Introduction

Welcome! My name is Daniel Lim Jhao Jian. Here is where I share my experience, knowledge and ideas. You are welcome to leave comments and follow my blog. You are free to copy anything from this blog. Please recommend this blog to your friends.


Monday, 13 June 2016

Oncoming posts

Posts with the following titles will soon be available on this blog:

1. The 4 eventful months after my 1st year of Medicine course

The posts are listed in the order in which they will be posted.


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Thursday, 9 June 2016

My Lost Glory in Academics

In the past before I entered university, I used to get excellent results in examinations. I obtained 9A+ 1A in SPM and 4A* in A Level. I also achieved straight A's in every single school and college exams from October 2009 until August 2014, a 5 year record. In September 2014, I started studying Medicine at NUMed Malaysia. At that time, I was hoping that I could continue my academic excellence in university.

On 22 September 2014 which is my first day at NUMed, the lecturer explained to us about the assessment system. For Stage 1 and 2, there are 3 forms of assessment which are Progress examination, OSCE and assignment. Every assessment is given 3 grades which are Green (Safe pass), Amber (Borderline pass) and Red (Fail). In order pass a Stage, students need to pass all 3 forms of assessments. A good performance in one cannot compensate for a poor performance in another. At that time, I felt that Progress examinations would be my strong point while assignments would be my weak point since I previously studied A Level which is fully examination based. The pass mark for Progress examinations is usually around 52%. I aimed to score 80% or above in every Progress examination because that feels like getting grade A, even though there is actually no special grade for 80%. As for the OSCE and assignments, I was just aiming for pass.

Things went well in the beginning. On 3 November 2014, it was the Stage 1 Progress 1 examination which is the first exam in university. I felt that the exam was more difficult compared to A Level, as many of the questions require a lot of thinking. I also found the questions on anatomy very difficult, but there were only a few of them. Despite that, I successfully scored 84% in that exam which is a very good result and I was ranked 9 in the whole cohort. I was very happy about my results and that greatly boosted my confidence in studying Medicine. I wanted to maintain the same results for the next examination. In early December 2014, I started my revision for the Stage 1 Progress 2 examination. While revising, I did not put in any effort to improve my knowledge on anatomy which I had identified as my weak point, because I thought that anatomy is not important since only a few questions on it appeared in Progress 1.

On 12 and 13 January 2015, it was the Stage 1 Progress 2 examination. Unlike the Progress 1, this exam had 2 papers. For Progress 2 Paper 1, I felt that it was about as difficult as Progress 1. Once again, there were a few anatomy questions and I could not answer most of them. After Paper 1 ended, I went back to the university accommodation together with a few friends. During the journey, I discussed with them about the exam questions. They said that they felt the anatomy questions were not difficult. Also, there were a few questions which I was already very confident that I answered correctly, but my friends had different answers, and they were also very sure that they were correct. That affected my confidence on Paper 1, and I felt I did not answer it that well compared to the Progress 1. I was hoping that I could do better in Paper 2 to compensate for that. What's more annoying is that one of my housemate proudly said that the anatomy questions were easy and that he felt his "love on anatomy is beginning to grow".

It turned out that Paper 2 was much more difficult than Paper 1. Out of my expectation, there were many questions on anatomy, most of which I could not answer. After taking Paper 2, I knew I had no chance of getting 80% in the Progress 2 anymore. Worst of all, when my housemate (who said the anatomy questions were easy) knew about that, he mocked me by saying "How are you going to be a doctor when you don't know anatomy?" I was quite annoyed with him over that incident. Eventually, I scored 73% for the exam. I was disappointed that my score had dropped a lot compared to the Progress 1, and as a result I hated the Progress 2. The timing of the Progress 2 exam was also bad. It was scheduled immediately after the winter break, therefore I could not relax and was forced to study during the break. In addition, the deadline for the 2nd assignment was just 2 weeks after the exam, so I had to start doing the assignment immediately after the exam and thus could not relax.

On 11 March 2015, I finally completed the 3rd and last assignment in Stage 1. After all those assignments, I decided to relax for one whole month. In mid April 2015, I started studying for the Stage 1 Progress 3 examination. Initially, I aimed to get back 80% in the Progress 3. However, I soon realised that I had started my revision too late. There were a lot to revise for the Progress 3 since it would test on everything learnt in both Semester 1 and 2 and that made me feel very stressed. I knew I could no longer get 80% so I gave up on it. The Progress 3 exam was on 26 and 27 May 2015. Progress 3 Paper 1 again had many anatomy questions and I could not answer many of them. Paper 2 also had many questions on anatomy, but somehow I was able to answer some of them. Still, I knew that I had no chance of getting 80% in the exam. On 4 June 2015, the overall results for Stage 1 was released. I obtained 68% for the Progress 3 and I passed Stage 1 successfully. At that time, I was having 4 month summer break. Since I had passed Stage 1, I did not think much about my examination results. Instead, I fully relaxed and enjoyed myself throughout the break.

On 29 September 2015, I began Stage 2. At that time, I felt that the 4 month break seemed to pass so quickly and I was still in holiday mood, so I could not get myself back to study. Then, one day in October 2015, I was thinking back of Stage 1. I realised that in the beginning of Stage 1, I was an excellent student, just like before I entered university, but starting from the Stage 1 Progress 2 exam onwards, my exam results dropped a lot and thus I had lost my excellence in academics. The Stage 1 Progress 1 exam was the last time I ever obtained excellent results. I felt sad thinking about that. I told myself that I must make a comeback by regaining my excellence in academics. I set myself the target of getting 80% or above in my next examination which was the Stage 2 Progress 1. That got me out of my holiday mood and back to study. I started revising for the Progress 1 examination in late October 2015 which was quite early. This time, I put in my effort to revise anatomy in more detail, since my weak point was anatomy. The revision made me feel quite stressed, but I persevered in order to achieve my aim.

The Stage 2 Progress 1 examination was on 11 and 12 January 2016. It turned out that this exam was very difficult as it tested on a lot of fine details, many of which I did not pay much attention during my revision. So, despite having done a lot of revision, I still could not answer very well in this exam. On 18 January 2016, the results of the Progress 1 exam was released and my score was 72%. I did not reach my target of 80% and I felt quite sad and disappointed over that. Later on the same day, I heard of the news that the JPA scholarship for leavers of the KPM Bursary had been suspended. It affected students who would be entering university from January 2016 onwards, and would not affect me and other students who were already offered the scholarship. I felt sad and pity for those students, and I gave them words of encouragement through the Facebook group for Bursary students. Then, thinking of myself, I realised how lucky I am to be sponsored by the JPA scholarship to study Medicine at NUMed. Even though I did not get 80% in the exam, I still passed and thus would be able to continue my course under the scholarship. Actually, my disappointment of not getting 80% in the exam is nothing if compared to the disappointment of those students who might be unable to further their studies due to the suspension of the JPA scholarship. Therefore, I should be grateful with my score in the exam, as long as it is a pass. Because of that, I was no longer disappointed about not getting 80% in the exam.

In late April 2016, after completing the last assignment for Stage 2, I started revising for the Stage 2 Progress 2 examination. Many students and even the lecturers claimed that this exam is the 2nd most difficult exam in our entire Medicine course. Therefore, even before I started the revision, I already expected that it would be very stressful. My expectation was true. I experienced extreme stress throughout May 2016 where I was busy revising. Amid the stress, I was worried that I might even fail the exam because I felt that I could not finish the revision in time. I was just hoping to pass and nothing more than that. I dared not even think about getting 80% as I knew that would be impossible. On 31 May and 1 June 2016, it was the Stage 2 Progress 2 exam. After all the hard work, I was able to answer reasonably well in the exam. The overall results for Stage 2 was released on 8 June 2016. I scored 64% in the Progress 2 and I passed Stage 2 successfully. Even though my results was worse compared to the previous examinations, I was grateful about it because I still passed.

From Stage 3 onwards, it is the clinical years. Compared to pre-clinical years, the learning process for clinical years is quite different, where there is a great emphasis on self-directed learning. As a result, clinical years is much more difficult and stressful. Therefore, I am definitely just aiming for a pass. I do not aim for better results as that will add to my stress. My attempt to regain my excellence in academics during Stage 2 had failed, and it looks like I will never be able to regain it again, but that doesn't matter to me anymore. Now, I have realised that whether I scored just a pass or 100% or anywhere in between, I am still graduating with the same MBBS degree, since my performance in exams will not be stated on the degree certificate at all, so regaining my academics excellence serves no real purpose. Medicine is a difficult degree course, so it is not reasonable to aim for the same level of performance in exams like A Level previously.

Friday, 11 March 2016

My 3 remarkable dreams in 1 night

One night in February 2016, when I was sleeping, I had 3 different dreams, one after another. They were not interconnected and were unrelated to each other. I can remember the dreams very well because I rarely have more than 1 dreams in 1 night, so they were quite remarkable.

On that night, I fell asleep at about 12:30AM which is quite early compared to usual because I was quite tired. Then, I had the 1st dream.

1st dream:

I was eating with my grandparents at a restaurant in SS2, Petaling Jaya. When eating, I thought of MyBurgerLab which I thought is located not far away. I walked around to have a look at MyBurgerLab, but I was unable to find it. My grandparents then came to call me and said that I should not simply walk around without telling them. They took me to find MyBurgerLab after we finished eating, but we still couldn't find it. Later, as we were leaving SS2, I searched on Google Maps and realised that I was at the wrong place because MyBurgerLab was in another part of SS2.

(MyBurgerLab is a burger shop in SS2. I went there once on 4 June 2014 with my college friends and that was a very interesting experience.)

I woke up from the 1st dream at about 4AM. I continued to sleep. Then, I had the 2nd dream.

2nd dream:

I and my cousins went on a holiday trip to Pakistan (not sure which city) for just 1 day. At the airport in Pakistan, there was an education fair. There, a few students were promoting NUMed Malaysia, and they stated that they have received offers to study Medicine at NUMed. I was happy that NUMed is gaining popularity internationally. Then, I brought an SD card from a computer shop at the airport as souvenir. We had lunch at a restaurant and stayed in a hotel near the airport for a few hours. After that, we boarded the flight back to Malaysia.

(In reality, I have never been to Pakistan before.)

I woke up from the 2nd dream at about 7AM. Since I usually wake up around 8:30AM, I continued sleeping. I had the 3rd dream at that time.

3rd dream:

I and my parents were in Penang. My father decided that we take a submarine ride. I did not oppose his decision, but I was actually worried of a submarine accident. As the submarine descends rapidly into the sea, I experienced extreme ear pain due to change in pressure. For some reason, I was unable to swallow my saliva to relieve the ear pain and I almost fainted. Finally, the submarine reached the bottom of the sea and I did not faint.

(In reality, there is no submarine ride for tourists in Penang, and I have never taken a submarine before. In the past, I used to experience severe ear pain whenever I take a flight during take-off and landing, but it is not so bad now.)

I then woke up from the 3rd dream at about 8:15AM. I got up from bed to get ready to go to university.

Thinking back the dreams, I came up with possible explanations for each of them, although I do not know exactly why I had them.

