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Sixth Term Examination Paper II

Posted by White Group Mathematics on June 6, 2014 at 7:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Hi White Group Maths,

This is Student X here, a soon to be student of mathematics in university.

In about a month, I'm going to take the STEP II paper. In preperation for this, I've been doing practice questions since February, roughly 2 hours a day.

However, despite this practice... I feel no more confident than I did 3 months ago, and am quite worried. Do you have any advice on how to further prepare for this test? Or any tuition services to to suggest?

Thanks so much for the help.


Student X

Hi there ,


                 Thanks for writing. It is encouraging to know you have commenced preparations for the STEP paper way before the actual sitting itself; it is perfectly normal to feel shaky despite months of drilling, because STEP isn't your conventional A Level exam to begin with-it demands the candidate to constantly expect the unexpected, and to be able to conjure solutions bordering on ingenuity. Above all, the compulsory possession of a rock solid Mathematical foundation so as to nimbly navigate various kinds of twists and turns.


                 Your exposure to various genres of problems by virtue of the efforts invested since February should be considerable by now, however you do need to ask yourself these three questions:


1. What percentage of the paper did you manage to complete properly in recent attempts? Can things be improved? (Time management)


2. Do you tend to linger around a problem for way too long before moving on? Have you learnt to not allow frustration overwhelm the big picture? (Cutting losses)


3. Did you make it a point to acquire the underlying moral of the story for particularly intense problems? ( enhancing solving efficiency and becoming more elegant in solution design)



Just to add, unlike the A Level papers, you may not have the luxury of excess time at the end to verify the correctness of previous scripted answers, so you must tread carefully from the onset.


                       I doubt tuition is what you really needat this very moment-it's more about readying your state of mind for the big event. An extremely nervous constitution can wreak substantial damage to your performance on that day itself, so start conditioning yourself to be cool-headed (of course easier said than done, but it has to be done).Stop worrying about the final grade you will receive or the somewhat insurmountable difficulties lying in the immediate future, try to "enjoy" the process of conquering the paper instead.


                        And do remember to have an early rest on the night before the actual STEP examination. Good luck, and god bless.



Best Regards,

Mr Koh


Eliminating stupid mistakes in maths examinations

Posted by White Group Mathematics on May 7, 2013 at 10:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Ok, I have been doing past year papers and I always drop so many marks on stupid errors.


I am not joking when I say this.. but I could do a pastpaper and purposely aim not to make any careless mistakes, yet my work will still be riddled with them!


I am so worried this will pull down my grades in exams. Any advice on how to deal with it?

Student X

At times 1+1 just equals to 3 when you are under immense stress, so I usually advise my students not to inspect a recently completed problem for too long (and simply move on) , because chances are, you might not be able to identify the simplest of errors when you are so invested in solving the question.


Come back to it when the entire paper is dealt with; in that sense when you look at the same problem once again, your state of mind is of a refreshed one. Hence a greater likelihood of you being able to detect your faults in a heartbeat. Just don't suffer a heart attack and get down to fixing things in a calmly manner.



Best Regards,

Mr Koh

Serious concerns with studies and future career plans

Posted by White Group Mathematics on January 9, 2013 at 10:40 PM Comments comments (0)

The O level results will be released pretty soon and I doubt I can pass my exams save for my E-maths paper because I faced quite a few problems in the past year, for example being assigned lousy lecturers, having to put up with annoying construction noises beside my residence, shifting to a new home etc. I do not wish to retake my O levels as a second round of examination fees would be rather costly, especially for science-related subjects. On top of this, I would be required to officially take up lessons at a recognised private institution, which would in turn add to my financial burden, not to mention it could be a complete waste of time if the teaching over there is ineffective.

