A-level Life in the UK


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A-level lasted two years, and I finished mine at a private girls school, full boarding, in the UK. I must admit, a year before that I had never even considered going abroad for studies, as no one else in my family had done so before. But when many of my other friends were applying it led me to start researching a little about boarding schools in the UK just to see what the big deal was about.  It was then I realized that going abroad is a wonderful experience that could potentially bring in new opportunities and also means a fresh start. After 4 years at the same high school, I was then quite eager to meet new people and try new things. In that sense, I was never ‘afraid’ of the prospect of leaving home, in fact it made me the more excited to be able to demonstrate my independence overseas.  I was never ‘forced’ to go abroad for studies, it was all completely my choice and I really appreciated my parents for that freedom.

I only applied to only 2 colleges in the UK. It was common for students to apply to at least 4-5 schools in order to increase chances of acceptance, but unlike some of my peers, I didn’t share that whole ‘must-go-abroad-no-matter-what’ mentality. I did really want to go, mind you. But to me, I decided to apply to try my chances, and if I wasn’t successful, then so be it. Hey, at least I tried right? Application wasn’t that difficult. All you need to do (with your parents help, of course) is to fill in application forms, pay the application fees and sit the entrance examinations. Anyone can apply, as long as you have the appropriate prior qualifications. For many schools, all they require is IGCSEs, O-levels, or something equivalent like SPM. The application fees are roughly around £200 but they differ between schools. The tricky part of application is the entrance examinations. Boarding schools are competitive; you are trying for limited amount of places with students from all over the world. I only discovered upon starting that they only accepted 12 new girls in my year. You must know which A-level subjects you are applying for, and those will be the subjects you will be tested in. I found my exams to be quite tricky, and much of it was testing me A-level knowledge that at the time I was completely new to. I did try my best and I’ve been told that the teachers just want to see the way you think and work out solutions rather than achieving the right answers. In addition to my entrance examinations I had a short interview with one of the teachers. The interview was relatively creative and they asked wacky Google-like questions like “Who would you choose to meet if you were to travel back in time?” to which I made a confused face and blurted out “Hitler” (but for the right reasons, trust me). I wouldn’t necessarily advise anyone to bring up Hitler in any interview, but I guess what I’m saying is to keep an open mind and just deal with any curveball they throw at you. Like I said, I suppose they just want to see what type of person you are! (Just as I’m writing this it hits me that I must have come off as some eccentric psychopath who constantly thinks about Hitler, great).

Oh and for scholarship applicants, the entrance procedure is similar, only that I’ve heard they undergo a more vigorous interview process. Some of the new girls in my year were academic scholars, as well as musical and sport scholars. Don’t be afraid to try out for a scholarship. They’re tough, but they won’t diminish your chances (unless you screw up super badly). Worse case scenario is you don’t get a spot, but it is also very possible that they offer you a place without the scholarship.

In my two years at boarding school, I’ve got to say that the experience was worth it, as a whole. If you have the opportunity, don’t be afraid to take it even though it must seem scary to leave home and study overseas all by yourself, away from friends and family. That is indeed tough, a few other overseas new students and myself included were often counting down the days until the next holiday in the first term, not because we were super homesick but because boarding school life is just so different and hectic. Your day is literally filled with activities and classes and you don’t get back to your room until the day is dark and you’re tired. It was such a contrast to when I was in high school and back home by 4pm. Then there’s also the part about your social life. Girls at my school were nice, they were friendly and approachable. But what you’re probably forgetting is the difference between friendly people and friends. When you’re so far from family you need good, trustworthy friends who make you feel at home. It was difficult to make those types of friends when you’re new. The existing girls in my school had already formed their social circles having boarded since they were 12 previously. As an outsider and newcomer, it was hard trying to find your place in such an established social situation. I guess this was only the case of my school, as there were so few new girls, let alone Asians or Malaysians. I was lucky in the sense that the other new girl in my house and I became really good friends throughout my college years, and we were able to go through everything together. From getting lost and finding our way around the school, to helping each other out with our work and attending events together. It’s always easier when you bond with someone in your position. So yeah, find a newbie and stick to them. But here’s the positive part – having spoken to the new girls when we graduated, we all agreed that there were definitely ups and downs throughout our 2 years there. There were times when you’re dead tired and missing Malaysian food and just want to go home, but there are also times when you’ve bonded with the house watching Downtown Abbey, or cooking with your friends while jamming out to MTV. Although I’ve made only a few close friends, I do appreciate that I’ve at least had the opportunity to know the other girls in my year as they are all very cool and interesting. My school was a very traditional, British school, and naturally about 92% of the student body was girls from privileged, London families and they would all bond together. It’s tough when you’re not from similar backgrounds, and don’t have mutual friends, but I got on with them fine and had lots of fun. I do however, know of people who struggle with the social aspects of going to boarding school, so do consider this aspect when deciding to apply.

Academic-wise, it was fine for me, but I guess that’s because I was previously attending a British curriculum back in KL in an international school. The pace in my college was much quicker though, and the jump between IGCSEs and AS level very high, but I managed to cope eventually. Teachers were very helpful and always willing to provide extra help if you need it. There’s a lot of self-studying involved, which I’ve always enjoyed anyway. If you have previously been heavily reliant on tuition in high school, make sure you know you can cope in boarding school if you are to apply, as I do know several people in this position. The Westerners are often heavily opinionated and loud-spoken, stimulating debates in classes as opposed to the Asian way of ‘listening to the teacher and making notes’. The British way of teaching is definitely something different, but I really liked it and I grew to be more confident throughout as I learn from others to develop thoughtful opinions and be more assertive. Extra-curricular is good too (well, they should be, for the price you pay) and there are a lot of opportunities offered outside of academics in boarding schools. I got involved with new sports, new musical skills, as well as Young Enterprise, drama production and various other school officer positions. Schools like this encourage you to be an all-rounder and you really get the feel of belonging to a community. My college also provided very good university entrance support, with university preparations in the 1st year to very hands-on help with personal statements, university entrance examination help, and interview practice. This is because majority of students from my school often apply to Oxbridge, and this is the typical entrance procedure. It’s good if you’re aiming for Oxbridge as it is schools like this that have inside knowledge about the tips and tricks that might otherwise not be available to local Malaysian teachers. Pastoral support is great too, the teachers are kind and helpful, in non-academic matters as well and they really do have your best interests at heart for all things concerned.

My time at boarding school was great. Looking back, I do not one bit regret ever going over. That said, I do admit that it wasn’t smooth sailing the entire time, but I’m just the sort of person to take risks and welcome new things that are outside my comfort zone. I also fully appreciate being able to experience it, as I understand that not everybody has the same opportunities. But if you do, I would definitely recommend trying out for boarding school, but do so with an open mind and don’t be afraid to try new things!

Due to personal reasons, the author of this article has requested for his/her institution to remain anonymous. If you wish to find out more, feel free to contact the CollegeLAH Team and we will direct you to the author, subject to his/her consent.

Life@Kolej Yayasan Saad International School (KYSIS) – A-level

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I was first enrolled in AUSMAT in Sunway College for about a month when my SPM results came out and that was when I decided to do my A-Levels at Kolej Yayasan Saad International School, Melaka (KYSIS). Frankly, I was quite apprehensive since this was the first time that KYSIS teaches A-Level. There was no selection process to enter the school but to have a better idea about the school’s environment and academic policies, it’s best to visit the school personally and have a chat with the principal. I chose to do my A-levels in KYSIS mainly because of its proximity to home and it was listed under the JPA scholarship list of A-levels schools.

