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Academic challenges in Junior College vs Secondary Schools

December 17, 2019 | By Yi Kai

As one ends his or her O level journey, one might wonder what the difference is between junior college mathematics and secondary school mathematics. I hope to shed light through this article about the differences between junior college and secondary school that might help you to make a better decision when choosing your subject combination after secondary school.

Junior college is very similar to university in a way that JC students are taught in lectures and tutorials rather than being limited to the usual classroom settings where a teacher is allocated to each class. Lectures would teach students the content and the tutorial would tackle questions that are assigned to the students.

  1. Lectures

In a lecture, a single lecturer engages the entire class and teaches to many students at one go. Especially for popular subjects such as H2 mathematics or H2 chemistry, there would be many classes sitting in the lecture hall and the session would be less interactive. Knowledge would only be transferred in one direction—from the lecturer to the students. The less engaging the lecturer is, the more people would dose off. Moreover, once you miss an important part of the lecture, you would be easily lost and would become disengaged from that point. Though lectures are recorded, you might not want to re-watch the lecture given that time is really of the essence especially when the A levels are nearing.

My tips to surviving Math lectures:

  1. Read up before the lecture and do the example questions for mathematics if possible. This would allow you to catch up with the lecturer and not feel lost when the lecture introduces new content. Moreover, you would know what to listen out for when the lecture is given so instead of being overwhelmed by the new content, you would be picking the information you need to fill your gaps in understanding.
  2. Make notes by the side to keep your brain active. More often than not, just listening to the lecturer would not allow content to be effectively absorbed and registered in the brain. By taking notes, it would allow you to record your train of thoughts and important tips that the lecturer might give. In addition, it could stimulate your brain to think more deeply about the content, allowing a better understanding of the subject.
  3. Attend A Level math tuition classes. Honestly, if you were unable to keep up with the content and are more used to the secondary school way of teaching, tuition classes could help you to better grasp the subject. This should be done as soon as you realise that you cannot keep up, so that you would not lag behind too far.


  1. Time management

Previously in secondary school, you would be taking around 8-10 subjects, and you can constantly toggle between subjects when revising to ensure that some time is allocated to each subject. Now, the game changes on the junior college level where you are only required to take 5 core subjects, excluding Project work, but the caveat is that each question requires a significantly greater amount of time.  In secondary school, a math question can be completed within 5 minutes or so, however, in junior college it would require 15-20mins, especially during the initial stage when you still do not have a good grasp of the subject. Time becomes tight before major examinations, and thus you would really want to optimize your time and reap the most benefits from each hour of revision, with the opportunity cost being significantly high.

JC Math tuition classes could help you with this, where materials are carefully curated so that you do not have to spend time and effort on revision that reap little gains. Moreover, the summary sheets and notes that they could offer would help reduce the amount of time needed to revise the topics, buying up more time for practice questions.

  1. Lecture Notes

Textbooks would be almost non-existent in junior college. Instead there will be lecture notes that the teachers created. As lecture notes are uniquely curated by each junior college, it is common that the lecture notes might be lacking something in one school, or simply contain too much information as compared to the other schools. Furthermore, the notes may sometimes be hard to digest, and you could spend hours wrecking your brains trying to comprehend them.

Writing out your own summary would help condense the information from the lengthy notes so you’ll be able to revise more efficiently nearing the A level examinations. In addition, you should clarify any doubts that you have with your tutors when you have problems understanding the notes. You could also try to attend JC math, chemistry or physics tuition classes, which would also provide notes that could possibly be more comprehensive and are easier to understand. Moreover, if you are afraid to ask your tutors in school, tutors at JC tuition centers like New Dawn Learning Studio are very friendly and approachable should you want to clarify your doubts with them.

Taking the junior college route would be a very fast paced 2 years of your life. Though it could be challenging at times, there are always ways to tackle obstacles along the way. While JC tuition classes may help you tackle this insurmountable challenge, it would too require your own effort to survive junior college.

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