What To Do When You Failed Maths In Sec 4 Prelims

In my career, I taught two students who struggled with E-Maths so much, that despite having months of lessons with me, they still failed or passed marginally in their preliminary exams (“Prelims”).

(Disclaimer: in case you’re wondering that I must be a poor tutor, or these students must be lazy or unmotivated, I assure you that it’s not the case. We all worked hard, but they still did not fare well in their Prelims.)

Eventually they all passed and scored pretty well. One got A2 and one got B3. Pretty impressive and unexpected results, judging from their Prelims results.

What did they do?

I think their mindsets and our strategies helped.

First, let’s talk about mindset. They both have strong “WHY” to do well. One dreamt of entering aviation course so much, that his entire room was filled with airplane models and posters. The other dreamt to study nursing, which suits her nurturing nature. They both know that they needed a better grade to get to their dream course. I’m very thrilled that they did exactly that.

Second, we had some strategies:
(1) We calculated the best and worse case scenarios of their L1R2B2, and that gave them assurance of what they should be aiming for. Maybe a B3 is enough. Everything else is bonus. This removed unnecessary stress.
(2) We analysed their recent exam papers, and identified top reasons why they lost marks.
(3) We also identified key topics they needed to focus on. Even if someone is scoring 20%, it means that he or she is already strong in that 20% of topics. Focus on other things while do some maintenance practices on the 20% of topics.
(4) Exam techniques, like how much time to spend on every question, having a Super-Mario mindset, etc.
(5) Practice, practice, practice through your Ten Years Series. The student who went from C6 to A2, completed the whole TYS back to back TWICE. It’s the best, if you can clarify your doubts with your tutor or teacher as you practice.

The whole point is, there is always hope.
If you are reading this, and you’re like my two students, there is still hope.

Why am I writing this post? As an educator, I could have just shaken my head and say, “You should have studied harder.” But I know how it feels like to be in such a position of despair, as I was one of such students. I was blessed to have an awesome Maths teacher, Mr Ng, who refused to give up on me.

I was in JC Year 2, and scored F for Further Maths for my Prelims. For the first time in my life, I failed Maths. I didn’t know what to do.

Mr Ng made me report to the General Office every weekday morning, and got me to sit there from 9-5pm, to practice on Ten Years Series, while he did his own work. He would mark my work at the end of the day. On some days, we would be the last persons to leave the General Office, and he would treat me to supper at a nearby coffeeshop. This went on for weeks until the A levels exams.

In the end, I scored a B for Further Maths, A for Maths C. I couldn’t have done it without such devotion from Mr Ng.

In the work that I do now, I am perhaps following the footstep of Mr Ng.

A good teacher makes a great difference.

Don’t lose hope.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s