My batch was small so it was a stark contrast from the large classes and the multitude of friends I had in Sunway College. We had an experienced cohort of academic staff who were predominantly from the U.K. The student-teacher ratio was very low and that allowed us to cultivate a close rapport with the teachers and have a more personal teaching experience. We were allowed to sit in classes of different subjects to make up our minds of which subjects we wanted to take for the exams and I ended up taking five subjects for AS (physics, biology chemistry, maths and economics) and then subsequently dropped economics at A2. Critical thinking classes were made compulsory for the first few months to allow us to develop our analytical skills. The teachers made sure the classes were very interactive and we explored themes beyond the syllabus as well. The facilities were very new and the labs were fully equipped. Some of my favourite memories in school were when we had to do lab experiments for the sciences as we always manage to learn a new method at getting better results.

Since we were the first batch, the administration were not very well-versed with the different requirements for each UCAS application. However, our dedicated tutor organised for us to go for education fairs and various university talks so we had a good grasp of what was needed before applying. We also took the initiative to look for more information on the internet and websites such as The Student Room and CollegeLAH of course came in handy as well. We reviewed some of the university choices together and each personal statement is vetted by a tutor. Some of us who were applying for courses that required interviews such as medicine were given several mock interviews and lots of support to help us with the stress of entrance examinations. The teachers ensured we were adequately prepared for each obstacle we faced during our application including support when we did not receive the offer we wanted.

KYSIS is surrounded by a beautiful green forest and yes, there are plenty of monkeys. I remember the quiet evenings which were very conducive for study as well as walks around the school compound. There are many sporting facilities available such as an Olympic-sized swimming pool, squash courts, track and field. We had to make sure we were involved in at least one extracurricular activity which allowed us to unwind after a hectic day of studies. We were also given opportunities to take part in events such as a school talent event organised by ourselves, Model United Nation conferences, and the Duke of Edinburgh Award programme. Students were encouraged to organise events themselves and I think that really helped us develop our leadership skills. KYSIS started out as a full-time boarding school but after a few months, those who lived in Melaka were allowed to become day students. Being in a small group, tensions were high at times but all of us became quite close-knit and helped each other out whenever possible.

Lastly, I think KYSIS is a very conducive place to pursue A-level as it’s quiet and peaceful. The teachers are very experienced and I really enjoyed my college life despite some of the challenges I faced. However, KYSIS has had a revamp after my batch so some of the teachers who have taught me have left and the administration have undergone some changes. It’s best if those who are interested in pursuing A-Levels in this institution to visit the school and get a feel of it.

Sanjana Ilangovan

Sanjana Ilangovan is currently pursuing her medical degree in University College London under the JPA scholarship. You will always find her playing with her pug or whining about how much she misses her pug.


Life@International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL) – International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP)

ISKL Ampang

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I first entered the International School of Kuala Lumpur as a student in 6th grade (form 2 equivalent). Previously coming from a British School background, the transition was admittedly difficult. At first I had to come to terms with quintessential American terms like “tardy” (which means late, not a contraction of retarded…), “cafeteria” (instead of canteen), and parenthesis (meaning brackets). Little differences in mannerisms let me know that ISKL’s American culture is quite strong, almost think of Mean Girls. The benefits of attending such an institution is the simple fact of internationalism. I marvelled at how a South African girl in my class was not black (excuse my initial lack of awareness and political correctness) and that it seemed like all of the koreans were from South Korea (where were the North Koreans?). ISKL helped me, for the first time, consider these questions. Not only is the school an active supporter of intercultural mingling, but also that mixed groups of friends just naturally form. Growing up, I had friends spanning from Cameroonian, French, Indian, (South) Korean, and Taiwanese, and each of these people helped me understand their own cultural backgrounds. The feeling garnered from ISKL’s middle school program (grades 6-8) is one of friendliness. I got a genuine feeling of happiness and appreciation from each of my teachers—they actually care about you!. While they perhaps weren’t the most harsh in terms of academics (the push for competitive academics to achieve high grades needs to come from within the student or their family), they certainly provided me the opportunity to succeed. In middle school I scored straight A’s while participating in basketball, volleyball, softball, and badminton. Global Issues classes and Model United Nations (MUN) are also offered to Middle Schoolers. Those three years are noted with much happiness.

After completing 8th grade, the introduction to high school was quite hand held. ISKL formulates an encouraging environment where bullying is virtually nonexistent and students thrive within their own interests (be it sports, academics, or intellectual clubs like debate and MUN). Grades 9 and 10 offer some rigorous courses like Advanced Placement United States History (APUSH is one of ISKL’s most challenging classes), AP Calculus BC, AP Computer Science, and AP Statistics. Other classes of potential interest include an accolade of music classes (jazz band, 3 different choirs, piano and guitar), fine arts (technical drawing, ceramics, and visual arts) and drama. A prominent highlight of grade 9, 10, and 11 is the annual Global Action Program (GAP) where students simultaneously travel to corners of Asia from Tibet and Bhutan to Minado and Bali. On these trips, GAP focuses on community service and in 11th grade students complete their Group 4 project (a mandatory requirement for the IBDP).

Currently on my penultimate semester of the IB, I am enjoying the challenges that comes with it. Since starting ISKL, enrolling in the IB was always an assumption. However, it should be noted that only about 60% of upperclassman (grades 11 and 12) are full IBDP candidates. The nature of the IB makes it such that I don’t have enough free time to be bored. For those that enjoy dabbling in a spectrum of courses (where math, english, science, language, social science, the extended essay and of course theory of knowledge are all mandatory classes) it is the right curriculum. As a jack-of-all-trades and the sort of student that finds all subjects interesting, I’m pleased that I can study physics in tandem with literature. The combinations of Higher Level (HL) and Standard Level (SL) courses keeps doors for university open in allowing me to apply to the US and the UK. However, students of ISKL don’t generally apply to any one country a, s my friends have applied to places like Denmark, Holland, India and the usual suspects like Australia, the UK and US. During my application process my counsellor is extremely helpful in regularly notifying me and other students of upcoming deadlines and providing her expertise in crafting the application. However, if for whatever reason, there are ‘creative differences’ between a counselor and the student, there are other faculty who are just as accessible and available to help. If you’re not sure as to where you want to apply, I feel like the counselors are especially good at establishing the right ‘fit’ for you. As for myself, I am more reserved and am very creative. Yet I take my academics very seriously and wish to pursue Political Science. Because of this, my counselor pointed me in the direction of some of the US’s top liberal arts schools like Amherst, UChicago, and NYU. ISKL’s academics are what you make of it, really. The resources and faculty expertise are enough to see through students to Harvard, Oxford, Columbia and UPenn (as we do have recent alumni currently studying there). You just have to seek the challenge and be organized. If anything, the school has exposed me to a nurturing environment where I have to pursue the tough rigour myself. But once there, the knowledge is rewarding. If you’re interested in ISKL but the sticker price is a shocker, ISKL offers 2 full scholarships every year to enrol in the IBDP after sitting SPM.

Sonja Fei English

Sonja Fei English is a rising senior who is enrolled in the IBDP at the International School of Kuala Lumpur . She hopes to study Law in the UK or Political Science in the USA. She is a self-proclaimed Spotify addict and foodie—you will likely find her at a mamak stall over the weekends.

Life@Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar – A-level

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 Naturally boarding school may sound like an unnerving idea to many. Vague notions of having to live away from home for the very first time and to become independent in such a short span of time certainly sound daunting. The reality of things at Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar (KTJ) is far different.

