Written by: Martha Henrietta Soetedjo (20-U2), Soh Iwin (20-E5), Zenov Liu Fan (20-U1)
Designed by: Leow Jia Wen Jolene (20-E1)
Have you ever wondered how your schoolmates who took other subject combinations felt about their combination? We pull back the veil on fellow Press seniors’ experiences with their subject combinations! From personal anecdotes to academic insights, we hope this provides some measure of reassurance to those newly inducted into the rigour of ‘A’s academia.
Science: Martha (BCME)
The science stream has always been a relatively common route for JC students to take, being more of a “default” choice. The BCME combination is also quite common, especially for those eyeing work in medical sectors.
First thing I would like to preface is that you should never choose subject combinations just because it would “give you more opportunities”. Always choose based on what you enjoy doing! Find that sweet-spot between where your passion lies, and where you can excel in.
For those of you who have taken similar combinations as my own, you may wonder what lies ahead in your next 2 years of JC? Well, be prepared for memorising heaps of content, drawing countless mind-maps and prepping for lots of quizzes and tests.
But fret not! Since the majority of the subjects are your sciences, there are areas of overlap! This means that you can “kill two birds with one stone” by focusing your energy into honing skills that can be applied across all subjects!
Second tip! Science is far from what you remember in secondary school. Yes, there are times where they make reference to past knowledge, but what we learn now is far more abstract and focused. Instead of learning about the circulatory system, ‘A’ level Biology now requires you to study individual cell components and their functions. My teacher once told me that JC’s Biology looks more like Chemistry, than the “Biology” we were used to.
What does this mean? For Biology and Chemistry, making notes is pivotal to excelling. Personally, I find that mind-maps are the perfect aid for content-heavy topics – cue cards are also very helpful for quick memorisation of new definitions. Questions are now more application-based, so a strong foundation is ever-so important in attaining that A. Start early with your note-taking, and you’re sure to keep up with the new load of content!
What about Economics? I had found it similar to sciences in that there’s a lot of content you have to remember and apply. Economics seem more ‘practical’, in the sense that its effects can be observed in everyday life. Applying economic concepts into these real-life scenarios made writing essays less cumbersome, compared to dealing with memorising different geographical locations and phenomena, or reading up historical dates and figures (which I was abysmally terrible at).
Economics also deals more with process, which helps me in understanding each new topic, and the relationships between different factors. These process-maps are akin to those we learnt in Science, like how a global pandemic may result in economic recessions. These big-picture concepts are easier to grasp as they all deal with systems and their relative functions. This similarity bridged the gap between my science and humanity subjects, easing me into Economics with less trouble.
Overall, my subject combination provides a good balance between memorisation and application of concepts. I must say that secondary school science is vastly different from what we have in JC, but as long as you have the passion for the subject, it would feel less like a chore, and more of a new perspective to a previously familiar subject! Despite the added workload, I still find fun in learning about these new topics, and the satisfaction earned when I finally master each topic is more than worth the initial hardship. That being said, I hope I can continue to strive for excellence in the coming J2 year. Hope you too can see success in the combinations you have chosen! Good luck!
Hybrid: Iwin (LCME)
Bringing up my hybrid LCME subject combination would mean that I am opening myself up to deploring looks or attacks such as “Will you get into any university course in the future?” The truth is, however, that hybrid combinations are not that much of a hopeless dead end as they seem. Hybrid combinations only close up a small fraction of courses which require double sciences, such as medicine, and other popular courses like law are still open for consideration.
Regarding my journey in deciding my combination, I started by considering my strongest subjects — Literature and Math. I also considered my interests, which lay in Chemistry and entrepreneurship (consequently, I thought Economics was a good fit).
Another consideration I had was the type of questions and skills I wanted to see and use while doing my homework and examinations. For instance, I was drawn towards Literature as I found satisfaction in expressing my opinions and treating the exam as a mini debate where I would argue for a particular stand. I even chose Literature because I liked one of the books that EJC offers – Pride and Prejudice! Chemistry and Math were good fits as I hated memory work and preferred to spam practice questions to prepare for an examination. Economics was also chosen due to its less memory-based nature, as one cannot merely regurgitate in examinations. In millennial jargon, many students would deem it a subject that can be “smoked”, so long as you fully understand the concepts.