Possible explanations for the 1st dream:

- Now I am living in the hostel away from my family. Therefore, I do not have my family members, particularly my grandparents, guiding me in my daily life. Sometimes, I feel lost and do not know what is the right thing to do. Just like in the dream, I was looking for MyBurgerLab without realising that I was in the wrong place.
- I miss my college friends very much. Ever since I entered university in September 2014, I couldn't meet up with them very often. I particularly miss the time where I went to MyBurgerLab with them on 4 June 2014 and I hope that I can go there with them again in the future. This is probably why I thought of MyBurgerLab in the dream.

Possible explanations for the 2nd dream:

- In the past year, I became closer to my cousins compared to previously. We often have some interesting activities together whenever we meet. The dream about going on a holiday trip with them could be a representation of this fact.
- There are many students from Pakistan who read this blog. Some of them have contacted me personally for advice about education. I have even recommended NUMed Malaysia to those who are interested in studying Medicine. This may be why I had the dream about Pakistan.

Possible explanations for the 3rd dream:

Medicine course which I am currently studying is very challenging. I need to go through a lot of hard work and high levels of stress before I can successfully complete the course. I am also worried of failing the course. In the dream, the bottom of the sea represents success while the ear pain in the journey down the sea represents hard work and stress.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Movies and life lessons

Think about this, what are the characteristics of a good movie? Of course, a good movie should have good action and good storyline. But other than that, in my opinion, a good movie should also teach us a good lesson in life.

In January 2001, my grandparents installed Astro in our house. At that time, a weird thing happened. I like the colour blue, and the 'Star Movies' channel (now known as 'Fox Movies Premium') in Astro had a blue logo at that time, so I became interested in that channel. As a result, I started watching English movies. I find many of the movies quite interesting. I can still remember that the 1st movie I watched was Terminator 2: Judgment Day. However, a few years later, I lost interest in English movies, and I preferred watching Chinese drama series instead. The reason is that English movies often have settings that are very different from my daily life, so watching them gave me the feeling that 'I am in another world', a feeling which I dislike. On the other hand, Chinese drama series much more closely reflect my daily life.

In April 2014, for some reason, I suddenly thought about the movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day which I watched several years ago. Even though I watched it several times in the past, I never really understood it. I searched for it on Google, and I found its plot on Wikipedia. After reading the plot, for the 1st time I fully understand the movie. I wanted to watch it again. Later, I decided to buy the DVD for Terminator 2: Judgment Day and I watched the movie on my laptop. One month later, on 22 May 2014, after my A2 final examination, my friends wanted to go to the cinema to watch X-Men: Days of Future Past. I was still not interested in English movies at that time, so I persuaded my friends to change their plans. However, my friends went on with the plan. I decided to join my friends and try watching the movie. That was the 1st time where I went to a cinema. It turned out that X-Men: Days of Future Past is a very good movie and I liked it very much. Interestingly, the plot of X-Men: Days of Future Past is similar to that of Terminator 2: Judgment Day in some aspects.

Since then, I regained my interest in watching English movies. Periodically, I would go to the cinema with my friends to watch new movies. Sometimes, I also watch both new and old movies online. For the past 2 years, I have watched several movies. I like all those movies, because they all have good action, good storyline and also good life lesson.

Here are the movies that I watched in the past 2 years and the lessons brought by these movies.


1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Watched: 29 April 2014
Life lesson:
There is no such thing as fate in our life. If we work for it, we will be able to live the life that we want.


2. X-Men: Days of Future Past

Watched: 22 May 2014
Life lesson:
Do not discriminate against others who are different from us.


3. Step Up: All In

Watched: 3 August 2014
Life lesson:
When doing something, the outcome is not always the most important. What's more important is that we enjoy and gain valuable experience from the process.


4. Guardians of the Galaxy

Watched: 10 August 2014
Life lesson:
Sometimes, we have to sacrifice ourselves in order to achieve something and for the common good of others.


5. Lucy

Watched: 2 September 2014
Life lesson:
In life, we should be willing to share our knowledge with others.


6. Taken (2008)

Watched: February 2015
Life lesson:
A father's love towards his daughter so deep that he is willing to do anything to protect and save her.


7. Fast and Furious 7

Watched: 8 June 2015
Life lesson:
We have to take risk in order to achieve our missions.


8. The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Watched: 9 June 2015
Life lesson:
Sometimes, we have to sacrifice ourselves for the common good of others.


9. Taken 2

Watched: June 2015
Life lesson:
When we encounter problems, instead of panicking, we should try to use our wisdom to solve them.


10. The Swimmers (Thai movie)

Watched: 2 July 2015
Life lesson:
We have to take responsibility for our own actions. Trying to cover up what we have done is not a solution and others will eventually find out.


11. Terminator Genisys

Watched: 4 July 2015
Life lesson:
Nothing in this world is absolute, things can change. We must be able to recognise the changes and react to them appropriately.


12. Ant-Man

Watched: 18 July 2015
Life lesson:
Sometimes, we inevitably make mistakes in our lives. But if we are willing to make up for our mistakes, we can still have another chance.


13. Terminator 3

Watched: August 2015
Life lesson:
Certain things in life are inevitable. We cannot avoid them, we have to learn to live with them.


14. Terminator Salvation

Watched: September 2015
Life lesson:
Do not have a negative judgement on someone just because of their origin.


15. Fantastic Four

Watched: November 2015
Life lesson:
Do not forget our origin after we have become someone special.


16. Anniversary 纪念日

Watched: 7 January 2016
Life lesson:
We should always value our relationship with our wife or husband and do not take them for granted, otherwise we will regret when we lose them.


17. The 5th Wave

Watched: 31 January 2016
Life lesson:
We should be careful in trusting other people at times of desperation.


18. The Interview

Watched: 10 February 2016
Life lesson:
There is no way for us to fake something, others will still know the truth.


19. Interstellar

Watched: 2 April 2016
Life lesson:
We can't undo a mistake done in the past, but we can still create a better future.


20. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Watched: 5 April 2016
Life lesson:
We should not act simply based on our thoughts, instead we should find out the truth first.


21. X-Men: Apocalypse 

Watched: 2 June 2016
Life lesson:
Do not let an unfortunate incident affect our rationality, instead, we should remember that we can still do the better for the future.


22. Bad Neighbors (2014)

Watched: 21 July 2016
Life lesson:
We should ensure that the activities we carry out in our house do not adversely affect our neighbours.

Friday, 11 September 2015

My 1st year of Medicine course at NUMed Malaysia

The 1st year of my Medicine course at Newcastle University Medicine (NUMed) Malaysia lasted for about 9 months from September 2014 to May 2015. In my university, 1st year is known as Stage 1. For me, Stage 1 was very interesting and I enjoyed it very much. During Stage 1, I lived in Horizon Residences, Bukit Indah which is university-managed accommodation. Even though now I have completed Stage 1, I can still remember it very well. Here, I am writing about the 9 months when I was in Stage 1.

I applied to NUMed Malaysia in June 2014, which was rather late. The reason is that a personal statement is required for the application, which I started writing only after my A2 Level examination in May 2014. Before I applied to NUMed, I already received the offer to study Medicine at International Medical University (IMU). Later, I was offered a place by NUMed after attending the interview. I decided to choose NUMed over IMU because NUMed is the branch of a UK university while IMU is a local university.


22 September 2014 - 2 October 2014:

I started studying Medicine at NUMed Malaysia on 22 September. From 22 September to 24 September, there were induction programmes where Stage 1 students were introduced to the course and university. On 22 September, there was an English Language proficiency test which tested on writing. Those who did not pass it would have to attended English Language classes. I did not write the essay very well so I thought that I would not pass the test. Then on 23 September, Stage 1 students were introduced to the seminar groups. My seminar group is Group 7. My university began the teaching on 24 September. There was a Freshers' Fair on 26 September where Stage 1 students were introduced to the clubs and societies in the university. I joined the Chinese Society and Buddhist Society during the fair. On the same day, the results of the English Language proficiency test was released. Out of my expectation, I passed it and would not need to attend English classes. Only 18 students in the entire Stage 1 passed the test. On 27 and 28 September, there were a few orientation events organised by the seniors. I did not attend any of them since the attendance was optional and because of my bad experience during the orientation event when I entered Taylor's College previously. The university distributed the Assignment 3 which is the Family Study project to all Stage 1 students on 29 September. During that period of time, I was still getting to know how university life is like. Every night, I read the textbooks to prepare for the lectures on the next day. Although this could help me understand the lectures better, it was very time-consuming and tiring.

3 October 2014 - 6 October 2014:

There was no class on 3 October. However, there was a 1 hour feedback session on that day. During the session, we were asked about our experience at NUMed Malaysia for the past 2 weeks. After that day, there was 3 day break from 4 October to 6 October due to Hari Raya Haji. All my housemates went back to their hometown, but I did not because I wanted to go back only when there is a longer break. I stayed alone in Horizon Residences during that time. On 5 October 2014, my parents came to visit me. They took me out for lunch and bought me dinner.

7 October 2014 - 23 October 2014:

On 7 October, it was the first clinical skills practical session, where students were taught hand-washing. During the session, I made an embarrassing mistake by going to the wrong group because I was confused with the names of my group members. On 11 October, I attended a BBQ party which was held at the ground floor of Horizon Residences. Many students staying in Horizon Residences and some students staying elsewhere attended it. Then, I and my study partner visited our study mother for the Family Study project on 12 October. On 14 October, the university distributed the Assignment 1 to all Stage 1 students. I and my group mates went to Columbia Asia Hospital on 17 October for a health check-up. During our journey to and back from the hospital, I had a close conversation with my group mates and we took a group photo for the 1st time. This brought me closer to my group mates. My parents visited me for the 2nd time on 22 October. I settled down in Johor at that time and got used to university life. I no longer read textbooks to prepare for lectures because I felt that it is much more efficient and easier to just revise the lecture notes after the lectures since the lecture notes are quite complete. I also started doing revision for my oncoming Progress 1 examination and doing a part of the Assignment 1.

24 October 2014 - 26 October 2014:

From 24 October to 26 October, there was 3 day break due to Awal Muharam. This time, only 2 of my housemates went back to their hometown, and I again did not go back. My parents did not visit me because they had visited me on 22 October.

27 October 2014 - 2 November 2014:

On 28 October, there was a session for basic calculations. It was very easy for me and most students since we have learnt Mathematics. During that time, I was very busy revising for the Progress 1 examination. I stopped doing the Assignment 1 because I wanted to continue doing it only after the Progress 1 examination.

3 November 2014 - 6 November 2014:

The Progress 1 examination was on 3 November. It consisted of 100 multiple-choice questions. It was quite easy and I answered it well. I was confident of passing it and getting Green. After the examination ended, I still could not relax because I had to complete the Assignment 1 before its submission deadline which was on 6 November. From 3 November to 5 November, I was very busy doing the remainder of the Assignment 1. I found Assignment 1 difficult, but I was able to complete it at night on 5 November. Then, I submitted it on 6 November itself. I was not too confident of getting a pass for Assignment 1. The results of the Progress 1 examination was also released on 6 November. I got 84.54% which was Green and I was very satisfied about that.