Let’s look at some of the general aspects of KTJ as a school before focusing in on the aspects that would interest you as an A-Level Student. This article won’t focus much on the facilities and specifications of the school as you can glean all this information from the school’s website. What I will attempt to do is to provide you an insight from my point of view as a student in KTJ’s Sixth Form.

Students are assigned a boarding house, which is where they will stay for the entire duration of their course. There are 4 boys boarding houses and 3 girls boarding houses, along with one junior (Form 1-3) boarding house. Students in the Lower Sixth will often share a room with another person while most Upper Sixth students will get a single room. Most students love their boarding house and build strong bonds with others within the houses. It will also represent the sports house that you compete in throughout your time at KTJ.

Classes at KTJ start between 0800-0830 depending on the day and consist of eight 40 minute lessons. Students in the Sixth Form will have a number of periods depending on their subject choices as well as the intake that they join. Students in the January intake generally will have less free periods as the teaching has to be more compact due to the shorter duration of the course.

Meals are served in the dining hall daily. There is breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner. Both Asian and Western cuisines are served during the 3 main meals and a vegetarian option is always available. There is a daily panini station with alternating fillings such as chicken and lamb. On most days there will be a noodle station serving local favourites as well as a grill on alternate days. Sunday is an exception where brunch and dinner are served. A typical brunch will comprise of things like pasta, roti canai, salmon steak, lamb, croissants and many other options. If you still find yourself hungry, there is a ‘Tuck Shop’ open at night during social hour (2045-2115) where you will be able to purchase additional food. All the boarding houses also have a limited pantry where you will be able to make simple things like instant noodles and soups.

The following paragraphs will mainly be relevant towards students who will be in the Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth forms while they are undertaking their A-Level course.

  1. The Academic Life

A focus on academics forms an integral part of the KTJ Sixth Form Experience. A combination of CIE A-Levels and EDEXCEL A-Levels are available at KTJ. Students will typically take between 3-4 AS Levels with some choosing to continue on with only 3 subjects for the A2 Level Examinations and others sitting for all 4. A broad combination of subjects is available for example; Mathematics, Further Mathematics, History, English Literature, Economics, Chemistry, Physics, Art, Music, Biology and Geography. The subjects are generally organised into ‘blocks’ giving students the ability to have numerous diverse combinations. If you’d like to know more about the combinations I’d recommend you visit the following link: http://www.ktj.edu.my/userfiles/ktj/Sixth%20Form%20Subject%20Choices.pdf The teachers are extremely dedicated at KTJ and go the extra mile in ensuring that students are able to excel in their chosen subject combinations. There is a dedicated Sixth Form computer room with printing facilities that oftentimes comes in handy when one is revising. The CIE Examinations are offered in both the Summer and Winter sessions whereas the EDEXCEL ones are only offered in Summer. During the weekdays and on Sundays there are two ‘prep’ sessions which you are supposed to use to study productively. These are extremely beneficial as they get you into the habit of not leaving everything to the last minute and ensuring that you do something productive daily. I have found that they greatly relieve the stress that is felt as the examinations approach as you have done most of the necessary revision weeks in advance. Science practicals are usually held weekly in preparations for the practical component of the Science A-Level examinations. There are dedicated laboratories for each subject that are fully equipped.

  1. The Social Life

The social life at KTJ is an interesting one mainly due to it being a boarding school. You are able to get to know your friends much better here since you spend the whole day with them hence forming the very tight-knit community. The vast number of clubs, sports and societies allow you to meet many people with similar interests and build lasting friendships. Sixth Form Students are allowed day outings over the weekend and will have to return to school before a stipulated time. It’s undoubtedly different from other schools as you won’t have the freedom to leave school whenever you wish but this has never been an issue for me. You will always find something to do as a result of all the activities that are planned, something that I will elaborate further in the next few posts. It really helps you in preparing for your future at a university as you learn to interact with people of all ages in the boarding houses and throughout the day. An induction program is also organised for all students entering the sixth form to introduce them to the school and introduce them to their course-mates.

  1. Extra-Curricular Activities

The opportunities to involve yourself in ECAs is immense at KTJ. From wall-climbing to public speaking and debating to golf, KTJ has it all! There are numerous clubs and sports that meet up daily during the fixed ECA slots from 3.50-4.50pm and 5.00pm – 6.00pm. It’s a great opportunity to pick up new skills or even take your skills to the next level. There are numerous fields that facilitate hockey, football, rugby and basketball. There are even opportunities for students to start their own clubs should if an activity they are passionate about is unavailable at KTJ, recent examples being volleyball and an Anime club. It’s definitely indispensable in achieving a holistic education. There are frequent inter-house competitions not only in the usual sporting events but the Arts as well. ‘House Singing’ and ‘House Drama’ are events that many students look forward to. If you’d like to know more, just visit KTJ’s YouTube page! Some of the main sporting events include the Cross-Country Run, Swimming Gala, Athletics events, Interhouse Rugby, Football and Hockey. There’s a never ending list of available opportunities to pursue at KTJ and if you do indeed come here, make sure you take full advantage of all the opportunities at KTJ. There are also excellent leadership opportunities in KTJ, be it the Sixth Form Committee, Prefects’ Board, Student Council, or the BOD of the societies and clubs. All of these roles will be very beneficial to you as an individual in honing the skills that you are required to equip yourself with in life. My personal favourite societies are the KTJ Debate Union (also the current CollegeLAH Director’s favourite) and Forensics Society!

  1. University Application Support

I can’t comment on the application support that students experience while applying to the US, Canada and Australia as I haven’t undergone the process myself. Focusing on the UK applications, KTJ has a dedicated Sixth Form Team that will assist and advise you throughout your time in the Sixth Form. Representatives from universities such as the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and University College London (UCL) have visited KTJ over the last year to provide information to prospective students. It’s a unique opportunity for you to be able to communicate with the universities that you are looking forward to applying to as it gives you the option to resolve all the doubts and questions that you have. There is a great level of support in helping you get to university not only from your teachers but your seniors as well. They have undergone the applications process and are in a great position to be able to advise you not only on university choices, but also with wider reading for your subject choice. There is often practice for university admissions tests such as the UKCAT and LNAT Examinations. Guidance is also provided to individuals who are required to submit additional forms as part of their university application. Besides that, mock interviews are organised for students who have been invited to an interview, usually for Oxbridge. Starting this year, the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) is being offered for those taking their A-Levels.

KTJ is not like a school to me, it’s way more than that. It’s like a home away from home. The best way for you to gauge a school would be to come for a tour and see it first hand! I do hope that you consider applying to KTJ for your A-Levels and that you will enjoy it like I do. There will be an Open Day coming up on the 27th of February 2016 for those of you who’d like to see more of the school. Check out the KTJ Facebook Page for more details; https://www.facebook.com/kolejtuankujaafar/

Imran Debating

Imran Mateo joined the Sixth Form in KTJ in 2014. He hopes to pursue a degree in Law in the United Kingdom. You are most likely to find him at a Debate Competition.

Life as a STPM (Physics-Chemistry) Student


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‘Hello there!’
‘Good morning Mdm. Nancy.’
‘Good day to you sir.’

