Every year, there will be Sec 4 students (or their parents) who approach me one month before O-levels to help them with A-Math. Sometimes, their A-math knowledge is almost non-existent. Given the limited amount of time left and the vast extent of work required to help the student, I'll consider the extreme option of "Is it best for the student to drop A-Math?"

Hence, if you are thinking the question of whether you should drop A-Math, here are some considerations that you should consider:

What is Additional Math needed for?

If you intend to go poly, A-math is a pre-requisite for many engineering related courses. If you plan to go JC, A-Math is a pre-requisite for H2 Math. H2 Math itself is a pre-requisite for engineering courses in University. If you choose not to take A-Math, you would close the doors to fields related to engineering, computer sciences/programming, and applied mathematics. For students who aspire to enter business-related courses, A-math is not compulsory but it is recommended as it trains you to be sharper and more detailed when dealing with numbers.

Consider your O-level L1 R5/ L1 B4

Looking at the big picture, your ultimate goal is to score well enough to make it to your dream JC or Poly course. You do not really need 10 distinctions! Strategically, six A1 and three F9 can give you a better score than having ten A2! So, the questions are "do you have at least 5 or 6 other subjects to fulfill the L1B4 or L1R5 requirements? And are you more confident in these subjects compared to A-Math?" If your answers are yes to both questions, then perhaps A-Math might not be your biggest priority right now. It doesn’t mean you have to drop it, you can prioritize securing your six A1 first before resuming you focus on A-Math.

Consider the amount of time left

It depends on when you are reading this article. If there is only 1 month left to O-levels and your 5 or 6 core subjects are still in a terrible shape, then you will probably have no time to pick up A-Math. But if you are still half a year away from the O-levels examinations and your 5 or 6 core subjects are in average/decent shape, then you still have a fighting chance. Yes, you will need to work harder but the challenge and rewards are worth it.

Think about Bell-Curves

It is often harder to get A1 for A-Math than E-Math. Not because A-Math questions are tougher but because the A-Math bell curve is more challenging. In O-levels, our results are relative to the performance of all other students taking the subject in Singapore. Since everyone has to take E-Math, there is a good mix of strong and weak students. Hence, the E-Math bell curve is more neutral (Although I say it is more neutral, do note that you usually still need more than 88-91% to get an A1 for E-Math). Whereas for A-Math, it is taken by students who are already good in mathematics. Weaker students would not have taken it in the first place or would have dropped it long ago. As such, the A-Math bell curve is an extremely competitive one.

The real reason behind dropping A-Math

Before you make your decision to drop or continue A-Math, touch your heart and ask yourself “What is the REAL reason of wanting to drop A-Math?”. To many students, the direct answer is “to free up more time to focus on the other subjects”. Often, this is bullshit. It is merely a miserable excuse to take the easy way out. When you finally drop it, you do feel more relaxed and the “extra time freed up” would still be wasted on insignificant activities. Hence, please consider your true reason for dropping and ensure that is what you want before making the decision. If you really drop A-Math, please make sure that you maximize the "extra time" you have freed up.

To get professional help (Math tuition) on secondary school mathematics in Singapore, click here.

Mr Ausome