Getting a First Class: To S/U or not to S/U

When I decided to write down my experiences and methods used to achieve academic success in University, I didn’t think about writing such a post on whether to S/U a subject or not. However, when I was looking at the search results that came to my site, it seemed to mean a lot to many different people. Hence, here is a post talking about using the S/U option.

Now if you are here on my website, you would most likely come from two groups of people. I’m not neglecting SMU, but I have no idea how it works there and hence it is not right to assume. It isn’t really a NUS vs NTU kind of situation; rather, it is a comparison of the way we use the S/U option in both universities.

As of the time in writing this post, NUS students are allowed to exercise the S/U option after the results has been revealed. NTU students, however, have to decide whether they S/U their modules before they take their final paper. I find that the NUS method benefits the overall grades more, and actually forces you to study for all modules. It might make you a more all rounded individual if you treat all exams seriously.

I have found myself in situations where I wanted to S/U a module, only for it to be an A, and the other module where I had confidence in was the one I eventually exercised my S/U option on. Therefore, this S/U option actually helped me to improve my overall grades.

So, how do we decide
I’m actually surprised someone would ask me that. Generally the simplistic method to decide is whether it pulls your grades down, and by how much. Remember drawing the best fit line in science classes? The one that doesn’t fit into your best fit line is considered an outlier and can be neglected. Should your GPA be 4.0, and your grade for this module is a 3.5. Chances are you will have a lot of 3.5s and 4.5s that make up the average of 4.0. Hence you will not waste your S/U on a 3.5. Rather, if it’s an outlier, say a 3.0, it would make sense to S/U it.

Another way is to see whats your desired end point when you graduate, and see if this puts you off track. If it doesn’t, then you are still on the safe side by not choosing to S/U. If it does, please do S/U it.

Now what about the future
So what if there is another module that I do worse in the future? Well you will never know. But what you do know is the impact of this module on your grades, and you can choose to let it affect your grades, or you can S/U it. Personally I will look at the number of S/U-able modules for the future to decide. Not every modules can be S/U-ed since they represent the core of your degree.

You can also plan for the future by deciding what are the electives that you will be interested in taking for future semesters. If you can choose something which you know you have plenty of interest and capability in, then chances are that module shouldn’t do as badly as the one you have in your hands right now.

If there are only 2 modules left with 2 S/U options after you exercised this one, then stop reading on for you are just wasting your time.

But really, if you are really interested in the whole series of what I have to say regarding “Getting a First Class”, you shouldn’t be worrying about the future. You would S/U this outlier and then tell yourself, “I will make sure this doesn’t happen again”. And with the study techniques that I will eventually go into, you will do well.

Actually, the reason why I didn’t think about writing such a post is because you shouldn’t need to be troubling over this. What you should do is doing so well that you need not use your S/U. So well that it becomes blatantly obvious when you HAVE to use it.

If you would like some special advice from me, do leave a comment on your situation and I will do my best to advise you accordingly. Do give me some time though, as there are other high priority tasks to do everyday.

Getting a First Class: An Introduction

I thought it would be interesting to talk about achieving academic success, given that there have been many related searches on google that leads to my blog. In addition, from time to time there will be a random comment seeking advice for university related matters. Fun fact: I only started learning the difference on usage between advice and advise when I started working as having good staff work translate to better performance.

Alright, let’s set the stage clear. There will be a series of posts following this introduction that would deal with specific issues that I thought would be worth sharing. However as a general guideline, I thought it is best to make it clear that I do not think that getting a First Class is so big a deal. I have just read an article on the internet detailing how pointless the author felt when he got his First Class. He felt that he should have gone out more with friends, experienced more of the outside world etc instead of spending his time studying. I feel that one should have no regrets, so do deal with this delicate balance yourself.

What I will do is talk about the good values that would aid you into achieving that academic success you so desire. However, do not end your university life regretting that you did not find time to pursue other interests and develop yourself in other areas. Like the author of the article, I thought development outside the classroom was important as well.

Another important thing to consider is the argument of nature vs nurture. Some people believe that being smart is dependent on your genes and some believe that being smart is a result of how you were taught. I believed that it is a balance between the two. I have seen friends who struggle and put in a lot of hard work but it didn’t translate into results. However there are those who easily get better results with half the effort.