7 November 2014 - 20 November 2014:

During that period of time, I felt very relaxed because I have completed and submitted the Assignment 1. On 7 November, an incident happened in the university made me feel unhappy. On the same day, a company came to our university to sell stethoscopes and there was a promotion. I brought my stethoscope at that time. I and my study partner also carried out our 2nd visit to our study mother on that day. Later on that night, I telephoned my grandparents. I became very emotional when I told them about the unhappy incident. On 12 November, all Stage 1 students had a visit to Hospital Sultan Ismail for the 1st time. There, I and one of my friend communicated with a patient for some time. That was the 1st time where I met and communicated with real-life patients. At the end of the visit, we were late to go back to the auditorium because the senior in charge of us lost track of the time and we were too interested in looking around the hospital. However, the lecturers were understanding so it was not an issue. Then, I had the 1st wet practical session on 13 November. It was about reading and interpretation of ECG. I attended the 1st class for TITAS and Hubungan Etnik which are MPU subjects on 14 November. On 17 November, there was a debate on ethics and genetics which involved every student.

21 November 2014 - 23 November 2014:

There was 3 day break from 21 November to 23 November because it was the Sultan of Johor's birthday. I and all my housemates did not go back to our hometown. On 23 November, my parents came to visit me.

24 November 2014 - 27 November 2014:

On 24 November, it was the 1st session on history taking. During the session, there were a few volunteers acting as patients. Because I had never done it before, I panicked when the lecturer chose me to be the 2nd person in my group to do it. The lecturer then agreed to let me be the 4th person to do it instead. I was able to perform the history taking quite well. On 25 November, there was a clinical skills practical session on CPR. I performed the CPR quite well and I felt that CPR is the easiest among all clinical skills. One of my group mate's birthday is on 26 November. I and my group mates celebrated her birthday on that day. The celebration was held at the Student Recreation Centre of our university. During the celebration, we had a close conversation and this definitely brought us closer together. Then, the university distributed the Assignment 2 to all Stage 1 students on 27 November.

28 November 2014 - 1 December 2014:

From 28 November to 1 December, there was 4 day break because it was the Hol day of Johor. Only one of my housemates went back to his hometown this time and I did not go back as usual. My parents did not visit me because they had visited me in the previous week.

2 December 2014 - 11 December 2014:

At that time, I started revising for the oncoming Progress 2 examination. On 2 December, the results of the Assignment 1 was released. I got Green for Knowledge and Amber for Skills. I was satisfied because I managed to pass it. There was another debate about ethics and genetics on 4 December. On the same day, it was the birthday of another of my group mate. I and my group mates again celebrated his birthday at the Student Recreation Centre. Later on that day, a few kids were brought to the lecture theatre of my university. Every student was given the opportunity to communicate and interact with the kids. However, because I did not know how to interact with kids, I just stood by the side to observe. Some students interacted with the kids very well, while others had the same problem like me. On 10 December, there was another session for calculations. Then on 11 December, I and my group mates celebrated the birthday of my another group mate. We first went to Tea Garden in Bukit Indah and had breakfast together, then we continued the celebration at the Student Recreation Centre of the university. That was the 1st time where I and my group mates had an outing.

12 December 2014 - 11 January 2015:

My university had a Christmas break which lasted 4 weeks from 12 December to 11 January. On 13 December, my parents and grandparents came to Johor to fetch me back to Subang Jaya. Then, I went back to Kulim on 14 December and stayed 1 week there. On 21 December, I returned to Subang Jaya and stayed for 2 weeks. I met up with my Taylor's College friends on 23 December and 30 December. I went to Taylor's College on 29 December to collect my A Level certificate. Then, I came back to Johor on 3 January. Even though there was still 1 more week of break, I did not want to wait until the last minute to come back since it would be the Progress 2 examination when the university reopens. My housemates came back on 4 January. During that period of time, I was very busy doing revision for the Progress 2 examination, so I did not really enjoy the break.

12 January 2015 - 29 January 2015:

That period of time was the most stressful throughout Stage 1. My university reopened on 12 January. The Progress 2 examination consisted of 2 papers where each paper had 100 multiple-choice questions. Paper 1 was on 12 January while Paper 2 was on 13 January. Paper 1 was quite easy and it was similar to the Progress 1 examination previously. However, Paper 2 was difficult as there were many questions on anatomy which I could not answer. Still, I was confident of passing the Progress 2. After the examination, I could not relax at all because I had to complete the Assignment 2 and prepare for the Mock OSCE. Assignment 2 was very difficult and boring, and I felt very stressed doing it. On 16 January, I and my study partner visited our study mother for the 3rd time. On 19 January, my university began the teaching for the 2nd semester of Stage 1. Two of my group mates have birthdays on 20 January. On that day, I and my group mates went to Hwa Mui Kopitiam in Skudai to celebrate their birthdays. The results of the Progress 2 examination was out on the same day. I obtained 72.86% which was Green. Even though my percentage was much lower than the Progress 1 examination, I still felt satisfied because I got a Green. On 22 January, it was the Mock OSCE. It consisted of 3 stations. I completed all stations without problems and I felt that they were not difficult. Then on 28 January, I finally completed the Assignment 2. I submitted it on 29 January which was the submission deadline. I was not very confident of passing it. On the same day, Stage 1 students were given assignments for TITAS and Hubungan Etnik.

30 January 2015 - 17 February 2015:

Although I still had to do the assignments for TITAS and Hubungan Etnik, I felt relaxed at that time because I did not consider those assignments to be very important. On 30 January, the results of the Mock OSCE was released. My percentage was 68.94% and I passed 2 out of the 3 stations. I got an overall pass for the Mock OSCE and I was satisfied about that. Then, my parents visited me on 1 February and took me to Johor Premium Outlets for shopping. I completed the TITAS and Hubungan Etnik assignments at night on 12 February. On 13 February, I and my group mates made a visit to Kiwanis Careheart Centre which was required for the Family Study project. After the visit, we had lunch together at Arabian Nights in Sutera Mall, Skudai. Later on that day, we went to the university to do a group presentation for TITAS and Hubungan Etnik. I submitted the assignments at that time. Then on 14 February, I and my study partner carried out our 4th and last visit to our study mother. My parents came to fetch me back to Subang Jaya on 17 February after class.

18 February 2015 - 22 February 2015:

The Chinese New Year for 2015 was on 19 February. My university had 4 days break from 19 February to 22 February. There was class on 18 February but I skipped it because it was the Chinese New Year's Eve. In the morning on 18 February, I and my parents went back to Kulim. We celebrated Chinese New Year there. My uncle, aunt and cousins also went to Kulim. On 22 February, my parents drove me all the way back to Johor. We arrived in Bukit Indah at midnight.

23 February 2015 - 11 March 2015:

My university reopened on 23 February. During that time, I was busy doing the Assignment 3 which is the Family Study project. Assignment 3 was lengthy compared to Assignments 1 and 2. However, Assignment 3 was more interesting and easier. Therefore, I did not feel very stressful doing it. On 3 March, the results of the Assignment 2 was out. I again got Green for Knowledge and Amber for Skills. I felt happy that I passed it. On 10 March, I finished doing the Assignment 3. Then, I submitted it on 11 March which again was the submission deadline. I was quite confident of getting a pass for it.

12 March 2015 - 27 March 2015:

I felt very relaxed at that time because I had completed the Assignment 3 and there was still quite a long time before the Progress 3 examination. On 15 March, my parents came to visit me. I drove from Horizon Residences to the university for the 1st time on 18 March. Previously, I either took the university's shuttle bus or followed my housemates. Then on 19 March, all Stage 1 students visited Hospital Sultan Ismail for the 2nd time. I and one of my friend had a long conversation with a patient there. We made sure that we would not go back to the auditorium late like the previous time. One of my group mate's birthday is on 22 March while my birthday is on 23 March. My group mates decided to celebrate our birthdays together on 24 March in AEON Bukit Indah. I drove 2 of my friends to AEON. That was the 1st time where my group mates sat my car. We initially planned to have dinner at Nando's, but we later changed our plan and we had dinner at Stonegrill instead. My group mates brought us a cake and made a birthday card for each of us.

28 March 2015 - 12 April 2015:

My university had 2 week Easter break from 28 March to 12 April. My parents came to Johor on 28 March and took me back to Subang Jaya. On 29 March, I went back to Kulim and stayed 1 week there. I returned to Subang Jaya on 5 April. During my 1 week stay in Subang Jaya, I met up with my Taylor's College friends on 7 April. Then on 11 April, I came back to Johor. During this break, I felt quite relaxed and did not study because I planned to start revising for the Progress 3 examination only after the break.

13 April 2015 - 20 May 2015:

On 13 April, my university reopened. The management of my university's cafeteria had been changed at that time. During that period of time, I was busy revising for the oncoming Progress 3 examination. I and my group mates had a visit to Klinik Kesihatan Sultan Ismail for the 1st time on 16 April. There, we observed the consultation between doctors and patients. After the visit, we initially planned to have lunch together at the Subway near our university, but it was closed. So, we decided to go to MH Beriani Tindih in Gelang Patah for lunch. I drove some of my group mates there. On 4 May, my parents came to visit me. The last lecture for Stage 1 was on 6 May. After class on that day, I and my group mates celebrated the birthdays of 2 of my group mates at Pizza Hut in AEON Bukit Indah. Again, I drove some of my friends there. From 7 May to 14 May, there were several revision sessions. Then on 19 May and 20 May, I practiced the OSCE with one of my housemate.

21 May 2015 - 27 May 2015:

The Progress OSCE was on 21 May. It consisted of 7 stations. I was able to complete all stations without difficulties and I was confident of passing it. There were 2 papers in the Progress 3 examination where each paper consisted of 100 multiple-choice questions. Paper 1 was on 26 May while Paper 2 was on 27 May. Paper 1 was difficult as I could not answer many of the questions on anatomy, while Paper 2 was easier. I was confident of getting a pass for Progress 3. On 27 May, I and my housemates had lunch together at the restaurant near Horizon Residences before the examination. After the Progress 3 examination, I had completed Stage 1.

28 May 2015 - 4 June 2015:

During that time, I felt a bit worried because the pass list for Stage 1 would be released soon. 28 May marked the beginning of the 4 month Summer break of my university. On 30 May, my parents and grandparents came to Johor to fetch me back to Subang Jaya. On 4 June, the pass list was released. I successfully passed Stage 1 and would progress to Stage 2. I was very happy and relieved about that. The results of the Assignment 3, Progress OSCE and Progress 3 examination were also out at the same time. For the Assignment 3, I got Green for both Skills and Knowledge. For the Progress OSCE, my percentage was 74.61% and I passed 6 out of the 7 stations. For the Progress 3 examination, I obtained 68.34% which was Green.


In conclusion, my 1st year of Medicine course at NUMed Malaysia had been very interesting. The course itself, as well as the time I spent with my university friends, made Stage 1 interesting. After completing Stage 1, I am certain that I made the right choice to study Medicine at NUMed Malaysia. Now, I really miss Stage 1 of Medicine very much.

If you find this story interesting, you may want to read this too:
http://daniellimjj.blogspot.com/2015/04/my-15-years-of-study-at-taylors-college.html

(THE END)

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

SPM is more stressful than A Level

If you ask any student who has taken both the SPM and A Level examinations this question "Between SPM and A Level, which one is more stressful?", it is highly likely that they will say that A Level is more stressful than SPM. I have also taken both SPM and A Level, but if you ask me the same question, I will say that SPM is definitely much more stressful than A Level. I am not joking about this, this is really what I think. Why is this the case?

