefit someone out there even if it’s only a little.

Till we meet again, bye! :D

Biology lab experiment student
Last Biology lab experiment for the 2nd semester. I’m at the front row wearing light blue scarf with a lab coat on.
Atiqah, 20, has finished her A-Level at INTEC Education College as a JPA’s scholarship receiver. Majoring in Pure Science, she goes to New Zealand in 2015 to do her first degree. Other than reading, she really loves foods but at the same time she really cares about a healthy eating habit. And for that reason, she’s aiming to be a nutritionist or a dietician one day. Her latest updates can be found from her blog,

► Read more on Oh My English! A Self Journey in Mastering English

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Top 5 Reasons to be a School Prefect

Why You Should at Least Try to Be a Prefect

by Wong Jun Tat

Having gone through at least 11 years of education, I had been a prefect for my last two years in my secondary school. Undoubtedly, it was an enriching experience which was more than just earning a few bonus co-curriculum marks to make your scholarship application form presentable. Below are reasons on why you should at least try to be a prefect. (Even if you feel you are incapable of being one)
School Prefects / Barisan Pengawas Sekolah
Barisan Pengawas Sekolah / Credit: burhan.fadzil

1. It’s not a dull job, you get to take part in all sorts of activities.

During my years as a prefect, we organized many prefect outings (to the jealousy of our previous seniors because they had not such experience due to lack of funding). We had whole tons of fun during a trip to a beach and even played the RunningMan-styled race. We had our prefect’s night (which was one of the SUPER RARE events to watch the girls as they transformed themselves from ordinary pinafore-wearing, hair-bundled female students to BEAUTIES.) Trust me; you will be surprised at how amazing your female friends look at such events to the extent that you doubt they are the original ones.

2. It tests greatly on your abilities and soft skills.

To those who don’t believe in this, try persuading 40 students in a single class who never fail to give excuses to remain in their own class, and thus skipping the weekly morning assembly. When I was a junior, I simply gave them deadly looks with stern expression, which were returned with the same response! They wouldn’t even care if you haven’t done your job well. Thanks to my seniors, I later learnt the alternate way of persuading them, which is ‘pujuk-pujuk’. Instead of going mad at them, try starting a conversation with them with lines such as ‘Bro, nice weather man. You should get outta your class and go for assembly now.’

3. You will know anything about the latest happenings in your school.

As a prefect, you will know the dates for school events such as the teacher’s day because you will be involved in them. You might also be the first few ones to know about any happenings in your school, for example a fight between a student and a teacher (which will really be A BIG NEWS). The highest privilege you will own is to know when the next spot-check will be. This ‘highly-confidential’ secret is usually shared among the leaders in the prefect committee only. I’m sure you can remember how kepo your friends (or even yourself!) used to be in secondary school, always eager to be part of the gossip community.

4. You get unexpected rewards, by this I don’t mean it in material form.

As a prefect, I have widened my circle of friends because I interact with many people, ranging from teachers to my juniors. One important thing about this is that I became friends with a few blind students as I guided them to their destinations, and along the way we would always have short chit-chats. (my school also offers special education for students with visual disabilities) I admit, sometimes I would feel really down due to many reasons, especially during my Form 5 year as it was the SPM year. When your trial results were not on par with your efforts and the time was ticking fast, you would feel completely frustrated and at the same time, hopeless. I lost my aim several times, but managed to drag myself up because I was really inspired by the blind students. With their world in utter darkness, they do not flinch at the idea of walking in the midst of a crowd, depending solely on their senses and a walking stick. One even sensed the depression in my voice when I talked to him and encouraged me to stay strong.

5. Let’s get real; the co-curriculum marks rewarded is really good.

With high co-curriculum marks, you will have an extra edge to spare when it comes to standing out from your peers. One of my friends, a Biasiswa National scholar, told me that he was really grateful for taking the right decision to be part of the prefect’s community. If he hadn’t, he would not have earned the scholarship as one of the criteria was good performance in co-curriculum.

