How Nicholas Chan succeeded
He is the first ITE student ever to gain admissions into NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. He was also my student in the class of 2017 enrolling as a private candidate concurrently doing a full A level exam (with the subject combination of Biology Chemistry Mathematics at H2 and Geography at H1 as well as General Paper) in his final year in a Nursing diploma from Nanyang polytechnic.
It is definitely challenging for him for 2 reasons.
Firstly, in the year of his enrollment, the new H2 BIO syllabus is being examined for the first time. And being outside of the JC system he can only rely on my materials having not been in any JC for a single day.
Second, the A level load is heavy on its own and he chose to do 2 full time programs simultaneously.
He never let up during my classes no matter how much work I assign after each session. Of note, he even tries to squeeze in facts from my H2 Bio memory cards in-between his daily routine as he rushed from the hospital attachment to NYP to my classes.
This is very importantly and likely a strong indicator to the admissions team that he can take the academic rigors of medical school.
After his graduation, I helped him by submitting an appraisal for his application. I spent hours writing the best one I can because he is that impressive and he deserves the effort I put in.
But the journey to medical school actually started a year before that.
After getting his results, Nicholas stayed in touch and was asking me for advice in university applications.
The strategy crafted was for him to get a firm offer to a university program first. And he did! Successfully gaining admissions to NTU biological science program.
During this stage, he went to an interview held in NTU to select candidates for a double major. I ask him to treat this as practice and he triumphed here even though others had flawless records of previous exposure to scientific research or background.
Now that he gained a bargaining chip, he can then enter the NUS medical admissions interview in a power position although I reminded him not to be too pompous about it.
Even then, the interviewer was quite confrontational perhaps as the school is trying to ascertain how he handles the stress.
At the entrance test, he successfully aced all the obstacles. And finally gain the precious admissions offer.
I still remember the phone call I received from him at 11pm the night he received the offer and hearing his excitement over the life-changing path ahead of him.
This reminds me that I am continuing to make a difference to my students lives during and after their classes with me.
The following is a little conversation with Nicholas about how he manages his time.
Interview with Nicholas
BYANG How did you manage to complete a full time diploma and A levels?! As a matter of fact you did not enroll into a JC for a single day!
Nicholas Honestly, it was TOUGH! I started by stress-testing myself in my diploma course in the first semester. The idea was to finish all my diploma coursework many weeks ahead of schedule. This creates pockets of time for me to work on the material in A levels. So if poly exams start in Week 10, ideally I’d have everything in memory by Week 2 and only start reviewing again from Week 8 onwards.
There are times where I fall out of schedule. And I only get to review for my diploma course exams in the final 2 days before each paper.
To make matters worse, the nursing course is especially time-consuming. This is because for the bulk of our term breaks we go on clinical attachments. Furthermore, the only A level materials I had were passed down from my friends who had taken it several years before.
Nevertheless, after successfully completing my first semester with good grades using the system, I put all my effort into prepping the A level exams.
I am fortunate enough to meet other JC students in your H2 BIO tuition. They are friendly and even willing to share their notes with me.
I use your memory cards to help memorize concepts as well as having my notes wherever I go. Even squeezing revision in public transport as I travel between school, tuition, clinical attachment and home.
Furthermore, I also set aside time time for exercise and rest following your guidelines. This is so that I am at my biological peak. Which allows me to be more productive during my study sessions.
However, being out of the JC loop is plenty demoralizing. Because it feels like my JC friends are always light-years ahead.
Nonetheless, I just told myself that whether or not I was in a JC was beside the point.
Since we are all going to be sitting for the same paper. And most of us will have similar jitters and feelings of self-doubt going in.
I remind myself that I have the materials, and I am making time to work through most of them.
Since I may not be as able to tackle the trickier questions as my JC counterparts, I focus on making up the difference by excelling at the “giveaway” questions and minimizing mistakes the way you taught me.
BYANG I feel exhaustion creeping in just reading your arduous journey! So the Golden question for you. If you are to make the decision again to pursue A levels will you still do it? Why?
I feel that doing the A levels bring a rigor to my life. It somehow makes me feel closer to some day being part of the scientific community.
Fascination sets in with almost everything I learn. Having to remember certain words and answer phrases definitely lose some of the excitement. However, not by much thankfully.
I have the luck of getting the most inspirational tutors for H2 Bio, Chem and Maths. The lessons gives me a sense of “something more” than just A levels.
It’s the kind of feeling that keeps me awake at night.
Everything about studying for the A levels just makes me feel like I MUST get to university.
I want to see bacteria moving with a microscope some day. I want to synthesize my own aspirin some day, and so on.
That semi-obsessive fascination has its costs. But even then I have no regrets. Because I know I never let up on trying to keep everything together.
I don’t know if my very normal A level grades eventually help me gain an offer into the course in NTU, but I’d like to believe it helps.
Still, I can’t care less about how horrible they are relative to what I had originally set out for at this point!
BYANG I only wish your A level compatriots and juniors think the same way and have the same drive! Sorry for tooting my own horn because you were my student. But how important do you think H2 BIO tuition was to you preparing for A levels as private candidate?
Nicholas I think your H2 BIO tuition is definitely essential to helping me prepare for the A’s as a private candidate.
From the beginning, I realize that it is impossible to absorb everything in the same 2-year time frame on my own even with the best JC notes.
Because of how intense some parts of the A’s syllabus are, I found that it really wasn’t enough to just have the notes.
From the get-go there are a lot of uncertainty but there is just no one to clarify them with.
Most friends already are in uni or work. While they help me where they can, I can’t expect them to answer my questions or check my work.
Not at the way a full-time tutor can.
Furthermore, I think having a group setting in your H2 BIO tuition makes so much difference because as it keeps me in the loop with the JC crowd.
I don’t want to lose track with my JC counterparts having more preparation as their teachers note tips and tricks for the subject.
This is particularly important in my year because of the change in syllabus, but in my opinion it applies just as well to any year you take the A’s.
Lastly, I’d say having a tutor for certain subjects really helped me save time as well as be efficient in my preparations.
BYANG Finally, tell me more about why you chose to do A levels.
Nicholas With my nursing credentials, I know this will be a long shot without the A levels getting into university.
I only have 3 subjects at O levels and didn’t do particularly well in ITE. So I have to do a lot more than just my nursing diploma comparing to other traditional candidates in order to stand a chance.
At this point you might be thinking, I will be pushing you to register for my classes. But NO. I just want you to be inspired and to know that if Nicholas can do it, so can you.
In fact, unlike other H2 Biology tutors out there, I am not interested in taking any more students. I have enough and my attention span is limited.
Instead, I will direct you to the materials that is used and trusted by Nicholas so that you can also find your success in H2 Biology exams.