My favourite thing about my combination is the fact that I can toggle between the sciences and the arts, depending on which field my mood calls for. However, a struggle I faced was spending more time on my sciences. This is because in my opinion, the workload of my homework was heavier for my science subjects.
Moreover, there were some myths on the subjects I took that I debunked after taking it for a year. For one, O Level Literature is very different from its A Level counterpart, as A Level Literature demands an in-depth analysis of certain words and phrases, and how they shape your understanding of a message from the text using literary techniques. Additionally, comparing poems was a shock for me as it was a huge leap from O Level poetry, where you do not necessarily have to uncover the deeper meanings of poems to do fairly well.
As for Chemistry, don’t let a C5 in secondary school stop you from taking it. While A Level Chemistry partially relies on your secondary school foundation, most of the concepts are new, deeper and well explained by the school notes. Thus, consistent practice and understanding of the concepts taught will bring you to great heights. Not to mention, it is way more interesting than O Level Chemistry!
Now that you have read my experience, for the brave souls out there who chose the hybrid combination, do not fret, for hard work will help you to ace it! Savour the beauty and the merits of toggling between the arts and the sciences, and you will have a blast with this combination!
Arts: Zenov (HELM)
Now that you have read about the rigour that both the Science and Arts streams entail, you might be wondering how life as a student studying subjects at the other end of the spectrum is like. Yes, I’m a student of the arts, and I’m glad to be one.
My subject combination is HELM. Was it the subject combination I had always wanted? No, it wasn’t. My aspiration had always been to become a doctor, and naturally I had an immense interest in the sciences ever since I was a child. One of my fondest childhood memories was to visit a library and spend hours on end reading encyclopaedias. Biology, in particular, piqued my interest and before I knew it I was reading about the 12 systems in our human body.
Then why would you choose to take arts? I believe this is a question that you might feel perplexed about now. Yes, science is fascinating and all, but I did not fancy the idea of wrecking my brain just to prepare for a science examination. I struggled a lot in upper secondary with Chemistry in particular, because I could not wrap my head around some concepts that my peers, unlike me, understood within a short span of time. However, ‘O’ Levels being ‘O’ Levels, I still picked myself up and sought help from my teacher. Eventually, I managed to attain a B3.
After my somewhat painful experience with Chemistry in the ‘O’ Levels, I spent quite some time pondering what subject combination I should take since I had my mind set on a Junior College. It had not occurred to me that the arts were a viable, and available, option, until I spoke to my teacher who saw me through my struggles.
It was then that I realised I could consider pursuing the subjects I had always been passionate about — History and Literature. My relationship with the humanities has been relatively amiable, because I enjoy the process of studying for these subjects. By now, you should have figured that I took double science and double humanities during secondary school. In particular, I loved to study History because I love seeing the way that events of the past parallels our world today. I also found exploring the attitude and dispositions of historical leaders and how we have learned from the past very exciting.
As for Literature, it was mesmerising to witness how words can be used in ways so beautiful they speak to you. I always found a friend in poems, because I loved how the experiences and feelings of some poets and the personas they conjure up connected with me.
All these and yet I never considered exploring the arts in JC. I even remember mocking humanities students as people who would ‘have no future’ because their job prospects seemed grim. I feel that this was partly why I never considered taking arts because I did not want to lose out. But with that said, ‘ARTS — EUNOIA JUNIOR COLLEGE’ still appeared at the top of my JAE application anyway.
I have never looked back since. Though there was an added rigour in taking arts in JC, I can assure you that as long as you have an interest in them, you will keep going. Whichever subject you choose to take up in JC, it will be more taxing since the ‘A’ Levels demand much more. For example, in History, you can forget about solely relying on memory work and thinking you have conquered the world.
However, don’t let that stop you. Though I’m still uncertain what lies ahead for me beyond JC, do not be afraid to pursue the subjects of your interest, whatever they may be!
If you have read all the way until here, we have one last piece of advice for you. The subjects that are unfathomable to you may seem more practical to abandon, but that should not stop you from going beyond the ordinary. If you feel you might be influenced by peer pressure, talk to someone else — preferably a teacher who knows you well. You don’t have to have everything figured out at this stage, because there is still plenty of time for the future beyond JC, so follow your heart!