I took 10 subjects for SPM, which are Malay Language, English Language, Mathematics, Additional Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Information And Communication Technology, History and Moral Education, while I took 4 subjects for A Level, which are Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics and Biology.

First, consider the 5 subjects that I took in SPM but not in A Level. One of them is History. I consider History to be the most difficult subject to study in SPM, because I did not have an effective way to study History. I had to memorise every single sentence for every topic in the reference book, and I also had to memorise the same thing again many times to ensure that I would not forget them. This was extremely tedious and time-consuming, which was the main reason why I had to study long hours every day. In fact, I spent more than half of my study time during Form 5 just to study Sejarah. Therefore, Sejarah is the most stressful subject in SPM.

The next one is Moral Education. I did not have any problem memorising the 36 Nilai and their definition and answer the Nilai questions, but I felt that the KBKK questions were difficult. Usually, about 60% of the examination questions are KBKK questions, while the remaining 40% are Nilai questions. Often, the KBKK questions look easy and we feel that we have given a good answer, but the examiner may think otherwise and therefore not give us marks. So, there is a lot of uncertainty in this subject because we cannot be sure whether our answers would be accepted by the examiner or not. To help answer the KBKK questions, I had to go through and memorise everything in my teacher's notes, which was tedious.

Malay Language and English Language are the next two subjects. Compared to other subjects, language subjects are difficult because it is not possible to actually study and prepare for them. The only part of these 2 subjects that we can actually prepare for is literature. However, these is a lot to study for literature, and I feel that studying literature is very boring. Essay is the most important part of these 2 subjects because it carries a lot of marks, but it is difficult because we can't predict what essay title will appear. We can only hope that we will have the idea to write on the essay title that appears. Also, before the examination, the thought having to write a long essay definitely causes stress.

Another subject that I took only in SPM is Information And Communication Technology (ICT). The workload for ICT is quite low compared to other subjects, because there is not much to study and the examination questions are easy to answer. But despite this, very few students obtained A+ for ICT in SPM every year, probably because the minimum mark to obtain A+ is very high. The difficulty to obtain A+ for this subject caused me to feel stressed.

I took these 5 subjects in SPM but not in A Level, so the stress of these subjects are only experienced in SPM. The combined stress for these subjects is already very high, and there is still 5 other SPM subjects.

Now, consider the subjects that I took in both SPM and A Level, which are Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics and Biology. These subjects are more difficult in A Level compared to SPM because in A Level, we learn these subjects in greater depth, and many of the examination questions require application of what we understand. However, we have access to the actual mark schemes and grade thresholds for A Level, unlike SPM where these are made secret. Therefore in A Level, we can certainly know the requirements of each question. It is also possible to learn the mark scheme for certain questions that appear commonly. Besides, we can just aim for the marks that is required for grade that we want to achieve.

But in SPM, since the actual mark schemes are not available to the public, we can only refer to the mark schemes for the SPM trial examination. However, these may not necessarily be the same as as the actual mark scheme, and the mark scheme for the same type of question may differ depending on the state where the SPM trial examination is held. Therefore, we can't know for sure what are the requirements of each question. There is a lot of speculation about the grade thresholds for each SPM subject, but it is impossible to find out whether they are true or not. So, to be safe, we have to aim for as high marks as possible. As a result, even though A Level is more difficult for these subjects, SPM is still more stressful.

When I was in Form 5, during school days, I would study 7 hours, from 5PM to 6PM, from 7PM to 8PM, then from 9PM to 2AM; during holidays, I would study 10 hours, from 1PM to 3PM, from 4PM to 6PM, from 7PM to 8PM, then from 9PM to 2AM. During my study hours, I hardly took any break, even if I did, each break lasted for a few minutes only. I studied seriously throughout the year, except that I relaxed for one week after every school examination. However, when I was in A Level, during school days, I would study 5 hours from 9PM and 2AM; during holidays, I would study 7 hours, from 4PM to 6PM, then from 9PM to 2AM. During my study hours, I often took breaks whenever I finish revising each chapter. Depending on the situation, each break may be as short as 5 minutes, or as long as 1 hour or more. I studied seriously only one month before each examination.

During my SPM examination, I felt very stressful and did not answer very well for many of the papers, and I was only confident of getting 7A+ 3A. Although it turned out that I obtained 9A+ 1A, that was partly by luck. However, during my A Level examination, except for a few papers, I mostly had little stress and could answer quite well. I was confident of getting 3A* 1A, but it turned out that I obtained 4A*. Therefore, even though the amount of effort I put in studying for A Level was much lower compared to SPM, I still got better results for A Level.

Besides studies, there are some other factors which causes SPM to be more stressful than A Level. One of them is that the rules at my secondary school was much stricter compared to that at my college. For example, all students in my secondary school must attend the assembly on time every day, while there is no such rule at my college. Strict rules restrict freedom, so it also contributes to stress.

In addition, during secondary school, I almost never had any outings or interesting activities with my friends. This is mainly because my upper secondary class was very inactive and I was too focused on my studies. But during A Level, every day I had lunch with my friends at the restaurants near my college, and we had outings occasionally. Having activities with friends can help reduce stress.

With all these reasons, I can very surely say that SPM is much more stressful than A Level, and this is an undeniable fact. However, I also understand that different people have different opinion, study method and lifestyle, which is probably why many do not think the same way. So, I will just agree to disagree when others say that A Level is more stressful than SPM.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Difference between CIE A Level and UK A Level

For the A Level examination, there are many examination boards such as CIE, OCR, Edexcel, AQA and others. 'CIE A Level' refers to A Level by Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), while 'UK A Level' collectively refers to A Level by Edexcel, AQA, OCR and all other UK examination boards except CIE. Actually, CIE is also an examination board in UK, and it is a department of the University of Cambridge. CIE A Level is also considered a UK qualification. However, CIE A Level is not considered to be the same as UK A Level. Why is this the case?

The fact is that, CIE is significantly different compared to the other examination boards. UK A Level is intended for students in the UK, while CIE A Level is intended for students outside the UK. Public schools in UK are not allowed to offer CIE A Level, although private schools in UK are allowed to. Colleges and schools outside the UK can offer UK A Level, but majority of them offer CIE A Level. There are several differences between CIE A Level and UK A Level.

One of the differences between CIE A Level and UK A Level is that CIE A Level uses Percentage Uniform Mark (PUM), while UK A Level uses Uniform Mark Scale (UMS). Actually, the concepts of PUM and UMS are the same. Contrary to popular belief, UMS or PUM is not the raw mark or percentage you scored in the examination. Instead, PUM or UMS shows the position of your raw mark relative to the grade boundaries. PUM/UMS of 80%, 70%, 60%, 50% and 40% are defined as the grade thresholds for grades A, B, C, D and E respectively. This definition will never change, even though the grade thresholds may change from one examination session to the next. If your PUM/UMS is 80%, it means that your raw mark is equal to the threshold for A. If your PUM/UMS is 75%, it means that your raw mark is right in between the thresholds for A and B. If your PUM/UMS is 68%, it means that after dividing the range of raw marks between the thresholds for B and C into 10 equal parts, your raw mark is 8 parts above the threshold for C and 2 parts below the threshold for B. PUM and UMS actually work in the same way, but there are also some differences between them.

Unlike PUM in CIE A Level, UMS in UK A Level is not in shown in the form of a percentage, instead UMS is shown as marks out of a total UMS where the total UMS may or may not be 100. For example, if your UMS is 90% and the total UMS is 120, your UMS will be shown as 108/120 rather than 90%. PUM and UMS are also different in their definitions of 100%. In UK A Level, to get a UMS of 100%, your raw marks must be higher than the threshold for grade A by twice the amount that the threshold for A is higher than the threshold for B (this can usually be achieved without having to get full marks). But in CIE A Level, to get a PUM of 100%, your raw marks must be full marks. Therefore, it is very difficult to get PUM of 100% in CIE A Level (much harder than getting UMS of 100% in UK A Level). Because of this difference, PUM and UMS have different meanings at above 90% (they are the same at 90% and below). If your UMS in UK A Level is 95%, it means that your raw mark is higher than the threshold for A by 1.5 times the amount that the A threshold is higher than the B threshold. But if your PUM in CIE A Level is 95%, it means that your raw mark is right in between full marks and the threshold for A*. Therefore, PUM of 95% usually indicates (and requires) a better performance than UMS of 95%.

Another great difference between CIE A Level and UK A Level is their definition of A* grade. To get A* in CIE A Level, you have to get a PUM of at least 90% for AS and A2 combined. However, to get A* in UK A Level, you have to get a UMS of at least 90% for A2 only, and also a UMS of at least 80% for AS and A2 combined. For both CIE A Level and UK A Level, to get a PUM or UMS of 90%, your raw marks must be higher than the threshold for A by the same amount that the threshold for A is higher than the threshold for B.

Therefore, for CIE A Level, if you obtain PUM of above 90% in AS, it is possible for you to get A* for overall A Level even if you obtain PUM of below 90% in A2, as long as your combined PUM for AS and A2 is 90% or above. For example, if your PUM is 94% in AS and 88% in A2, you will get A* for overall A Level. This means that excellent performance in AS can compensate for less excellent performance in A2. This is advantageous since AS is easier than A2. However, for UK A Level, regardless of the UMS you obtained in AS (as long as it is between 70% and 100%), you still need to obtain UMS of 90% in A2 in order to get A*. So, it is not possible for less excellent performance in A2 to be compensated by excellent performance in AS. As a result, it is definitely easier to obtain A* in CIE A Level compared to UK A Level.

However, this does not mean that UK A Level's A* is of greater value than CIE A Level's A*. Universities in UK and other countries consider A* in CIE A Level to be directly equivalent to A* in UK A Level. In my opinion, CIE A Level's definition of A* is more accurate compared to UK A Level, because CIE A Level emphasises on excellent performance for AS and A2 in overall, while UK A Level emphasises on excellent performance for A2 only. For UK A Level, a student who obtained UMS of 70% in AS and 90% in A2 (thus a combined UMS of 80%) will get A*, while another student who obtained UMS of 99% in AS and 89% in A2 (thus a combined UMS of 94%) will not get A*. This clearly shows that UK A Level's definition of A* is less accurate (and less fair).

Besides, there are individual units for each subject in UK A Level but not in CIE A Level. For every subject in UK A Level, there are 2 to 3 units in AS and another 2 to 3 units in A2. There are 2 examination sessions every year in June and in January, and students can take one or more units for each subject in each session, so it is possible to split the entire A Level into 4 separate sessions (2 for AS and 2 for A2). Students who wish to retake a subject can choose to retake only a single unit that they did not score well. For CIE A Level instead, there are also 2 examination sessions every year in June and in November, but since there are no individual units, students must take the entire AS or entire A2 for each subject in one examination session, so it is possible to split the entire A Level into only 2 separate sessions (1 for AS and 1 for A2). Students who wish to retake a subject must retake the entire AS or entire A2 (or both) of that subject.

Moreover, for science subjects in UK A Level, some of the marks are awarded for the quality of writing, which includes the ability to structure the answer logically, grammar, punctuation, spelling and others, while for science subjects in CIE A Level, no mark is given for the quality of writing. Therefore, students taking UK A Level have to take care of their quality of writing when answering the science subjects, otherwise they would lose marks. In my opinion, marks should not be given for quality of writing in science subjects because quality of writing should only be tested in language subjects.