That was basically the routine for me, every single morning of my life whenever I bumped into a teacher or the principal. Pretty straightforward and ‘old-school’ I would say, however for me, it is a courtesy and doing so is my pleasure. Born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, life could be very boring for the past 5 years. Since the UPSR (Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah), I was admitted into Victoria Institution. For 5 years, I went through the highs and lows of my high school life and now I am in Form 6, taking the STPM (Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia) examination in the same school, Victoria Institution. It never hit me to take STPM until my grandfather shed some light on me about the STPM examination. After receiving my SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia) results, I had three choices to further myself into tertiary education due to my shallow results, the UPU system, STPM examination, or private colleges. I took all three choices seriously. The UPU system is roughly a system whereby it gives SPM graduates choices to study locally either in Diploma or Asasi. The choices given by this system seems somewhat random because you will end up with courses that are not really related to your interest. I did not consider depending on the UPU system at this point. Leaving that behind, I found myself in a crossroad. It was either private colleges or STPM. It took me a month to decide which one was the suitable choice. Coincidentally, the STPM was having a change in format and syllabus. The change in format and syllabus made the older one obsolete. The older format was called the ‘Terminal System’, which was very similar to SPM format. The students were required to study for a year and a half, and by the end of the duration, STPM examination would take place. However in the new and revised format, in a year and a half, the students will undergo three short semesters, where the syllabus for every subject in STPM are separated into three parts. By the end of each semester, a major exam takes place. The average marks for three semester is calculated and that would be your CGPA. At first, this big change in format was a handful to take. But, after letting it to sink in, it made sense. The new format is very similar to the Foundation courses in the private colleges. It took me a while to think about it. I compared the financial cost for STPM and private colleges. I had a hard time comparing those two, checking Mr. Google for experiences in both fields. There was really a major difference in lifestyle, but the outcome was somewhat similar. The only thing is, STPM prepares you generally for almost any degree course. In contrast to that, private colleges offers a wide range of programs that prepares you specifically for the chosen course, resulting a narrow range of degree courses. At this point, I was not really sure of what sort of career that I will be taking, and my mind was kind of fuzzy at that moment. Confused and lost, it took mae one week to decide what kind of career that I am going to pursue. In the end, I choose to take up STPM.

I ended up choosing STPM, and decided to follow the Science stream. There is a lot of combination of subjects in this particular stream, the common one being the “Physics-Chem” and the “Bio-Chem”. The former one requires you to take Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics while the latter requires you to take Biology instead of Physics, plus the other two subjects mentioned after that. Upon making the decision, something hit me in the head. I was not good at Biology at all! So I took the “Physic-Chem” combo. A friend of mine, Lim Yu Wei, took an unorthodox combination which some might consider crazy. He took up Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. It is possible to take that kind of combination, however not recommended to the student since there are more than a handful of subjects to juggle. Our school allowed this combination, but it is rarely taken up by the students due its difficulty. Other schools which offers STPM mostly have these three combinations in the Science stream. That basically sums up the Science stream in STPM. When I think about it, the subjects that are offered in the Science stream are quite general, but the depth is quite deep. There is a lot more to be learn in STPM in comparison with ‘Asasi’ or Foundation. I was not quite sure about the reason behind this, however I guess it’s the standard that has to be maintained, even when there is a change in the format. The fact that STPM has a reputation of being tough, rumours arise like bubbles in hot springs and the biggest one is “STPM is going to make you suffer because it is hard.” This is not so true however. STPM is hard but it is totally up to the students to conform and suffer or to rise above that. It is a matter of technique that lets you through this ‘suffering’ examination. Other rumours pretty much revolves around the previous one, saying it is hard and unmanageable for a student at the age of 18 and 19. Personally, I think it would be better off that way because it will give a valuable lesson to those who take up STPM. In other words, you got to prepare yourself for whatever that comes your way. Despite of all the load that takes toll on STPM students, I can proudly say that we are a bunch of happy students. In contrary to common believe, we are happy students at heart simply because it is like high school all over again. Back in our uniform that we are not so fond of, reminds us again that we are still young. Life in the Form 6 is not as mundane as you think it is, very exciting, somewhat weird and sometimes dangerous. Very adventurous I would say, however because of this, the importance of our studies were temporarily stripped away from our brains, until the mock exams come.

Putting aside our happy yet silly lives, lets focus on what STPM is comprised of, the subjects. As a Science student, I took the ‘Physics-Chem’ subject combo and therefore I had to study Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry and the General Paper. STPM is well known for its dense syllabus for each subject and with the new modular format, students were required to learn at a very fast rate. In the new format, the old syllabus is split into three parts to accommodate for each semester. This applies to every subject in both Science and Arts stream. Hence, we will not be referring to the materials that had been learnt in the previous semester. More like a take-and-throw routine, things that has been learnt in first semester would not be brought up in the second semester. Even if there is a relationship between the topics, it would be negligible. As I took up Elementary Physics, it is split up into three parts, Motion & Thermodynamics, Electromagnetism & Optics, and Nuclear Physics & Quantum Mechanics. So I would have done those three separately and I can tell you that each one is very dense and requires you to swallow it up within six months. A daunting task lies ahead of me and I was unsure if I can pull it off by the time the final examination claims me. Pretty much the same for Maths, Chemistry and General Paper. Talking about the final examination, the format for the final examination is very new to me as each subject has only one paper. Unlike SPM, each subject may contain several papers to sit, and each subject differs in the number of papers to take. The Science subjects in STPM, Physics, Biology and Chemistry has a common format. The paper is divided into three section, Multiple Choice Question Section, Subjective Questions Section and Essay Question Section. All three must be done within an hour and a half. This seemed very crazy, but if you focus and persevere, it is possible. By the end of the exams, our hands would be worn out since we are writing fast to save time. Because of this, I have to change the way I’m studying. Instead of focussing on the vast content of each subject, I focused more on the important formulas and the frequently asked questions. STPM may overwhelm you with the vast content, but don’t be disheartened. My advice is do 50 questions from each subject daily and time yourself. Consistency is the key. Be consistent and you’ll find yourself some space to breathe in the end. Sometimes, we are taken aback by the difficulty that we are facing and try to run away from it. Instead, face the truth, be determined and have the will to go on. Taking tuitions outside is advisable, but do not depend too much on it. Study often and you’ll get through. Sounds like it is going to be mundane, but the fact it is not. Don’t bend yourself to the books solely and lock yourself from the world for good. Be resourceful and smart, find questions from different platforms like A-levels, Foundation programs and Matriculations. From there, you will get a wide array of questions and answers. Use the internet and find papers from different states. That is how you could study in STPM, for the Science stream as well as the Arts stream. Honestly, the teachers are not going to feed you with the knowledge needed so you need to find your own way out of the mess. Do not neglect them however, because sometimes you need their help. I used to ask teachers for papers from other schools because it is in their field of knowledge. Utilise things around you to aid you in quest for success.

