Monday, November 17, 2014

An Insight into South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE International)

Closing Date: 31 December 2014: Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment

Wrong Pre-University Program in Malaysia: An insight into South Australian Matriculation (SAM)

Guest post by johnboston89

Many students are in a state of confusion of what Pre-U to take, after they are done with O levels / SPM / IGCSE. I was confused too, and I’d like to share my experience of choosing the wrong Pre-U after my O levels.

I made the mistake of taking the South Australian Matriculation (SAM). I chose this program because of its short duration (1 year) compared to other international pre-university programs e.g. A-Levels, International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma program, etc. and also because of its percentage breakdown (70% coursework 30% exam). However, I was duped into taking this program by the internet (SACE) website. Firstly l will give a brief insight as to what the SAM program is before you consider enrolling yourself in this course. Referring to the SACE website, “The SACE International is an internationally recognised one year pre-university program. The SACE International was previously known as the South Australian Matriculation (SAM) program – the new brand is being rolled out progressively during 2014.

The SACE International is administered by the SACE Board of South Australia, an independent, statutory authority of the South Australian Government that is responsible for curriculum development and accreditation, assessment, reporting and certification for the final years of secondary education.

International acceptance of the SACE International, and its proven track record, has meant continued expansion of SACE International Schools in Asia.”

South Australian Certificate of Education SACE International South Australian Matriculation (SAM)
SACE International | South Australian Certificate of Education International

I would like to question the word ‘International’. SAM is only offered in six schools in Malaysia and one school in China. To make it more international they have now added the word International from South Australian. I think the term ‘international’ is an understatement if it’s only offered in two countries. On the other hand  A Levels and IB  is offered worldwide (understatement not withstanding). This program has been taught for more than 30 years (SACE Website) and yet it still has not expanded to other countries. To summarize, it is a local Australian program offered in South Australia that is offered to a few number of schools outside of Australia, in Malaysia and China. Just like if STPM (although more recognition than SAM) were offered outside of Malaysia, you can’t call it international. A reason for taking SAM instead of foundation (1 year) was because I was under the impression that SAM was a highly accredited international program.

First of all if you would visit the SACE website there is a link to which you can download the SACE booklet. In this booklet you will find testimonials by high achieving SAM students who got admitted to top universities in UK and US. The SACE website however failed to mention the ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) score of the said students then visited the websites of the stated institution and saw the entry requirements for SAM in the University of Bristol,UK which is 98.38% – 99.29%ATAR. Other universities also have a similar requirement : 98.5 – 99.5 (Oxford University, UK) 90 - 95 ATAR (University of Lancester, UK) , 98.5 – 99.5 (University of Lancester, UK) 95 – 99.5 ATAR (Monash University, Australia and Malaysia) 85 and above ATAR (International Medical University, Malaysia).

If a comparison for the entry requirements between A levels and SAM is made, it can be seen that the requirements for SAM is ridiculously high when compared to A levels. As an example, the Psychology Degree program in IMU has a minimum entry requirement of two Es (passing two subjects in A Levels) while the ATAR requirement is 70, even for foundation it requires only CGPA 2.5, which is the pass rate for foundation. For an engineering degree in UTAR, they need two passes in A levels & 70 for SAM. For Nottingham University, Chem Eng is set at ABB with 70 ATAR. Taylor’s University 70 ATAR with CCD. When asked why the requirement for SAM is so high, to universities, they said it’s still not globally accepted as A levels, plus the curriculum only covers the basic, so they only want to take the best students of SAM.

Moreover, as for SAM you have to take 5 subjects, you need to do equally good in all the five subjects, as your ATAR will be calculated on your overall performance, not just in two or three subjects that you excelled. A single ‘C’ in any tests/lab/report or other task can bring your ATAR down significantly. That being said, you’d be compelled to study some subjects that won’t favour your further degree studies. Unlike A level where you can take subjects you are best at, and will do a great favour when you pursue your degree studies.

If you think obtaining 90+ ATAR can land you with scholarships, then you’re wrong. The truth is, universities in Australia do not usually hand out scholarships based on the ATAR score, and if they do, the score would have to be 98+. This information was acquired by visiting various university homepages and direct phone calls to the universities themselves. For local universities like IMU, the scholarship requirement is 95+ compared to ABB in A levels program.