Mathematics subjects in both CIE A Level and UK A Level require students to give their answers to 3 significant figures. In UK A Level, students are not penalised if their answers are given to 2 or 4 significant figures, but they are penalised if their answers are given to less than 2 or more than 4 significant figures, while in CIE A Level, students are not penalised if they give their answers to 4 significant figures or more, but they are penalised if they give their answers to 2 significant figures or less.

However, UK A Level has changed recently. One of the changes is that subjects in UK A Level no longer have individual units, so the entire AS or entire A2 for each subject must be taken in one examination session. Students wishing to retake a subject also have to retake the entire AS or entire A2 of that subject. In this aspect, UK A Level is actually becoming more similar to CIE A Level. One more change to UK A Level is that the January examination session has been abolished and there is only one examination session in June every year. Therefore, students can only take or retake examinations in June. CIE A Level is completely not affected by any of these changes and it will remain the same as it was. CIE A Level never had individual units in the first place, and both its June and November examination sessions will remain. Due to these changes to UK A Level, some colleges and schools outside the UK which previously offered UK A Level had made the switch to CIE A Level.

Another change to UK A Level that will be implemented in the near future is that AS Level will become a separate qualification from A Level. AS Level will have the same standard as before, but its results can no longer be carried forward to A Level. This means that students will have to take the entire A Level, which includes both AS and A2 topics, for each subject in one examination session. Students who wish to retake a subject must also retake the entire A Level content of that subject. For some subjects, AS Level can be taught together with the first half of A Level, and students can take AS Level after completing the first half of A Level, but their AS Level results will not have any influence on their A Level results, and at the end of the second half of A Level, they still have to take the entire A Level (not just A2). Again, this change will not affect CIE A Level in any way. Students will still be able to carry forward their CIE AS Level results to CIE A Level.

There are other differences between CIE A Level and UK A Level, but I will not be writing about them here. Despite these differences, CIE A Level and UK A Level are considered to be of equivalent standard by universities throughout the world. For me, I definitely preferred CIE A Level instead of UK A Level, mainly because it is easier to obtain A* in CIE A Level. Previously, I took CIE A Level and I got 4A*. Thinking back, I am glad that my college offered CIE A Level.

P/S: All the notes and tips that I provide on this blog is for CIE A Level, not UK A Level.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Why I took the SPM examination twice?

Most students take the SPM examination only once when they are 17 years old. However, I took it twice, once in 2012 when I was 17 years old and once more in 2013 when I was 18 years old. Why is this the case?

Way back in 2010 when I was in Form 3, I had been looking at the past year SPM papers for every subject so that I could have an idea on how the questions would be like. I observed that for the Chinese Language subject, the questions seemed very difficult, especially the Comprehension questions in Paper 2. Even for PMR, I felt that Chinese Language was one of the most difficult subjects. Therefore, I wondered whether or not I should take Chinese Language in SPM. Later, I heard about the Chinese Literature subject in SPM. At that time, for the Malay Language and English Language subjects in PMR, I felt that the easiest part of these 2 subjects is literature, because literature is the only part of language subjects that is possible to make full preparations for. Therefore, I thought that in the same way, Chinese Literature might me easier than Chinese Language. As a result, I thought of taking Chinese Literature instead of Chinese Language in SPM.

On 14 October 2010 after my PMR examination ended, all Form 3 students in my school were asked to choose the subjects that we wanted to take in Form 4, and we were told of the subjects that my school offered. Chinese Language was offered at my school, but Chinese Literature was not, so I could not take Chinese Literature. I decided to take Chinese Language, because I felt that as a Chinese I should do so. I also thought that if it turns out to be too difficult for me, I could still drop it later.

In the beginning of Form 4, I did not face problems with the Chinese Language subject. During the Form 4 1st Mid-term Examination in March 2011, I unexpectedly obtained 97 marks (A+) for Chinese Language. However, for this examination, the Chinese Language paper was not set according to the SPM examination format so it included only Summary, Continuous Writing and Idioms which are easier sections. My teacher also marked our papers quite leniently since it was the first examination in Form 4. Therefore, I did not feel overconfident about the Chinese Language subject. Later in that month, the SPM 2010 results was released. My teacher then told us that for that year, no one in my school obtained A+ in Chinese Language and very few obtained A. My friends and I were worried about that. Despite that, my teacher strongly advised us not to drop Chinese Language because Chinese Language will be useful in the future.

Then in May 2011, it was the Form 4 1st Term Examination. In this examination, the Chinese Language paper was set according to the SPM examination format. I expected that Paper 2 would be quite difficult, but it turned out that the Comprehension questions in Paper 2 were far more difficult than what I had expected. For most of the questions, the answers could not be directly found in the passage given, instead we had to fully understand the passage and then answer based on our understanding. I tried my best to answer every question by writing down everything that I understood, but I was not sure whether I answered correctly or not. Consequently, I was not even confident of getting B for Chinese Language in that examination.

That examination made me realised how difficult SPM Chinese Language actually is. I thought that I might be dropping Chinese Language in Form 5, because I did not want my overall SPM results to be affected by my poor result in Chinese Language. Later, during the 2011 mid-year school holidays, I saw on the newspaper that for that year, students who obtained straight A+ in SPM would be guaranteed the JPA scholarship. JPA had also made it clear that straight A+ meant A+ in all subjects taken, so taking 11 subjects and getting 10A+ 1A would not be considered as getting straight A+. Therefore, if I take Chinese Language but do not get A+, I would be disadvantaged in this. Since it was so difficult to get A+ in Chinese Language and I was aiming to get the JPA scholarship, I decided to drop Chinese Language in Form 5.

In June 2011, my teacher gave back the Chinese Language paper for the Form 4 1st Term Examination. Out of my expectation, my answers for many of the Comprehension questions were correct. I obtained 84 marks (A) for Chinese Language and my marks was the highest in the whole Form 4. However, I felt that I was just lucky in getting my answers right, so I did not regain my confidence to score well in this subject. Shortly after that, my teacher started conducting the oral test for Chinese Language which would contribute marks to the actual SPM examination. At that time, I heard from my friends that after taking the oral test, it would not be possible to drop Chinese Language later and we must take it in SPM, because we would be considered to have taken part of the examination. I asked the teacher in charge of examinations in my school about that, and she confirmed that it was indeed true.

I decided that I must drop Chinese Language straight away and not take the oral test. However, I was afraid to tell my Chinese Language teacher about that because she had previously reminded us several times not to drop Chinese Language. I told my friends that I wanted to drop Chinese Language and the news soon spread to my teacher. She asked me about that and I explained to her that I wanted to drop it only because I was aiming for straight A+ in SPM to get the JPA scholarship. Then, she agreed to not let me take the oral test, but she also advised me not to drop Chinese Language officially until Form 5. I promised her that I would continue to attend her classes and take Chinese Language in the next school examination.

At that time, some of my friends told me that JPA had announced that starting from the following year, the JPA scholarship would no longer be awarded to SPM leavers, instead it would only be awarded to leavers of STPM and other pre-university programmes. I did not know about that because I seldom read newspapers, and I did not believe what my friends said because I thought that they were just trying to persuade me not to drop Chinese Language.

I continued taking Chinese Language during the Form 4 2nd Mid-term Examination in August 2011. The Chinese Language paper was not set according to the SPM examination format in this examination, so it was not difficult and I managed to get 90 marks (A+). At that time, the SAPS (Sistem Analisis Peperiksaan Sekolah) was introduced for the first time and starting from that examination onwards, my school used the SAPS grading instead of the previous grading. As a result, the minimum mark for A- was increased from 70 to 75, although the minimum mark for A and A+ remained at 80 and 90 respectively.

Soon after that, it was the Form 4 2nd Term Examination. I knew that for that examination, Chinese Language Paper 2 would be very difficult since it would be set according to the SPM examination format. Because of this, in addition to the increase in the minimum A- mark, I was not even confident of getting A-, so I did not want to take Chinese Language in that examination. I told my Chinese teacher about that, but she advised me to continue taking it. She also said that she would make the Chinese Language paper easier in that examination, because at that time my school achieved the status of Cluster School for the first time and consequently there were rumours that students who did not obtain excellent results could be kicked out of the school. Despite that, I still decided not to take Chinese Language in that examination. I told the teacher in charge of examinations in my school that I wanted to drop Chinese Language officially and she agreed.

I still continued to attend Chinese Language classes after that, but I would no longer take Chinese Language in school examinations. After the Form 4 2nd Term Examination ended, my teacher gave back the Chinese Language paper and discussed the answers with us. I looked at the Chinese Language paper and I found out that it was not very difficult. I felt a little regret for not taking Chinese Language in that examination, but it was already too late. In November 2011, my school gave us the SPM 2012 registration form and we had to choose the subjects that we wanted to take in SPM. I maintained my decision not to take Chinese Language in SPM. It was still possible to change the subjects after that until May 2012.

When I started Form 5 in January 2012, I still wanted to attend Chinese Language classes. When my Chinese Language teacher knew about that, she spoke to me and gave me a suggestion. She suggested that I register for SPM 2013 as a private candidate and take only Chinese Language. By doing so, I would get an SPM certificate for Chinese Language which is useful in the future, and my SPM 2012 results would not be affected by my Chinese Language results, so it is a win-win situation. I felt that my teacher's suggestion was good so I agreed. Since then, I planned that I would be taking Chinese Language in SPM 2013 as a private candidate. Initially, I thought of taking it in June 2013. Later, I found out that only Malay Language and Mathematics are available in the June examination session, so I had to take Chinese Language in November 2013 instead. I would also take Chinese Language for every school examination in Form 5 as a practice, but since I had officially dropped Chinese Language, my results for Chinese Language would not be included in the SAPS system.

During the Form 5 1st Mid-term Examination in March 2012, I took Chinese Language, but I did not make any preparation for it because I did not take it too important. At that time, because it had been more than 6 months since the last examination where I took Chinese Language, I had forgotten how to write certain Chinese characters. However, the Chinese Language paper was not difficult since it was not set according to the SPM examination format, so I still managed to get 87 marks (A). In April 2012, the Ministry of Education announced that starting from that year onwards, students who obtained at least 9A+ in SPM would be offered the KPM Bursary. This meant that even if I take Chinese Language in SPM 2012 but do not get A+, I would still qualify for the KPM Bursary as long as I get A+ in 9 of the other subjects that I take. However, I still decided not to take Chinese Language in SPM 2012, because I felt that studying for the other SPM subjects was already very stressful so I did not want to further increase my stress by taking Chinese Language.

Then in May 2012, it was the Form 5 1st Term Examination. I again did not prepare for Chinese Language at all. For that examination, the Chinese Language paper was set according to the SPM examination format so Paper 2 was quite difficult, except that my teacher made it slightly easier by removing the Poems section from Paper 2. I still tried my best to answer the questions. Eventually, I got 78 marks (A-). During the SPM Trial Examination in August 2012, all papers including Chinese Language were set by the Kedah State Education Department according to the SPM examination format, so I expected that Chinese Language Paper 2 would be difficult. I did some revision for Chinese Language on the day before the test since no other subject was tested on the same day as Chinese Language. Paper 2 turned out to be easier than what I had expected. I managed to get 90 marks (A+) for Chinese Language, which was the highest mark in the entire Form 5.

