Testimonials and Inner Voices

ASA is the company that helped me get into Abbey College Cambridge. For some reason they thought it’d be a good idea to ask me to write a testimonial for them. Me, possibly the squarest, most boring and least creative person to exist in the known universe. Well, I said yes, and promptly forgot to write anything for three weeks until just now. Since I’ve been having a rather nice day where I managed to do a good deal of work, I decided listen to my annoying inner voice which had been going, “You need to finish that testimonial. It’ll only take five minutes. Come on, do it instead of surfing Reddit! You’re too lazy and you procrastinate too much… for the past three weeks.

Five minutes later, I finished and sent it off. Then the voice came back, “You haven’t updated your blog for a month! Get to it!” And to appease him (her? it?) I decided to copy-paste the testimonial here.

What I like most about Abbey College were the teachers. They work very hard to ensure that all students work to their best of their capabilities. Not only do they teach the syllabus thoroughly and clearly, they also encourage us to work beyond our textbooks. Apart from teaching, the Abbey staff are also extremely brilliant at helping us students navigate through the university admissions maze that is UCAS. I was given great support on constructing my personal statement, and the college organised mock interviews to ensure I’d be ready for my Cambridge interview.

The other great part of Abbey College are the students. Students from all over the world come to Abbey, giving it a uniquely international feel. The students are generally very friendly as well, and are great fun to talk to. I personally had a great group of friends with which I could discuss certain topics we were studying, or just as easily talk about the most inane conversation topics. And practically everyone is staying near other students, I never felt lonely or bored in Cambridge.

Speaking of Cambridge, the city itself is an amazing place to be in. Cambridge is quiet enough that you can study without interruption, but there’s plenty of things to do if you need to go out. The school itself is located far to close to many good restaurants, which unfortunately meant I gained a lot of weight early on. There’s also a cinema and bowling alley barely five minutes from Abbey, and the city centre with its infinite number of shops is a good place to spend your weekend (and money!). And of course, Cambridge University is tantalisingly close, which makes great motivation.

“Now start writing about your experience at Cambridge!”

Too lazy, I’ll do it some other time.

“NO! You procrastinate too much and you keep wasting time…”

Thanks for All the Fish!

20 months ago, something important happened. I was kidnapped and transported to the UK, and forced to walk to school every day, at nearly just-above-zero temperatures. Somehow I was expected to survive with just a bank account, 40kg of meticulously packed luggage and a warm room located 10 minutes from school.

On my first day of forced imprisonment, I found out I had bigger problems. I had to walk for minutes between classes. Classrooms were not made of gold-plated steel or ivory. We were expected to study. The school did not provide chefs from Italy. The school did not provide food at all. There were no massage sessions. The indoor swimming pool was non-existant.

I was appalled.

But something miraculous happened.

I enjoyed myself while I was there.

And 18 months after I began, I managed to survive! In fact, I thrived in the UK. To me, those months in Cambridge doing A-Levels were exhilaratingly fun and interesting. So I’d like to say my thanks to some people:

To the teachers of Abbey College, you are the greatest set of teachers I have ever had the pleasure of sitting down and learning from. Whereas when some teachers teach the information goes straight from the board to the notebook without ever passing through either brain*, when you guys teach I always understand and memorise things until the day before the exam. To Helen, Tanya, Chris, Darren, Heather, Stuart, Ross, Boz, Richard and Sue in particular, thank you for bearing with me for the many hours I was in your class, making sure I don’t fall asleep in class (well, usually), teaching beyond the syllabus, marking tons of exam papers and for being caring, concerned teachers. I couldn’t have done it without you. :)

To Andrew, thanks for introducing me to Doctor Who. And board games. Oh, and making sure I was never able to ever think I was good at maths.

To Julian, thank you for… um… doing whatever it is you do. And board games also, I guess.

To my brother, thank you for doing the laundry sometimes.

To my sister, thanks…?