In a nutshell, being a prefect is not about being a teacher’s pet in every case. Believe me or not, I initially joined the committee because I was the only sibling who had not been a prefect by the time and my younger brother had always teased me for that reason. But I can tell you this; I never regret being a prefect.

Wong Jun Tat, 19, has completed his SPM in 2013 and is a local matriculation student. He likes to go outdoors and usually jogs to spend his late evening time. Being the elder brother in a pair of twins, he is said to have no distinct difference between him and his brother, except for his comparatively mature mind.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

How to be a Superman Student

How to be a Superman Student

How to be a Superman Student

by Michelle [Writing Contest 2014 ★ Winner ★]

Ever wonder how do those high-achievers manage to juggle between academics, extra-curricular activities, friends, family and volunteering some more? Envy that guy who is the captain in high school varsity and president of the student council (which most probably take up most of his non-sleeping time) and yet somehow, is able to score perfectly in almost every subject he took? Amazed by that huh? Start asking yourself dubiously, Is he a superman? No! The answer is an absolute NO. What is THE secret then? *drum rolling* The ultimate, much coveted secret to achieve that feat is: YOU CAN DO IT TOO. YES, YOU. I know this sounds cliché but below I am going to write about a few guides towards realizing that seemingly impossible, unattainable, quixotic goal and break the myth about only a super duper smarty pant/prodigy/genius can accomplish that.

#1 Find your balance.

Superman flying in balance
People are always under the impression that someone who excels in his/her studies must be a bookworm who never averts his attention from books even for a second.

People always have the preconception that those play extremely well in sports rarely sit down an hour straight for revision.

The truth is, you do not necessarily have to be glued to your seat all day long reading your notes/books/revision materials over and over again in order to score in your exam. You can achieve excellent results, playing your sports well and even actively involve in co-curricular activities if you can find a way to strike a balance between all those activities. Do not easily believe those ungrounded myths stating that playing sports/co-curricular activities will only distract you from your studies and cause you to lag behind. In fact, with determination and an adamant mind in finding and maintaining the balance between extracurricular activities and studies, you can definitely do it. I once took part in a debate competition right before (just ONE day before) my first exam. It was when I was back in Form 4. There are a few things to be noted: a) As that was the first exam in Form 4, I wasn't exactly familiar with all the contents and format of the exam, plus there were also a few subjects which I was still very new to b) That was the FIRST time I ever took part in a debate competition. In fact, my teammates and I went through a great deal of effort to put together a team to join the inter-school debate. I was totally a newbie in debate and had not even a tiniest bit of clue of what debate is nor I had mentor to guide me back then. I joined the debate purely out of curiosity and hopefully gaining some valuable experiences c) The subject being tested on the day after the debate was SEJARAH!!!(can you imagine how terrifying was that?) So, like all those motivational stories, I managed to pull it off in the end and I did not screw up my exam.(In fact, if my memories aren't failing me, I got a 100 for my Sejarah paper!) So there you go, nothing is impossible, it is just about balance.

#2 Never ever procrastinate.

Batman vs Superman
Procrastinate. The most common weakness of all mankind. Every single human in this world clearly know that procrastination does no good to practically everything in life, yet every one of us keeps repeating this terrible mistake over and over again from day to day, year in and year out. Never put off what you can do today until tomorrow. Finish tasks assigned to you right after the moment you are being told if possible. If you do not finish off one task right away, it is doomed to be put off until who-knows-when to be done. If you keep putting off things you should have done at the moment, you will never have time for other things in your life or time for yourself, because your workload is bound to be growing exponentially over time until at a point you find yourself being suffocated by these mountainous workload and lament over it. Do not let procrastination steals away all your precious time.

#3 Learn to prioritize and reprioritize.