After completing SPM 2012, I started studying A Level at Taylor’s College Subang Jaya on 14 January 2013. On 21 March 2013, the SPM 2012 results was released and I obtained 9A+ 1A. On 24 March 2013, I went to the Kulim Education Office to register for SPM 2013 as a private candidate. Initially, I wanted to take the examination either at SMK Sultan Badlishah or SMJK Chio Min, but both of them were not available for private candidates, so I chose SMK Kulim.

In June 2013, the Kedah State Education Department sent me a letter to inform me that my oral test for SPM Chinese Language would be held at Hotel Seri Malaysia, Alor Star on 3 August 2013. Luckily, my college had one week of holidays at that time so I could take the oral test. The oral test consisted of individual test and group test. The individual test was difficult, but the group test was quite easy. The examiners did not tell me my marks but I accidentally saw that they gave me 26/30 for the individual test. Since the group test was much easier, I assumed that I got higher marks for the group test. Only the higher of the marks for the individual test or group test would be taken into consideration.

In October 2013, I wanted apply to study Medicine at the University of Hong Kong (HKU). I found out that HKU requires all applicants to have obtained grade C or higher for Chinese Language in IGCSE or its equivalent (SPM is an equivalent to IGCSE). I was glad that I decided to take Chinese Language in SPM 2013, because otherwise I would not be able to meet the entry requirements for HKU. Later in that month, I received the timetable and statement of entry for SPM 2013. My examination would be held at SMK Keladi, although I chose SMK Kulim when I registered for SPM. Chinese Language would be tested on 3 December 2013. That was lucky because I had other examinations around that time and they did not clash with it. The SPM Chinese Language paper was just 4 days after the last day of my AS Level examination and 2 days before my IELTS Speaking test.

During my AS Level examination, I had 2 weeks break from 12 November to 25 November 2013. During the 2 weeks, I mostly revised for the remaining AS Level subjects, but I also spent some time revising for SPM Chinese Language. I was worried that I might have forgotten how to write many Chinese characters as it had been about 15 months since I last took Chinese Language in the SPM Trial examination, so I tried to remember every Chinese character that I came across in the reference books. On 3 December 2013, I took SPM Chinese Language at SMK Keladi. I decided to just take it easy. Paper 1 was not difficult, while Paper 2 was quite difficult but still slightly easier than what I had expected. I was able to remember how to write all the Chinese characters that I wanted to write during the examination. I was not sure what grade I could get for Chinese Language, but I hoped that I could get A+ or A or at least A-.

The SPM 2013 results was released at 10AM on 20 March 2014. I was in college at that time and I checked my results through online. I obtained A- for Chinese Language in SPM 2013. Although I felt a little disappointed for not getting A, I was still quite satisfied with my results. My Chinese Language results met the requirements for HKU. The Ministry of Education then sent my SPM 2013 results slip to my house. Finally on 7 June 2015, I got my SPM 2013 certificate at the Kedah State Education Department in Alor Star.

Looking back, I felt that I made the right decision by taking Chinese Language in SPM 2013 instead of not taking it at all or taking it together with the other subjects in SPM 2012. Even though I was eventually rejected by HKU, having a SPM certificate for Chinese Language would be useful for me in the future. Some of my friends think that if I took Chinese Language in SPM 2012, I might be able to get A or even A+, and I did not have to go through the hassle of taking SPM twice. However, in my opinion, studying for the other SPM subjects was already very stressful, so taking Chinese Language in SPM 2012 would make this worse. On the other hand, studying for the AS Level examination was much less stressful, so it was the right choice to take Chinese Language in SPM 2013 at the same time as the AS Level examination.

(THE END)

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

How I previously planned for my future?

When it comes to education, there are several plans that everyone has to make: what pre-university programme to study after secondary school, what degree course to study, which university to study, how to get a scholarship, and so on. These plans are important as they will determine our future. Currently, I am studying Medicine in university. Have you ever wondered, how did I make these plans in the past?

When I was still a child, the first ambition I had was to be an architect, because my father is an architect, so I wanted to follow him. However, I knew little about how the job of an architect is like, and I had no idea whether I am actually interested in architecture or not. Later, as I grew up, I observed that my father's job of an architect is quite busy and stressful. I also disliked and was very poor in arts. Besides, there were a few times where I followed my father to construction sites, and I did not feel comfortable being in such places. All these made me question my ambition to be an architect. Later, I realised that I had interest in Medicine. This, in addition to the fact that I like to help others, caused me to change my ambition and I wanted to become a doctor instead. Then in September 2009 when I was in Form 2, an incident happened which made me realised that some doctors are really money-minded and they cause a lot of sufferings to the patients. (That incident involved my family, so to protect my family's confidentiality, I am not going to explain in detail about that incident here.) I felt that I could make a difference by becoming a doctor, so this strengthened my ambition to be a doctor. Since then, I had decided that I want to study Medicine. My parents preferred that I study Engineering, but they did not oppose my decision, while my grandparents fully supported my decision. Therefore, long before completing secondary school, I had planned the degree course that I want to study.

Since when I was young, my family had planned to let me study in Australia when my enter university, mainly because my parents previously graduated from a university in Australia. I initially agreed to their plans, but later as I grew up, I felt that I preferred to study in Malaysia instead of overseas, mainly because I was used to the environment in Malaysia and I knew it would be difficult for me to adapt to the environment in other countries. However, I did not tell my family about that because they might feel unhappy. Then when I was in secondary school, my grandparents heard that there are many who study in Malaysian universities, and they felt that it might be better for me to study locally since the cost would be much lower than studying overseas. I definitely agreed with them, and I told them that all the while I had wanted to study locally. My parents also agreed about that. Since then, I had planned to study Medicine in a local university. At that time, I only knew about local public universities such as USM and UM, but not any of the local private universities.

But what about my plans on the pre-university programme? Since primary school, I wanted to study STPM after completing Form 5. The reason was that by studying STPM, I could continue studying in the same secondary school and continue staying in Kulim for another 2 years. At that time, I did not know about any pre-university programmes other than STPM, and I often questioned why many students chose not to study STPM. However, somewhere during year 2010 when I was in Form 3, my grandparents came to know about a pre-university programme which is the MOE Matriculation. According to what they heard, students who study Matriculation are guaranteed entry into local public universities as long as they pass its examination, although they may have to get better results than that in order to study the course they preferred, while students who study STPM are not guaranteed entry into local public universities despite getting excellent results. Matriculation is also much easier to study compared to STPM. Therefore, they felt that studying Matriculation is much better compared to STPM. I agreed with my grandparents about this. Since then, I planned to study Matriculation after completing Form 5, and I no longer wanted to study STPM. Unlike STPM, only students who are offered Matriculation can study it, and the offers are given based on the SPM results. At that time, I thought that I could get the offer for Matriculation as long as I get straight A in SPM, and I believed that it would not be too difficult for me to get that result. When my parents knew that I wanted to study Matriculation, they also agreed with my plan.

After entering Form 4 in year 2011, I had a new aim. In addition to getting the offer for Matriculation, I also aimed to get the JPA scholarship. At that time, the JPA scholarship was awarded based on the SPM results. Initially, my target was to get only straight A but not straight A+ in SPM, because I thought that straight A would be sufficient in order to be offered Matriculation and the JPA scholarship. Later in June 2011, I saw on the newspaper that for that year, only students who obtained straight A+ in SPM would be guaranteed the JPA scholarship. Therefore, I set myself a new target of getting straight A+ in SPM, so that I could get the JPA scholarship. Shortly after that, I heard of rumours that starting from the following year, the JPA scholarship would no longer be awarded to SPM leavers, instead it would only be awarded to leavers of STPM and other pre-university programmes. I thought that the rumour was not true so I just ignored it.

In April 2012 when I was in Form 5, the Ministry of Education announced that starting from year 2012 onwards, the KPM Bursary would be offered to all students who obtained at least 9A+ in SPM, and it will sponsor for pre-university programmes such as STPM, Matriculation and A level. They also announced that students sponsored by the KPM Bursary could be offered the JPA scholarship for their degree course after completing the pre-university programme, provided that they meet the requirements. However, the newspaper article regarding that announcement was unclear in some parts so I could not fully understand it. My lack of understanding about the KPM Bursary caused me to not take it seriously. Later, I heard that 2 of the seniors in my school were not offered Matriculation on that year, even though both of them obtained straight A+ in SPM and were offered the KPM Bursary. This gave me the impression that one had to get straight A+ in SPM to even stand a chance of being offered Matriculation. I told myself that I must get straight A+ in SPM, and I prayed that I would get the offer for Matriculation. At that time, I felt that getting the offer for Matriculation was more important than getting the KPM Bursary.

Later in year 2012, my parents told me that other than Matriculation, A level is also a good pre-university programme, and I could study A level at Taylor’s College or Sunway College in Subang Jaya. They also said that I could enrol for A level using my SPM trial examination results and start A level in January 2013 before my actual SPM results is released. However, I was not interested in A level because I thought that it is only for students who want to study overseas, while I wanted to study in Malaysia. I then planned that I would study A level only if I fail to get the offer for Matriculation, but even then I would start A level only after my actual SPM results is released, because I did not want to move from Kulim to Subang Jaya so soon in January 2013 and I wanted to relax for a few months after finishing SPM. At that time, I preferred Sunway College over Taylor’s College, because I felt that the name ‘Sunway’ sounds much better than ‘Taylor’s’ which sounds like ‘tailors’. Later, I heard that many colleges have intakes in January, April and July every year, so this showed that there is the option to start studying after the actual SPM results is released.

On 10 August 2012, I applied for Matriculation through online, and I selected Kolej MARA Kulim, Kolej Matrikulasi Pulau Pinang and Kolej Matrikulasi Selangor as my preferred colleges. I hoped that I would be offered to study Matriculation at Kolej MARA Kulim, so that I could continue to stay in Kulim. However, during my SPM examination in November 2012, I did not answer well for many of the papers. This was probably because I was too stressed due to studying too hard. As a result, I was only confident of getting 7A+ 3A, and I gave up hope on getting straight A+. My chance of getting the offer for Matriculation would be low without straight A+ in SPM, so I realised that I had to make alternative plans. I hoped that I could get 9A+ 1A in SPM so that I could still qualify for the KPM Bursary, but I was not even confident about that. I lied to my family that I was confident of getting straight A+ in SPM, because I did not want them to feel worried. However, I did not tell them anything about the KPM Bursary, because I was worried that if they knew the KPM Bursary existed, they would assume that I would definitely get it since I had told them I could get straight A+ while it only requires 9A+, and consequently they might not make any alternative plans for me.