I’ll now give you a deeper understanding on how SAM marks are obtained. 70% of coursework might sound simple and very appealing to those who prefer an alternative marking system, instead of the usual 100% exam-based. Some tests, some assignments and voila! But, to break it down concisely, the 70% coursework requires tons of summative assignments, lab report, tests, direct investigations etc. In reality, it is quite burdensome, and I speak from direct experience. There are a handful of students who are always punctual l in their work and assignments, meaning that they finish the work as soon as they get it. I, however, was not part of that minority. Most of the SAM students were rushing to complete their summative assignment (one that would be counted in their ATAR) when we had a summative test (a test that would be counted in the ATAR) the very next day.

For maths and spec maths, you just go have to give TESTS and Quizzes, and Direct Investigation, unlike for science and humanity subjects where you have to do tons of assignments and lab reports. However, it still doesn’t make the mentioned subjects easy. To make things more clear, D.I is something like you have to do investigation and write 3-4 pages essay on maths. That’s right Essay on Maths. Imagine you’re told to differentiate 3x+2 and then write 5-6 pages report on it, what would you write? Here is an example that was given to us. Hard to believe, but every year only 1-2 gets A+ on this investigation, the average grade is C that most gets.

Secondly, there are no weekends or semester break. No breaks at all for SAM students!!! When the whole university is on semester break for a month, the SAM students would be having only 1-2 weeks(highest) break. The SAM students would spend their weekends studying for their tests( be it formative or summative) in the coming week. The semester break (or any breaks, for that matter) would consist of an overload of assignments due after the break and studying for coming summative and formative tests. "You would be exposed to the university life" said my lecturers, but you can hardly find any degree students stressed out like us SAM students.

You have to do a research paper on every subject. It’s very much akin to a mini thesis paper which holds a 25% weightage out of the 70% coursework. You have to choose a topic and carry out investigative research on it  while completing other assignments alongside and not forgetting sitting for the tests. Imagine how hectic it would be. If you’re aiming for a 99.95% get ready to get all A+ for the tests, lab report, research paper basically everything. For an average student the minimum grade should be a C not C-, so if you get one C- or below like E-, the chances gets lower for you to get the minimum requirement in degree programs which is on average 70-80ATAR, unless you work very hard for the coming tests, but again the marks at the end will be unpredictable  and “moderated”.

Moderation is done in SAM. It works like to keep a consistency in the program. Let’s say you did badly for most of your tests but suddenly started to get better scores in the tests which cannot happen for SAM as consistency is maintained, so they will downgrade your mark.

At the end, after giving all the tests and submitting all the assignments, you have to sit for the public exam(held in South Australia and other SAM schools in Malaysia and China) which is in November and holds 30% of the total 100% marks. Now even if you got a perfect 30% moderation will be done, so getting bad result for the tests and the end getting the perfects score won’t give you a good score.

One more thing to know, the resources for SAM is very limited, you will have to go through ONLY study guide set by the South Australian Education Board. Those are only for tests and quizzes, but for investigation and other assignments there are no books .Whereas, in A levels, there is plenty of book to read on also plentiful of resources found online. There are YouTube channels, where the whole A level syllabus is taught for free, so if you’re not having much reliance on your lecturers, you can always use your internet as a dependent tutor.

In conclusion,

What I’ve seen is many students like me are discouraged from taking A-levels  because they think it is stressful (due to its 100% examination assessment), so most end up taking up SAM without having an abundant knowledge of it. I would suggest students to take A levels as their pre-u, as A-levels is actually quite relaxing compared to SAM but not easy when the syllabus is compared, as A level is more in-depth. If you takes SAM CONSISTENCY is must. You have to finish your assignments perfectly almost once in a week or 2 weeks. and because the duration of SAM are short, plus the number of subjects you’re required to take (5, compared to A-levels max only 4), the stress level is actually higher.

Many students especially the one who opts for engineering and medicine has moved on to do foundation  on the respective universities or a levels, as they had not met the required requirement wasting one whole year. It’s a big risk if you take SAM, and you’re sheer consistency isn’t there.

For a-levels, u can study on your own pace, and do things relaxingly. And u can choose to love yourself more by taking only 3 subjects. Even entrance into Oxford needs only 3A’s in A-levels, why punish yourself?

