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Should you repeat A levels? [Advice for SG private candidates]

    Every year, many students consider the idea to repeat A levels. Especially after getting rejection letters from local unis. Should you do it?

    Repeat A levels: This is a difficult exam!

    The Singapore-Cambridge version is really hard. And there are many brilliant students every year. So re-taking A levels is a risk because there are many cases where some students see their grades stagnate or even drop.

    Unfortunately, you cannot cherry pick the better grades from each of the exams. It has to be taken as a whole. This is very frustrating especially where some students have spent much effort and money into prepping for the re-take.

    Because it is so stressful and potentially futile effort, I generally advice students to NOT do it. Even if this means I lose potential students who may enroll into my classes. Please note I am not taking in any more students currently though you can still access to materials used and trusted by my past student Nicholas Chan, the first ITE student to gain entry into NUS medicine.

    Repeat A levels: I can’t get into med/dental school

    Let me try to break down the reasons why some students consider retaking.

    The chief of which is that they are not able to qualify for NUS, NTU, SMU’s most competitive courses. Medicine for example requires straight As and rank points of 85 and above.

    And many students are not able to match that level so as to get into the shortlist for the University to consider for admissions.

    Unfortunately, these students ignore the fact that there are numerous options overseas with easier admissions criteria.

    In addition, there’s a scheme by MOH that seeks to attract Singaporean medical/dentistry students overseas back to Singapore via a pre-employment grant.

    In this scheme, MOH is willing to pay a lump sum to get students back to Singapore to practice. Here’s more information about it.

    The large sum of money helps to bring down the costs of an overseas degree.

    Yes, medical and dentistry courses are extremely competitive even overseas. But there’s yet another way to gain admissions. Get an offer to a basic science degree and subsequently gain entry into graduate medical/dentistry programs. These science courses usually have even lower admission criteria!

    Australian universities also offer 1 year foundation programs you can enroll into, sit for the exams and then enter directly upon fulfillment of their result requirements. These are so much easier than the Singapore-Cambridge A levels!

    I hope you begin to realize now that there are many options. If you look around hard enough, there are plenty of alternatives.

    Repeat A levels: What if I still want to repeat?

    For those students who absolutely have to repeat A levels, it is doable. I have a few students who have done it and aced the exams.

    So here’s a questions for you.

    Do you really really want it? Are you willing to put in an inhumane amount of effort to get there?

    Don’t go further if your answer is no!

    I see some of the NS guys who come to me after work and I can see the life drain from their faces. They try but find that the effort needed is far beyond what they can commit to. In addition, don’t bank on your work superiors giving you ANY leeway for you to study during work hours or reduce workload as your exam approaches.

    If your answer is yes, let me ask you this question next.

    Are you going to repeat the same way you study to improve your grades? If you are, then you’d likely be wasting another year.

    Things have to change drastically and you need to seek out what were the shortcomings and improve upon them. This is the only way to improve your grades in the next attempt. Finding tutors that have the ability to provide targeted help is of utmost importance. Here’s a checklist for you to hunt for the best.

    A tip to make repeating A levels easier

    Local universities can actually consider H1 subjects from another sitting.

    If you have done well for the H1 then you only need to focus on your remaining 3H2 subjects plus GP.

    This way, you reduce a significant amount of workload prepping to repeat A levels.

    For those who decide that this is a necessary path, I’d be crossing fingers for you. ALL THE BEST!

    Admin procedures if you want to repeat A levels in Singapore.

    You will have to register through SEAB when the option becomes available in March, the month after you collect your results. Registration should close in June, and that is also the last month before any withdrawals can be made.

    What should I do next.

    Once you have a shortlist of tutors to help you, as well as registering at SEAB, FIRST plan your year ahead.

    What is a realistic schedule? Because you are now outside the system and on your own, you need to keep pace. Being in a group class where other students who are also prepping in the exam year will give you a good gauge.

    Next, as you prep, you need to constantly evaluate whether you are progressing and sticking to your schedule. If not, you will need to identify how to further optimize your study plan.

    Along the way get materials that are going to help you. For e.g. 1. I write H2BIO notes with busy students in mind, where they want to get to the gist with the simplest and most straightforward language.

    2. I also have a deck of ANKI memory cards students can use to get their facts straight and remember them for the exams.

    Finally, 3. I also have live classes where I talk about exam strategies to implement for H2 Biology.

    All the materials can be assessed HERE.

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