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Do's And Don’ts Of General Subjects

by Gabriel Leow | 20 november 2022

Do you study hard, yet score below your expectations? Are you spending all-nighters dedicated to memorizing that annoyingly difficult chapter? If so, this guide is for you! It goes through the do’s and don’ts of general subjects and also includes neat tips to help you get the grade you deserve.


Let’s start with the subject that has the most mixed opinions: Math. Some find it easier because of the strict and rigid analytical approach required when facing this subject, while others may struggle precisely because of the lack of flexibility math problems offer. Thankfully, math is one of the subjects with more clear-cut rules, which means that as long as you follow these rules, you’ll be fine!

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Exam Preparation


  1. Practice, practice, practice; especially under exam conditions. This is one of the most effective ways to revise because it forces you to know what you’ve forgotten.
    • Just doing them and moving on without any reflection isn’t any good either. Marking and understanding where you went wrong to clear up misconceptions is also very important. 
    • Mark any questions you found difficult and compile them into one long worksheet. Before the exam (usually a day before), just take some time to solve them and see if you make the same mistakes.


  2. Relax a bit. You may already be an expert at this, but it’s important to take a break just before the exams. Some may find it a bit contradictory, but it helps going in with a fresh mind that isn’t muddled by any doubts or worries. It is important to know yourself though; this guide will not work for everyone since we all have different revision strategies.


  1. Remember unnecessary formulas. Most important formulas are already included in a formula sheet, so only remember the ones that aren’t on the formula sheet for your respective exam but are often tested on.

  2. Burn the midnight oil or study at the last minute. This is counterproductive because it often creates more worries and doubts.

  3. Use multiple textbooks to revise. Try and stick to one since the content topics may differ. 

  4. Leave out/ignore a topic because it’s ‘too easy’ and you ‘won’t forget it so easily’. The learning curve for Mathematics will only steepen the more you study, and chances are your other topics will snowball into a giant mess of information you need to cram into your head and you will definitely forget something. Always cycle through topics to keep them fresh before an exam.

  5. Compartmentalize your knowledge. Just because a question is mainly trigonometry-related doesn’t mean that it doesn’t use other topics. Chances are that you will have to use your knowledge of more than one topic for a question.

Exam Tips


    1. Come prepared. Replace your calculators batteries with fresh ones the night before, and make sure it is working properly. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Not having the needed equipment will not only put you in that awkward situation where you have to ask an invigilator to give you another pen/whatever stationary you have forgotten. It also puts you at a natural psychological disadvantage which can impact your confidence and most importantly, your marks. 

    2. Keep calm. It may sound cliché, but panicking in an exam is the worst thing you can do because it impacts your confidence.

    3. Check :
    • Whether you’re in radians or degrees for the respective question. This is the worst way to lose marks because of how hard it can be to spot. Should you forget, always look at your calculation result; a sketchy negative angle that doesn’t seem right is more often than not the best indicator that something went wrong. 
    • Your working. Writing out all your steps is incredibly important for future error checking and minimising calculation errors. It’s not a must, but is recommended because in the event of an error you can’t spot, you’ll get a few method marks for showing your working. If you’re the kind of person who has messy handwriting, make sure that a 0 masquerading as a 6 doesn’t mess up your calculations.
    • The specified degree of accuracy required for your answer. 
      1. More often than not, mathematics exams usually require you to round to 3 significant figures if the degree of accuracy is not stated.
        ‘Unless stated otherwise within an individual question, three-figure accuracy will be required. This means that four-figure accuracy should be shown throughout the working, including cases where answers are used in subsequent parts of the question. To earn accuracy marks, premature approximation should be avoided.’ ~Mathematics Syllabus D (4024)  
      2. The most common special cases are answers in degrees or cents, which require 1 and 2 decimal points respectively. Another case some students occasionally forget is that bearings require three digit results (e.g. 078º).
      3. For questions with multiple parts, it’s best to round to 4 significant figures but put your final answer in whatever degree of accuracy is specified for more accurate calculations later on.

  1. Manage your time. Find the average amount of time you should spend per question by finding the maximum amount of time you can spend per mark. 