At first, I wanted to study electrical engineering; however since my Mathematics and Physics skills are below average and in addition to that I am a slow learner ( I believe my understanding of certain electrical principles in Physics is sketchy at best) . Thus, I don't think I would be able to do well in that discipline. Which in turn places a big question mark on my future career intentions- what should I do? If I may be honest, I am not even sure what I am exactly good at in particular at the current moment.

I would like to ask if you know of a counselor or a professional career adviser whom I can talk to, because right now, I am really stuck in no man's land. I have not a single clue with regards to how I should proceed from here.

Student X

Firstly, congratulations in drafting a full set of excuses to "account" for your current predicament. Lousy lecturers? How about taking the initiative to seek alternate avenues of help instead of " sitting and suffering in silence"? Annoying construction noises near your house you say? Heard of something called the library?

Secondly, you do not wish to retake your O levels, which pretty much severs all possible routes which could have given you access to higher education. Put it simply, studies are out, so declaring you are "unsure of certain electrical principles in your physics" or whatever other artsy fartsy dreamy personal academic inadequacies in that long reflective paragraph of yours becomes totally pointless wouldn't you agree?

As long as that defeatist streak remains untamed within you, no amount of advice from a well-meaning professional counselor is going to make a difference, because you will simply turn once again to putting the blame squarely on every cat, dog and circumstance; anything or anyone but yourself. By the way, let's be clear on one thing: given your current state, you should be worrying about landing a decent job. A career is a luxurious contemplation way beyond you.

Take a cold shower, harden your resolve to make a real change in your attitude towards life. That will be task number one. A very, very urgent task.


Best Regards,

Mr Koh

For university applicants: personal thoughts on NUS, and more

Posted by White Group Mathematics on December 18, 2012 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (0)

A discussion thread online (involving mostly Singaporean youths) about which universities are well-recognised in the world eventually trained its focus on the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Reproduced below is my initial response to someone declaring NUS to be ranked amongst the top internationally:

"NUS likes to imagine it is amongst the big boys on the international stage of varsity education, unfortunately imagination and actual reality are miles apart.

It embraces the statistical metrics which cast its academics in good light, on the other hand becoming extremely defensive against those which provide cutting yet valid criticisms. This is the National University of Singapore for you.

That said, NUS is still very much a decent place to get your degree.

Peace. "

A forumner therefore further queried:

"Would NUS still be the best option for a Singaporean student not looking to study overseas though? I've always wanted to enter NUS due to its fairly impressive place in the worldwide rankings, but what you said has got me thinking a bit. "

I replied :

"If you are looking to study locally, NUS should definitely be on your list .( I won't say it is the best option in the absolute sense though, because this is a situation of "to each his own"). After all Singapore is so tiny, the choices available are extremely limited. Needless to say, you can also consider NTU and SMU, as well as the newly up and running SUTD.

Interestingly though, NTU is seen in a less favorable light compared to its peer institutions NUS and SMU, or at least this is the trend I have observed amongst my charges who apply for local universities over the past 5, 6 years. Most of them would rather settle for a course they bluntly dislike in NUS/SMU, than pursue something they are crazily passionate about in NTU. Some food for thought here.

Above all, while the education system in Singapore is no doubt evolving and self-renewing, the learning atmosphere here is still rather stifling IMHO. So if you can afford to uproot, fly far, far away to the States or the UK to secure your Bachelor's. A different country, a different schooling experience altogether will help you mature faster.

Good luck. Peace. "

Mr Koh (18 December 2012)

Could secondary teachers solve IMO problems?

Posted by White Group Mathematics on December 1, 2012 at 1:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Do you think that secondary Maths teachers in the UK would be able to solve the International Mathematical Olympiad questions?


How do they compare to say, STEP or the Cambridge Tripos?

Student X

I can't comment on the state of affairs within the UK since I clearly don't reside there, but here in Singapore, probably not.


Conquering IMO problems requires a set of skills vastly different from those used in preparing for the A levels/ mainstream Cambridge examinations. The latter can be typically aced with rigorous exposure to run of the mill questions, so in that sense practice does indeed make things perfect.


