After the year-end examinations, parents would typically open a door of leisure and merriment for their children. While this may not be a bad idea to relieve pent-up academic stress and foster family bonding, it is oftentimes forgotten that such opportunistic holidays could instead be used as a student’s strategic ‘Weapon X’ to getting ahead of the competition and securing that elusive ‘A’ for English.

The Importance of Experience

Humans learn through experience. The more often you swing a golf club, the better you get. If you swing it a thousand times, you’d probably be as good as Tiger Woods. You get the point – we refine our knowledge and skills through repetition.  A case in point, a top student would have written a hundred English essays to have gotten to that level. Indeed, every essay your child commits himself/herself to write, he/she is one inch closer to the desired grade. It is thus no surprise that studying earlier is always the smarter choice. The next time your child meets a familiar question, he/she will react to it instinctively like a professional. I am a firm believer of drilling my students with crucial examination questions over and over again until they master the different permutations of questions and the corresponding answers at the back of their hand. Sadly, the sheer volume of diverse possible questions is a formidable obstacle faced by many English teachers, who lack the time and experience to provide well-considered answers and adequate guidance. I have created algorithms for PSLE, O- and A- Level past year papers that streamline all probable types of questions my students will face for their upcoming examinations. These algorithms allow a more systematic and effective approach to intensive drilling through repetition prior to the examinations.

The Complexity of Learning Requires ‘Digestion’

Have you ever taken a few months to  learn how to solve a Rubik’s cube? I know I did, and it probably took many a long time to ‘digest’ the puzzle too. Likewise, learning English is not a simple process. Some have taken years or even decades to reach a respectable standard. Complex theories of rationalization, theoretical elucidation and grammatical perfection really require time for one to refine.  Learning a complex theory require us to visualize, connect the dots and self-reflect.This is especially true for English, where my students across all ages have faced a brick wall at least once before.. In fact, my teaching strategies and progressively structured curriculum that I have carefully curated over the years involve introducing difficult concepts first , before moving on to easier concepts to sustain the interest and love for the language, as well as keeping the learning momentum. This ensures that my students are able to excel and shine amidst  their peers who succumb to the fears of the academically demanding sections of the English examination. The holidays are an excellent time for one to slowly digest complex teachings since his/her mind is relaxed and free from the school distractions. And that was how I ‘digested’ the Rubik’s cube, in a physically and mentally relaxed state.

Capitalizing on Memory to Study Efficiently

Let your child take a short break especially when he/she deserves it. However, don’t wait too long until he/she hits the books again. This idea may sound ill-advised at first glance but capitalizing the memory retention rate at its peak is probably the most efficient way to study . Most, if not all of the primary and secondary school syllabi build on previously taught materials. The holiday period is great for reviewing materials covered over the previous academic year. Using this critical period to plaster as many knowledge and skills gaps as possible is far wiser than playing the catch-up game when  school finally reopens. What I like to do with my tutees during their holidays is to revisit their areas of weaknesses and turn them into strengths before moving on to new concepts and techniques

Minimising Distraction and Instilling Discipline

Contrary to popular belief, school holidays are the most dangerous period of time for students to stray away from their positive studying habits. I have had parents sharing with me that they have successfully coerced their children to study hard for the end of the year examinations, only to be disappointed in the following semester. All that discipline and commitment to success are flushed away even after school reopens due to the ‘holiday partying’. This is akin to taking drugs. When a child starts taking a pleasure pill, which in this context refers to the partying lifestyle, it is extremely tough for him/her to return to the original state of ‘hardship’. A case in point: my Chinese students from China who all have achieved (seemingly unbelievable) distinctions for their PSLE, O-Level and A-Level English/GP, never ever rested on their laurels during the holidays. Instead, they geared up even further in a bid to win the academic race (remember the tale of the tortoise and the hare?). It will always be an uphill task for parents and school teachers to bring their children back to the studying routine after such a big, inextricable indulgence. Maintaining the studying momentum  during the school holidays is the only way to keep the fire of academic passion burning steadily.

Getting to the Right Side of the Bell Curve

It is no secret that every academic metric in Singapore is governed by a bell-shaped curve, whether it’s PSLE, O-level or A-level. This is to distinguish the cream of the crop, the A’s, and the deserving diligent students from the lot. With the bell curve, the only way your child is going to get an A is when your child outperforms his/her peers. Your child will be attending the same classes as his or her peers and will be taught the same syllabus in school. The only time it really makes a difference is when your child does something special besides what the others are doing. Fortunately, studying during the school holidays is yet the norm, so it will definitely give your child an extra edge over his/her competitors.

Gaming the Marathon

Studying for examinations these days is no longer a short sprint. It’s more of a marathon. The best performers in our academic world have been studying with relentless consistency and dogged determination. With that being said, burning the midnight oil 2 months before a major exam is a major recipe for disaster. How much can your child actually learn and apply in 2 months?  Unfortunately, 90% of parents in Singapore have not awakened to this fact. The tortoise is only going to win the race by starting earlier than the hare. Thus, beyond a doubt, studying during the school holidays will give your child an excellent head start to emerge as a victor in the  academic race. Once your child has cultivated the discipline for studying,he/she will stand to benefit immensely from a progressively structured curriculum and proper mentoring during the holidays.

Taking the Action

The elders have a saying: prevention is always better than cure. I get many parents requesting for English tuition for their children a few months before the examinations, only to be let down for my slots are normally fully taken up by then. This happens year after year during the popular panic-push-button period . Why should you start so late?  Just like building a prosperous country or a successful company, using time wisely is the quintessence of academic success. Fostering desirable studying habits and studying ahead of the syllabus should begin from the end of year school holidays. And it should remain unabated.

Remember, whether you are the hare or the tortoise now, you are the only one who ultimately defines your own future.  You can choose to be a time-conscious and ambitious hare that keeps up with the competition. You can also choose to become a tardy and conceited hare that allows the proactive, hardworking tortoise to consume you.  Whatever your choice, do not regret it because it will be too late.

To my dearest students: Please continue to study during your holidays!

For enquiries about our quality English/GP tuition, please contact The Useful English Tutor at 9747-0937.


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