Whoever is doing foundation must note that foundation is local, it cannot guarantee your admission to any other universities other than the one where you’re doing the foundation. So wherever you do your foundation, make sure that’s the same university you do you undergrad in.

I made a mistake that had affected me, and I don’t want anyone to make the same mistake I did. So the choice is yours. Hope you make the right choice :)

Feel free to express your feedback on SAM, or any other Pre-U.

Criticism and appreciation are both cordially welcomed.

This post was written by johnboston89 and first published on his blog.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

5 A-Level Revision Tips from the Revision Experts

Five A-Level revision tips from the revision experts

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

When it comes to you’re a-Level’s there’s no substitute for hard work and without revision you’ll put all your years of education to waste. If you’re worried about performing well in your exams, Justin Craig has constructed these revision tips that could help guide you in the right direction.

1. Create a revision timetable

Students will often revise without devising a plan. This usually results in too much revision on one particular topic and too little on others. Creating a revision timetable will help you structure and prioritize. For example, if one topic needs more attention than another, you may need to dedicate more time to it. Exam Time’s Calender Tool is the perfect platform for designing a personalized revision timetable and will allow you to colour coordinate all your subjects in a clear and concise manner.

Revision is a mental game. It’s vitally important to be mentally prepared for an exam as you can execute your answers with much more depth and analysis. By covering a host of subjects in an effective time period ensures you have the confidence going into the exams, preventing any stress or last minute revision overloads. The problem with revision is its perception. Students clearly perceive revision to be a time consuming exercise, however with a structured timetable and time on your hands, it allows you to socialise as well as study.

A Levels Revision Tip Experts
If you ever hit the revision wall, just take a break.

2. Take regular study breaks

Constant studying is never a good thing. Take a five to ten minute break every hour, even if you don’t feel like you need one. The longer you study for the less you’ll take in, so if you ever feel like you’re hitting a wall, take a step back. Light exercise such as walking, yoga and even jiu-jitsu to channel focus which is also a great way to stimulate the brain and wake up if you’re feeling tired, and will make you feel more refreshed and motivated to work.

It’s vitally important to refresh the brain with activities listed above. Regular walking sessions is highly recommended as it can revitalise the body. ‘Hitting a wall’ is the common phrase when someone has encountered a revision overload occurrence and cannot absorb any more notes. It’s key to not push yourself so early on in the timetable as this can prevent you to persevere with the exercise.

3. Collaborate with others

A lot of people are fearful of collaboration because they feel self-conscious about their intelligence. Try not to worry and just remember that other people are more concerned about their own A-Level grades than yours. Collaborating is a great way to boost motivation and remain enthusiastic about revising. Study with friends whenever possible and test each other on a regular basis. Mutual encouragement is the perfect way to build confidence, which is half the battle in an exam situation. If you don’t have any friends you feel comfortable with, ask your family and teachers to help you. Most schools will have after-hours study programs designed specifically for those who want a bit of extra help.

Students will normally combine notes together to learn effectively together and both benefit from the exercise. Also, by undertaking this activity, students are introduced to new techniques from their colleagues and can learn from them as well. Isolating yourself from people in crucial revision periods could be detrimental to your development and confidence going into the exams.

4. Perform mock exams

Ask your teachers for past exam papers so you can get an idea of what questions will be asked. While the questions may not be the same, they’ll most likely be in a similar ballpark and are sometimes merely reworded. Make copies of the past papers and perform your own mock exam so you can get used to the pressure. If you do it with a friend, check and mark each other’s work. Perform two or three mock exams in the week leading up to the specific A-Level and you’ll no doubt see a significant improvement.

This method of learning is probably the most beneficial as you can familiarise yourself with the type of questions you will encounter in the exams. With a range of questions ready to be revealed on the day, it’s important to test yourself and adapt to the intensity of the papers. Furthermore, time-management is another important issue and by practising in exam conditions you will be much more comfortable undertaking the real papers.

5. Don’t revise too much on the day

While it’s okay to quickly scan your revision notes, don’t revise too much on the day of your exam. This will only increase your anxiety. Avoid socializing with friends who haven’t revised or have a negative attitude towards examinations; they’ll only put you down and make you feel unprepared. In addition, arrive well in advance; make sure all of your stationary is in order; eat a healthy breakfast; have a light snack beforehand; and use the toilet a few minutes before you enter the exam hall. The more relaxed you feel the better.

