For the majority of secondary school students in Singapore, the O Levels present the final hurdle to overcome before progressing onto the next stage of academic life. Whether your goal is to enter JC or be accepted into the Diploma course of your dreams in Poly, you will need to attain the right grades for it. Of course, doing so is easier said than done, and students will have to put in the requisite time and effort in order to score well.
One of the subjects students end up struggling most with is Physics. As a subject that can open up many doors at the higher education level, it’s important to build a strong foundation way ahead of the actual day of the examination. Despite this, it’s possible for any student to excel in Physics with the right attitude and assistance. For many students, this would mean engaging O Level tuition to give them an edge and allow them to address areas of weakness ahead of the exam.
In this article, we share with you everything you need to know about O Level Physics as well as some top tips and tricks to prepare yourself for the big day!
When choosing a subject combination for Secondary 3, students who wish to take Physics are usually advised to consider what they wish to do in future and whether they struggle with Maths. As a general rule, students who are not strong in Maths will find Physics to be challenging as it involves lots of calculations and the application of concepts, much like Maths. Students who are keen to pursue a future career in Engineering or anything else related to Physics. However, you have to make sure you are dedicated to it, as scoring well in Physics isn’t something that can be achieved through rote memorisation like it can be, to a certain extent, with Biology and Chemistry.
That said, the general consensus is that O Level Physics isn’t an easy subject to score well in. You will have to set aside some time for practice and revision every day, and most students require an additional helping hand. Whether that is scheduling study sessions with friends, seeking out consultations with teachers or engaging a Physics tutor, students can maximise their chances of doing well by seeking out all the help they can get. There’s no shame in asking questions and taking every opportunity to improve -- after all, that’s the only way you will get better!
According to SEAB, below are the main objectives of O Level Physics. Students should be able to:
- Demonstrate a level of knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts, terminology, apparatus and more
- Handle this information and be able to present it in a number of different ways, including in words as well as through symbols and graphs
- Carry out experiments by following instructions, selecting the right apparatus and making use of the right techniques on top of being able to record observations
A variety of topics are tested in both Pure and Combined Physics. While many of them overlap – including Kinematics, Pressure, Transfer of Thermal Energy and more – there are a few additional topics Pure Physics students need to master. These are: Temperature, Magnetism, Electromagnetism and Electromagnetic Induction.
Whether you are taking Pure or Combined Physics at O Levels, it helps to know how the papers are formatted before the big day.
Paper 1: Multiple Choice – 1 hour, 40 marks, 30% of total score
In this paper, you will answer 40 multiple-choice questions.
Paper 2: Structured/Free Response – 1 hour 45 min, 80 marks, 50% of total score
Paper 2 can be further divided into Sections A and B. In Section A, you will find a number of structured questions that add up to a total of 50 marks. In the next section, you will find two compulsory questions that require you to suggest a way of solving a data-based problem. For the last question, you get to choose between two options, which will carry a weightage of 8 to 12 marks.
Paper 3: Practical Test – 1 hour 50 mins, 40 marks, 20% of total score
Again, you can expect to find two sections in this paper. Section A will require you to conduct practical experiments in answer to one or two questions. This will take up 55 minutes. Similarly, Section B will take 55 minutes to complete, and you will be required to answer a compulsory practical experiment question.
Students can take Physics as a combined subject with either Chemistry or Biology. Regardless of which combination you have chosen, there will be a total of four papers with Combined Physics. Papers 1 and 5 will focus on both subjects, with Paper 2 being a Physics paper, Paper 3 focusing on Chemistry and Paper 4 on Biology.
Paper 1: Multiple Choice – 1 hour, 40 marks, 20% of total score
Similar to the Pure Physics paper, Paper 1 features forty multiple-choice questions that are compulsory to answer.
Papers 2, 3 and 4: Structured and Free Response – 1 hour 15 minutes, 65 marks, 32.5% of total score each (adding up to 65%)
This paper will focus fully on Physics, Chemistry and Biology respectively. Combined science students will take the two papers relevant to their subject combination. Again, the paper is divided into two sections, with Section A coming with a number of structured questions that are compulsory to answer and Section B containing three questions, from which students will pick two to answer.
Paper 5: Practical Test – 1 hour 30 minutes, 30 marks, 15% of total weightage
Here, students will need to answer one or two compulsory questions on the respective sciences.
So, why does the O Level Physics pose such a challenge to students? Read on to find out some of the most common reasons:
If any of these challenges sound familiar to you, the good news is that it doesn’t have to stay that way. There are many tips and tricks you can follow in order to score well and improve on your areas of weakness before the big day rolls around.
Now that you are aware of the specific challenges you face and the topics you are weaker in, it’s time to come up with a revision plan. You can either do this yourself or have a tutor run through it with you and prepare a schedule that fits in with your other commitments. Below are some top tips to keep in mind in order to boost your grades:
It can seem like an uphill task at times, and there may even be moments where you feel like giving up. However, always remind yourself that scoring an A in O Level Physics is doable with persistence, time and lots of practice. If needed, you can get together a group of friends who can help each other out with revision on top of being the motivation that you need to keep going!
If Physics is one of your weaker subjects and you are looking to engage some additional help to achieve the grades of your dreams, you may be considering engaging physics tuition. With so many tuition centres and private tutors out there, you may be at a loss as to where to start. Below are some considerations to keep in mind when deciding on a tuition centre or private tutor that will suit your needs:
Remember that what works for one person may not work for another. Some students may thrive better in a group setting whereas another may require more individualised attention – there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Take into consideration your learning style and pace before making a decision: as some tuition centres offer trial lessons, you may wish to go along for one before committing to a term of lessons!
Alternatively, you may entrust a tuition agency to match you with a tutor if you are looking for someone who can work according to your schedule. All you need to do is indicate your preferences and we will get back to you with a few recommendations within 24 hours. From there, you can select one who ticks all your boxes and get started with an initial lesson. If you decide to change tutors after, you only need to pay for that one lesson!
Although O Level Physics can be challenging for students, there’s no reason you can’t improve your grades or score well enough to pull up your overall aggregate. Even if Physics is one of your weaker subjects, it pays to start preparing early so that you can be sure of building a strong foundation that will serve you well when the final paper rolls around. As long as you have the right attitude, are consistent with practice and learn from your mistakes, you will be as well prepared as you can possibly be.
Now that you know everything you need to know about O Level Physics, it’s time to get started with a comprehensive revision plan. There’s no shame in asking for help when you need it – in fact, it can make all the difference between scoring a subpar grade and achieving the grade of your dreams! Keep your end goal in mind, whether that’s to attend a top JC or score well enough to be accepted into the Poly course of your dreams and with that, it won’t be hard to stay motivated!