However for the former, you need imagination, and the ability to hypothesize/reason in unconventional ways to produce elegant, efficient answers. Stuff mainstream secondary school teachers in Singapore are definitely not trained for.


Not to mention you need to possess a certain flair to see through the extremely fine cracks and disassemble the context accordingly. That can't be nurtured IMHO; either you have it, or you don't.

My two cents worth. Peace.

Best Regards,

Mr Koh

Motivating my son in Junior College

Posted by White Group Mathematics on July 14, 2012 at 8:55 PM Comments comments (0)

My son is in JC1 in a mid tier JC. He was doing ok up to O level scoring gross score of 11, though not exactly a very hardworking student.


However since JC1, I discovered that he was working very late ( up to 2 to 3 am) on many occasions. Upon speaking to him, he admitted that while his workload has increased, he is taking a long time to do his work as he is not motivated. Recently, it seems like he has accumulated a backlog and is unable to hand in his work on time. This in turn leads to stress every morning when he needs to wake up to go to school.


We are very worried and have tried talking to him several times. He admitted that he knows it's important to work hard, but somehow just can't motivate himself to work hard. We are really worried as he is moody all the time.....

Parent X

I would advise you to keep a close eye on him. This is definitely not healthy. If things persist I fear he may burn out eventually. Think complete withdrawal and self isolation. Think depression.


Time management is highly essential to a reasonably meaningful JC experience. That means striking an equilibrium between studies, CCAs and play. If one has to push way past midnight to settle his homework and revision, something is quite amiss.


That said, some junior colleges these days tend to crank up the work volume and stretch lesson hours (which in certain instances are absolutely unnecessary)-this rests on the mistaken belief that more is good. Therefore your son cannot be totally faulted for his current circumstance.



Best Regards,

Mr Koh

Seeking clarification on university degree classification

Posted by White Group Mathematics on March 16, 2012 at 9:40 AM Comments comments (0)

I need some advice...and was wondering if you could help in clearing my doubts...

Is a 3rd class better than an ordinary degree?

1st and 2nd class are definitely better than an ordinary degree. what about 3rd class? There are different views such as it is better to have an ordinary degree rather than a 3rd class or vice versa.

Any idea?

Student X

Technically 3rd class is better than a degree with merely a pass, but in reality either set of "credentials" is equally bad in the eyes of many prospective employers because they will feel you were not hardworking enough or lacked the academic ability to properly survive a 4 year course. Put it simply, to them it's as good as if you have not studied in university at all.

To a certain extent your starting pay (and even your job scope) may hinge on the quality of your certificate so try avoid getting a third class/mere pass and aim for at least a second lower.

All the best. Peace.

Best Regards,

Mr Koh

Undergraduate life and experience?

Posted by White Group Mathematics on November 23, 2011 at 2:20 AM Comments comments (0)


I would like to find out how does the life and experience as an undergraduate like?

Is it very hectic? Is it memorable? What are the ups and downs?

Student X 

(The above was posted in a private forum)

You are granted a far greater degree of freedom/autonomy to do your stuff; however this means you must be sufficiently self-disciplined to keep up with the lesson pace in lectures and tutorials. Things get extremely hectic because course modules are compacted into a short semester typically lasting about 4 months or less.In essence, lots of work but very little time. Spoon-feeding and rote learning (which is so commonplace in sec schools and JCs) becomes something of the past as you have to discover and develop your own style of acquiring knowledge efficiently from thick textbooks and stacks of notes. Not to mention you will be consistently "fighting" with others for a slot in the library's photocopying room since you have to complete numerous research projects and presentations.

Strike a comfortable equilibrium between work and play. Participation in CCAs/varsity activities serve to nurture and strengthen your social, leadership and management skills ; these would definitely bring an advantage to the negotiating table when being screened by future prospective employers ( these days merely being a booksmart nerd won't portray you in a positive light when job-hunting). On the other hand, bear in mind however outstanding your non-academic achievements are, nobody in the right frame of mind will give a second thought about hiring you if a third class honors (or worse still just a pass without honors) is all you can muster after 4 years of university schooling.