It’s important to remember that everybody has different learning styles and what could work for one may not work for another. Feel free to pick apart these tips and adapt them to suit your own personal style.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Disturbing Videos: Boarding School Bullying / Ragging at Boys' Dorm & Girl Victim of Bullying in Kelantan

Malaysia School Bullying / Ragging

Every now and then we see videos of school bullying posted to social media and spread like wildfire. Public condemned the bullying and demanded actions to be taken to prevent bullying at schools. Stop the bullying, Malaysians urged. But how far have we achieved? Despite various anti-bullying campaigns conducted online (such as and at schools, the sad reality is we have not achieved much, obviously.

Ponder on the headlines below; how likely will your siblings, kids or someone you care become the next victims?

June 2014: Yet another video of bullying in school goes viral - The Rakyat Post

February 2014: After help pleas ignored, bullied student drinks pesticide - The Malay Mail Online
Malaysian Effeminate Teen Bullied To Death / Teen suicide linked to gay bullying - China Press

April 2013: Outrage over school bully video clip - Yahoo Newsroom

January 2010: Video: Malaysian School Girls Bullies - AsianTown.NET

Below are the two latest school bullying videos going viral on Facebook this week.

Video: Boarding School Bullying / Ragging at Boys' Dormitory

Source: Samseng dalam Asrama Sekolah

Update 5 Nov 2014: Another video surfaced earlier today.
Source: Lagi rakaman kes buli junior di asrama "Kalau ade siapa-siapa kenal mangsa atau pembuli boleh buat laporan polis."

Video: Girl Victim of Youth/School Bullying in Kelantan

Source: Video Awek Kelantan Bergaduh: Mek Kelate Gangster

Dina Murad, reporting for The Star Online, ran a good piece on school bullying / ragging at boarding schools (sekolah asrama) last year. It is still relevant and an insightful piece to understand what your siblings or children will face at the dorms if the situation does not improve. It is reposted here in full:

Ragging in Malaysian boarding schools widespread, say students

Malaysia Schools Bullying Ragging
Students are often reluctant to report cases of ragging because they do not want to tarnish the names of their schools / PicCredit
PETALING JAYA: Late at night when the school wardens were asleep, a "junior" student was forced by his "seniors" to meet them in the school pantry, where he was then set on and attacked by a group of them.

Such stories of "ragging" or bullying are familiar in Malaysia, The Star Online found out after speaking to 40 current and former Malaysian asrama (boarding school) students.

"He was beaten quite badly. After the session, we had to carry him back to the dorms because he couldn't walk," said Amir, who recalled the above experience during his years in one of Malaysia's prestigious asrama.

However, the victim lodged a police report and the culprits were soon suspended.

Sadly, this is only one of the few reported cases of ragging in Malaysian schools where justice was meted out to the perpetrators.

The bigger portion of the iceberg goes unnoticed and unreported, due to obedience and fear of further torment conditioned by hierarchical student politics.

Students also don't report abuse because they are apprehensive of tarnishing their school's "good image".

In India, where student deaths are frequently attributed to ragging or hazing, the government introduced a National Anti-Ragging Helpline as a way for victims to anonymously lodge complaints without fear of repercussions.

Although Malaysia's history of ragging isn't quite as extreme as that in India, the responses of those interviewed proved that practice is still prevalent and worryingly inculcated into Malaysian boarding school culture.

The numbers of cases are especially high in asrama compared with day schools due to distant parental figures and inadequate adult supervision.

Among 15 girls interviewed, six had witnessed or experienced ragging in their schools.

"Ragging is less common in girls' schools. When it does happen, it is usually psychological in nature and involves humiliating the person by teasing, name-calling and public shaming.

Malaysia Boarding Schools Bullying Ragging Sekolah Asrama
Ragging at Sekolah Asrama / PicCredit
In boarding schools, victims are often forced to live in close confinements with their aggressors.

"Sometimes, there are dire consequences," said Sue, who recounted an incident where a friend suffered from bulimia after being constantly ridiculed about her weight.

"If you report the bullying, you would be ostracised," she added.

