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How to ace Secondary Science ?

Science is both empirical and abstract in its nature and study. Hence, an effective study of Science requires a balanced integration of both theory and application. Lower secondary Science is foundational, providing a general overview of the basic sciences. However, it is more specialised at upper secondary. Science combinations for the local GCE “O” level examinations include “Pure Biology”, “Pure Chemistry”, “Pure Physics”, “Combined Biology and Chemistry”, and “Combined Chemistry and Physics”.

How to ace Secondary Science

How to ace Secondary Science

To excel academically in Science, we need a thorough understanding of the learning objectives specified for the various syllabuses. This initial step is simple and often over-looked, although it is extremely important. This is because it provides clear direction for focused learning. Students will benefit by encountering less stress from not knowing what to study for examinations, and thus trying harder than necessary to maximise their learning.

The ability to understand and interprete a question, and therefore knowing the key information needed in a correct answer, are crucial in obtaining high scores. For instance, students should note if they are asked to “state”, “describe”, or “explain” in analysing a question. “Stating” is just writing down “what” is being asked for, while “describing” requires  providing details of “what” is being asked. Lastly, “explaining” is giving reasons for results, observations, hypothesus or phenomena.  Since investigation is an inextricable part of Science, experimental setups, results and its evaulation, are frequently tested. To ace this category of questions, students need to be systematic or step-wise in constructing their answers. This means that the experimental procedures devised should adopt a logical sequence. To aid themselves in being systematic, students can ask themselves, “What will I tell a person if I am instructing him to conduct the test? Are my instructions clear to him? Have I used the appropriate terms? Have I made any assumptions? If yes, have I stated them clearly?”. In interpreting observations, one should note the variables and their respective units, as well as the trends. For example, a variable can increase, decrease or stay constant as another variable increase or decrease. Students ought to also state the ranges over which the ascending, descending and constant trends occur. When giving explanations, we must note if we are asked to explain a certain trend, like the upward trend, or the trends for the whole set of observations. Students must never make assumptions beyond the given ranges, unless they are asked to do so.

To succeed at examinations, a knowlege of and appropriate use of key words is essential. Writing “short and sweet” and “straight to the point” are goals that students should set and achieve in their answers. For a start, key words are bolded in textbooks or study guides. Understanding the subject content and learning objectives also make it obvious what the key words for the different topics are. Another “shortcut” to learning key words is to  enquire of your teachers or tutors directly. However, I encourage students to think before they ask. Such attempts train their minds and psycology for active self-learning, which in turn equips them for eventual independent learning and long-term success.

Good study techniques are also decisive in scoring “A”s for the different Science subjects. Firstly, students are to dedicate quality time solely for reading to understand and learn what and how they will be tested, making notes, revising, and practising for their tests and examinations. Secondly, they should underline or highlight key words, “hard to understand”, “easy to forget” and “likely to be tested”  points. Thirdly, sufficient hours of uninterrupted sleep gives students a sharp and focused mind for efficient learning. To cultivate and maintain a sound sleeping pattern, late-night shows and gaming should be avoided and minimised. in addition, studying ought to be balanced with other interests, so as to avoid triggering a repulsive attitude towards studies, which is counter-productive. However, a student should calculate the price to pay for achieving good grades. If he needs to invest more time and effort than expected to improve his results, he may need to sacrifice his participation in other activities. Lastly, students, care-givers and their mentors, need to be encouraging and affirmative to instill a victor’s mindset and hope for success in students.

Last but not least, every student has a powerful weapon to help them conquer Science. It is called common sense. Sometimes, students over-think concepts and answers. This phenomenon has become more common nowadays. As the pursuit of higher academic qualifications intensifies, so does the level of difficulty of secondary education. As a result, even competent students doubt if they understand simple concepts and questions correctly. However, common sensical thinking easily restores confidence by awaking us to simple realities. For instance, a student finds it hard to understand why Aluminium is soft, while some metals like steel are hard. However, a mundane observation of the use of aluminium in aluminium foil will quickly shake a student out of the delusion that aluminium is hard. Many students enjoy learning by discovery, and are likely to never forget the knowlege that they acquired.

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