Hostels are convenient because you don't have to rise early and make those wearily long trips to/from school day in and out, but from my personal recollections, the irony is that those who stay on campus tend to oversleep and are habitually late for class.

Other factors that will also shape your undergraduate lifestyle come into play-these may include boy-girl relationships, taking up side-gigs to earn income and possibly quite a few more. In addition, you have so much more technological distractions (as compared to my time 8, 9 years back) such as facebook, twitter, google plus etc to deal with.

In a nutshell, this is going to be one helluva ride, but if you hang in there, things will turn out fine at the end of the day. Remember, every bit of effort counts. Enjoy this new phase of your life and good luck. Peace.

Best Regards,

Mr Koh

Any H1 maths materials?

Posted by White Group Mathematics on July 31, 2011 at 2:00 PM Comments comments (1)

Hey Mr Koh,


I was wondering if you have notes for H1 Maths.

I've seen your H2 notes and it's extremely useful..

I'll be taking my H1 maths exam in about 100 days time..


Would be great if you have notes I can use.


Much appreciated, 

Student X

( This email was received on 29 July 2011)

Hi there,


               Thank you for your enquiry. Unfortunately most of my stuff were written for the H2 math student in mind, and I don't really have time to pen anything these days due to my tight teaching schedule. I guess what might be relevant to you would be the statistics component, which I believe is similar to the H2 syllabus minus the Poisson distribution component. You can check out the statistics revision question sets (with full solutions) at my free site http://www.whitegroupmaths.webs.com/questionsets.htm . Alternatively, if you prefer a tutorial-based feel approach for statistics, you can purchase materials  at my online maths store  http://www.whitegroupmaths.com/2011/06/white-group-maths-store.html -all questions come with full solutions. Should you have anything else in mind, feel free to communicate it to me. Good luck for your upcoming examinations.


Best Regards,

Mr Koh



I feel really, really STRESSED.

Posted by White Group Mathematics on June 5, 2011 at 1:10 PM Comments comments (0)

I need to get this off my chest.

Since the beginning of J2, I have never ever let a day off without studying (maybe except during CNY). When I don't study, I feel frustrated because I feel as though I am missing out on something and my classmates are all ahead of me.

This 'drive' I have in me is sort of a double-edged sword, motivating and yet driving me nuts for feeling that I am never competent enough.

I have never had the idea of being placed on the Principal's top 20 list but it happened. That sorta gave me a HUGE amount of pressure, telling myself that I have to maintain if not I'm gonna lose out to others(might be some typical Singaporean spirit, I don't know.)

I too, fear that having this strong drive to study everyday will soon cause me to burn out when A levels are nearing.


Student X

(The above was posted in a private forum earlier in March 2011)

Right now its approaching March, which means you have another seven months before the actual As. Thats still some time away, and you really don't want to suffer a burnout. Too often I have seen high achieving students crack mentally because their mugging lifestyles have become too painful to endure, and I had to intervene before things spiral out of control.

In your case I would advise you to slow down and go easy on yourself, tear away from that not studying equals being lazy and lagging behind mindset. Strike a balance between studies and play-trust me its bloody important, especially when the stakes (as in your case) are that high.You need that healthy state of mind to survive this and come out a winner. Remember a properly adjusted emotional state goes hand in hand with your academic ability when it comes to doing well in major examinations.

Just know that you are not alone. If the situation comes to a point when it becomes too much to bear, do not be afraid to seek help. Talk it out, see a counsellor etc. Admittedly the two years in JC are tough, but no matter what you don't deserve to be terrorized by your own expectations. Stay strong and happy. Good luck. Peace.

Best Regards,

Mr Koh