That said, whatever I am going to write from now onward in my series of posts under this category will be merely an aid. It will not be a guaranteed method of getting a First Class. However I do believe that if you are an average performer you should be able to improve and pull yourself up.

Another interesting topic that I would like to cover in this introduction is on whether it is worth it to get a First Class. The argument against is usually along the lines that employers look for other skills that are not taught in the classroom. This argument is valid, except that I do not subscribe to it. What I feel is that getting good results shows (1) how serious you are about the subject and your education and (2) your ability to pick up material in a short time (a semester is really short in my opinion). I would just like to point out that it would be beneficial for people to adopt this attitude: “I will get my academic success PLUS develop the soft skills needed to gain an edge over any potential competition”. This is like the argument, “I will rather have health than wealth”, as it is not one thing other than another. Our attitude should be “Can we have both”. Hence, other than talking about academic success, I will be adding posts belonging to the various soft skills we should have under this category too.

But, for the record, I think it was worth it to get the First Class, despite the fact that there might not be a salary difference given the class of honours. However, it might help to open doors and add in some minor points to your resume. However, it does get a little irritating if everyone labels you as the “First Class guy”. We have to learn to take that with a pinch of salt.

So, with all that being said, I hope I will have the energy and dedication to see through this series of posts and help train better graduates. If you have benefited from this series of posts, do leave me a comment or a testimonial.

Thank you!

Body Language determines your Success

There are many aspects towards achieving success in our daily lives. In terms of academic success and even beyond graduation, I feel that it is important to be able to portray the right image of yourself to other people. The speaker of this video talks about how people’s perception of you can be affected by the very body language that you portray, also known as non-verbals in this video.

The first point the speaker makes is that our body language shows us how we feel. Sometimes when we feel powerless, we make ourselves small and it shows. The other direction works too, when we speak to people whom we feel are inferior to us, we make ourselves look big.

But the main point that I want to bring out of this entire video is this: That through changing our non-verbals, we can change our mind. I did not learn this through the video; the video made me realise what happened during the many stressful sessions I had in university.

If you had seen the video, you would like realized that she talks about power posing, maybe in the toilet, so that you feel confident. What I had done is essentially the same theory, just that I didn’t do power posing, but I conditioned the mind through many ways. I do these right before I had to make presentations on my projects. I do these right before any test or exam. It must have been something right since I felt as if I was more effective than I was during my JC days.

The essence is this: I made myself feel more confident. I like to listen to my favourite music right before stressful presentations. I have a few songs from the various dramas that I watched previously and they give me a sense of confidence from the successful characters within the story. Listening to those high tempo music reminded me of what those characters portray: the confidence that they all had when dealing with tough situations, and subconsciously I felt more relaxed and confident. Indirectly, music seemed to transform me into those confident characters, and I have been delivering good presentations ever since.

Other than listening to music, I made myself more confident by appearing confident. This might sound like some warped logic, but it is not. This is similar to power posing, but I did not do those exaggerated actions where one puts his or her hands up in a V shape. What I did was to sit down in a confident manner, and look at everyone as though there is nothing to fear. This is something I did before any test or examination. When people are busy doing last minute cramming, I would be joking with friends, having fun, feeling confident. Perhaps another part of me enjoyed making other people feel more nervous, and this indirectly made me more confident. I mean, when other people are cramming and they see someone sitting there confidently, more often than not they will feel that they have not done enough compared to you, and it will trigger a downward spiral by making them feel worse.

But of course, the purpose of feeling confident is not to put people down, but rather that act of confidence fools the mind into thinking that you are ready for anything coming your way. I find that I am calmer and more able to think better because of this. That, you got to admit, allows you to do better at your examinations. When I get out of the examination hall, I do not discuss the questions with my friends like how everyone else does. When you realize that you have done something wrong, you feel less confident for the next paper. However, if I am extremely confident in myself, I might discuss a few questions as I know that I am right. This has the indirect effect of making me feel more confident for the next paper.

In conclusion, the take away from this post is that there is a non-academic side to achieving academic success. Other than preparing adequately for examinations and presentations, one must be able to condition himself mentally and prepare for the success that is to come. Remember, your body changes your mind, and your mind changes your behaviour. Once you have got the momentum going, life is going to be an upward spiral of energy, ensuring success in your academic field and beyond.