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Exam weeks

A few weeks from now a whole bunch of you will be giving the O' and A' level exams. Worrying? Yes. But that doesn't mean you tear out your hair at the last minute. Take some time out to prepare beforehand.

We've gotten together a list of the most problematic subjects and tips form our ace test takers.

Acing English Literature
Anika Tabassum

Read deeply and widely; read outside the specified text; read anything that qualifies as good literature

Enjoy what you're doing; get involved in the
prose/poetry/drama and try to see things from different, contrasting viewpoints

Do not confine yourself to reference/ guide books; use your own faculties instead of regurgitating already published information

Remember a few quotes from the text; it's always helpful to slip them into your answers as reference to make an important point

Write; write as much as you can and find your own writing style; don't stray to excessively simple or ornately flowery language

Take a moment to mull over what the text is seems to say and what it actually says

Interpret the question correctly; don't tailor it to answer the way you want to answer

English literature is about creativity, so feel free to use your own methods of studying it

Now, on the general information: There are two papers for the Edexcel Art exam and the two exams are usually held on consecutive days. The dates are not fixed and you will not be able to see the dates and timings on the general timetable booklet along with the other subjects. Art students will receive a separate paper with the instructions, unbeknownst to the other candidates. One paper (the main paper) goes on for about 6 hours (!), with a 1 hour break in the middle for lunch, and the other paper (the subsidiary) goes on for 3 hours. One paper makes you work on Still Life, while the other, on scenery. Both are compulsory if you want to achieve you grade.

About a month before your Art exam, you will be sent your question paper by the examination board. It is extremely important that you read through the instructions CAREFULLY. There are going to be several choices on what you wish to draw. Chose any two topics for your two papers (just make sure that one of them is a Still life and the other, a Landscape). Oh and it depends upon you which topic you wish to make your main/subsidiary. Don't chose something difficult just because you think it'll impress the examiners. Just concentrate on what you can complete within time (I know 6 hours seems like a lot, but it really isn't; the main paper demands a LOT of detailing).

I know it sounds weird, but do not try and get creative by adding more to your drawing than is required. Do exactly as they ask you to do. If they ask you to draw one lemon, draw just that. Don't try to act smart by adding another quarter. If the knife has a pink handle, get a knife with a pink handle; if there are two bottles, don't add another bottle.

One thing that most students don't follow (even though it's clearly written in the instructions) is that they don't make a portfolio. For the two topics that you have chosen, draw different compositions on smaller papers, as in make at least 3 compositions for each of the two papers, Main and Subsidiary; the more the merrier, but not more that 6. Even though it's called the rough work, paste the smaller drawings neatly and fully coloured/sketched on mount boards (to be found in New Market; to be submitted along with whatever you are going to do on the exam hall; to be folded like a book).

For landscapes, change the composition by changing the light (day/night/ evening, etc.) or by changing the position of the subjects in the drawing. For the still life don't draw from you imagination; get the real stuff, and compose them on the table/floor however you think it looks good. This is necessary because you might have to take the assortment to the exam hall and draw directly from there. The examiners will know if you don't.

Now a trick: during the exam take copies of exactly what you want to submit that day just copy the artwork from there as your final exam work. The Invigilators will be fine with it (in fact this is it's always done, since it's almost impossible to come up with an entirely new composition that day) and it saves a LOT of time. Oh and as for the type of paper, use hand-made paper (the Indian one or the English one; both are good although the latter is more expensive but better) Make sure to be prepared to spend a lot for your Art exam.

I hope all of this is not too intimidating since once you get the hang of it, all of this is actually really fun and enjoyable. Just make sure you've finished working on the syllabus of all your other subjects beforehand because you will have to keep drawing even during the days when the other exams are going on. By this point I have run out of everything I know about the Edexcel Art examination. I can't think of anything else, but if I do I'll remember to mention it again later. Hope this helps and doesn't discourage you. Happy studying and best of luck for January!

Practicing Physics
Raida Kifait Reza

Physics might seem like a big challenge for the candidates, with the diversity of questions in paper one, and the plannings and broad questions of paper two.