"We were made to do ear squats by the hundreds. I remember having a hard time going up and down the stairs after that," said Rohaiza of the physical bullying that girls were also sometimes subjected to.

Although the situation among girls is worrying, the occurrences of ragging between boys are far more pervasive.

Of the 25 boys interviewed, an astounding 24 admitted to either having experienced or witnessed bullying in their schools, some even owning up to being the aggressors themselves.

While both boys and girls alike are expected to carry out miscellaneous "chores" for their seniors like preparing food, carrying pails of water, ironing and cleaning seniors' clothes and rooms, the experiences shared by the boys were of a more extreme nature.

A number of the interviewees recounted incidences of students being force to do push ups, "duckwalks" and sit ups, apart from them being kicked, slapped, punched and made to march and run around the school compound.

"We were told to blow on a light bulb until the light 'disappeared', which of course meant we had to do it until the seniors got bored and flipped the switch off," said Nabil, elaborating on more creative ragging traditions.

Physical abuse, although not rampant, is not unheard of in boarding schools.

"Sometimes, juniors were made into punching bags for stress relief," explained Hanif.

But most often, violence is reserved as a form of "punishment" or "education" for juniors.

"Physical contact usually only happens when juniors report bad behaviour of seniors or when we refuse to do their chores for them," explained Fitri.

"They put my head in the toilet bowl and flushed it. I had dirty water in my mouth, eyes and nostrils," said Huzaifah, although he admitted it was because he skipped his cleaning duties for the day.

"Another time, I was beaten up because I did not wish a senior 'good morning'," he added.

Commonly, physical punishment is meted out when theft is suspected. In these circumstances, students take it upon themselves to proffer vigilante justice.

"If you disrespected a senior, or if you were caught for stealing, then you would get beaten up before being sent to the teachers," said Malik.

"They were never beaten up to the point where they were bruised and bleeding. It was just enough to subdue the junior," added Shahrul.

Among the tricks used by students to elude detection was creating "makeshift weapons".

"If you put bars of soap in a sock and used it to hit someone, you wouldn't leave bruises. So it was a popular method used by seniors," explained Nizam.

Despite the horror stories, most of those interviewed argued that ragging had its latent benefits, as long as it was not excessive or extreme.

"When ragging is done within limits, it builds character and nurtures humility and respect. In addition to that, you get a feeling of camaraderie among fellow form mates as you go through something 'bad' together," said Ahmad.

Other responses received were that "a little ragging" was a good way to instill discipline, shape the student or to prepare them for the real world.

The problem with this reasoning lies in the idea of "excess ragging" which is arbitrary at best and is decided on by the whim and fancies of the senior in power. The narrow yardstick between "acceptable" and "unacceptable" ragging is obscure, allowing too much of an opportunity for worst-case scenarios to happen.

Given recent media spotlight on bullying, many of the interviewees have said that the number of ragging incidents have decreased substantially over the years due to better enforcement and sterner punishment by school authorities.

While the initiative of schools in eliminating the problem is commendable, administrators must remain observant to unreported instances of ragging that continue to takes place within asrama.

Outside of asrama, there have been cases of bullying and assault in other boarding institutions such as the National Service training programme.

The most recent controversy involved the bludgeoning to death of 18-year-old Muhammad Suhaimi Norhamidi in September, in a camp in Pahang for allegedly cutting a queue during breakfast.

Previously, in a different camp in Pahang in 2009, a brawl broke out among 100 trainees at a camp in Pahang.

Only a few days earlier in the same camp, an 18-year old trainee claimed to have been sexually assaulted by more than 20 unidentified men within camp grounds.

- The names of those interviewed have been changed to protect their identities.

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Saturday, November 01, 2014

SPM is worth every bit of your hard work

Apply Scholarships Now (Closing Date: 15 November 2014)

Chevening Partnership Award University Scholarships for Malaysians
Chevening BAE Systems Scholarships

SPM 2014 Tips and Trial Papers

SPM is worth every bit of your hard work

by M&A [Writing Contest 2014 ★ Winner ★]

I was appalled when my friends shared the viral article ‘Why I Regret Getting Straight A1 in SPM’ on Facebook and commented that an impressive SPM result is just not worth the sacrifices. In that article, the blogger noted that in vying for stellar academic results, he had lost friends and family, suffered severe sleep deprivation, and mentioned other reasons that all pointed to the direction of ‘It’s just not worth the effort.’

