some random thoughts...
Is your child feeling overwhelmed and intimidated by upper secondary Chemistry? Are you finding ways to support and encourage them to make learning less stressful?
As parents, the last thing we want is for our children to feel demoralised and resistant towards learning. From Sec 4 onwards, many weaker students will start to get left behind by their peers...
Based on my years of experience, students need to have a strong headstart to help them understand concepts better, with less misconceptions. This will give them the confidence they need to apply concepts in higher order thinking questions.
It is important for Sec 3 students to start attempting the Chemistry topical Ten Year Series which is a compilation of past examination papers from the last ten years. Although the Sec 3s this year have a slight change in the syllabus and examination format, most of the questions are still relevant and useful for practice. It will be best to find an experience tutor to adopt questions from the TYS and modify them to match the latest syllabus. Usually, I will use these papers to guide my students in practicing and preparing for their weighted assessments. Students will learn annotation skills when I think aloud in front of them. It is also important for Sec 3s to identify areas where they need help on and not wait till it’s too late.
Learning Chemistry goes beyond merely memorising concepts. It is crucial to make sure your child can explain the underlying concepts and theories to make him understand the topics thoroughly. Developing a deep understanding of every topic starting from Sec 3 is important to have a good headstart. With proper guidance and support, your child should slowly get to love Chemistry and at the same time increase his confidence in his abilities.
6 Steps to Tackle ‘O’ Level Pure Chemistry Paper 2
One of my students pointed out that I didn't update my blog for the entire 2022!
It had been a really busy 2022. The days passed too fast and I didn't have time to share my thoughts in this blog. It has always been my passion to share study tips, and useful advice with my students. It's so much more convenient to just share my thoughts through Whatsapp with my current students.
To make up for my 'absence', I shall share 6 steps to tackle the Structured Questions in Paper 2. This is also relevant for students taking Combine Chemistry as the skills required are similar.
Step 1: Know your 'enemy' well.
Paper 2 of the ‘O’ Level Chemistry Paper carries 80 marks and accounts for 50% of the overall ‘O’ Level Chemistry grade. Since the demands of Paper 2 are high and the given duration for you to complete the paper is relatively short, you have to strategise in order to manage this paper.
Time: 1hr 45min
Section A: Consists of 7 to 9 compulsory structured questions, each with several parts
Section B: Consists of 3 questions
Do note that for students taking the O level exams in 2024, there will be a slight change in the format.
Step 2: Know the Periodic Table better than your best friend.
The Periodic Table has a wealth of information that can help you solve questions. Some information such as proton number, mass number, group number and period number can be obtained directly from the Periodic Table.
Tip: For all my students, they will get a personalised Periodic Table from the 1st session.
Step 3: Understand the links between all topics
Paper 2 questions require you to use knowledge from more than one specific topic.
Hence, you should be able to link several concepts across different topics to answer questions. A good way to prepare for such questions would be to have strong content knowledge in foundational topics.
Key foundational topics to master by Sec 3 are:
Normally, teachers like to set exam questions with a mix of topics. For example:
Step 4: Study Smart. Know your content well.
The time crunch in an exam situation means that the more quickly you can recall knowledge, the better you can focus on applying their knowledge to application questions. These basic concepts can help you deduce or predict other scientific information that you will need to solve questions. One way to do so is to commit certain basic scientific information to memory. *Read on to get some tips on how to do it*
Step 5: Learn to look for clues like Sherlock Holmes
Identify the Directive Word
Questions which begin with the words, “define”, “state”, “describe”, “explain” or “outline” will test factual knowledge and understanding. Such questions will require you to recall and explain specific concepts.
Questions which ask you to “describe” will require them to use results or observations from the question in their answers. On the other hand, questions which ask you to “explain” will require them to use scientific concepts to back up the observations you pen in their answers.
Identify the Tested Topic(s)
You should identify the topic(s) and/or concept(s) tested in a question by looking out for key words.
For example, such key words or phrases may include “rate of reaction” or “displacement reaction”. You should include related key words/ phrases in their answers.
Detect Extended Questions
In the case of questions which are split into parts, you must ensure that your answers for subsequent parts are consistent with earlier parts. Some key words/phrases you may look out for to identify such questions are “Use your answer from ...” or “Based on your observations from ...”
Step 6: Answer with precision
Questions which involve a novel set-up or application will require you to apply what you have learnt. Additional information may be provided by the question if advanced concepts are being introduced. Such questions tend to be longer because a lot of information and/or data is provided.
Questions may begin with the following words: “predict”, “suggest”, “calculate” or “determine”. Such higher-order questions require you to study the given trends and to predict any changes based on the variable changed. For questions which ask you to “suggest” an outcome, you can give a relevant or plausible answer so long as the suggestion is based on facts.
You should provide a full answer complete with elaboration. You may choose to craft you answer in a chronological manner (step-by-step) or to use the “cause and effect” format which lists a cause and explains the resulting effect. In order to ensure that your answer is relevant and accurate, you are encouraged to use named examples within your answer.
Bonus Tip 1: Mrs Lim's 3C Method
When structuring answers for Paper 2, use the ‘3 Cs’ Method. It is a systematic approach that helps you to provide accurate and precise answers. All my students are trained to use this method.
CLAIM: Directly answer the main question.
CLUE: Quote the given information from the question (which could include numerical values, graphs, tables, diagrams, etc.).
CONCEPT: State the appropriate concepts used to explain the contextual clues given in the question.
Bonus Tip 2: Memory Techniques
Over the years of teaching, I realise that one of the common challenges that students have is that they find it hard to commit what they have studied into their long-term memory. And this affects their performance during the exam.
So, I'd like to share a few simple techniques that you can adopt, to help you improve your memory work.
Studying materials over a number of sessions gives the you the time to adequately process information. Students who study regularly remember the material far better than those who do all of their studying in one marathon session. You will realise that during our tuition session, I will always try to focus on certain main concepts and not cram a whole chapter.
Information is organized in our memory in related clusters. Try grouping similar concepts and terms together, or make an outline of your school or tuition notes to help group related concepts using tables, listing method etc. Use highlighters or pens in different colors to group related ideas in written study materials.
During tuition, you will realise that I will always try to summarise what we’ve learnt in our precious notebook.
Mnemonic is a technique often used by students to aid in recall. For example, students can associate a term they need to remember with a common item that you are very familiar with. The best mnemonics are those that utilize positive imagery, humor, or novelty. Create rhymes, songs, or jokes to help remember a specific segment of information. I always try to tell stories, “jokes” to help you remember certain concepts. Remember my blast furnace story? What about piper piper in fuels? And what did zebra say to goat? (Only my students will understand these questions!)
Hope you find these useful! Have a wonderful 2023!
Did you child do well this time round?
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.
responding to my students' challenges
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.
FreQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
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
A Chem-Addict passionate about teaching and learning Chemistry.