Firstly, make sure you are done with your syllabus and you have it all in your head, and all your concepts are clear. If you did not do that you HAVE to get some help. (Keep clean and readable notes) While doing the question papers, at first do them with the mark scheme so that you have an idea of what the questions want, and then do the question paper once again, without a mark scheme and get it checked by your teacher.

Think of things in terms of real life, and create mental images to help you remember. For example, in Physics 'pressure' is 'force concentration per unit area,' so you might want to think of an orange juice on a cubical container. mystudytable.com is a really good site to discuss topics and download latest question papers.

Appreciate everything involved in physics, because if you have any negative thoughts about it you will find a hard time passing it. Once you already like it, you're ready!

Acing Chemistry
By Anika Tabassum

Chemistry is something that you have to study over and over again; last-minute cramming doesn't really work

Calculations make up a large part of chemistry, so practise them; if you face problems understanding a particular problem, look at similar problems and go through the explanations

It helps to study a topic by going through different books and thus understanding different takes on it

Remember the state symbols of reactants and products in a reaction

If you plan to pursue advanced chemistry, fall in love with organic chemistry. Seriously. Higher level chemistry contains huge chunks of organic, which can get extremely confusing and annoying if organic chemistry just doesn't work for you

Do as many worksheets, practice exercises and question papers as you can, and stop looking at the mark scheme before answering the questions; use the mark schemes only to check answers later

So This is How You Give the Art Exam
By Nuzhat Binte Arif

Disclaimer: Edexcel or the British Council might change whatever they want in the last minute, and that might render this article useless. So please don't blame us if something goes wrong later. We are merely passing on our wisdom (so that you don't face the same problems we did).

Usually, exams require about 2-3 months of preparation time if one wants to obtain a happy grade. But for Art, all the rules start to go hazy. There is no amount of specific time that a person should or shouldn't give on Art. A lot of physical labour and patience is required. One must not lose one's head in the face of the amount of stress Art puts on a student just a month before the exam. For it prevents students from studying for any other subject and makes him/her just concentrate on drawing. The exam of Art is not for the weak hearted. Which is why, we would like to help you out on you decision of whether or not you want to take Art for the May/June 2009 session, by giving you a vague idea of what is to come. Better early than when you are stuck.

Breaking the bio-phobia
By Sabrina F Ahmad

The very mention of Biology tends to make some people break out in cold sweat. Complicated names, lengthy processes, and low scope for creativity…doesn't sound like a party, does it? With a little creativity, however, you could actually have fun preparing for your Bio exam.

Illustrations are your friends.
Make your own flow-charts, outlining the steps in a process, i.e. photosynthesis. Drawing them out a couple of times will help you remember what comes after which step. You could also make some neat and detailed diagrams, photocopy them, and use them for labelling practice. The idea is to be able to visualise the parts and processes involved in each chapter, which helps you understand and thus remember them.

One creative acquaintance even came up with comic strips using organs and organelles as characters, with quirky dialogues to help remember processes like clot formation, etc. This, however, is not feasible if you don't have a lot of time to prepare.

The name game.
Stumped by all those weird lists of names that you have to remember? Try mnemonics, like little acronyms like 'SELLEM' (Sucrase, Enterokinase, Lipase, Lactase, Erepsin, Maltase) to help you remember the digestive enzymes, or phrases like 'King Philip Came Over From Gendaria Supermarket' (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species) to remember the classification order in taxonomy. It could be fun just inventing your own mnemonic system for terms. You could borrow a leaf from our comic-book friend's book and come up with your own story involving characters with these biological names, to help you remember.

Glossary flashcards.
This system works for SAT exams, and it can really help you for your bio exam. Make a set of flashcards with a name on one side, and a definition on the other. Work with a friend and take turns asking each other to state the definitions, and viola! You've learned them all.

Colour-coding fun:
Another option for those who have some time on their hands: write out your notes with the headings and sub-heads in different colours. It will help you organise the chapters, and help you differentiate between independent processes and parts of processes. It also looks very pretty.

Treat the subject like some creative writing project, and you will find that it's not complicated at all. Best of luck!


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