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Nicole’s Secrets to Success --- Pals, Practice and Pausing

When Nicole Tham from Secondary 4B 2019 found out that she was one of the outstanding all round students, she was elated.

“I was extremely surprised and proud of myself. My parents had also promised me a dog if I scored an L1R5 of below 12 points, so I felt really excited!”


A disciplined and self-motivated student, it was only a matter of time before her efforts bore fruit. 

She had already displayed strong academic potential in her earlier years at Fairfield Methodist School (Secondary), as she clinched the Bronze Award at the Singapore Mathematical Olympiad and achieved a Distinction in Grade 4 Communication Skills at the J Carter Centre for Public Speaking in 2016.

However, her journey was not all smooth-sailing.

“In the first three terms of Secondary Three, I spent a lot of time on my Co-Curricular Activities and Orientation which caused my grades to slip.”

At that time, Nicole helped to plan and execute the Secondary One Orientation programme in 2018 and 2019, and was part of the NCC (Sea) team which achieved the Gold Award at the Best Unit Competition in 2018. She was also part of the NCC expedition that scaled Mount Ophir in Malaysia in 2018.

Her shrewd investments paid off for her in a big way in 2019, as she won the Outstanding Cadet Award and Republic of Singapore Navy Badge, and was promoted to Master Sergeant, the highest rank for an NCC (Sea) student.

When it was finally time to buckle down for the GCE O-Level examinations, Nicole was able to count on her friends, teachers and family to help her make a comeback.

“I have to thank my friends who worked hard and stayed back to study with me in school every day. Belinda Chua was one such friend who studied with me almost every day. She also constantly encouraged me not to give up.”

She also had a very committed group of subject teachers who would help her very readily.

“Mrs Lim Hwee Ling went through my completed Ten Year Series papers with me while Mrs Helsa Tay and Mr Joseph Guo marked my English Language essays and gave me Oral English consultations. Mrs Lim Chee Chin didn’t give up on me when I failed Additional Mathematics, and Mr Ezal gave me consultations once per week which improved my Combined Humanities grade from an E8 in the Mid-Year Examinations to a B3 at the GCE O-Level examinations.”

And that’s not forgetting the dog.

“My parents reminded me that all this hard work would pay off when I get my future dog. That further motivated me to continue studying hard for my examinations.”

Besides the immense support provided by her family, peers and teachers, Nicole also cultivated good work habits to help her manage her time.

“I made sure that I completed my homework on time no matter how busy I was with my CCA commitments. In Secondary 4, I learnt to do my homework during lunch break so I could use the free time I had after school to do my revision.”

This is one key piece of advice which Nicole has for the 2020 batch of graduating class students, which allowed her to accumulate many hours of revision and practice time.

“Secondly, complete your Ten Year Series as many times as possible. It doesn't matter how much you are able to remember from your textbooks if you cannot apply it properly during the examinations. Practising the Ten Year Series helped me to better understand the key words required for each subject and familiarise myself with the examination questions.”

“Thirdly, start your revision early! If possible, create a timetable which reflects exactly what you should do each day. After doing that, I realised that even if I studied one chapter of notes and practised one year of Ten Year Series questions each day, I would still be unable to complete everything by the time the GCE O-Level examinations started. That really motivated me to push myself to work harder.”

Despite Nicole’s strong work ethic, she knows the importance of taking a break occasionally.

“Don’t put so much stress on yourself! After the Preliminary examinations, I felt that I had no more energy to do anything and was exhausted all the time, so I gave myself two days to just rest and relax. That really helped me to recharge in my final lap towards the GCE O-Level examinations.”

These strategies, in essence, were the secret ingredients behind her success! If Nicole can do it, so can all of you!!