What are the skills that your child should work on this holiday to do well for Chemistry?
1) Note-taking skills
Most students listen passively to the teacher throughout the lesson, assuming that they have understood everything the teacher said. From my experience questioning students about what they have learnt in school, many would have forgotten most of what was taught in class. This includes students who take pride in their studies. By jotting down points and annotating school notes, it makes it easier to recall and remember the important concepts taught during class.
2) Reviewing skills
Use the annotated school notes to help you recall and revise daily. You can add in more information, highlight the important concepts, colour code all key phrases and put a “?” near concepts that you are unsure of to clarify with your tutor during the next tuition session.
Reviewing DOES NOT mean rewriting of notes. This is the most time-consuming way to study and does not help to reinforce one’s understanding of concepts. However, you can reorganize the concepts using tables or flowcharts so that you are actively recalling concepts during the review stage.
3) Application skills
Many students spend most of their study time memorising definitions and concepts. This may help to pass the exam but it is insufficient to do well as application skills must be trained. To do well, you must be able to understand the requirement of the question and know which concept to “pull and plug” into the answer. Active retrieval of concepts from memory helps to retain important concepts in the memory space for a longer time as you repetitively recall and apply the same concepts in different context. It is also crucial to know the right keywords and phrases to apply using template answers to score full marks. As you practise questions, you gain experience and will slowly be able to identify the common types of frequently asked questions and formula for each topic.
Always check your answer with the model answers given by your school teacher or tutor. Do not use the model answers from the publishers as they are often not written in the appropriate examination answering style.
4) Learning from mistakes
It is important to learn from mistakes and avoid making the same mistakes in the exams. Do not feel discouraged when you make mistakes while doing school assignments or practising the ten-year-series. If you are not making mistakes, the difficulty of the questions is not pitched at the right level and you are not learning.
Many tutors face the difficulty of helping students improve as they see all students as similar student type. In this blog post, I will share 4 types of challenges that my students usually face.
Challenge 1: Student A doesn't see the purpose in studying Chemistry and doesn't believe that he has the ability to learn.
Response: I explained the value of learning to Student A and also increased the student's ownership of learning by allowing him to dictate how much homework he gets. Whenever he shares about his difficulty in learning, I will pause and listen to help me analyse his weakness in learning. Slowly, Student A started to change his mental mindset and that's the start of seeing improvement in his Chemistry grades.
Challenge 2: Student B didn't do well in Sec 3 end-of-year exam. She has insufficient prior knowledge and prerequisite skills needed for mastery of new content for Sec 4.
Response: I used bite-sized assessments as a platform for discussion to teach concepts using commonly tested exam questions. I also provided the key phrases and templates needed to gain scientific vocabulary in the shortest amount of time. With the correct focus, Student B managed to catch up and follow the lessons taught in school.
Challenge 3: Student C has misconceptions about many topics as he was taught inaccurate information.
Response: I will jot down his misconceptions in a notebook and ask him to justify his belief. After the discussion, the student will rephrase the concept below the original misconception. This allowed Student C to revisit the misconception and relearn the correct concept.
Challenge 4: Student D doesn't have any learning/studying strategies/exam techniques. She will only do practice questions right before her tests.
Response: I will teach study skills which have proven themselves to be effective. During lesson, I will demonstrate thinking aloud skills, do retrieval practice of information and also stress the importance of spaced learning. I will also share the common wrong studying methods made by most students.
My slots for 2021 is currently full.
Do contact me for a discussion if your child is keen to learn with me from November/Dec 2021 onwards to prepare for 2022.
Thanks for reading!
Now that you have gotten back your papers, what's next?
1. Wrong Direction Error
Type of error:
Wrong direction error occurs when you misunderstood the direction of the question and do the question with the wrong topic, concept and keywords in mind.
This error costs the most marks and wastes the most time.
To avoid this type of error:
Read the question at least twice, underlining important keywords before planning the answer.
2. Careless Mistake
Type of error:
A careless mistake can be corrected automatically upon checking. E.g. missing keywords/phrases/copying the wrong value.
Many careless mistakes throughout the exam paper will cause the grade scored to not reflect the student's true potential.