Up until now, I still feel that the Form 6 in schools in Malaysia is detached from the school organisation. Back in the 1950’s to the 1980’s, the Form Six were considered the eldest among the high schoolers. However now, it just seems like a far cry as the Form 5 is considered the eldest and the Form 6 is a separate institution. In Victoria Institution, the efforts of putting the Form 6 back into the school organisation is fruitful, events that were organised by the Form 6 were openly accepted and celebrated. During sports day, the Form 6 and the Form 5 are placed in a single category. The Form 6 integrated well with the school in Victoria Institution. Apparently, the Form 5 do not have a proper student council or a student body. Only the Form 6 does. From time to time, representatives from the Form 6 student council discuss about yearly events with the Form 5. However, due to the density of STPM, the Form 6 students rarely participate in Form 5’s huge event. The Form 6 students are often reminded to study rather than getting involved with the school activities. We are not forced to become bookworms, but to prepare ourselves for whatever is coming. This preparation and constant reminder kept us alive and will forever teach us a valuable lesson, which is to be matured. STPM graduates would normally end up doing a degree course in a private university instead of a public university simply because the chances to get into public university is very low. Appealing to them would be futile. Even if we got the offer to attend public university, the courses offered are always not related to us or our interests. Private colleges became our option in the end. Whether it be the private colleges or the public university that I end up in, the support from several dedicated teachers that I received is what I really like. Even though you are supposed to be on your own, some teachers would really help and push you till the very end. These teachers are selfless and would do anything in their power to help us students achieve a high CGPA in STPM. I would like to thank them and I am very grateful to have them as my teachers. Then again, even having such people to help us, the STPM exam papers needs to be revised. With the current format, the questions asked are very objective and requires you to read a lot. None of them piqued my interest in Physics, Chemistry or even Math. Everything asked was based on facts and nothing were subjective or opinion based. The “Subjective Questions” section in our papers does not prove its purpose and instead asked more factual question. With a little bit of opinion based questions in STPM, it would give us a little room for us to breathe and would probably spark our interest in our respective subjects learnt. I would be happy if they would do that.

Here I am, typing this essay on a laptop, expressing how I feel. To be honest, I feel grateful and happy to have done STPM. A lot of memories were made along the way and not to mention, the amount of silly things we did back then. It was a journey for me to reassure myself about what I was going to do next. STPM made me think maturely and it certainly did taught me one important lesson, to persevere and have determination towards your goal. Here is a thing to those who have made it to the last passage of my essay, do not underestimate luck and when you have it, use it to your fullest because that may be the last bit of luck you can ever get. I am not asking you to rely on it, rather make use of it when it comes. Always put effort into anything you do and seize the chance if you see it and don’t let it go! Think of this essay as guide to peer into and hopefully, it had helped to clear out a bit of things. I wish you all good lives and have fun along the way.


Abdul Aziz

Abdul Aziz bin Azman is currently a foundation student en route for a Oil & Gas Process Degree at UniKL. Hailing from the famed SKBD and Victoria Institution, Aziz claims that he might just be one of those “DotArds”, spending much of his holidays on DotA 2 and Warcraft 3 of top of the chess and reading that he does in between. Sparked by reading Stephen Hawking in fifth form, Aziz’s love for physics has now become unquenchable.

Life as a STPM (Arts) Student


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What subjects did you take and what were the possible subject combinations out there? Both in your school and any other schools that you might know of.

We are only allowed take up a maximum of 5 subjects and usually a minimum of 4 subjects. I’m not too sure about the possible subject combinations but I know it depends on the school you are enrolled in. My school, Victoria Institution only offered 5 subjects in the art stream; Pengajian Am, Pengajian Perniagaan, Ekonomi, Sejarah and Bahasa Melayu. Pengajian Am is compulsory for everyone including science stream student and in my school Pengajian Perniagaan in compulsory for art stream students.

What compelled you to take up STPM? How does one apply to study STPM at a school? Can you say anything about the common myths about STPM, in terms of difficulty, culture as well as any other that you can think of?

What compelled me to take up STPM? Hmm. Before this I have actually considered many other options such as foundations in arts and diploma in illustration and STPM was somewhat a last choice but my choice bounced back and forth. Back in high school, I am not a studious kid. I did not like what I was studying, I did not understand why do we need to take 9 subjects at once with one really unnecessary subject *I’m sure you can guess it*, and many more reasons. I scored just alright for SPM and it wasn’t worth for any scholarship but I was happy with what I got (: I was not exactly encouraged to take up STPM because there is a myth that you need to be super smart or a genius to take STPM but still I felt STPM was something that I was called for. So I went for it and ta-da I did amazingly well. I am not sure about science stream because I am from art stream, STPM is something anyone can score if you’re diligent and curious enough to study and be active in class. I loved what I studied except for one subject but it helped me tremendously in university. People have this mindset that STPM students only know how to study and that certainly isn’t true. We do know how to have fun and it is all about balancing out your life.

You do not have to apply for STPM if you are from a government school because you will automatically get a place at a school that offers Form 6 and is affiliated with your school.

Tell us more about the subjects that you took up, in terms of academic rigour, choice of content as well as examination style. What sort of revision and learning techniques have you adopted, and how that might have differed from form 4-5? What advice should new form 6 students heed from you?

I took 4 subjects; Pengajian Am, Pengajian Perniagaan, Ekonomi and Sejarah. I would say that all subjects are equally challenging and Ekonomi was the most challenging out of all. If you’re wondering, yes, all my subjects are conducted in Bahasa Melayu. These 4 subjects require insanely a lot of writing. We are also required to complete one assessment for each subject. It is known as PBS.

My batch was the second batch to go through the new system which is semester based system. Previously it was fully exam based. There are 3 semesters in total which means there are 2 semesters in a year. For all of my subjects, we are required to complete one assessment (paperwork) for each subject. It is known as PBS but some of my teachers call them ‘mini thesis’. I enjoyed doing them but the process was quite tiring because we are required to do different types of research methods for each PBS. I’m glad they introduced PBS because I can see how it helped me in university. We are taught how to cite using different citation styles and analyze data.

In Pengajian Am, we study about our country on how Malaysia functions (Semester 1), the policies and the constitution in Malaysia (Semester 2) and globally about what is going on around the world (Semester 3). We were also required to learn how to plot graphs from a set of question given. I find studying what we have learnt was not too bad but the essay part was quite frightening. I felt as though we were suddenly taught to think really hard whereas before that we were spoonfed like babies in high school. Reading is incredibly important to produce a good essay because examples were needed and level of maturity displayed in the essay is also crucial.

Pengajian Perniagaan (PP for short) is a subject I swore I will never retake. (Yes, we are allowed to retake any of our registered subjects after semester 3 no matter what grade you have) Why? Because PP is a full memorizing subject. No joke. We need to memorize the whole textbook. I struggled because I have a memory of a goldfish. The struggle does not stop there, we cannot blindly memorize it. We need to fully understand what we are memorizing because there will be a section in the exam paper where we are need to apply what we have studied. The questions are tough.

Ekonomi can sometimes be very interesting and sometimes, I will doze off studying it. We learn about Mikroekonomi, Makroekonomi and Ekonomi Malaysia. There are many graphs to analyse, formulas to use and applications of what we have learnt for essays. For me, I needed many exercises to improve because I am terrible with numbers, especially for the calculation part. I bought exercise books and did all of the past year questions. As for the essay, we really have to grasp the concept in order to do it.

Sejarah! My favourite among all. We study about Sejarah Dunia, Sejarah Islam and Sejarah Asia Tenggara dan Malaysia. Well, I would say, if you love history, you’ll love this but I wrote like mad woman during exam. I do not exactly remember which semester, we need to write 4 essays out of 6 choices and each essay needs to be at least 3 pages. This means 12 pages in 2 hours. There are 2 types of questions. The first is straightforward questions where we can basically write down what we read without much thinking and the other type is the opposite. We need to think thoroughly about the question.

Most of the time I do my own notes because I revise better through mind maps. For some subjects I have more than one reference book because different books have different examples and contents such as Ekonomi and Sejarah. Well, of course, do not  rely on only the reference book; read other books and magazines, watch videos, listen to podcasts and have an open mind. If you still do not know what technique you should use to study, google it. Not kidding! I tried many ways and mind mapping worked the best.

