Tripos (a.k.a. The Exam Game)

I haven’t posted for a really long time, but there’s a good reason. Ever since I got into Cambridge, I’ve been playing this game called “Tripos”. I’ve since learned that it’s actually quite a popular played all around the work with different names (I think most of UK calls it “The Exam Game”), but I’ll call it Tripos since I’m used to it. Anyway here’s how it goes:

Rules of Tripos:

  1. Divide the players into two teams: “Tripos” and “Undergrads”.
  2. The Undergrads are blindfolded and placed in the middle of the field. The Tripos stands in a circle around the Undergrads.
  3. Study Phase: The Tripos throws as many books as possible at the Undergrads in 5 minutes. If an Undergrad catches a book before it hits the ground, he is deemed to have “studied” and may keep the book. Any book unstudied may be retrieved and thrown at the Undergrads again.
  4. Tripos Phase: After 5 minutes are up, the Tripos move 20 steps away from the Undergrads. The Undergrads remain blindfolded. Undergrads throw their studied books at the Tripos. Each hit is worth a degree point.
  5. The game is over when the Undergrads run out of books.

Nobody wins. But anyone who doesn’t get at least one degree point can never play Tripos in Cambridge again.

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.

I Can’t Sleep

Exams start tomorrow. I can’t seem to fall asleep.

It’s a good thing my first paper starts at 1.30pm.

I must admit, I’m nervous. I’ve never gone into an exam nervous. I hardly ever study during school term, but as soon as exam term hits, I always plough through exercises. Sometimes, 2 days of intense studying and I feel like I can take on anything the paper can throw at me.

But I’ve been revising STEP papers for over 2 months now, and almost exclusively doing STEP for the past two weeks. Yet I don’t feel confident doing STEP questions; half the questions I do I make a fatal (often stupid) mistake somewhere. And it’s slowly driving me mad. Whenever I slow down to do a question carefully, I end up overthinking the question. When I try to go with the flow, I miss out on a crucial point.

It’s frustrating, and I don’t like doing frustrating things.

And I can’t forget about the A-Level papers which are just lurking about. The 4 maths papers are bot too difficult, but I fear I end up forgetting some crucial thing in the middle of the exam. Too often the questions require some very specific method and while doing past papers, I sometimes forgot what to do (especially M4).

Oh, economics. It’s not part of my offers for Cambridge or Imperial. I’ve hardly studied economics over the last month. It’s not that I don’t want to, but every time I touch economics I feel guilty that my maths level isn’t up to par yet. I hate purposely neglecting a subject but I don’t have a choice here.

Maybe I should listen to my own advice and go outside. I’ve been living like a recluse the past two weeks, only leaving for the occasional lunch with friends or for necessities. Perhaps I should have gone swimming to clear my mind, or just taken an hour off to cycle around town. Something to get away from the study table.

But anyway, it’s all in the past now. In exactly 12 hours I start my exam periosteum with, perhaps, the most important paper of all (STEP 2) and on Wednesday I take STEP 3. I know that on Wednesday afternoon, once time runs out and I’m forced to put down my pen, I’ll breathe a sigh of relief, because I can finally relax. (And by relax, I mean study for the rest of the A-Level papers).

But really, I should go to sleep.

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.)