To avoid this type of error:
Read the answer once carefully before moving on to the next question.
Type of error:
Misconceptions arise when students do not understand the principles required to work the problem.
This type of error is the most serious mistake made as the student have not learnt the correct concepts in the first place.
To avoid this type of error:
An experience tutor will be necessary to bridge the gap. Relearning concepts will be crucial.
4. Application Error
Type of error:
This happens when you know the concept but cannot apply it to the problem.
Majority of the questions especially in Pure Chemistry are application questions. Not knowing the process skills will cause students to be unable to attempt the entire question as questions may be related to one another.
To avoid this type of error:
You must practise a wide variety of questions (not quantity) to know all the tips and tricks related to higher order thinking questions. Once again, having a tutor may be an option to help save time.
5. Test Procedure Errors
Type of error:
These are mistakes made due to way the student takes exam. It is affected by their own personalities and mindsets.
Problem caused/To avoid this type of error:
Is your child feeling confident/nervous/overwhelmed/lost about the upcoming prelims?
No matter what they are feeling right now, there is still time for preparation.
REVIEWING is very crucial for quick improvement.
2. UTILIZE MEMORY TECHNIQUES
Many students face the problem of being unable to recall the information as most teachers do not focus on this. They will say “must remember this!” or “Go memorise this!” without telling the students how.
For my students, I will always teach them HOW to memorise/remember certain concepts by condensing the huge amount of information in a way that is easy to remember.
Having a good memory is super important in order to just PASS the exam!
3. PREPARE CHEAT SHEETS
The most traditional way of recalling using just a blank piece of paper is the most effective.
For my students, I will prepare blank tables / flowcharts / answer templates so that they can 'fill in the blanks' to test if they have remembered the concepts with accuracy.
In this post, I will share some of the frequently asked questions from parents:
1. How is your teaching style different from other tutors?
Many tutors will wait for students to ask questions after giving them tons of questions to do during lesson. For me, I DO NOT spend time making the student do questions after questions while I wait.
Instead, I will ask the correct questions through proper questioning technique and provide quality practice questions in order to sieve out misconceptions which students themselves are unaware of. This can only be done through years of experience.
2. How do your lessons value-add to what my child has already learnt at school?
Most teachers rush through content in school, neglecting the importance of teaching proper exam techniques required to ace the examination.
To sharpen answering skills, I will teach:
I will also reteach topics which students are weak in to bridge the gap between concept and application. With a structured strategy, students will be able to gain confidence and excel in the exams.
3. Do I need to buy assessment books?
No. I do not encourage buying of assessment books.
Personalised materials for teaching and learning will be provided for every session. I will assess the needs of every student individually by using a diagnostic test on the first lesson. Personalised materials will be prepared to tackle specific problem areas.
N Level Science (Chemistry) - Sec 4 N(A)
Total duration: 1 h 15 min (One paper Only)
The remaining 50% of the Science grade comes from either Physics or Biology component.
Students only need to sit for 2 papers for Science (Chemistry + Physics or Biology).
O Level Science (Chemistry) - Sec 5 N(A) or Sec 4 O Level Track
Total duration for MCQ paper: 1 h
Total duration for Structured paper: 1 h 15 min
Practical Assessment - For O Level Science (Chemistry) only
Total duration: 1 h 30 min
30 marks - 15% of Science grade
Format: 1 or 2 Questions on Chemistry (15 marks) + 1 or 2 Questions on Physics/Biology (15 marks)
Addition of New Topics
1. Energy Changes
2. Speed of Reaction
5. Carboxylic Acids
6. Qualitative Analysis
Extension of Old Topics
- Know how to design experiment to measure rate of reaction
Identification of Ions and Gases
- Describe tests for ammonia, chlorine and sulfur dioxide
- Concept of limiting and excess reagent
- Addition polymerisation
- Pollution problems caused by plastics
These topics are exactly the same as those studied by Sec 4 O Level students. However, the questions set for these questions are no longer as simple as those seen in Sec 4 N(A) papers. Students are expected to answer questions which require them to "explain", "describe", "elaborate" or "suggest".
Difficulties faced by Sec 5 students
Level: Sec 4
School: Chung Cheng High Main
Marks for Prelims: MCQ 29/40, P2 - 37/80 (Failed), Practical 21/40(Just pass)
Date of first session: 27/9/19
Total number of lessons: 8 (27/9, 4/10, 6/10, 9/10, 13/10, 16/10, 18/10 and 26/10)
Total number of hours: 16
Date of O level Exam: 30/10/19
1st Feedback to Parent on 28/9/19
Hi Mdm W, just a quick feedback regarding my observation so far:
1. J is weak in understanding of concepts. She may be able to give the answers to certain questions, but when asked further, she doesn’t know how she formed her answer. Most likely, she uses a lot of memory work when studying, instead of understanding the concepts.
2. She lacks skills when forming equations, taking up a lot of time even when it’s a 1 mark type of question. I have given her tips on how to form equations faster and more accurately. Also taught her how to check the equations formed.
3. She is not very sure of the keywords to use for answering questions. In chemistry, there are certain sentence structure template that we use to answer questions. And most likely she lost marks when she did not answer using important keywords (which she didn’t know that they are keywords).
4. I went through the basics to make sure that she doesn’t make the same type of mistakes again and again as these basics are repeated throughout all topics.
5. We started with the most challenging chapter which is electrolysis. She couldn’t answer well even for the most basic type of questions. Have already gone through her mistakes and given her some homework.
6. I stressed to her the importance of understanding of concepts. Knowing how to explain how she came out with the answers is crucial as the exam questions set in recent years require students to answer questions base on new context. Remembering answers from familiar context will give her a disadvantage.
I gave her some reference materials, notes and worksheets. Hopefully she will find them useful. Will be preparing according to her request for the next session.
2nd Feedback on 5/10/19
Hi Mdm W, just a quick update:
We finished the chapter on electrolysis yesterday. It’s the hardest topic of the whole syllabus. She didn’t understand how to derive certain answers at first and by now, she should be able to as I have shared with her a method to figure out which thinking process to use. Have also given her some practice questions to do.
We also covered a component of practical skill - planning. She has problem writing in a scientific way. Have gone through the requirements with her so that she knows what to write.
We will move on to her next weakest topic and I will also give her more examples for practical planning question.
3rd Feedback on 10/10/19
Hi Mdm W, just a quick update:
I gave J a few more planning questions as example so that she has more exposure to questions. Also gave her practical exam notes and went through with her the common mistakes that students make during practical. I also tested her on the way she writes her exam answer for practical.
For the theory paper, we are currently doing organic chemistry which is a large topic comprising of 6 smaller topics. I gave her homework on this topic and she’s learning from mistakes made in the homework. I also reteach a few concepts like isomers and esterification as these are her weaknesses.
Yesterday was the 4th session. (27/9, 4/10, 6/10, 9/10).
4th Feedback on 15/10/19
Hi Mdm W, just a quick update:
1) I gave her 2 model answers for planning exercise and both types came out for the practical exam - thermal decomposition and thermometric titration.
2) Currently we are doing the more challenging concepts for organic chemistry. Have also gone through and given her extra notes on concepts that are taken out of the syllabus but frequently tested (moe wants students to be able to analyse and do without being taught). J has come across such questions in her tests and exams before but couldn’t understand at first. Now she can do questions given without referring to notes.
3) Will be moving on to other frequently tested topics and concepts. Also gave her tips on how to study for Chemistry and what to take note of.
Last Feedback on 26/10/19
Hi Mdm W, just a quick feedback, we managed to go through most of the popular topics for o level. Have taught her answering techniques and answers templates for the relevant chapters.
For every new technique, I have given her questions to test her. So far, she could replicate what was taught.
Today marks the last session. She feels that she can handle the mcq paper on her own.
The 4 sessions are 13/10, 16/10, 18/10 and 26/10.
Thanks! Hope she will do well for her paper this wed.
O Level Results - A Jump from E8/F9 to A2 in Just 1 Month
The study of chemistry requires students to apply a vast amount of content knowledge to higher order thinking questions using a set of answering techniques. How can we score in Chemistry then?
