How to love Physics at O & A-levels


A chat with Ms Jasline Hong, Physics tutor at The Learners Council (TLC).

Why do you think a student would not like physics? 

Physics can be a very unlikable subject. It is no surprise- the subject requires a good grasp of mathematics, deep thinking, understanding of abstract ideas and visualisation. Without a good teacher, students who are not naturally inclined to the nature of physics can easily find themselves lost and confused.

Is Physics difficult?

Physics is actually a fundamental and a very physical science that we see around us every day - when cars move, when the sun shines, when lightning strikes, how aeroplanes fly, how ripples form, etc.  Once you understand the physical concepts behind things around us, physics becomes a breeze. I believe our students love physics because we make the subject come alive for them and we make it so easy to learn physics here at TLC.

What are the secrets to scoring in Physics?

In the past, pure recap and regurgitation would work, and a hardworking student that keeps practising questions would do well, but it is different in this current day and age. The O and A- level syllabus demands more from students. It is all about learning smarter, not harder. Here are some ways:

1. Conceptual understanding  is key

In recent years, the exams have moved to test on more conceptual understanding. A good knowledge of fundamentals is necessary and critical to tackling such higher order thinking questions. Students should endeavour to understand the concepts to be able to think independently during exams. Rote learning without full understanding does not work today.

2. Practice answering for exams

While students can use assessment books to test their knowledge, the key to scoring in exams is to know how to use the right keywords and phrases. Examiners use a marking scheme to grade, so understanding how to answer according to how a script is marked is a smarter way to practice. A good tutor would be able to guide on the right approach in answering. For students doing self-revision, they should pay attention to how they are answering and tweak their style accordingly.

How does TLC help students?

We spend substantial amounts of time on conceptual teaching, even in our Chemistry and Mathematics classes. These conceptual subjects require concise explanations, and a trained teacher who can understand student's weaknesses will be able to use the right methods to ensure students grasp the concepts thoroughly.

We also provide sufficient guided practice, a key to scoring for Physics. By "guided practice"  we mean having experienced teachers who can guide students in the approach to writing their answers with the right keywords and phrases. TLC provides such guidance, and students are learning from ex-MOE teachers who used to teach top-school students on how to answer.

What is one advice you can give to a student struggling with Physics?

Start seeking help early, instead of cramming everything to the final minute as it doesn't make learning enjoyable. Our centre is filled with bright students who come for tuition just to stay ahead of their peers in school. When you understand concepts early, you can do your homework faster, do well on tests, and then you will start to like Physics! Be proactive in your studies, get help if you are struggling, and then we keep you ahead of the curve. 

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