Superman priority
Do not always complain that 24 hours a day is too short for us to complete our work/task/homework etc. Remember, everyone on earth is having the same 24 hours each day just as you are. What is there to be complained about? If other people can manage their time wisely and utilize their 24 hours to the fullest, why can't you? Obviously, the only person should be blamed is you yourself. If you find yourself keep working around the clock, or a particular task seems to consume most of your time to an extent that it is hard to squeeze out some time for other aspects of your life, it's time to learn how to prioritize your tasks. Try to list out all of the tasks on hand, then number each of the tasks according to their importance or urgency. If something is of utmost importance to be settled, then put it at the top of your priority list while those things at the bottom of the list, ought to be regarded with relatively less attention. In such way, you are clear about which tasks should be done first instead of realizing something that is so urgent or important have not been done at the last minute thus avoiding unnecessary anxiety and troubles. For instances, approaching the football tournament season, you should be aware that varsity practices are extremely important thus you should adjust your priority list accordingly. Put more focus on the team practice rather than taking time off hanging out with friends. Having said that,  it is not an excuse to neglect your studies during sport seasons. Prioritizing does not mean to focus entirely on a certain aspect while completely ignore other aspects in life. On the contrary, it means trying to compartmentalize your life and divide your attention proportionately apart from being able to shift concentration onto the right thing at the right time.

#4 Chillax.

Superman baby in superman costume
Surprised? Yes, if you want to keep your sanity in the midst of all those academics, sports and ECA craze, the best way is learn to chill. Do not be stressed out. Believe it or not, you don't have to be stressed. In fact, learning to chill once in a while is one of the key to become a top performer in your life, be it academically, socially, physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually. People often feel stressed whenever they are faced with loads of works or lots of tasks. Yes, it is understandable that not everyone can cope with heavy workload and be a good multitasker. Most people tend to feel overwhelmed when being caught in a situation requires them to juggle between a few things at the same time, thus leading to them failing at either task or even both. (or even worse, leading to nervous breakdown) Now that you know 'chillax' plays such a significant role in helping you to deal with multiple tasks, you have to constantly remind yourself not to overstress your already-exhausted mental state. Instead, look for every possible chance to unwind yourself, temporarily take your mind off the reality of your hectic life by travelling, going for a road trip, watching a good movie or just simply a gossiping with your pals. These acts might seem trivial, some may even regard them as time-wasting activities when you are so busy keeping up with your school life and ECA, but what those people not realize is that it is precisely these tiny bits of 'trivial' acts that keeps you going when you are most likely to break down under heavy pressure.

#5 Believe in yourself.

Confident Superman
The last thing and also the crux of the whole matter is: Believe in yourself. Trust yourself. Give yourself some credit. Believe that you can do this, from the bottom of your heart. Having problem with self-confidence? Try pep-talking to yourself everyday. One of the way is waking up every morning, look into the mirror, say to yourself, ''Come on, you can do this! You just have to believe in yourself.'' and give yourself a big stretching-from-ear-to-ear grin. (This might seem kind of lunatic, but it really works wonders!) Really, the power of self-believe is magical, when you truly believe that you really can accomplish something big, in the end you will, just as the lyrics go :
There can be miracle when you believe
though hope is frail, it's hard to kill
 who knows what miracle you can achieve
 when you believe
somehow you will
you will when you believe
So, starting from today, believe you can do this. You just can.
Superman lego

Those are the 5 tips I would like to share with all the struggling/aspiring/self-doubting students out there. No matter who you are, where you are from, what you are juggling with or which school you are in, I truly hope that my two cents will be of help to you and here is my most sincere hope that each and every one of you can achieve your dreams in the coming future. Remember, next time, do not be the one who exclaims at others' achievement, but the one whose accomplishment is being exclaimed at.