1. Know the Essential Facts:
To win a war, we must first know our enemy well.
Duration of Paper 1 MCQ: 1 h
Duration of Paper 2: 1 h 45 min
MCQ: 40 marks (30% of overall grade)
Section A + B: 50 + 30 marks (50% of overall grade)
A copy of the Periodic Table of Elements will be provided.
What can I expect?
MCQ consists of 40 questions from all topics. (Tip: Do the Mole Calculation questions LAST!)
Section A consists of 7-9 compulsory structured questions, each with several parts.
Section B consists of 3 questions.
-The first is a compulsory data-based question and the second is a long compulsory questions.
-The data-based question requires students to interpret, evaluate or solve problems using a set of given data.
-The third has an either/or option.
2. Know the connection between the topics
More challenging questions will require students to apply content knowledge from more than 1 topic.
-Elements, Compounds and Mixtures + Separation Techniques
-Atomic Structure + Chemical Bonding
-Periodic Table + Chemical Bonding
-Acids, Bases and Salts + Qualitative Analysis
-Salts + Ammonia
-Metals + Redox
-Redox + Electrolysis
-Chemical calculations + almost any topic
3. Have a copy of personalised Periodic Table
Be familiar with the Periodic Table and save time by knowing where the common elements are.
Create your own personalised Periodic Table. Jot down essential notes and refer to it for all assignments. (All my students will have a copy each from the first session.)
Know exactly what information can be found on the Periodic Table:
-charge of an ion
-relative atomic mass
-group and period number
-number of electron shells and valence electrons
Many parents in Singapore have invested time and money into finding suitable Chemistry tuition classes for their children. However, despite painstakingly sourcing for the tutors for their children, parents often face disappointment as the results fall short. Why is this so?
Here are 3 reasons why typical Chemistry tuition centres wouldn’t work for students.
1. The ‘One Size Fits All’ approach
Most students in tuition centres are taught with a One-Size-Fits-All approach which is similar to the type of learning students experience in schools. This makes it difficult to identify and address weaknesses students might have which then hinders any possible improvement they could make as there is an assumption that all students face similar difficulties and challenges.
2. No customisation
Since most centres adopt classroom teaching, there is no creation of customised materials for individual students. Instead, most centres use standardised materials or generic worksheets. The learning experience exists purely based on what the tutor decides to provide for the student in terms of learning content.
3. Most tutors are part-timers
At many tuition centres, tutors are often part-timers who are transitioning between jobs or working for extra income. Although many claim to have experience and flexible schedules, their availability could be inconsistent in the long run as many are working under a short-term contract. As the part-timers usually use materials provided by the tuition centres, lessons tend to have a lack of engagement due to the routine teaching.
Why is Mrs Lim different?
Mrs Lim is a dedicated, full-time tutor who is driven by passion. Each of her students has a customized learning programme, achieved through specialised and tailored approaches which caters directly to the needs of every individual. Every student’s portfolio is handled by Mrs Lim in a personalised manner. From the first session, Mrs Lim profiles her students to identify their strengths and areas of weakness. Based on the students’ needs, she will address gaps in the students’ conceptual knowledge while reinforcing their strengths.
Aside from educating students by teaching them relevant content, Mrs Lim also focuses on cultivating the right mindset towards learning that goes beyond spoon-feeding and rote learning. Instead of drilling exercises, she utilises elements of problem-based learning and highlight the relevance of concepts to real-world situations, challenging them to think critically beyond the mere regurgitation of facts. This cultivates in students the ability to evaluate and analyse problems across any given discipline.
The friendly disposition of Mrs Lim allows students to feel comfortable and open with her. She goes beyond simply being a teacher and often takes on the additional role of being a mentor to her students. Through maintaining good rapport with her students, she inspires them to take responsibility and establish purpose in their learning, guiding them step-by-step towards achieving both their academic and life goals.
Mrs Lim also believes in establishing a unique tripartite relationship between herself, parents and students. Through the informal discussions after lessons, she keeps parents in the loop of their child’s progress regularly so that they can work together to provide help the student.