SPM 2021: Strategies for success

REFUSING to let school closure and the Covid-19 pandemic bring them down, these SPM 2021 candidates share what they are doing to prepare for the exam and how they are staying positive despite having to undergo home-based teaching and learning (PdPR) for close to two years since they were in Form Four. These students prove that where there is a will, there is a way if you are proactive and willing to go the extra mile.

Simple steps to self-care

My school has started offering extra online classes in the evening, at night and even on weekends for those of us preparing for the SPM.

Having studied in a fully residential school for nearly five years, this intense schedule is nothing compared to the non-stop activities we used to have.

Without my friends and teachers by my side this time, however, I was momentarily overwhelmed by the increased workload and the solitude of being on my own.

I have since taken steps to look after my mental health, as I am determined to score straight A+ in my exam.

I would play some songs on my guitar or keyboard after my evening classes. It gives me a respite from my schoolwork.

Strumming up harmony: The soothing effects of music helps carry Nur Alia through her solitude.Strumming up harmony: The soothing effects of music helps carry Nur Alia through her solitude.

Furthermore, I have created a reward system where I would indulge in a show or movie if I accomplish my weekly goals.

I find this method especially effective – not only do I get to finish all my tasks on time, but I also get to relieve any stress pent up in me after a week of gruelling lessons.

Last but not least, when things become unbearable, I let myself cry. Contrary to popular belief, crying is not a sign of weakness, but a healthy coping mechanism that keeps us on our feet.

All in all, adapting to the new norm has been indisputably difficult, especially for those of us who will be sitting for a major public exam that will determine our future.

That said, I believe that if we hang in there, we would be able to ride it out. – By NUR ALIA IRDINA, Negri Sembilan

All for personalised learning

I have always had private tutoring; online learning hasn’t changed that.

Under normal circumstances, my tutors would come to my house for the sessions but due to the pandemic, the lessons are being conducted online.

To each her own: Ally believes in the merits of one-on-one private tutoring.To each her own: Ally believes in the merits of one-on-one private tutoring.

These one-on-one lessons are more personalised than the others, as my tutors guide me through the syllabus at my own pace and cater to my learning style.

Such private tuition also offers fewer distractions. Being in a classroom with your friends can often be disruptive to learning, especially if you’re a talkative person like me.

Conversely, in a one-on-one setting, your full attention is on your tutor and the lesson itself.

Up till Form Three, I had been getting Ds and Es for Bahasa Melayu but with the help of private lessons, I managed to score an A for my Form Three Assessment (PT3).

These lessons can be quite pricey. That’s why I only sign up for subjects I can’t keep up with at school such as Science and Principles of Accounting.

Oftentimes, I am overwhelmed by the thought of sitting for the SPM in a few months but I take comfort in the knowledge that I am putting in as much effort as I can to do well in the exam. No matter what the outcome is, I can say that I have put my best foot forward.

My advice to those of you struggling with your SPM preparations is, don’t get too worked up if you feel you are falling behind, as what’s more important is that you pick yourself up and carry on.

– By ALLY RAISA, Selangor

New habits for effective studying

To gear up for the SPM, I have decided to adopt a combination of the active-recall and spaced repetition techniques in my learning.

Instead of cramming the syllabus in one night or only reviewing information when you need it, you study the material periodically and allow yourself to forget the information over time as the repetition spreads wider.

Early riser: Charis diving into her math revisions during one of her 5am self-study sessions.Early riser: Charis diving into her math revisions during one of her 5am self-study sessions.

In return, the brain is forced to actively recall the material from the last time you studied it. Because you are constantly retrieving the information, it will eventually get stored in your long-term memory.

I have also started a new regime – beginning my day at 5am, as I believe we can retain information more efficiently when our minds are fresh from a good night’s sleep. It has been going great for the past two months and I plan to continue doing so till next year.

In summary, I believe that with a consistent study routine, implemented with the proper strategies and techniques, we can achieve the grades we want.

Starting new habits can be difficult but all the hard work, determination and sacrifice will be worth it in the end.

We still have eight months to go before the start of the written exam. The choice is yours to make the change needed to secure yourself a brighter future.

– By CHARIS KEE, Selangor

Making time for activities

As a student, my exam performance and participation in extracurricular activities are just as important to me.

So even as I strive to do well in the upcoming SPM, I do not lose sight of the need to fill my student experience beyond textbook learning.

Spreading good cheer: Amelia finds fulfilment in the kindness-themed project aimed at showing appreciation for her school’s custodial workers.Spreading good cheer: Amelia finds fulfilment in the kindness-themed project aimed at showing appreciation for her school’s custodial workers.

Since last year, I have taken part in a number of activities that gave me much fulfilment.

As the president of my school’s Interact Club, I have organised several events with my committee members.

Among them was “Project Prihatin”, which involved raising funds to buy personal protective equipment (PPE) gear and making personalised care packages for the frontliners at Hospital Selayang in Selangor.

Our club also organised a virtual e-sports competition and a virtual “International Understanding” event.

Seeing the club members having a meaningful and enjoyable time, despite facing restrictions amid the pandemic, gave me immeasurable joy.

Besides that, my friends and I took part in the #StandTogether Leadership Programme organised by The Star’s R.AGE team.

We even planned out a Kindness Project aimed at cultivating a school environment that shows more appreciation towards the custodial workers. Our online presentation eventually won us the #StandTogether Kindness Grant worth RM1,000.

Throughout the few months we were in and out of school, we managed to film a video and create a Kindness Tree for the custodial workers of our school. Although it is still work in progress, it has been uplifting seeing our ideas come to life. Thus, despite the pandemic, my student life has been made all the more exciting with these mainly virtual extracurricular activities.

They have undoubtedly been the highlights of my initially “broken” but now “whole” upper secondary school years. – By AMELIA LIM, Kuala Lumpur

All students featured on this page are participants of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team. Throughout the year-long programme, participants aged between 14 and 22 from all across the country experience life as journalists, contributing ideas, conducting interviews, and completing writing assignments. They get to earn bylines, attend workshops, and extend their social networks. To join Star-NiE’s online teen community, go to facebook.com/niebrats.

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