Michelle Soin
Michelle (@MichelleSoin), 19, had just completed her SPM in 2013 and is studying International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. A curious teenager (or is it young adult?). Love anything that is multifaceted. Always having a hard time choosing, be it a subject to take, a place to travel to or even which colour of the bag to buy. All of these stems from her interests in so many aspects in life. Hope to learn as many modern languages as she can and get to experience various cultures in the world. Love anything that is interdisciplinary and believe that everything in life is inter-related.

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

JPA PIDN & PDDN Scholarship Application 2015 (Permohonan Biasiswa JPA Program Ijazah Dalam Negara)

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View / Download Jadual Waktu Peperiksaan SPM 2015 Timetable

Malaysia Scholarships 2015

  1. 21 May 2015: Yayasan Bursa Malaysia Scholarships
  2. 24 May 2015: JPA PIDN & PDDN Scholarships
  3. 29 May 2015: Putrajaya Perdana Berhad Scholarship Awards 2015
  4. 1 June 2015: Hong Leong Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship Programme
  5. 30 June 2015: Education Ministry Bursaries (Bursary Pelajar Cemerlang SPM Kementerian Pendidikan Malaysia KPM)
  6. 31 August 2015: Yaw Teck Seng Foundation Scholarships
  7. 36 Scholarships for IPTA Undergraduate Students
  8. Throughout the year: Intel Malaysia Scholarships
More scholarship openings available at 50+ Most Prestigious Scholarships for STPM & SPM Leavers (Biasiswa Pelajar SPM & STPM).

JPA Permohonan Program Ijazah Dalam Negara (PIDN)
Biasiswa JPA Permohonan Program Ijazah Dalam Negara (PIDN)
Closing Date
24 May 2015


Biasiswa JPA PIDN or JPA PIDN Scholarship is sponsored by the Public Service Department to Malaysian citizens who are currently pursuing their Diploma and First Degree studies at selected IPTAs, Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN), Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP) and Universiti Multimedia (MMU).

Recipients of this JPA Scholarship will be bonded to serve the government for a particular period depending on the courses and disciplines taken. Otherwise, compensation claim will be charged by the Public Service Department (PSD) of Malaysia.

JPA PIDN Scholarship Application (Permohonan Program Ijazah Dalam Negara)

Eligibility Criteria for Program Ijazah Dalam Negara (PIDN):
  • Malaysian citizen;
  • Age not more than 25 years old on the date of application (26 years old for Remove Class students);
  • Good health;
  • Have a full certificate of Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) / SPMV;
  • Obtain a minimum CGPA of 3.30 or equivalent in first degree semester examination;
  • Has completed at least one ( 1 ) semester of study or have a remaining duration of not less than one ( 1 ) year.

JPA PDDN Scholarship Application (Permohonan Program Diploma Dalam Negara)

Eligibility Criteria for Program Diploma Dalam Negara (PDDN):
  • Malaysian citizen;
  • Age not more than 21 years old on the date of application (22 years old for Remove Class students);
  • Good health;
  • Have a full certificate of Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) / SPMV;
  • Obtain a minimum CGPA of 3.30 or equivalent in diploma examination;
  • Has completed at least one ( 1 ) semester of study or have a remaining duration of not less than one ( 1 ) year.

How To Apply JPA Scholarships

  • Application of JPA Scholarship can be made online by accessing ePermohonan Biasiswa JPA PIDN;
  • Inquiries regarding technical problems while filling an online application form can be made by calling 03-88853453, 03-88853541 or 03-88853552. Lines are open every day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm (Monday - Friday);
  • Enquiries regarding sponsorship program can be made by calling 03-88853049 (10 lines) on all working days from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm or e-mail at
  • Application received after the closing date will not be entertained.

Check JPA Scholarship Application Results

The result of this JPA PIDN Scholarship (semakan keputusan permohonan biasiswa JPA PIDN) is expected to be released in July 2015 via

Forum Discussion: Biasiswa JPA Scholarship Application Process and Interview

Read more info on frequently-asked-question (FAQs), syarat-syarat permohonan and discuss JPA scholarship application with other applicants on this forum post. Ask question and get fast reply from your seniors and scholarship holders at SPM Student Malaysia online forum.


