Exam Tips for Uni Students

After 2.5 years and countless exams I think I may have some advice to give.

1. Don’t plan your time according to the marks allocation. Short answer questions usually require way less time than you think.

2. The extra time goes into planning for your essay questions, NOT for writing longer essays. Which brings me to…

3. Don’t rush, don’t ramble on in your answers. Correctness > Length. DON’T BE A SMARTASS BY WRITING ESSAYS WHEN THE MARKER SAID AT THE FIRST PAGE TO WRITE 2-3 LINES.

4. Select your FOUR out of FIVE, THREE out of FOUR questions BEFORE you even start on any. Tick the questions you want, cross those you don’t, then start. You don’t wanna break the momentum by thinking about them 1hr into the exam.

5.Normally essay qsns are long winded. Circle command keywords in all the questions before you attempt any. E.g. Give THREE examples, list FIVE yadaya. EXPLAIN, LIST, DESCRIBE etc. Circle and write a (1), (2), (3) etc so you know how many parts there are to the qsn.

6. Include clear, numbered headers for every subpart of the question. 1 Paragraph = 1 header.

7. If you finish the paper with 1hr to spare, use the time to underline your headers with a different color pen.

8. Draw mindmaps in essay answers if it helps. It takes up meaningful space and makes your answer look more structured.

9. Use short forms liberally. Your prof probably actually can read them. For example, I use ‘Eco Develp’ to mean Economic Development. Its not english language or GP, no marks deducted for short form, but long and illegible scribbles might annoy the marker.

10. For essay exams, if you finish, you’ll know it. No need to deceive youself into thinking you may miss something out by sitting out the remaining 45mins in the exam hall doing nothing. You’ll be better off revising the next paper / or enjoying the holidays 45min earlier than the rest.

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Inflationary Education?

I refer to the article posted on Gizmodo that there’re 5,000 janitors (toilet cleaners) in the United States that hold a PhD. At first I was really surprised at the statistics; so many people in the United States have educational qualifications that their job doesn’t require. Quantum physics, philosophy and artistic talent seem to find no release in a sweeper’s daily routine.

This brings me right back home to Singapore. Would this be the future-scape of Singapore’s society? We have, of many nations, one of the highest emphasis on education. In 2005 Singapore spent 5.2billion dollars, or 19.3% of its national budget to providing what some would consider a world-class education system.

Compared to the 1980s, a primary school kid gets a much higher chance of getting a university education. According to the latest Singapore statistics, as much as 1 in 4 children who enroll in a primary school would eventually end up in one of the three public universities.

This essentially means many more graduates on the streets these days; a phenomenon not uncommon as of lately. A recent web clip of an A-level holder who goes about his day in a rick-shaw because he couldn’t find a job stirred up some commotion online. As with what our parents have told us since we were children, education would be the turning point in many lives; it’ll help them break the cycle of poverty by allowing supposedly, “us” to get good, well-paying jobs.

But certainly, even the job market has to bow to the law of marginally diminishing returns; that is, that for every increasing degree holder out there reciprocated with a stale level of demand, the eventual requirement for even a simple, menial job would inflate. Perhaps a clerical job in the past required a basic O Levels; now it may not even suffice to have a diploma. In recent years the government decreed that all kindergarten teachers have a basic degree as a minimum.

What used to be something glorious and studded with smiles of achievement have suddenly become a mere pre-requisite in life. University education no longer shines like it used to. Perhaps it’s because there’re a lot more smarter people these days, or that the education system has been refined to now bring out those groups of people that would have been buried under the old system. Or that societal thinking galvanised by globalisation has alluded to the fact that education is inherently a good thing; and you know you can never get enough of a good thing.

But knowing this, would there be a day our leaders look back and ask themselves if they’ve over-invested in the area of education?

What do Ph.D. janitors and college-degree clerks tell of the place of education in society? Would the resources, personal effort, time and otherwise invested in those certification-chasing years be better channeled to working in the outside world?

This is as much an economic issue as it is a political one.

這就是我 me

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