I also suggest to have at least one or two friends to study with and if you cannot study at home, go and explore different places to study such as the library and coffee shops. I study better outside as compared to at home. Not forgetting, listen to your teachers when they teach, it saves a lot of extra reading and understanding when you study. If you think your teacher isn’t good enough, find teachers outside (: I have also learnt that, no one can be fully ready for an exam. So, just do your best, do not stress yourself up and ace it.

Can you tell us more about the culture in an STPM school? How might it have been different or similar to Form 5? How integrated are Form 6 students into the Form 1-5 student body? Where do STPM graduates normally end up in? What of it that you enjoyed and what was lacking or lacklustre to you?

During my time, we still wear uniforms and I love my school uniform but now Form 6 students are not required to wear uniforms. The culture is quite similar to high school but we are given more freedom to chose a certain things such as forming our own clubs and the teachers are a tad different compared to high school teachers. In my school, Form 6 students have their own block so we do not mix with Form 1 to Form 5 students unless we join a body or society that includes Form 1 to Form 5 students. The culture in my school got me into culture shock the first day and I hated it but I end up loving my school and I can say I am proud to study Form 6 in Victoria Institution. In VI, there are insanely too many activities that we need to join but when I look back now, those memories are very precious.

I think there’s a lack of good teaching staff in Form 6 and the marking system/ answering techniques of some subjects are too rigid.

Usually STPM students will go to public universities (IPTA) and some will continue their journey in private universities or go overseas. It really depends on the individual. I personally went to a public uni because my course, Social Science majoring in Anthropology and Sociology is not offered in any private university. STPM is a also great platform for people who are unsure about what they want to study and it costs almost nothing compared to other options out there.

Most importantly, reflecting on your time studying STPM in school, how do you feel?

I truly miss Victoria Institution and my Form 6 life. I had a lot of fun with my friends and still keep in touch with them until today. Agreeing to go for STPM really changed how I look at myself and how God creates wonders in life.


Penny Wong

Penny Wong a proud KL citizen decided to leave home to explore a new city in Malaysia and hope to integrate arts and anthropology some day in her own way. Sipping green tea/latte, painting, reading and being creative are her favourite solitude moments. She is currently studying in Universiti Sains Malaysia and is a JPA scholarship holder.

Life@Abbey College Cambridge – A-level

Abbey College

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Abbey College Cambridge is a small, private college situated near the train station, in the city of Cambridge. They offer A-Level, GCSE and foundation courses although the subjects offered are somewhat limited due to size of the college. In terms of the application for the A Level course, it was fairly simple – most of my friends applied through their agents in Malaysia, ASA, but I opted out and applied directly. All I had to do was submit an online form, a statement of results and a personal statement, which was followed up by an informal skype interview. Entry into the course is not competitive and neither is it to obtain their partial scholarships, which is given based on your results in a test they conduct. Applying through the agents makes the process easier and enables you to meet some future schoolmates beforehand, so I would recommend using them.

The student community at Abbey is a close knit one. People from Malaysia, China, Vietnam, Russia and Nigeria make up the majority of students and there are few local students. There is no large segregation between people of different nationalities, although fellow countrymen tend to group together. The small student population, small class sizes and the common catered accommodation makes it easy to assimilate into the college. Most of the students at Abbey are competitive academically and college culture is very much driven by grades. Therefore, the extracurricular activities offered is somewhat lacking. There are a number of clubs but the range is by no means an extensive one. A fair bit are catered to help with subject specific UCAS applications, such as the Medic Club. Regarding college events, for what they lack in terms of frequency, they make up for it in terms of quality and fun.

The location of the college within Cambridge is convenient. It is a 20 minute walk from the accommodation halls to the furthest building and a 10 minute walk from the aforementioned building to the city centre. However, the buildings where lessons are conducted are spread out which makes it a bit tricky in between lessons. The construction of a new campus is scheduled to be completed by 2016 so newer students need not worry about the mad rush to get from one building to another.

Personally, the most valuable thing Abbey offered me were my teachers. They were dedicated and knowledgeable people who, as cliché as it sounds, were passionate about what they do. My physics teacher would leap whenever an exciting question was posed, my mathematics teacher would see me individually after school to run through certain topics, my economics teacher marked all my past paper essays overnight and my history teacher was such an inspiration, I seriously considered doing History at university. In all respects, there was a great deal of student support. The small class sizes meant that learning was often catered to each class and varied in terms of pace and teaching methods. Each student was assigned a personal tutor, with personal tutor group meetings each week and an individual meeting with the tutor every two months. My personal tutor would give me the push whenever I needed it and was definitely a key person in helping me settle in. At the college accommodation, I had house parents who would call me if I was late for curfew and come visit me with the college nurse whenever I was sick.

When applying for university, each student is allocated a UCAS advisor and a subject specialist who oversees the application process and assists in every way they can, such as giving feedback on personal statements. My UCAS advisor went out of his way to help me with mine, contacting his architect friends to look through my personal statement and application portfolios. My history teacher and personal tutor also vetted through my application and listened to my lengthy portfolio presentations, a testament to the sort of student-teacher relationship at Abbey. Contact between teachers and students is facilitated through emails and most teachers reply their emails within a day.

Retrospectively, the students and teachers form an integral part of Abbey College. The dynamics between students and students with teachers changes with each intake – it differs based on how large certain groups are, which subjects are being taken and which teachers you have. My view of Abbey may not have been as favourable if it were not for the community there, because the head administration of the college isn’t great and the fees are relatively high. However, the intimate college culture and its location in Cambridge make it an ideal environment to form relationships that would last a lifetime and to push yourself academically. For students looking for a gradual transition between the national education system and university life here in the UK, Abbey is one of the best places to go to. I found it easy to make friends quickly and constant interaction with other students helped me grow accustomed to different cultures. The teachers were always willing to help and this eased me into the more self-directed way of learning. In short, Abbey College Cambridge is a great college to learn, to grow and to find a home away from home.

Lim Li-Ann

Lim Li Ann is a self-funded student pursuing a degree in Architecture at the University of Edinburgh.  When she isn’t glued to a drawing board, she’s probably looking for new places to explore, a good book or any form of food.

Life@MCKL – A-level


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Methodist College Kuala Lumpur. I’d never even heard of it until my next door neighbour attended college there in 2012-13 while I was in the last two years of my secondary school. Looking back, I have no idea why I so confidently decided to do my A-Level at MCKL. The minute I heard about the college and talked to my neighbour about it ONE TIME, there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to go there, which is really strange, seeing as there were so many places in Penang to do my A-Levels (YAS, Penang lang here!). It’s not as if I fell in love with it or anything mystical and fanciful like that. There was just a sort of resolution in mind. “Yep, MCKL, I’m going there.” Though I suppose if I was forced to come up with reasons as to why I was so sold on the idea, I’d say the scholarships and Christian environment were what appealed to me most.

So there I was, completing an application online to a college I’d never set foot in. This very helpful chap from the Admissions and Counselling Department helped me through the process, as we emailed back and forth.

One really coolbeans fact about MCKL is that they offer loads of scholarships. I was applying for the 100% tuition fee scholarship which required I get 8As for my SPM*. The best part was, I could secure the scholarship using my forecast results, and later, even if my actual results were poorer than my forecast, I wouldn’t lose the scholarship. Another great thing about MCKL scholarships is that the CGPA for maintaining the scholarships isn’t too insanely high. For the 100%, I was required to maintain a CGPA of 3.2. And finally, the scholarships are not limited to a select few! Almost everyone in MCKL comes in with a scholarship of some form. As long as you apply early enough, and you have the required results, MCKL gladly provides you with a scholarship!