  2. Keep an eye out for the marks per question. If your working takes up more than the given space (and your handwriting isn’t very big) and you still aren’t even close to completing the question, you may want to check if you aren’t over complicating things.

  3. Use a lower pencil thickness for graph drawing. This is to avoid leaving a distinct eraser line when you erase a drawing due to inaccuracies.


  1. Get too fixated on a question you can’t solve. Should you flip out and struggle for too long on a question, move on! This is to avoid the worst-case scenario of spending all your remaining time on the question and leaving others blank. If you really can’t answer a question despite how hard you try and only have a small amount of time left, leave the question and check your other answers to minimize the marks lost. 

  2. Leave anything blank. It’s always better to at least attempt a question to get method marks rather than eliminate the possibility of getting any marks. 

  3. Jump steps in your working. If you have an ECF (Error Carried Forward), not only is it harder to find out where you made the mistake, but it also reduces your chances of getting method marks since examiners aren’t telepathic and won’t take the time or effort to figure out where you made an error.


The boon for bookworms and the bane for others. For foreigners, English is already very hard to learn, and is even harder to master. In a bind? Then this section is for you.

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General Tips

  1. Read a lot. There’s no escaping it, which is why you should try and read lots of something that you enjoy reading about (excluding comics). English is difficult because at a certain point, getting correct grammar and sentence structure simply comes down to whether it feels right.

  2. Don’t waffle unnecessarily. Brevity is key. Try to also refrain from throwing useless sophisticated vocabulary indiscriminately because it doesn’t impress examiners.

Exam Preparation


  1. Write under exam conditions. For some, getting the creative juices flowing can be tough, especially under exam conditions. To help with this, do the 10 minute exercise: 
    • Find an article from the news (or any other source ) that strikes a chord in you.
    • Evaluate the article and write your thoughts and opinions. 
    • Strictly limit yourself to 10 minutes.
      The aim of this exercise is to help simulate exam conditions and increase the volume (as well as quality) of your writing in a reasonable amount of time.
  2. Consult your English teacher frequently to clarify doubts (unless they aren’t great). Your English teacher is usually your best source of advice, since they are more seasoned with exam preparation. They are also your best source of feedback, usually more so than other subjects due to the unique nature of English.


  3. Learn the names of literary techniques, such as sibilance. Repeatedly stating “the repetition of words starting with ‘s’” just doesn’t sound as professional.


  4. Learn how to incorporate quotes into sentences without ruining the flow (i.e. show, not tell). As the PEAL (Point, Evidence, Analysis, Link) paragraph structure becomes more prevalent as a teaching device, students often ruin the flow of their sentences within their paragraphs trying to include each component. Take a look at the following examples below. The difference between them is subtle, but notice that the first is much simpler and sounds less mechanical.
    • Next, the uneven power dynamic in the court is shown when Proctor “[Delicately (tries) to point out a paragraph]” to Danforth.
    • Next, there is the uneven power dynamic in the court between Proctor and Danforth. This is shown from the stage direction “[Delicately trying to point out a paragraph.]


  1. Memorize anything, such as whole chunks of analyses from websites like litcharts. It’s alright to remember small portions (e.g. the purpose of a linguistic device in poetry) and the effect they have on readers, but try to paraphrase as much as possible. Part of how you are graded is based on the originality of your interpretation. Plagiarism may work once, but since examination markers mark such a large volume of papers it becomes pretty easy to tell what’s original and what’s not.


  2. Go over the top with interpretations. Poems and short stories don’t always need to be an extended metaphor for something. It also demonstrates to the examiner that you don’t know your stuff and are just throwing random guesses in hopes of getting marks.


    1. Pay attention to the tone and scenario required for the question. This is more common for those questions that require you to “write a speech/letter” for a given scenario (e.g. “Write a speech for the following scenario: You are a volunteer for a non-profit organization speaking at a public school about your organization’s conservation efforts for endangered pangolins trying to convince the children to volunteer as well.”). Here, an informal tone is better than a formal tone. A convincing tone is one of the criteria examiners use to grade you, so keep a lookout!

