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  • Writer's pictureRiver Valley Student Editorial Club

A-levels: A Word From the J3s

By: Hong Liying Rie (22J06), Spring Ashleigh Lin Yiting (22J07)

The A-level examinations - the formidable final hurdle in a two-year-long journey, and by far the hardest one to surmount. As J2 students, the thought of it alone sends shivers down our spines.

Amid juggling our extra-curricular commitments and an ever-growing workload, this year certainly is a challenge like no other. How should we prepare for our A levels? What can we do to cope? How can we find joy in all the chaos?

To answer these questions, we interviewed some of our seniors from the newly graduated Class of 2022 - Aurelia Cheng Qin Yun (21J05), Ee En Xi Clarissa (21J13) and Nilay Barsainya (21J20).

We hope that it will be able to impart valuable wisdom to our fellow RVians! :)

1. Good results don’t come without hard work

How did you prepare for the A-levels?

Aurelia: At the risk of sounding really cliched, all I can say is I studied really hard… I was never a student who excelled academically, so I made up for that with sheer grit and determination. I put in a lot of effort memorising content, doing practice papers and bugging my teachers for consultations.

Aurelia and her friends during night study (Photo: Aurelia Cheng Qin Yun, 21J05)

Clarissa: I’m someone who works first before playing, and I won't rest until I have finished the tasks that I had set out to complete. One thing I would do is write down a list of tasks that I want to complete the next day, for example: “Memorise photosynthesis and respiration topics”. Then, I would block out a certain amount of time on my calendar to complete that task. That would look something like “3PM - 4PM: memorise photosynthesis, 4PM - 5PM: memorise respiration”.

Clarissa having practical (Photo: Ee En Xi Clarissa, 21J13)

Nilay: When preparing for the A Levels, or learning new topics in general, it is important to understand concepts rather than simply memorising them. This makes remembering concepts a lot easier and helps with answering tricky questions where we must apply familiar concepts in unfamiliar contexts.

Practising consistently is also essential to doing well for the A Levels. By doing more papers every day and completing all of your tutorials on time, you can get used to applying learnt concepts in actual questions.

2. There will be challenges - but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to overcome them

What was the biggest challenge you faced when preparing for the A levels, and how did you overcome it?

Aurelia: Personally, I would say that it was particularly difficult for me to grasp and gain a good understanding of the content, especially since I didn’t have a good foundation. There were many times I wanted to give up, but with the encouragement of my friends and teachers, I managed to pull through! :-)

Aurelia and her friends on Graduation Day (Photo: Aurelia Cheng Qin Yun, 21J05)

Clarissa: Juggling my health condition while studying for A levels. Having a chronic illness is an added stress on top of the stress I had from studying. I had to constantly ensure my condition was well controlled and that my blood sugar levels were stable, as stress can cause my sugar levels to fluctuate and cause digestion issues. Thankfully, I had strong support from my family, who always reminded me to take breaks so that I wouldn’t stress out too much. Cycling also helped a lot in relieving stress! I also continued my weekly taekwondo lessons even during A levels as a break from all the studying.

Clarissa and her friends during the J2 Cohesion Hike (Photo: Ee En Xi Clarissa, 21J13)

Nilay: The biggest challenge I faced was the sense of hopelessness during my revision period. In today's competitive academic environment, it is very common for students to feel like giving up from the very beginning because it feels like nothing we do can possibly have an impact on our actual performance.

But practice takes time and consistency to result in progress. As such, it often takes a while for us to see improvement in our work when we try to get better at it. This means that we need to persevere through difficult work to see any real progress.

To overcome this, I simply forced myself to revise my content and challenged myself with harder questions until I could feel the improvement in my work take place. (Sort of like how a 2.4 km run gets easier once you start running.)

3. Remember to cherish the little things

What is your favourite memory from RV?

Aurelia: I think orientation in general (both 2021 and 2022!) was one of my favourite periods! I felt really welcomed in RV during orientation, and it was one of the highlights of my JC experience. Naturally, I decided that I would participate in orientation again in J2 - but this time as part of the organising committee instead. I’m still so grateful that I got to experience the joy of orientation twice!

Aurelia and her committee members at Orientation’22 (Photo: Aurelia Cheng Qin Yun, 21J05)

Clarissa: Definitely the friends that I met! Making lame jokes and laughing along with them never fails to brighten up my day and momentarily takes away any stress I have. Having a group of friends to talk to whenever I’m stressed or bored is one of my favourite memories!

Flying kites and playing with bubbles during FT period (Photo: Ee En Xi Clarissa, 21J13)

Another favourite memory of mine would be the consultations I had with my teachers that would often span many, many hours. I would always go for consultations with a friend of mine (but there were also times when I also went alone too), and they would last so long that our teachers almost seemed wary of us when we asked for consultations.