When the time came to go to this mysterious MCKL, I felt very homesick during the first weekend. It was before my college orientation, and I was all alone in KL. My housemates hadn’t yet moved in and I knew no one in MCKL (my neighbour had just graduated from AUSMAT the semester before). But after that one weekend, college started, and it was a whirlwind of meeting new people, joining too many clubs, absorbing all these new subjects (I took Math, English Literature, Psychology and Law),  taking part in community projects and basically having a crazy, good time!

Generally, MCKL is known by outsiders as the goody-two-shoes college for nerds. We clearly resent that and yet there is a grain of truth in that caricature. As a college founded on Christian values, MCKL does regulate rules a bit more strictly than most colleges. There is a dress code that we must adhere to, but frankly I think all of us love the upside of how we don’t feel pressured to dress up to go to college. It’s not unusual to see people in sweatpants, baggy t-shirts and messy buns. This might not be for everyone, but for me, an 18 year old girl who had no idea how to put on a dot of makeup, this suited me perfectly!

Extracurricular-wise, MCKL has a pretty wide range of clubs and activities. In my first semester, I very wisely (ha ha) joined the Music Club, Debate Club, Model United Nations Club, Latin Dance Society, Pre-U Society and the Christian Fellowship (CF). Along with that, I had to complete a Service Learning project, in which my group chose to raise awareness about modern day slavery. (Through this project, I gained the friends that would stick with me throughout the one and a half years of A-Levels. There’s really something about understanding the human struggle that made us stick together!) In my second and third semester, I cut down on my activities and chose to focus on serving in the CF, where there were tons of opportunities to get involved. In MCKL, most students go through the same process of being spread very thin in the first semester, and then focusing on one or two clubs in their remaining semesters. In my opinion, it’s quite logical, as then you’ll know, having had a try, what you really want to invest your time in.

Another extracurricular activity that really impacted me was the running of the Orientation Camps! Every student has to attend a camp in their first semester and this is the time where students really get to know their classmates and also people from other programmes. As campers, obviously the camp was thoroughly enjoyable and memorable. However, the great thing about the running of these camps is that they didn’t stop at the end of our Orientation Camp (OC). We got the chance to apply to become facilitators in the OC for the next intake. With that came the responsibility of planning the entire camp with 11 other students. After being a facilitator at camp, learning so many fundamental things, I became a historian during the next cycle of camps, eager to learn more. The student services staff of MCKL gave their best during those camps to make sure that we didn’t leave without learning something, but ultimately, whether we learnt or not was up to us. Even after I’d graduated, I returned to OC as the lead coordinator, to try and impart some of what I’d learnt to a new batch of facilitators, but at the same time, I myself learnt how to allow them to make their own mistakes. These OCs played a large part in what I took back from my time in college . (This can be seen by how long the paragraph is when I meant to only write two sentences about it! Hehe)

With all the fun and challenges of everything else, my studies also must be spoken of! I had the blessing of having a number of dedicated lecturers, both young and old. I cannot speak for the entire academic programme, ‘cos I really think it depends on your lecturer as well as the amount of work you put in, but I can say that the academic side of things was never a cause of real concern for me. This doesn’t mean I got straight As all the time-far from it-but I never had a real worry about it. We had monthly tests for every subject, so that kept us from falling behind. And we also had very challenging trial papers which drove us to glue ourselves to our books and past year papers during the time leading up to the actual exams.

One thing I was amazed by at MCKL was the willingness of the lecturers to go out of their way to help students. It is perfectly normal to walk around MCKL and see lecturers helping students in their free time, going through the curriculum, running extra classes, and sometimes just buying them an ice cream or a drink to catch up with them and make sure they’re coping okay. Their humble service was an encouragement to me, personally, as it was at MCKL that I decided to pursue English and Education so I could help as they did.  Also, the university placement staff were very effective at helping us students get our act together and apply for university. Without their constant pushing and encouraging, I doubt so many MCKL graduates would have ended up at all the top universities that they have.

One final thing I must share was what it was like living in the college-provided accommodation with the other students from outstation. I was blessed with great housemates and roommates (I had a total of 22 housemates over the span of my 1.5+ years there. This is an unusually high number!) who taught me a lot about living together and bearing with one another’s good times and bad habits! There were obviously squabbles and fights along the way, and way too much crying in bathrooms together (maybe not so much for teenage boys lah!), but I’d say we all grew stronger because of it. There was also the amazing feeling of being a part of a larger community of accommodation students , taken care of by our amazing wardens, who  looked out for our physical and also emotional needs. If you’re afraid of leaving home, don’t be. Some things will never be fully appreciated until you leave (*cough* Char Kuey Teow *cough*).

From start to finish, my time at MCKL was incredibly fun and meaningful. I made many friends, in both fellow students and staff. I learnt so many new things and I’m still trying to improve myself daily from what I’ve learnt. By God’s grace, I also managed to get A-Level results that enabled me to receive an unconditional offer from the university of my choice. Clearly, I cannot guarantee that you will love MCKL as much as I sincerely do. The idea of this kind of college might not appeal to you in the least, and that’s fine! But if you’re interested in a not-so-huge college, where you can learn both inside and outside of the classroom, supported by a truckload of people, consider MCKL. There’s hardly a better feeling than belonging to the small community, where you might not know everybody, yet

you immediately grin at that ‘stranger’ wearing the MCKL shirt, and you feel like you’re coming home every time the train pulls into KL Sentral and even after you leave, these three simple words can still put a nostalgic smile on your face,

Veritas Vincit Omnia

Truth Conquers All

*The requirements change rather regularly, so do check the website for the latest info!

Cat Bakewell

Catherine Bakewell is a 19 year old, half-English, half-Peranakan, ‘hybrid’. She is enjoying her gap year, teaching English and gaining extreme patience from waitressing! She did her A-level in Methodist College Kuala Lumpur and loved it so much that she stayed on for 3 months to intern in their Marketing Department. Promoting MCKL proved to unite both her love for MCKL and her gift of the gab 😛

Life@TCSJ-Cambridge A-Level


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College – the time I discarded my school uniform to immerse myself in enriching education, wearing an attire of my choice, that secreted the maximum amount of my brain juice. The time I evolved into an adult and took full responsibility of my educational life. The time I hiked up my pants to my chest, put my shoulder to the wheel and started taking control of my life to walk the path of success. And so began my journal of ‘Things I never did – but would probably have helped me if I did’. I say the word ‘probably’ because although I did not carry out the above, at least not to my fullest potential, I would say that I’m quite satisfied with where I ended up – UCL – not the best but a world of good fun. But my university life is another story, the objective of this article is to share my college experience with you all, with the hope to give budding college-goers an idea of what college can be, only if you’re willing to listen of course.

In retrospect, I began college with an absolutely horrendous attitude. Coming out of a private secondary school and being constantly ranked as one of the top students, I was insufferably stuck-up, incredibly obnoxious, ashamedly sheltered and with a nose held so high I was almost bending backwards. I stepped into college thinking it was going to be a breeze. I mean, sure, the lecturers warned that the difficulty jump from SPM to A-level would be a culture shock but teachers said the exact same thing about the transition from PMR to SPM, didn’t they? Now, just to clarify, by no means am I belittling the Malaysian secondary education system. Instead, I’m putting my honest perception of the difference in difficulty gap and technical knowledge required to succeed in secondary school as compared to A-level. Sure, swallowing textbooks whole and regurgitating them during examinations might help one achieve good grades in A-levels but then again, it might not. Thorough understanding of the course and subjects do, no two ways about it. I do not mean to scare anyone off, I am merely emphasising and underlining the necessity of constant self-study to obtain commendable grades in A-level (at least for me, but of course I do not intend to commit a fallacy and generalise the bright minds that make up the Malaysian student population).