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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Are you prepared for a research postgraduate study (Masters or PhD) in Malaysian universities?

Are you prepared for a research postgraduate study (Masters or PhD) in Malaysian universities?

Realities of Postgraduate Education
Guest post by Dr. Christopher Teh Boon Sung (Submit your guest post and get published on this blog)

A PhD degree is not a souped-up Bachelor degree. You need to have very good reasons, the discipline, and the capability of pursuing a postgraduate research degree.

Some students go through a self-inflicted torrid time during their Masters or PhD programme in local Malaysian universities. There are many reasons for this, but they can be grouped into two issues. These students often have: 1) a wrong evaluation of their interests and capabilities, and 2) a wrong expectation of the amount of self-reliant work required from them in their postgraduate studies.

research postgraduate degree in a Malaysian university
Yes, yes, you are interested in a research postgraduate degree in a Malaysian university, but are you really prepared for it? (photo from

So, before you fill in the postgraduate study forms, you need to ask yourself the following questions.

1. Why do you want to do a research postgraduate study?

This is the most important question students should to ask themselves, but yet, students often neglect to do so. Doing a postgraduate study is not a customary progression after completing your first degree. And you should not do a Masters or PhD simply because some of your friends are doing it, or because you cannot find a job, or because you feel aimless after graduation.

Research work often involves plenty of lab analyses
Research work often involves plenty of work in labs (photo from

Unbelievably, one of my former (and failed) students once disclosed that she wanted a PhD simply because she like the title “Dr.” to precede her name! Some students also do a PhD with the belief that their employers would increase their salaries or their social status would rise.

A research postgraduate study should only be pursued if (and only if) you are interested in research or academic work. What you might be unaware is doing a research postgraduate study would limit your career options to only those in research and teaching. And even if you do find a job that is unrelated to research, do not expect your employer to pay you according to your highest training level. In other words, you would be paid according to your first-degree level. But in most cases, your job application would likely be rejected because you would be deemed over-qualified.

2. Do you have sufficient money?

Another often neglected question is to ask is if you have sufficient funds to support your postgraduate study. A Masters study would take two years, and a PhD four years. Shockingly, some foreign students have little qualms coming to Malaysia with insufficient money. God willing, they might say, part-time work or additional money would come later.

postgraduate studies scholarships are available to local Malaysian students
Shockingly, some students pursue their postgraduate studies with insufficient financial means. Although plenty of scholarships are available to local Malaysian students, these scholarships are typically unappreciated. These scholarships actually act to cause students to be lazy and slow down their work progress (photo from

When you are stressed out thinking of money, is there any room left in your concern for your research?

To put it simply, you must have sufficient funds to pay the tuition fees, accommodation, food, and other expenses.

And, no, part-time work is never a good option for additional income. The job, even though part-time, steals your precious time from research work. You must be fully focused on your research work. My students who have part time jobs have never been able to give their best effort in their research or to complete their studies in time – never.

But what about scholarships?

3. Can you get a scholarship? And would you even appreciate the scholarship if you get it?

Supervisors in Malaysian universities are blessed with ample research projects and with ample financial support for student scholarships. However, these scholarships are competitive. There is no guarantee you would get it because supervisors often have more than one student under their wings. Do not be surprised that a supervisor can have as many as five to twelve students at any one time.

My university, UPM, along with five other universities, is recognized as a Research University. This means, UPM gets additional funds to offer scholarships to postgraduate students. Local Malaysian students find it relatively easy to obtain one form of scholarship or another. Now, ironically, comes the problem with abundant scholarships. With plentiful of scholarships available to Malaysian students, you might think this would make these students work even harder and more appreciative, right? Wrong. Easy access to scholarships only makes some Malaysian students lazier and slower in their research work.