On 29 November 2012 which was 2 days after my SPM examination ended, my parents telephoned me and advised me to enrol for A level at Taylor's College for the January 2013 intake, giving the reason that there was no guarantee that I would get the offer for Matriculation. They also said that I could still switch to Matriculation later if I got the offer. Since I knew I had a low chance of getting the offer for Matriculation, I agreed to study A level first. However, I told my parents that I wanted to start A level in April 2013 instead of January 2013 and that I preferred to study at Sunway College instead of Taylor's College. My parents agreed to let me decide myself whether to study at Sunway College or Taylor's College. However, they insisted that I must start studying in January 2013 because most students would start at that time and they said that the April intake is most probably available for diploma programmes only but not A level. I refused to listen to them and I argued with them. As a result, my parents got angry and they ended the phone call abruptly. I felt very stressed about that. When my grandparents knew about the incident, they said that they would always respect my own decision and that they would try to tell my parents to do the same. On the following day, my parents telephoned me again and it seemed that they were not angry any more. They told me that both Taylor's College and Sunway College would be having an open day soon and asked me to attend it. They also said that after attending the open day, I would understand that I had to start in January 2013. I agreed to attend the open day.

On 7 December 2012, my parents took me to have a look at the locations of both Taylor's College and Sunway College. After looking at their locations, I felt that I did not like the location of Sunway College, and instead, Taylor's College's location is much better. Therefore, I changed my mind and preferred Taylor's College over Sunway College. I decided to attend the open day for Taylor's College only but not Sunway College. On 8 December 2012, I attended the Taylor's College’s open day with my parents. During the open day, the course counsellor introduced us the pre-university programmes offered by Taylor's College which are A level, SAM, CPU and IB. I decided to choose A level over the others because it is fully examination based which suits my study style. The counsellor also showed us the universities which former Taylor’s College students were studying in. For Medicine course, many of them studied at IMU which is a local private university. That was the first time where I heard about IMU. I registered for Taylor's College’s A Level programme on the spot. The course counsellor said that I could choose to start the programme either in January or April, but he strongly advised me to start in January because students who start in April would have to do self-study to cover up for what they had missed during the first 3 months. Therefore, I had no choice but to start A level in January 2013. After attending the open day for Taylor’s College, I searched on Google about IMU. I found out that IMU is quite a good university, and it accepts both A level and Matriculation. Since then, I hoped that I would be able to study Medicine at IMU.

I started studying at Taylor's College on 14 January 2013. I was able to adapt to life at Taylor's College easily, but in the beginning I did not like it, because the environment in Taylor's College is quite different from that in secondary school and I missed secondary school life very much. I felt that it would be much better if I study Matriculation because the environment in Matriculation colleges is likely much more similar to secondary school. Therefore, I kept telling my parents that I would definitely switch to Matriculation if I got the offer later, even though I knew that my chance of getting the offer was very low. However, as time went on, I began to enjoy life at Taylor's College, mainly because of the excellent facilities there and the freedom that I could enjoy due to the lenient rules there. Soon, I had enjoyed life at Taylor's College so much that I no longer wanted to study Matriculation. However, I did not tell my parents about that, as I felt that this would be an 'admission of defeat', because earlier I was so sure that I wanted to study Matriculation but I now realised that my parents were right in asking me to study at Taylor's College.

On 21 March 2013, my SPM results was released and I obtained 9A+ 1A, so I met the requirements for the KPM Bursary. The subject which I did not get A+ was English. At that time, I finally told my family about the existence of the KPM Bursary and that it would sponsor for A Level, but I also noted that its requirement might change on that year since the Ministry of Education had not yet announced about the KPM Bursary for that year. I knew that it was highly unlikely that I would be offered Matriculation because I did not get straight A+ in SPM, but I did not feel sad about that since I no longer wanted to study Matriculation. Then, it was confirmed on 24 March 2013 that I would be offered the KPM Bursary.

On 29 March 2013, Taylor's College gave a briefing for all students who were offered the KPM Bursary. During the briefing, we were told that after completing A Level under the KPM Bursary, we could be offered the JPA scholarship for our degree course if we are successful in getting an unconditional offer from one of the universities in the JPA's list. For Medicine course, the JPA's list at that time included all local public universities and the top 10 foreign universities according to the Times Higher Education ranking, where 6 of them were US universities and the other 4 were UK universities. Local private universities such as IMU were not in the JPA's list so they would not be sponsored. This was a problem, because A Level was not accepted for entry into Medicine course at local public universities, and the Medicine course at those 6 US universities were only available for postgraduate entry. To make matters worse, those 4 UK universities included Cambridge University and Oxford University, but it is only possible to apply to either one of them, not both. Therefore, in order to be sponsored by the JPA scholarship to study Medicine, the only way is to apply to either Cambridge University or Oxford University, as well as the 2 other UK universities in the JPA's list, and get offered a place by 1 of the 3 universities. Since those universities are very highly ranked, it would be very competitive to get an offer. Even then, there was no 100% guarantee that we would be offered the JPA scholarship. Therefore, it was extremely difficult to get the JPA scholarship for Medicine course, and I gave up hope on getting it. When I told my parents about that, they advised me not to give up so easily, but they also reassured me that they could afford the study fees for the Medicine course at IMU. So, I planned to study Medicine at IMU after completing A Level and let my parents fund my studies.

Taylor's College had 2 weeks of holidays from 30 March 2013 to 14 April 2013 and I went back to Kulim during that time. In Kulim, I often had conversations with my grandparents regarding my future. My grandparents said that they hoped that I could get the offer to study Medicine at a top UK university such as Cambridge, and be sponsored by the JPA scholarship. I replied that this would be quite difficult, and that I preferred to study locally which was what I planned all the while. They then said that it would be silly for me to reject the opportunity to study overseas. I then argued that they had previously agreed that it would be better for me to study locally, so now they should not change their view on that. At last, my grandparents agreed to leave the final decision about this to myself, while I also promised them that I would still try applying to the UK universities in the JPA’s list.

At that time, my grandparents also advised me to continue studying A Level at Taylor's College even if I am offered Matriculation, and they gave several reasons for that. Since I no longer wanted to study Matriculation, I agreed with my grandparents that I should continue studying at Taylor's College. However, I strongly disagreed with the main reason they gave for that. My grandparents said that since majority of my classmates in Taylor's College obtained A+ for English in SPM while I did not, I should continue studying at Taylor's College and learn from my classmates in order to improve my English. I did not like it whenever my grandparents asked me to learn from others, because I preferred to teach others and let others learn from me instead, and I felt that I could also improve myself by teaching others. I remembered that during Form 5, I had a crush on a girl (not any more now) who was weak in academics, so I often taught her and I felt happy about that. However, my grandparents said that I should learn from others instead of teaching others, because by teaching others I could only improve within my own abilities, but by learning from others I could improve beyond my own abilities. I was very unhappy after hearing what my grandparents said because that signposted that it was wrong for me to teach my crush previously. Consequently, I dismissed my grandparents' advice about that completely, even though I actually wanted to continue studying A Level at Taylor's College. As a result, my grandparents thought that I really wanted to study Matriculation if I get the offer.

On 5 April 2013, my grandfather met one of his former student who previously studied Matriculation and was studying Medicine at a local public university at that time, and spoke to him for some time. My grandfather told me and my grandmother that according to that student, studying Matriculation is not easy as it seems because life is difficult, since it is compulsory for all students to stay in the hostel which has poor facilities, even if their house is near the college, and students are only allowed to go out once every 2 weeks. I agreed with that and I felt happy because my grandfather could finally give a good reason to advise me to continue studying at Taylor's College. I wanted to tell my grandparents straight away that I no longer wanted to study Matriculation, but before I could tell them, my grandfather added that despite the difficult life, studying Matriculation has its advantages according to that student. The main advantage is that Matriculation students could get into local public universities easily because they are given priority over students studying STPM or other pre-university programmes. In particular, during that student's batch, all students in his Matriculation college who applied for Medicine course at local public universities, were successful in being offered a place, as long as they obtained straight A in the Matriculation examination. That student also told my grandfather that many students who were offered Matriculation only got straight A but not straight A+ in SPM, so I still had a considerable chance of getting the offer for Matriculation.

My grandparents then said that although Matriculation life may be difficult, it would be just 12 months, and this is outweighed by the fact that I would be almost guaranteed entry into Medicine course at local public universities. They also said that studying A Level at Taylor's College under the KPM Bursary is not that good after all since it would be difficult to get the JPA scholarship for Medicine course. They felt that if I could study Matriculation and then get into local public universities, then it would not matter even if I do not get the JPA scholarship since the study fees for local public universities are quite low. Besides, they felt that since I did not want to study overseas, it would be better for me to study Matriculation instead of A Level. My grandparents also thought that I preferred to study Matriculation. All these reasons caused them to change their mind and they began advising me to switch to Matriculation if I got the offer, instead of continue studying at Taylor's College. Later, they told my parents about this. My parents seemed to agree with my grandparents, and they also said that Matriculation students could enter both local public universities and private universities but A Level students could not enter local public universities, implying that Matriculation is a better choice.

I began to feel a little worried that my family might force me to switch to Matriculation if I got the offer. Even after knowing the advantages of studying Matriculation, I definitely did not want to switch to Matriculation, because by doing so I would be separated with my friends in Taylor's College and I could no longer enjoy the freedom and excellent facilities in Taylor's College. Therefore, I quickly accepted the KPM Bursary on 18 April 2013, and I chose A Level as my programme of choice and Taylor's College as my college of choice. After accepting the KPM Bursary, it is not possible to change the programme and college of choice unless if I give up the bursary. So, in case I am offered Matriculation and my family forces me to switch, I could use this as an excuse not to switch. However, my grandparents said that I should switch to Matriculation even if that meant I would be losing the KPM Bursary, because studying Matriculation is free anyway.

On 24 April 2013 which was one day before the results of the application for Matriculation was released, my grandmother asked me whether I would be switching to Matriculation if I am offered Matriculation. I replied that I would be switching only if I am offered to study at Kolej MARA Kulim. I replied like that just to avoid her from feeling unhappy, but in reality, I did not want to switch even if I got Kolej MARA Kulim. However, my grandmother wanted me to switch if I got the offer regardless of which Matriculation college I was offered. I then reminded her that most likely I would not get the offer because I did not obtain straight A+ in SPM. She then warned me not to lie to her about the results, otherwise she would be very angry. After that conversation with my grandmother, I felt very stressed. If what my grandfather's former student said was true, it was possible that I would be offered Matriculation, and if that happened, I would be forced to switch to Matriculation. I really did not want to switch, so I kept praying that I would not get the offer. This was such an irony, because in the past I wanted to study Matriculation so much, but now it is the exact opposite. On 25 April 2013, the results of the application for Matriculation was released and I did not get the offer for Matriculation. I felt happy and relieved about that because I could continue studying at Taylor's College, but in front of my family I pretended to feel disappointed about that. My grandmother believed me about that. My family then told me not to feel sad and said that studying A level at Taylor's College is also quite good.

However, I later found out that my greatest enemy in secondary school, Thinnesh Kumar, got the offer for Matriculation, even though my SPM results was much better than him. I was unhappy about that because I felt that Thinnesh Kumar did not deserve it. So, I thought that I must also get the offer for Matriculation so that I would not lose to him in this matter. I submitted an appeal for Matriculation through online. If my appeal was successful, I would not tell my family about that, and I definitely would not switch to Matriculation, because I just wanted an offer. Later, my grandfather came to know that 2 of my secondary school friends whose SPM results were not as good as mine were offered Matriculation, so he advised me to appeal for Matriculation. I told him that I had made an online appeal, but he preferred that I go to the Ministry of Education to make an appeal. My grandfather also told my father about that. At that time, my father had a friend who is a teacher. He asked his friend for advice about my case, and his friend said that students who were offered the KPM Bursary would no longer be offered Matriculation, so that it is fair to those who did not get the bursary. His friend also told him that if I go to the Ministry of Education to appeal for Matriculation, the appeal might be successful, but then I would lose the KPM Bursary. Therefore, I had to choose between Matriculation and KPM Bursary.