    2. Avoid obvious phrases such as ‘this shows’. Go with more unique words such as ‘connotes’, ‘infers’, or ‘conveys’. This only works well when the tone requires you to do so, though, so look out!

    3. Dig deeper. Examiners grade how well candidates analyze the writer’s linguistic and structural choices affect the reader and the interpretations they make. Think of it as having to put the author’s work under a microscope and observe all the fine details.

    4. Use your time wisely. Most usually dive straight into the question, but sometimes it’s better to structure out your thoughts for a neater and more organized essay.


  1. Give up on a question and attempt another one (assuming you were given an option to choose and answer a few out of multiple questions). Starting over fresh midway through is one of the worst things to do. 

  2. Use dot points. You will get marked down for this, since English requires you to write in continuous prose.

  3. Be afraid to have a different interpretation. There isn’t any right or wrong, as long as you’re able to back up your ideas with substantial evidence and a well-written analysis.


The most content-heavy of all, the sciences are definitely tricky subjects that many struggle to do well in. This section aims to help b-sians in science become a-sian science superstars.

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General Tips

Write notes in short-form.
There’s a high chance that you won’t be able to copy everything down on a slide, so try to summarise as much as possible

Memorise key phrases and key-words.
One common method is to use flashcards.

Internalise your knowledge.

  • Always go back and revise past topics frequently to avoid having to relearn everything just before a test. Some fast and convenient ways to test and recall your knowledge include Grade Gorilla, flashcards and mind-mapping.
  • Draw diagrams and charts when they’re provided in lesson content. Drawing diagrams and charts helps internalise visual content faster, and is definitely worth the effort. This is especially important in visual topics of biology such as human anatomy.


Understand concepts where possible
(of course, you can’t really understand formulae, so that’s an exception). Why? To make it easier to recall later on. Linking concepts to examples is the most effective way to understand them, which is why good teachers give good examples when explaining concepts to students.

Go through any marked work and do corrections.
If you’re someone who keeps their worksheets and looks back at them, doing corrections is incredibly helpful because it helps you avoid making the same mistakes again

Create a personalised cheat sheet.
It should basically contain key concepts you need to know, as well as other stuff you may struggle with or need help remembering.

Exam Preparation


  1. Lots of past year papers. Like mathematics, practice makes perfect! 

  2. Look through mark schemes from the official examination board. Mark schemes are incredibly useful because they give you an idea about the examiner’s expectations for answering a question and what to look out for. They are also a last-ditch method of revising if you’re crunched for time. 

  3. Memorise key phrases words. Usually, getting full marks for a question requires key words and phrases more than anything. 

  4. Revise topics that you may have forgotten from time to time. As mentioned above, GradeGorilla or end-of-chapter questions in your textbook are excellent ways to gauge your understanding.


  1. Rush through everything. Science is incredibly content-heavy, and doing too much in one go can affect your motivation and understanding as you fail to completely internalise the content due to burnout. Instead, try revising earlier before an exam to give yourself more time to pace the revision process.

  2. Compartmentalise your knowledge based on topics. Just like maths, questions can have topics from both biology and physics in various parts.

  3. Ignore topics that are ‘very easy’. No topic should be ignored. Even if you are very proficient in a topic (or at least think you are), try testing yourself from time to time.


  1. Write in dot points and use condensed sentence structure. (e.g. reduce the sentence “evaporation is different from boiling because evaporation only occurs at the surface of the liquid, unlike boiling which occurs throughout the liquid” to “evaporation occurs at the surface of liquid whereas boiling occurs throughout liquid”). This is to save time, since questions like these only require short answers.


  1. Give calculated answers in fractions. This is a surefire way to lose marks.

  2. Ask friends for help before the exam. More often than not you will enter the exam hall with more doubts than anything and possibly even remember incorrect concepts.

Preparing for these subjects can be a difficult task, and often impossible to do without losing your mind. But if you follow these tips and formulate a clear-cut plan, your preparation will seem like a breeze! 

Exam Tips


Author: Gabriel Leow
Proofreaders: Aima Qureshi, Ahmed Hassan


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Published: 20 November 2022
Last Updated: 20 November 2022
Written by Gabriel Leow