Foreign students have it harder. The only scholarship available to you in Malaysia is through your supervisor’s research funds. You need to ask your prospective supervisor even before you apply for a postgraduate study if he or she has sufficient funds to support you.

4. Is your family or partner supportive of your studies?

What most students fail to realize is doing a Masters and particularly a PhD can disrupt your family life and social relationships. I have seen more than one case where parents threaten to disown their children because their children wanted to pursue a postgraduate study. This is because some parents fail to appreciate or are naïve about postgraduate studies. These parents think a postgraduate study is an unnecessary and additional financial burden to continue to support the children’s seemingly never-ending studies.

Support from family members in your postgraduate study
Support from family members and/or your partner can be crucial in your postgraduate study. They can derail your studies as easily as they can support you (photo from

I have seen one of my former students receiving ridicule from relatives and even from family members when they compare her to her ex-course mates who have already graduated (from Bachelor) and who are earning good money while she still slogs through a Masters programme.

I have seen a marriage end up as a divorce because the wife cannot stand being alone for long periods whilst the husband was busy at the field or lab. I have seen a long-term relationship break up due to one partner (girlfriend) pursuing a PhD, while the other partner (boyfriend) was not. Intellectually, it appeared, they grew apart. On a personal note, my own ten-year-old relationship with my former girlfriend broke down because of my long absence while I pursued my PhD in the UK while she remained at home in Malaysia (no, long distance relationship do not work).

I have seen one student who was so completely stressed out from his PhD that he was admitted to a hospital mental health ward … twice. And I have seen both husband and wife (both PhD students at the same time) stressed out of having to take care of their newborn baby, their financial difficulties, and their respective research; so stressed the husband was that he was close to tears as he disclosed his troubles to me in my office.

Doing a research postgraduate study is stressful because it competes with your family or your partner for your time, energy, devotion, and concentration. So, you may be ready to do a PhD, but is your family or partner ready?

5. How is your English?

English is the lingua franca in academia. Unfortunately, the level of English among students (both Malaysians and foreigners) in Malaysian universities often range between poor to atrocious. Yes, English courses (even from British Council) are easily available, but the level of English proficiency required in science is much higher than what can be taught in these English language centers. It is one thing in being able to read and speak conversational English such as:
“I would like to see my supervisor. May I know when he is free to see me?”
and wholly different in being able to read scientific text and actually understand what the whole text is saying, such as:
“…factors of aggregate stability can interact with one another; meaning that a factor may not, by itself, have a unique contribution to aggregate stability. Instead, it jointly contributes with another factor or factors to affect aggregate stability. Such jointly contributions cannot be measured by simple linear regression or by correlations…”.
So, if your command of English is less than desired, how far are you willing to work to improve it? You simply cannot escape achieving at least a good level of English language proficiency in science.

6. Are you willing to learn to read and write a lot?

Laziness to read and write scientific papers is a key problem among postgraduate students. Part of this problem is the poor level of English proficiency among the students.

Plenty of reading is required in research postgraduate study
Plenty of reading is required in research postgraduate study (photo from

You need to start reading—and read a lot—early in your research work. You need to understand the problems, gaps in knowledge, issues, and latest findings in your research area. When you read enough, you feel more confident and competent in your work. Instead, students often start to read only when it is time to write their thesis.

And how much should you read? One journal per day, as once pledged by my former (and failed) student? No. You read as much as you can or as needed. Contrary to a common notion among students, you do not have to read a book or journal paper from front to back like a novel or story book.

You only read parts of a book or paper that are relevant or for information you require. Yes, there would be books or papers which you will read front-to-back and many times over because they are most relevant to your research, but certainly not all documents should be treated as such.

Unfortunately, poor comprehension and low concentration skills hamper reading. Students may understand the individual words that make up a text, but yet fail to understand what the whole text means.