My choice was definitely the KPM Bursary, but due to the fear of 'admission of defeat' as I mentioned earlier, I did not immediately tell my father my choice, instead I told him to give me some time to decide. My father then said that soon it would be the 2013 General Election on 5 May 2013 which is a public holiday and he would only make the appeal after that, so I still had time until then to decide. However, my father also noted that he had already planned to go ahead with the appeal, so if I choose the KPM Bursary over Matriculation, he would have to change his plans. On 6 May 2013, I finally told my father that I chose the KPM Bursary, because I was worried that if I still do not tell him, I might really lose the bursary. However, after my father knew my decision, he still wanted to go to the Ministry of Education to appeal for Matriculation. He retracted his statement earlier and reassured me that according to his friend, even if I continue with the appeal and the appeal turns out to be successful, I would not lose the KPM Bursary unless if I then accept the offer for Matriculation. With my father's reassurance about that, I agreed to continue appealing for Matriculation.

On 8 May 2013, my father asked me to write a letter for the Matriculation appeal. He actually wanted to go to the Ministry of Education to appeal on the next day, but he did not tell me about that. Because of that, in addition to the fact that I actually did not want to study Matriculation anymore, I did not put in my effort to write a good letter, and I also did not prepare any other important documents such as photocopies of my SPM results slip and my identity card for the appeal. Consequently on 9 May 2013, when my father went to the Ministry of Education for the appeal, he had to go from one department to another to get those documents because he did not have them, and the whole process took him about 8 hours. He was unhappy about that and he blamed me for not providing him with those documents beforehand. Only at that time I knew that my father had gone to the Ministry of Education.

Soon after that incident, another problem arose. When I accepted the KPM Bursary earlier, I chose to continue with the January intake of Taylor's College instead of switching to the July intake, and the Ministry of Education had clearly stated that this is allowed. The main reason I wanted to remain in the January intake was because I did not want to separate with my college classmates. Also, I could enter university half year earlier compared to students in the July intake. However, many of the students who received the KPM Bursary had not started studying A Level in January, so their only option was to start in July. Besides, some of the Bursary students who already started A Level in January, including 2 of my college classmates, chose to switch to the July intake. As a result, majority of the Bursary students would be in the July intake and I was among the minority who were in the January intake. Consequently, my mother preferred that I switch to the July intake. She was worried that the Ministry of Education might simply withdraw my KPM Bursary if I did not switch to the July intake. She was also concerned that even if they do not withdraw my bursary, I might be disadvantaged in certain ways for being in the minority group of Bursary students in the January intake. Besides, Bursary students in the July intake would get 6 additional months of allowance compared to those in the January intake, so my mother wanted me to take advantage of that.

I explained to my mother that it was definitely not true that I would lose my KPM Bursary or be disadvantaged, and that entering university earlier is more important than the additional allowance. However, my mother did not fully believe what I said and she still wanted me to switch to the July intake. I argued that previously she was the one who insisted that that I start A Level in January. However, she said that if she had known that the KPM Bursary existed, she would definitely let me start in July and she would not have to waste money paying the fees for the first 6 months of my A Level programme. She blamed me for not letting her know about the existence of the KPM Bursary. I explained to her that I did not let her know because I was not confident of getting 9A+ in SPM, but she did not really accept my explanation. I made it clear to her that I would definitely not switch to the July intake. Although she did not force me to switch, this incident caused some misunderstandings within my family, which then led to a series of family arguments.

Somewhere in May 2013, my father told me that he saw an advertisement on the newspaper that the JPA scholarship is available for Medicine course at Perdana University which is a local private university, and he advised me to apply to Perdana University. I did not believe that because I knew that the JPA's list of universities only included local public universities and foreign universities but not local private universities. However, my father showed me the advertisement to prove that it really existed. I then checked the website of Perdana University. The website was poorly designed and had little information about the university, so I had the feeling that the advertisement was fake and therefore I did not pay much attention to Perdana University. Later in that month, when I was searching on Google for JPA's list of universities, I came across an updated list. The updated list was similar to the previous list, except that the updated list also included local private universities such as IMU, AIMST, Monash Malaysia, NUMed Malaysia and Perdana University. I felt very happy about that and I regained hope of getting the JPA scholarship, although I was aware that it is still not easy as most likely I would need to attend interviews for it. That also made me realised that the Perdana University's advertisement earlier was actually true. At that time, I did not know that NUMed Malaysia is the Malaysian branch of Newcastle University UK, so I did not pay much attention to it.

On 13 June 2013, the results of the appeal for Matriculation was finally out, and my appeal was unsuccessful. I mostly felt happy about that because I definitely did not want to study Matriculation anymore even if the appeal was successful, and the unsuccessful appeal meant that there would no risk that I would lose the KPM Bursary. I was a only little disappointed that I ultimately lost the 'battle' with my greatest enemy, Thinnesh Kumar, to get the offer for Matriculation.

On 18 July 2013, the Ministry of Education organised a briefing at the Multi Purpose Hall of Taylor's College for all Bursary students in my college. Before the briefing started, we were given the offer letter for KPM Bursary. With the offer letter, it was confirmed that I received the KPM Bursary to study A Level at Taylor's College. During the briefing, the officers from Ministry of Education talked mostly about the KPM Bursary and very little about the JPA scholarship. Then during the question and answer session, many students asked about the JPA scholarship, but the officers declined to answer most of the questions regarding JPA scholarship, giving the reason that JPA and Ministry of Education are 2 different entities so we should contact JPA for any enquiries about the JPA scholarship. One of the few things that the officers said about the JPA scholarship was that Bursary students would not be given any priority over non-Bursary students when applying for the JPA scholarship. That made me and other students feel worried, but I decided to just leave it to fate. Later, one of my close friend in college told me that according to one of his friend who also received the KPM Bursary, Bursary students need not be interviewed when applying for the JPA scholarship, unlike the non-Bursary students. I did not fully believe that, but I hoped that it would be true.

On 17 September 2013, I submitted the application to UK universities through UCAS. Even though I preferred to study in Malaysia instead of overseas, I still decided to apply to UK universities because I felt it would be good to widen my choice. I chose to apply to Oxford, UCL and ICL because they were in the JPA’s list of universities. UCAS allowed me to apply to up to 4 universities for Medicine, so I also applied to KCL which was not in the JPA’s list. Then in early October 2013, one of my college friend who also received the KPM Bursary got the latest JPA’s list of universities from the office of Taylor’s College, and she showed me the list. In this list, for Medicine course at foreign universities, the 4 UK universities remained the same, but all the 6 US universities had been removed and replaced with HKU, NUS, Monash Australia, KCL, Manchester and Edinburgh. This list continued to include local private universities. I liked the new JPA’s list because it made it easier to get the JPA scholarship for Medicine at foreign universities, and KCL which I applied to was now in the list. I planned to apply to HKU, NUS and Monash Australia. I remembered that I liked the environment in Singapore and Hong Kong when I went there in the past few years because they were similar to the environment in Malaysia, so I felt that it would be great if I could study in HKU or NUS. At that time, I no longer rejected the idea of studying overseas that much, unlike in the past. I applied to HKU on 21 December 2013.

In January 2014, I was rejected by all the 4 UK universities that I applied to. Later in that month, I started researching on the local private universities that are in the JPA’s list, because their application would be opening soon. It was at that time where I first knew that NUMed Malaysia is the Malaysian branch of Newcastle University UK, and I was interested to study there. I applied to IMU on 21 February 2014 and then Perdana University on 31 March 2014. Later on 29 April 2014, I was rejected by Perdana.

On 20 May 2014, Taylor’s College had a briefing for all students who were sponsored by the KPM Bursary. During the briefing, they told us that it was almost guaranteed that all Bursary students would be offered the JPA scholarship as long as we met the requirements, and we need not attend any interview, just that we had to attend the BTN camp if we wanted to study overseas. This showed that what the officers from Ministry of Education said during the briefing in the previous year was not true. Then on 29 May 2014, there was another briefing for Bursary students at my college organised by JPA. The officers from JPA told us the requirements and procedure to get the JPA scholarship during the briefing. They also told us that they had once again updated the JPA’s list of foreign universities for Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy, and the new list included many universities not in the list previously. I did not bother to apply to those added universities, because I had decided that I would be studying either at HKU, NUMed or IMU. At the time, my 1st choice of university was HKU, my 2nd choice was NUMed while my 3rd choice was IMU.

I received the conditional offer from IMU on 31 May 2014. I applied to NUMed Malaysia on 5 June 2014. From 16 June to 20 June 2014, I attended the BTN camp which is required for all students who would be studying overseas under the JPA scholarship. At that time, all the foreign universities that I applied to had rejected me, with the only exception of HKU which still had not replied me, so I still had the chance of studying at HKU, and that was why I attended the BTN camp. Then, I received the conditional offer from NUMed Malaysia on 26 June 2014. On 23 July 2014, my parents took me to the JPA headquarters in Putrajaya to get the JPA scholarship conditional offer letter because I had to submit it to NUMed Malaysia in order to avoid paying the deposit. At the JPA headquarters, I submitted my forecast A Level results, my conditional offer letter from NUMed and a photocopy of my identity card, then I was given the JPA scholarship conditional offer letter on the spot.

On 12 August 2014, my actual A Level results was released and I obtained 4A*. With that, NUMed Malaysia converted my conditional offer to unconditional offer. However, I still did not receive the reply from HKU about my application outcome. On 17 August 2014, I decided to stop waiting for HKU to reply and choose NUMed Malaysia instead, because I was worried that I might not have enough time to complete the procedure to get the JPA scholarship if I continued waiting. I completed the registration on the JPA eProfiling website and selected NUMed Malaysia as my university of choice. Then, I e-mailed my actual A Level results, my unconditional offer letter from NUMed and other required documents to JPA.

On 20 August 2014, I received the offer for JPA scholarship and I was able to login to the JPA ePenawaran website. I then accepted the offer through the website. Then, HKU finally rejected me on 27 August 2014. On 2 September 2014, my mother bought the Hasil stamps for the agreement of the JPA scholarship. Then on 3 September 2014, I opened a new Bank Islam account which was required in order to receive the monthly allowances from JPA, while my father brought the JPA scholarship agreement to the Pejabat Hasil to remit the Hasil stamps. My mother then took me to the JPA headquarters on 4 September 2014 to submit the agreement and other required documents. With that, I had completed the procedure for getting the JPA scholarship. I moved to Johor Bahru on 20 September 2014 and started studying Medicine at NUMed Malaysia on 22 September 2014. Later on 15 October 2014, I received my first allowance from JPA, and this confirmed that I am sponsored by the JPA scholarship to study at NUMed Malaysia.

Now, I am studying Medicine at NUMed Malaysia under the sponsorship of the JPA scholarship. I don’t have much plans for the future now, I am just aiming to pass all the 5 years of my Medicine course. I am still not sure what specialist I would like to become in the future. Lastly, thanks for reading this long story.

(THE END)