One of the longest ones we had lasted 4 hours! Ultimately, the chance to talk to our teachers about both academic and non-academic things during consultations really helped us forge closer ties with our teachers as well.

Four-hour Biology consultation! (Photo: Ee En Xi Clarissa, 21J13)

Nilay: It's hard to find a single favourite memory.

Whether it was running through key concepts with classmates half an hour before the start of a paper (very fun but not recommended), exploring the campus in our free time, rushing through our PW projects or buying food together after school, my time in RV has been an absolute treasure.

Nilay and his PW groupmates (Photo: Nilay Barsainya, 21J20)

4. Make time for your interests

While in RV, what were your personal interest(s) and how did you find time to commit to it/them?

Aurelia: I was heavily invested in badminton and I had training thrice a week! To stay on top of my school work, I would do as much as I could during my breaks and free time, and complete the rest after school or after CCA ended.

Aurelia and her badminton batchmates (Photo: Aurelia Cheng Qin Yun, 21J05)

Clarissa: Media was one of my personal interests! I've always loved photography and videography. When RV had events such as YLEAD or JC orientation, I signed up for the media committee so that I could use and hone my media skills in school, and these events served as great platforms for me to pursue my passion! Especially during the Covid-19 lockdown, when we had HBL and a lot more time to ourselves at home, I also filmed “a-day-in-my-life” vlogs, which forced me to be more productive even if I didn’t upload them on Youtube in the end.

J1 Orientation in the media room editing (Photo: Ee En Xi Clarissa, 21J13)

Nilay: I also enjoyed playing music, which I did by participating in the Concert Band CCA (the best CCA), where I got the opportunity to bond with many of my amazing bandmates and take a break from the academic pressure of the regular curriculum through fun pieces.

My biggest piece of advice to those keen on pursuing their interests or exploring new fields in school is to just go for it; there are always opportunities available for those willing to seek them out!

Nilay in his element at a Concert Band session (Photo: Nilay Barsainya, 21J20)

5. It’ll be worth it in the end

How did you feel after getting your A level results?

Clarissa: A sense of relief and immense happiness. It was incredibly gratifying to know that my hard work over the past 2 (or rather, 6 years as an IP student) paid off!

Aurelia: A mix of relief and bittersweetness - after all, the end of A levels also marked the end of my 2 years in JC. On one hand, I was ready to move on to the next phase of life, but it also meant that I would be leaving JC behind. :-(

Nilay: Before receiving my results, I was quite anxious about my results deviating from what I hoped for (this was alleviated by my friends' botak heads). When I finally got to see my results, I felt relieved that my hard work had paid off and was immensely grateful for the support I had received from my family, teachers and peers throughout the trying revision period.

6. Some final tips:

Do you have any tips for your juniors who will be sitting for the A-levels?

Clarissa: Comparison is the thief of joy! It will always be tempting to compare yourself with your peers, but don't let that pull you down. Instead, focus on what you can improve on. Ultimately, the A levels isn’t a competition but a journey that everyone is in together - so ask for help if you’re in need, and don’t be afraid of helping each other out!

Another thing would be remembering to take adequate breaks. It is FINE to take breaks and scroll through social media for a short while, so don’t feel guilty for doing that! We’re all human and need breaks from time to time. For your health's sake and so that you don't burn out, don't be too hard on yourself and allow yourself space to breathe!

Clarissa’s class photo taking with her J2 class (Photo: Ee En Xi Clarissa, 21J13)

Aurelia: I cannot stress the importance of studying consistently enough… Starting revision early on in the year helps a great deal! Don’t be afraid to clarify all misconceptions with your tutors as soon as possible too. Most importantly, maintain a good work-life balance because rest is crucial in ensuring you don’t experience burnout!

Aurelia and her friends at the Scholar’s Court (Photo: Aurelia Cheng Qin Yun, 21J05)

Nilay: Keep going. You're far stronger than you realise.

Nilay and his classmates (Photo: Nilay Barsainya, 21J20)

It is undeniably heartwarming to read about our seniors' experiences. Some of their recounts sound pleasantly familiar and their sensible advice hits close to home for those who have had similar experiences.

The seniors sincerely hope that their sharings may inspire RVians to enjoy their time in school and build wonderful memories along their journey towards the A-level examinations. We would like to echo this sentiment and encourage all J2s – or any student in RV – to find comfort in the fact that those who have come before us have braved the same challenges and be motivated to work hard to reap the fruits of their labour.

We also wish that this article would insert a sense of solidarity; a shared understanding that whatever may be coming our way will not be easy to conquer, but no one will be fighting their battles alone, because we are all in this together.

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