Penultimately but not least, to all my friends, thank you very, very much. There’s so many of you and I don’t want to single anyone out (and if I listed all of you I’d definitely miss one out), so to all my friends I am grateful for the stupid things we did together; the homework and notes we suffered through; the silly nights spent together; the odd conversations held at staircases; the times we ran to classes; the many, many “Good luck”s exchanged; the cooking nights at Jiann Lee’s my house; the milkshakes; the informal LAN’s; the let’s-chat-while-unlocking-our-bicycle-and-standing-awkwardly-in-the-cold chats; the May Ball; the charity event; the long walks; the short walks; the food shopping trips; Nando’s; NANDO’s; the terrible games of pool; playing Shadow Hunters, Settler’s of Catan, and the many other board games; that night when you pumped me full of alcohol; for letting me sleep on your couch and leech your internet; and for being generally the best friends one could ask for.

Last but still not least, to my parents, thank you for caring! You’re always there (even if you’re not wanted :p) to make sure I’m doing well. Thank you for working hard to make sure I have the best in education and life, and for making sure I grew up to be a responsible, smart, excellent, hardworking, humble, caring, interesting, handsome, amazi- (ok I’ll stop now) young man. You’re the best parents a boy could ever ask for. I love you two! :D **


Those were 18 months not easily forgotten.


* Ok, I stole this from the Cambridge Study Guide.

** You’re welcome.

Cempaka Saga: Dustin North Vs. Freida Pilus

As a former Cempakan, I find this debate highly relevant and (don’t hate me) slightly amusing.

Dustin North resigns from CILC.

Datin Frieda Pilus’s response.

Miss Sam’s (the other teacher) resignation letter.

Dustin North’s follow-up.

Please be sure to read at least the first two links fully before taking a side.

(By the way, it feels to me that Miss Sam’s letter is suspiciously similar in style and substance to Dustin’s own writing.)

The Results Are In…

A-Level January 2011 Exam Results

Subject UMS Grade
Mechanics 3 95/100 A
Statistics 1 100/100 A
Statistics 2 100/100 A
Decision Mathematics 1 100/100 A
Economics 3 78/80 A
Physics 4 120/120 A

I’m happy with my results :)

By the way, if you’re interesting in the grade boundaries, look here. And if you want to know the difference between raw marks and UMS, read this.

Cambridge Offer: A Simple Analysis

Here are the exact conditions of my offer to Trinity College, University of Cambridge.

  • A*AA in A-levels, excluding Economics.
  • Grade S in both STEP Paper 2 and Paper 3.

Let’s analyse:

For A-levels, I already have an A* in Mathematics so that’s in the bag. For Further Maths, I must score an average of 80% in 6 papers (called modules) out of 9 that I’m taking. (Not exactly; I already have a 97% in Further Pure 1, so the average I need for the remaining papers is slightly lower, plus I can rearrange my Mechanics 1 or 2 paper into the Further Maths grade instead of Maths if needed.)

For Physics, I currently have 295/300, or 98.33%. To get an A (80%), I need another 185/300 in A2, or 61.67%. This should not be difficult.

For Economics, I could fail it and it wouldn’t matter in terms of my offer. I’d lose all my pride though.

The STEP papers are something else. Whereas all the above are achievable (I would even dare call it… “easy”), STEP papers are… difficult. An example is in order:

STEP Paper 2 2009 Question 1

Two curves have equations x4 + y4 = u and xy = v , where u and v are positive constants. State the equations of the lines of symmetry of each curve.
The curves intersect at the distinct points A, B, C and D (taken anticlockwise from A). The coordinates of A are (α,β), where α > β > 0. Write down, in terms of α and β, the coordinates of B, C and D.
Show that the quadrilateral ABCD is a rectangle and find its area in terms of u and v only. Verify that, for the case u = 81 and v = 4, the area is 14.

There are 13 questions for each paper. 8 are pure mathematics (like the one above), 2 are probability and statistics questions, and 3 are mechanics questions. They will mark your best 6 answers to any questions, with up to 20 marks per question. In general, to get an S, I will need to answer five questions fully and a sixth partially in STEP 2, and four questions fully in STEP 3. To give you an idea of how difficult this is, the above question (and the whole of STEP 2) can be answered using only knowledge from the Mathematics A-Level subject, whereas STEP 3 requires Further Mathematics knowledge. Technically, if you’ve done your SPM Further Maths, you have enough knowledge to answer the question above. Good luck.

My entire focus for the next six months is to study sufficiently to achieve an A* in all subjects, and spending the rest of my studying time on STEP. It should be pretty fun.

Fun Fact: The full name of Trinity College is: The College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity.