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How To Study For GCE O Levels As A Private Candidate In Singapore

Students who want to pursue a higher diploma or Advanced level (A-level) certificate need to complete General Education Certificate: Ordinary Levels. These certifications make sure that a student is prepared for the subject-based level for the next step in education. Passing exams requires time and dedication to studying for O Levels.

It can be difficult to focus as a private candidate studying for the GCE O-Levels. Self-studying might seem discouraging at times, but hard work pays off.

So, find the time, and plan accordingly. You might be wondering, what could make studying for the O-levels less overwhelming?

Well, stick with me, and I will tell you. Here are some ways to help you stay focused and study for GCE O Levels:

What To Expect When Taking the GCE O Levels

What are the GCE O Levels? The Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education (Ordinary Level) Examination covers English Language (writing, comprehension, listening comprehension, and oral communication), Mother Tongue, Mathematics (short, mid-length, and long questions), Science, Humanities, and other subjects covered during secondary school.

How do you register as a private candidate?

  • You must be at least 15 years old by January 1st before you register for the exam.
  • First, the Examination Table for dates and times of each exam.
  • You can register for mid-year or end-year exams.
  • You can expect a written, oral, and listening comprehension and a practical exam.
  • Upon registering, you will receive a personalized Examination Table.
  • You will receive an entry proof that shows your centre/index number, which subjects and papers you are registered for, and the venue, date, and time of your exam.

What should I not bring to the GCE O levels?

  • Unauthorized electronic systems such as communication devices, gaming devices, and objects that record image, video, or audio.
  • Materials, notes, or papers

Check out this list of regulations for private candidates in Singapore to find approved calculators and dictionaries.

Remember: plan ahead for your commute, as train departures can get delayed. Get to the testing center 45 minutes before the start of the exam (or earlier), and double check exam guidelines ahead of time.

Set Aside Time To Study

First, create a study plan. Sometimes it is overwhelming to study rigorously without planning out the details. Consider getting a planner, using a calendar on your computer or phone, or using a paper calendar. I like to use Apple Calendar or Google Calendar for the computer and cell phone.

Some paper planners and calendars can be helpful. You can find a planner that divides by time of day/day/week/month. It will be useful to find what works best for you.

Not sure how to start using a planner or how to divide your time? Let’s talk about some ways to plan out your day/week. Many people find that dividing their day into time increments to be helpful.

This means scheduling an activity during a specific time frame. It can be a good practice to schedule your entire day. For example, what do you do when you first wake up? Write it down. Maybe you wake up and take a walk, eat, then get ready for the day. So, block time in your planner or on your calendar for each activity.

Most importantly, schedule time to study to help keep you focused and organized. And remember to take at least 15-30 minute breaks depending on how long you spend studying. Some people suggest studying for 25 minutes at a time and taking short breaks in between 25-minute increments.

Though, others find that staying focused on studying the material for one hour with longer breaks in between to be helpful. Be diligent and disciplined so you can reward yourself with breaks in between.

Organize Your Study Areas

Second, get organized. You’ve planned out your scheduling and breaks, but now it’s time to ease the study process. Do you know where all of your study materials are?

Can you access them without spending too much time gathering, finding, or remembering?

Set aside a space for your textbooks, paper, pens, calculators, and other study materials. This can be a desk (preferred), a shelf or bookcase, and even a bin. You should be able to know exactly where to find your studying materials. This reduces stress and helps ease the process.

It may sound simple, and can it really reduce stress at this point? Yes. Think about a time you lost something and had to spend time finding it or more effort if gathering multiple items. It can be frustrating or discouraging, right? Sometimes even small things can hinder our motivation, so this one time step will make it easier to focus and get organized.

Also, consider using separate notebooks for studying. It’s possible that you already use notebooks for school and notetaking, but using separate notebooks keeps O-Level studying materials in one place.

You won’t need to worry about flipping through pages to find where you left off or what to review. Go a step further and set aside different writing utensils, pens, or pencils for studying.

Are all of your books and tools in one place? You are one step closer to a successful study habit. Now that we’ve planned out or day/week and organized our materials, it’s time for the next step.

Remove Any And All Distractions

Third, and this is important: remove distractions. Often, we use our cell phones for timers. It’s not uncommon to pick up our phones without thinking or to respond to a text. However, these things can be distracting and time-consuming. It’s not difficult to get distracted or thrown out of focus by even a text back or a quick social media session.

So, remove your phone from the equation. Set it aside somewhere you can’t just reach and grab it. Also, turn off the sound, notifications, and other things that might distract you.

Next, only have the materials you need to study in front of you or in your space. This means remove other distractions that aren’t pertinent to the task at hand. Wear a watch or use a timer (not on your phone) to keep track of study time. Some people suggest studying for one hour at a time and taking breaks in between. This will help reduce the chances of getting burned out, and it may help you better retain information.

Does one hour seem like a big commitment? Try the Pomodoro technique. Many people find this increasingly popular scheduling to be help stay focused. Basically, you will study for 25 minutes, take a short break (maybe 5 minutes) then study for another 25 minutes, and so on. It applies quick bursts of studying and activity. Sometimes this can be useful for short attention spans. Find what works for you.

Also, you may find an added distraction if you study in your home around friends or family. Sometimes off-topic conversations can happen, and that makes sense. However, try to avoid this, as it can easily get you off track. Consider studying by yourself in a room or away from your family.

So, now you are ready to start studying after you planned a schedule, organized, and removed distractions. Let’s look at a common technique to help you learn and retain information.

Use A Study Technique

Finally, use a common method of studying called a periodic review. For this to work, avoid waiting until the last minute to start studying. You need to study different topics at different points in time over the course of several weeks. Furthermore, studying the last minute can hinder comprehension and increase stress.

It’s best to start studying ahead of time so that you can learn all of the necessary material (and may more). Have you noticed that you forget details when you are feeling rushed? Exactly. So plan ahead, and consider using a periodic review. Let’s talk more about it:

A periodic review is a technique to retain information in your long-term memory. To achieve this, you segment information into blocks. This might be studying one topic at a time and revisiting it a few weeks afterward to check your knowledge. Pick a topic to study for one day. Check back in the next day to see how much you comprehend. Do some areas need more review than otters? Make a note.

Then, the following week, try studying another topic and repeating the process. This time, review both topics and see how much you comprehend. This will help you check in with yourself and know if you need to spend more time studying for certain topics.

It is helpful to revisit the topic and continue studying in periods, too. So, you study one topic one day, but that does not mean you are done with the topic. Periodic review means studying the topic one day. Often, studying the same topic again 7 days later, then 14 days, and finally 21 days is a common practice to make sure you are retaining all of the information.

Feeling Stuck? Consider Finding A Tutor

A parting piece of advice: if you find it difficult to understand or get the hang of a topic, that is okay. As a private candidate, it can be tough to study for GCE O-Levels.

Consider finding a tutor to help you with subjects or topics that are more difficult than otters. It can be helpful to have someone explain tough concepts or other ways of tackling a problem. Typically, tutors are great in their specified topics and can work to help you learn information.

Sometimes tutors can review problem sets with you, teach you new or different ways to tackle a problem, explain concepts, and give you feedback. This can be helpful when you are focusing on various subjects and continue getting stuck on certain topics. It’s not uncommon to get stuck on a topic, and extra eyes and knowledge can keep you motivated.

Studying can be stressful, but it gets easier with the right routine and discipline. Private candidates may find self-studying more difficult, but others might adjust well. Dillenegence, patience, and structure will keep you going. Let’s review. The steps are planning, organizing, removing distractions, and following a technique to stay focused. Try applying these tips and habits so you can stay motivated and focused on passing the GCE O-Levels.

Find out how to register as a private O-level candidate here.

Feeling stuck? Consider connecting with one of our tutors today.

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About Author

Tutor City's blog focuses on balancing informative and relevant content, never at the expense of providing an enriching read. 

We want our readers to expand their horizons by learning more and find meaning to what they learn.

Resident author - Mr Wee Ben Sen, has a wealth of experience in crafting articles to provide valuable insights in the field of private education.

Ben Sen has also been running Tutor City, a leading home tuition agency in Singapore since 2010.