What my friends didn’t recognise is that this case is an extreme one. Anyone who is pursuing for the extreme will usually not end up well, often suffering from emotional or financial distress. One of the main rules in life is not to get obsessed with any earthly things. Fortunately, you don’t need to be the best SPM scorer in the nation to receive the exact same rewards as the nation’s best: getting a scholarship (preferably overseas) and the perks that associate with it. The fact is that there is more than just the gold-medal winner in this competition. There are thousands of scholarships available to top scorers. You just need to be one of the selected thousands to receive a scholarship.

Let’s remind ourselves what are the benefits of receiving a scholarship. At its core, it helps your family to save tens of thousands to possibly hundreds of thousands of ringgit. If you are studying in London for example, JPA gives an allowance of 1045 pounds every month- that’s more than RM 5000 per month. If you are going to overseas, you will receive a world-class education and most probably a world-wide recognised degree. Education aside, you get to immerse yourself in a foreign culture, full of its quirks and niceties. You get to travel to new places and meet new people from around the globe. Many working adults save their hard-earned money just to travel for several days in one of the Western countries and you are spending years in their dreamland. An overseas education could transform you into a more independent, self-reliable and resourceful adult. And best of all, at the end of your degree, you are most likely guaranteed a job (let’s not forget the bonding). If you are an aspiring chemical engineer, getting a Shell or Petronas scholarship would certainly put you ahead of the competition in securing a good prospect job with a competitive salary.

Guess what? The best chance of you enjoying all these privileges is by scoring the best you can in SPM. With the recent announcement by the Ministry of Education, every student who scores 9A+ and above will have his pre-u education (either A-level, IB, STPM or matriculation) sponsored fully, with monthly allowances at the school of his choice. Upon receiving an offer from any top 50 recognised universities in the world (or top 20 for the 2013 SPM top scorers batch as according to unofficial announcements) JPA would sponsor his degree fully. Working hard for your SPM has the impact of changing your life forever. By investing your effort, it’s one of the best bets that you could ever make in your life.

I have witnessed many of my friends who are forced to change their course from A-level to STPM because of financial reasons. There are a few aspiring doctors whom I know who had to stay away from the medicine career path simply because they couldn’t obtain a scholarship. Whether you like it or not, the truth is that your SPM result could determine the future of your life, for good or bad.

I have also seen many of my slightly above average friends in SPM who went on to score 5 As in STPM, a tremendous feat which demands respect. It is not uncommon for STPM top scorers to sleep less than 5 hours a day to cope with their studies. The point is that if they had put in such dedication earlier in Form 5 (there is no doubt in their potential and ability), they probably wouldn’t end up in STPM and had to suffer the hardship to prove themselves. Had they scored 9 A+ and above, they would have been in college studying A-level, much bearable compared to STPM and possibly heading to overseas for their degrees with a JPA scholarship.

It’s all about self-motivation, discipline and time-management in preparing for your SPM. Your 1 or 2 years of total concentrated effort in upper secondary is worth it. There is no need to stress yourself to the limits, put your health in jeopardy and ignore those important relationships during this time. Managing your priorities is the key to better time management. It is unwise, for example, to spend a substantial amount of time in co-curricular activities in the last 3 months before your SPM trials. Adulthood is all about being shrewd in prioritising and juggling several important priorities at the same time. Preparing for exams with the right attitude would go a long way to help you be stronger in life.

There is no guarantee in life. Life is full of uncertainties. You might not get the 9 A+ you want even if you have worked hard for it. But what is life without trying and taking risks? Life is more meaningful if you have goals in mind, both short-term and long term. For the same reason that we respect Olympians for their determination, perseverance and discipline, those who are working hard to score in SPM deserve our praises too.

Keep Calm and Study Well for SPM
Keep Calm and Study Well for SPM

Work hard for your SPM. It is one of the best investments that you can make in life- the investment in yourself. If the investment turns out to be successful, the rewards could last a lifetime. It is more than worth it.

The writer, 20, has just completed his pre-u course and intends to study in the UK. In his spare time, he enjoys reading. He is grateful for God’s love and how far God has guided him in his life. He would like to thank his family and his best friend for making life wonderful for him.

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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

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