Lastly, you need to write. You must get your research published, but not just in any journal, but also preferably in high impact journals. Unfortunately, there are many so-called scientific journals out there, ready to publish your work, sometimes as fast as within a week. These journals require payment, which itself is not unusual because some high impact journals do carry page charges, but the problem is these so-called journals carry low quality research papers, sometimes complete with grammar and spelling errors and missing references.

Students must publish theirs work in good journals
Students must publish their work in good journals (photo from

7. Are you self-reliant?

Self reliance is a very essential ingredient in all good research students. Masters and PhD study is a test on independent work. You must plan your research work and keep to the schedule. It isn’t your supervisor’s duties to accompany you to the lab or to the field all the time.

Research planning and schedule are crucial.
Self reliance is crucial in research. It means able to go out to the field to collect data, for example. This was one of my previous research with my former student.

It is your supervisor’s duties to provide financial support for your research (such as to purchase chemicals or research equipment) or networking assistance in any research collaboration with external organizations. But, ultimately, it is you who have to plan and setup the lab and/or field experiments, collect and analyze the data, and interpret the results. This includes solving problems that often crop up unexpectedly in research work.

Your supervisor guides and advises you in your research but not do all of your statistical work and interpret your analyses.

Self reliance is such an important criterion that it cannot be stressed often enough. Used to being spoon-fed with information and work being carried out for them, students often struggle to prepare, let alone execute and complete, a series of experiments on their own. Deadlines are never self-imposed, so their work is often completed late and shoddy, lowering the quality of research.

Self reliance also means self study, where you learn to overcome your knowledge deficiencies through reading, consultations, and hands-on practice. No one knows everything or is talented in all aspects. The crux is being able to seek out the relevant information and to do it diligently to overcome our knowledge or technical skill weaknesses.

Consequently, these seven questions are essential questions you need to ask yourself. This article is not about the nitty-gritty details about postgraduate application, as universities’ websites carry those information, but it is about whether you should be pursuing a Masters or a PhD programme.

My PhD student and I discussing some finer points in our research.
My PhD student, Mohsen, and I (left) discussing about some finer points in his research project.

Stress, difficulties, sleepless nights, and delays are part and parcel of any research work. In fact, they are to be expected. But what becomes an unrewarding Masters or PhD experience is when students come unprepared in terms of insufficient financial means, wrong attitude and expectations, and inadequate basic knowledge and skills.

Republished with permission. Original article is here. Christopher Teh Boon Sung is a senior lecturer from Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang. He obtained his PhD in Agriculture from The University of Reading, UK.

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Saturday, May 09, 2015

7 Ways for Interns to Succeed Working with the Media

7 Ways for Interns to Succeed Working with the Media

by Josephine J [Writing Contest 2014 ★ Winner ★]

Internship Tips for Media Interns
So you've secured an internship as an intern reporter with a media organisation. Congratulations!

I've been a journalist with a mainstream English daily for more than three years and I've encountered my fair share of interns. I was even an intern myself too at the same newspaper organisation several years ago, so I know what it's like to be the clueless newbie.

As a senior colleague, I had a great experience working with and teaching some of the interns the ropes of being a good journalist. I was glad to share my knowledge with those who were willing to learn and help them when they were in a tight spot. At times, I found myself learning new things from the interns as well.

Take note that whether it's a newspaper, online news portal or a TV news station that you are attached to, the following tips generally apply to all. Whether it's your first or second time interning with a media company, rest assured that you would find this almost comprehensive guide a useful one towards a media internship success of sorts.

1. Work hard, work smart, work fast

This is of course, the kind of advice that has been ingrained in us in order to achieve what we want in life. But seriously, by working hard and working smart, you could go places and reap the benefits of what you sow. Even if it is just an internship and you are probably poorly paid, make use of this opportunity to do your best and show your bosses what you've got.

Journalists do not work the fixed number of hours, which is from 9 to 5. Assignments can begin as early as 5am and end as late as after midnight. Crime reporters are practically on call 24/7 and they would have to rush to the crime scene in the wee hours of the morning. Interns are normally spared from working during these bizarre hours but if you love what you do and want to prosper in the press line, know what you are in for.

