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Thursday, August 14, 2008

An Analysis of Art and Science Subjects (Emphasis on A-Levels)

Posted by Snow

First of all, I’d like to offer my sincere apologies for my recent inactivity, as I’ve been really busy due to my studies. As I’ve been to both worlds, I believe I should summarise all Cambridge A-Levels subjects I've been exposed to in the simplest way possible, to help confused juniors choose the path they should embark upon after high school (I use this term tentatively). The summary of these subjects are not necessarily merely restricted to A-Levels, of course.

Cambridge A-Levels is a pure English-based exam, pre-tertiary course that can be completed within one to two years, depending on the institution you attend. It is divided into two portions – Advanced Subsidary (AS) and Advanced Level (A2). The Cambridge Examinations will be held twice a year, during May/June or October/November. You may choose to take AS and A2 at separate times, or take both at the same time. The basic requirements for entry to Degree level would be two principal passes, though some universities may require better results for up to four subjects. Many students opt to take four subjects at AS level, then drop down to three for A2. Contrary to popular belief, A-Levels is not easy for much discipline and determination is required to score well in the exams.

Onward to the subjects' analysis:

General Paper (AS only): If you have a flair for English and can write well, this is the paper for you. Try to impress the examiners – but only within your limits. I found it really helpful to correlate a related event to the question itself and elaborate on it.

Sciences (As you must have already taken Science previously to take these subjects, it won’t be necessary to delve into the mysteries of Science.)

Biology: You are given the fact that Red + Blue = Purple. Memorise it.

Chemistry: One of the more important subjects in the Science Stream. The equation Red + Blue = Purple may be given to you, but it may not. You are nevertheless informed about all the colours individually and you are aware that theoretically, purple consists of a little red and a little blue so with a little bit of logic, you’ll arrive at the conclusion.

Physics: You are informed about all the colours individually and you are aware that theoretically, purple consists of a little red and a little blue so with a little bit of logic, you’ll arrive at the conclusion.

Mathematics: You are given all the different ways of arriving at the colour Purple and expected to know them all. Practice makes perfect.

Further Mathematics: Only, and only if you’re a Mathematical genius. If you don’t love Mathematics, this paper is not for you.


Business: You are given the fact that Red + Blue = Purple. If you logically argue that given the varying shades of red and blue, the answer is actually Violet, you’re still great.

Economics: It’s little like Physics. You are given a little information about individual colours and told that there is no specific answer, like Literature or Law. Nevertheless, if the answer you give is not the same as the answer examiners have in mind, it is inaccurate, no matter how irrefutable and logical your reasons are. Red + Blue will always be purple, never violet or lilac, despite the fact that you were not informed that it was purple in the first place. Personally, I found it a little annoying. There are also many graphs and calculations involved, though nowhere as much as in Accounts or Mathematics. On the bright side, however, this is a paper that requires one to practice on past year questions as they are more or less the same and you will probably get good grades if you analyse those past year questions.

Sociology: See Economics. It doesn’t have as many mathematical aspects as Economics, but the answers are even more specific here. “Red + Blue = Purple” is not the same as “Purple = Blue + Red” and you might not get marks for writing the latter. Despite the fact that you are not even informed in the first place about the answer to Red + Blue. As in the above, past year questions would be the key.

Mathematics: See the elaboration on Mathematics in Sciences. It’s not a subject I’d recommend if you received anything below A for Additional Mathematics at SPM level.

Accounts: See the elaboration on Mathematics in Sciences. It is not as difficult as Mathematics though, and if you are a meticulous person who enjoys calculations, this subject is for you.

Literature: There is no specific answer. As long as you come up with a beautiful argument that makes perfect sense, Red + Blue = Yellow, for all you know.

Law: Law is not as boring as people believe. I enjoyed Law because I’m naturally a fierce little temperamental fire that enjoys debating the rights and wrongs of a particular subject. You are not required to memorise long boring law cases – as you long as you don’t get the name wrong and you understand the gist of the case, you’ve had it made. Law gives you an opportunity to quibble over words, over the rights and wrongs of it all. As in Literature, as long as you come up with a beautiful argument that makes perfect sense, Red + Blue may be Yellow and you might even get brownie points for coming up with a brand new perspective. Provided of course, that the perspective is backed up with valid reasoning. (My blog, Legalese Legacy provides full details of significant Law cases if anyone needs help with the subject.)

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  1. HI there,
    I would like to know that if this As and A2 system apply to Singapore's junior college A level course?
    Please reply me to my mailbox if you are convenient with it. kairent@gmail.com

  2. Dear Renz,
    The Cambridge A-Levels examinations are standardised universally, hence there is practically no difference except for various college policies, which is individual colleges determine whether you are allowed to take AS and A2 individually or together, as well as time. The AS and A2 system does indeed apply in Singapore. Most of the colleges in Singapore nevertheless, require you to take both AS and A2 at the same time, at the end of two years.

  3. any college offering this many subjects in malaysia??


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