Interview With TPJC's TOP A-Level Science Student

Written by Sheryl (09S03).
Edited by Hamid (09A06).

Leonard was previously from Dunman Secondary School and he moved on to TPJC after his O-levels. He shares with Sheryl of 09S03 his path leading to his success at the A-levels, where he emerged as TPJC’s top science student for 2008.

Sheryl: Let’s start with some background info. What subjects did you do in TPJC, and which CCA are you in?

Leonard: The standard GP, PW, Chinese, H1 Economics, H2 Computing, H2 Physics, H2 Math and H3 Math (NTU numbers and matrices).

My CCA was Film and Photography society but since it merged with AV last year I guess my CCA is now the Infocomm Club.

Sheryl: What an interesting combination. Was it hard to cope with all those subjects and commitments?

Leonard: An NTU professor conducted the lectures, so it was pretty manageable for me. I totally neglected the H3 for a period of time though, and did last minute studying for the final exam.

Sheryl: Hmm so what were your results like?

Leonard: Oh well, Merit for H3 Math. They classify the grades under Distinction, Merit, Pass and Ungraded.

Sheryl: So I assume Merit is a rather satisfactory grade? How about the other subjects then?

Leonard: Well I aced the rest of the subjects, except for Chinese because the minimum grade for university admission is an S.

Sheryl: That’s a total of six A’s right?

Leonard: Yes. Actually, I didn’t really expect to get A’s for my Economics and General Paper. It was really surprising for me because throughout my JC life I’ve been getting Bs and Cs for both subjects.

Sheryl: I see. So what was your motivation to do well then? Were you guided by a dream?

Leonard: Motivation? Lots of things I would say; my teachers, my friends. All of them were working really hard, and so I decided that I should work hard too. I’m also motivated by personal reasons as well.

Sheryl: Are you comfortable with sharing some of them?

Leonard: I’ll share one – my grandma. She passed away when I was Sec 3. She was a really nice person; always rewarding me whenever I did well for exams. After she passed away, I decided that I should do well for her sake. That was my motivation for both my 'O' and 'A' levels.

Sheryl: I see. I’m sure if she’s still alive she’d be happy to see that you’ve been working hard for your exams and feel so proud of you for being the top student of TPJC.

Leonard: Haha I would guess so.

Sheryl: Tell me about life in TPJC. Did you experience any set backs, and if so how did you overcome them?

Leonard: Setbacks?

Sheryl: Man is no stranger to setbacks! I’m sure you’ve had some.

Leonard: Well, I did take combined physics when I was in secondary school. When I went to JC, I took H2 Physics. That was a really huge jump in terms of content and depth.

Sheryl: It must have been tough.

Leonard: Yes definitely. I remember failing my physics continuously when I was in J1. Then after a period of time, I realized that the only way to do well is to practice, practice, and practice. So 1 month before Promos, I was doing TYS (Ten Year Series) every single day.

Sheryl: The Ten-Year Series is certainly our best friend. How about sharing your studying style? Did you ask your tutors loads of questions? Am I right to say that for your subject combination, your main studying technique would be to practice?

Leonard: Yup that is very true. In addition to practice, I always try to make sure that I understand anything that I learn and relate it to real life. If I can’t, then I use my imagination. My imagination can get rather extreme.

Sheryl: But I’m sure it helped in your studying!

Leonard: Definitely.

Sheryl: A lot of people say that going to JC equates to having no life. Do you agree with that?

Leonard: Definitely not. My class had a lot of class activities together, and most of that happened when we were supposed to be studying for our exams. You know, I believe the most important thing in JC life is to have fun. Working hard is important, but if you don’t have fun, sooner or later you’ll definitely lose all motivation to study.

Sheryl: Right. Do you have any comments about the TPJC culture?

Leonard: There are hardworking students and teachers, but of course there’s room for improvement.

Sheryl: What are the improvements that you feel should be made?

Leonard: TPJC should improve on its study environment. I think you already know, we’re known for our slack culture. For starters, I think upgrades to the school library are needed. I’ve visited many other colleges before, and I realize that our library is the smallest. And the libraries in other colleges are cosier than the rest; I guess this is more conducive for studying.

Sheryl: I see. Do you have any ‘secret success formula’ to share with our fellow TPJCians?

Leonard: Study smart, keep fit, stay happy, stay motivated and have loads of rest everyday.

It’s not enough to work hard, really. If you do a thousand tutorials but don’t understand what you’re doing, then in the end, you don’t benefit at all. Studying smart is the best way. How do you do that? There are many ways.

Like what I said, you have to relate what you learnt to real life or your imagination. Or you could do mind maps. It all depends on the individual’s creativity.

But before we can utilize your creativity to such an extent, you should understand yourself first.

For example, for myself, I love anime and cartoons. And so I relate my learning to these things. I’m also a very visual person, so I make use of diagrams to understand stuff.

Sheryl: How about the rest of the things you mentioned?

Leonard: Well, staying happy? Those who know me will know that I’m a happy-go-lucky person. And that really helps. JC life is already so stressful; why make it worse by putting on a sad or stressed up look?

Bottom line is, in tough times, always stay happy and positive.

Next up is keeping fit. It’s scientifically proven that exercise helps your mind function a lot better. So those who hate PE lessons, start liking them now because they have a direct impact on your studies.

The PE department is so going to like me for that statement!

Sheryl: I have a love-hate relationship with PE lessons. What do you consider to be healthy sleeping hours?

Leonard: Sleeping at 10pm, and then waking up at 6am. For those who can only study at night, this wouldn’t apply to you.

Sheryl: Tell me 3 things you miss about TPJC.

Leonard: My friends, the stress and…

Sheryl: Wait, the stress?! I’m about to die from the stress and you’re telling me you miss it?

Leonard: Trust me, after you’ve had you’re A-Levels you will slack so much that you’ll miss working hard. Oh and third thing, my hardworking teachers.

Sheryl: Any encouraging words for your juniors?

Leonard: Jiayou! Work hard, study smart. Believe that you will do well and you will definitely do well.

Sheryl: Alright. What are your future plans then?

Leonard: After my National Service, I plan to study psychology in University. Depending on the scholarship I get, I’ll either be studying overseas or in a local university.

Sheryl: I see. Finally, do you want to thank anyone especially for helping you attain such good results?

Leonard: Ah, lots of people such as my class 07S28, my other friends who were there for me and my hardworking teachers. Especially Ms Lim Yih, my civics tutor who has done so much for me for the past 2 years. Lastly, my Info comm juniors! I wish them all the best for their A levels.


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