2. Be willing to learn

It is common knowledge that the more you know, the further you will go. You may think you know everything but the harsh truth is no one does.

Listen and learn when your senior colleague is teaching you something new or even rebuking you for an error in your news story. Any type of error in a news story is not to be taken lightly as it would cause unnecessary consequences that could affect the newspaper, the reporter and the people involved in the story (if any).

3. Ask questions

This goes hand in hand with learning new things. Remember to always ask at the earliest moment possible on what you want to know. You might find yourself in a sticky situation because you didn't know what to do and you smack yourself in the head because you didn't ask.

Prepare your list of work-related questions and ask a friendly senior colleague to answer them for you. Approach them when they don't seem busy and they will happily help you out with what you need to know. If you like, you can also approach the news editors for advice. They'd be happy to know that you are willing to learn more about your work surroundings and would remember you better.

4. Be humble

Again, if you think you know everything or that your language skills are better than others, there's no need to be stuck up about it. No one likes an arrogant person, so get off your high horse. You will be more likeable when you are down-to-earth and have a friendly personality. Office gossip runs high especially in a media organisation. So if an intern sticks out like a sore thumb, there's no need to guess who would be among the main topics of the conversations.

Speaking of gossip, keep out of office politics. Try not to engage in gossip of your senior colleagues or of your fellow intern colleagues. Stay neutral and occupy yourself with work.

5. Have common sense

This is a bit tricky. What one might regard as normal might seem peculiar to another. Be aware of how you conduct yourself when placed in various kinds of situations. For example, if you are to cover court proceedings, try not to speak loudly about the accused when his or her family members are nearby. The accused may be on trial for an alleged offence but it's downright disrespectful to be speaking ill of him/her in the presence of their family members or relatives.

Also, don't whine. Nobody likes a whiner either.

6. Be thick-skinned

In many movies, news reporters are mostly portrayed in a negative light. They seem pushy, persistent and annoying. Don't be surprised but in the real press line, it's all so true. A reporter has the responsibility to gather as many facts as possible, whether it's on their own accord or it's an order from the editor. When you find yourself stalking a person for a comment or to take a photograph, you will most likely be subjected to verbal abuse from them or their friends and supporters. Whatever it is, take it in stride because it is after all your job.

Another time to be thick-skinned is if your superiors and editors, for any reason, reprimand you. Some of them may be ruthless in their words but all they want is for you to learn and ensure that you don't repeat your mistake. Editors are busy people; so don't take it to heart if they only seem to bark orders at you. Remember that they are also human and can be the nicest people around once you get to know them better.

7. Have patience and persevere

If you are new to the workings of the press line, it may initially seem daunting but try not to feel overwhelmed. Take it all in at your own time because you will indeed learn something new every day and you will improve as time goes by.

Your internship stint is possibly one of the most important phases of your life, so try not to waste this opportunity to learn and improve yourself as a person. Even if along the way, you don't feel that you are suited to be a journalist, give your best nevertheless. Your supervisor, who is most probably the news editor, will still grade your performance and they will know how hard you have worked.

Here's to hoping that you have benefited from the seven tips provided for you to succeed as an intern with a media organisation.

It's important to give your best at work but it does no one any good if you overwork yourself and fall sick because of it. Remember to have fun and keep an open mind as you explore the wonderful, fast-paced world of journalism.

Josephine J (@josephinejalleh), 27, is a freelance writer, blogger, aspiring travel writer and former journalist. Her working stint as a news journalist with a mainstream English daily for more than three years has undoubtedly been one of her most unforgettable life experiences ever. She is most grateful to her former colleagues and bosses who have painstakingly guided, nurtured and at times, reprimanded her in her work. Though she misses her days in journalism, Josephine has ventured into freelance writing and further studies to seek new knowledge and experiences.

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