However, I digress, the real point of this article, as mentioned above, is to draw attention to what made my college experience so fulfilling. Besides being fussy and picking only subjects I enjoyed (Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Economics) I also immersed myself in extra-curricular activities. No longer was I confined to the typical secondary school societies which were mostly limited to sports and chess. At college, they encourage you to pursue your passion and develop your interests, whatever they may be. Needless to say, I went wild. I signed up for at least 8 different societies, with the intention to excel in every one of them. As naïve as I was idealistic, I soon found out I might as well drop out of college if I were to take all of them on. After much deliberation and consideration of opportunity costs and where my interests really were, I opted to be active in two societies. These two societies were the Animal Huggers Society and Taylor’s Badminton Club. Now, I can hear your sniggers and snickering starting. Badminton was fine but Animal Huggers? Was that a joke? During my tenure, it happened to be the biggest non-sports society in my college. Impressed yet? Well you should be! I always enjoyed telling my peers that I was the Vice President of the society because their disbelief made the work we did that much nobler.

I conducted regular visits to the PAWS Animal Shelter in Subang with my team of committee members and a limited number of volunteers to tend and care for the homeless dogs, cats and rabbits that were constantly brought to the shelter. By ‘tending’, we walked, fed and bathed the animals as well as cleaned their living areas. Now, this experience was so eye-opening because I couldn’t visualize the living standards of the animals before this. Even before entering, I was hit with a stench that made my eyes water. The animals were covered with faeces, cramped together and had skeleton bodies. It was indescribable to see their eyes light up when we arrived, each one of them begging for attention and tenderness. I was hit by a hurricane of emotions as I took all of this in. From the most vicious hound to the puppy cowering in the corner, each animal there had a story. Either dropped off by owners who couldn’t care for them anymore, rescued from abusers thus making them more violent and untrusting towards humans or dumped at the side of the road, the stories were all heartbreaking. Honestly, I was so grateful to have been able to visit the shelter as I was able to get a true glimpse of reality, which ignited a desire to work towards a better world, something I am adamant on achieving.

Onto happier matters, I was the Assistant Organising Chairperson for the Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities’ (MAPCU) inaugural badminton tournament. Although this competition was a longtime tradition for this umbrella body of private colleges and universities, I say ‘inaugural’ because it was the first time my college ever took on the challenge of holding this prestigious event. Now, the only events I’ve ever organised were those secondary school occasions where minimal effort was required from students and teachers were the main powerhouses driving and shaping the event. With that said, the MAPCU badminton tournament was heavily student-led by the committee team and was a world of difference as compared to high school. I won’t bore you with the specifics nor the details but what I will do is present to you two major learning outcomes which contributed to my steep learning curve through college. First of all, managing the expectations of different stakeholders and ensuring to never over-promise any single party was a new experience. We were fully accountable for our interactions with the different participating educational institutions and no teachers were standing behind us to mop up our mess if we made one. Next, I became increasingly thick-skinned (for better or for worse). I had to source for sponsors and it was only natural to get shot down by most of the companies you approach. Initially, I was embarrassed, hurt and ashamed every time I was rejected but as time went on, I matured, understood that it was not in the company’s interest to sponsor such an event, and carried on. As cliché as it might sound, this experience truly helped me cope with rejections in different endeavors I undertook following this event. Truly, there were a myriad of other skills I obtained such as how to be a better team player, time management, people management, the list just goes on, but if I had two main takeaways from my role it would be as stated previously.

College life paints a different picture in everyone’s mind. Following my high school education, I was looking forward to a more challenging but also more flexible lifestyle. Now that I’m in university, I see it as a stepping stone to cultivate new skills that, moving forward, will define your university opportunities and experience. Although I had a ball in college, if I could turn back time, I would have done so much more. I would have participated in external events, took advantage of college networks and spearheaded new initiatives for the societies I was a part off. I’m not here to dictate your college experience but to simply give you an insight of what you can expect during your college education and how to make the most out of it. Talk to people, learn from them but always remember to take everything you hear with a pinch of salt. I hope that this article managed to give you a bit of an idea as to what college life is all about. All the best!

Mah Jun Kit

Mah Jun Kit is reading Chemical Engineering at University College London, Class of 2018, and is passionate about animal welfare, environmental health and, of course, good food. He enjoys the thrill of outdoor activities and relishes engaging in intellectual discourse. He is loves meeting new people so if you see him on the streets, don’t be a stranger



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South Australian Matriculation (SAM) or presently known as SACE International is an Australian-based pre university program that heavily involves the combination of coursework and final examination, which ultimately leads you to earning an Australian Year 12 qualification. As for myself, I did SAM back in 2013, in which I joined during the July intake at Taylor’s College Subang Jaya (TCSJ) and graduated at the end of 2014. Being somewhat clueless on the things to be done and the course to pursue after getting my SPM results, I definitely had to take my own initiatives to get more insights on all the choices available, which led to countless ‘new tabs’ on my web browser and various perspectives obtained from those who were undertaking different pre-university programs. In the end, the Australian matriculation or specifically, the SAM program won me over, primarily due to the weightage of its internal assessments; SAM students are assessed based on 70% college-based assessment (coursework) and only 30% final examination, which I believe is a huge advantage for myself. For most colleges that do offer the SAM program, the entry requirements generally demand students to get a minimum of 5 credits (subject pre-requisites do apply).

After deciding the program that I was most interested in while still keeping my options open for the rest, the next step was to look out for any forms of financial aid that could help me reach my desired higher education. I was very lucky to be in the position where my results gave me the eligibility to apply to various scholarships that were provided both by the government and NGOs. Most of these sponsors require applicants to achieve straight As for their SPM examination but there are definitely other options to consider such as government loans, university scholarships and bursaries depending on your results. The application process for me involves a great deal of anxiety with tons of patience and persistence; receiving declines after declines can definitely took a toll on you but with great perseverance, I received a full scholarship offer from MARA to pursue my studies to my preferred university in Australia, where I would first have to undertake SAM program in TCSJ and pass the ATAR requirement fixed by the sponsor, which was a minimum score of 85 at that time. Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is the primary criterion for entry into most undergraduate-entry university programs in Australia. During my MARA application, students were given a choice to pick two from the numerous options available, varying to the courses and countries that it is offered in. The Australian program offered was without a doubt my very first option and I was very fortunate to be one of the few selected for the program. For MARA scholars, students were selected based on their performances during the psychometric test and the interview conducted.

In SAM, it is expected for one to be relentlessly on the go and working consistently on the assignments at hand. There is going to be a time where you might be having multiple tests for different units on the same day of your assignment’s submission, which can be pretty challenging to get used to. It took me a while to get adjusted to the fast-paced study routine and I was very lucky to have a steadfast support system around me with thoughtful peers and selfless lecturers that always kept me on my toes. Personally, I believe that good time management, continuous effort and perseverance are the three prominent traits that needs to be grasped in order for one to excel in SAM. It is important to realize that everything requires effort and perseverance, that executing actions is equally as important as believing and dreaming big. Always get a head start on the work assigned by doing prior research and discuss it with your lecturers to get constructive feedback; it will help you to improve your work further and thus enhancing the final piece. Don’t be embarrassed or anxious to consult the lecturers for any difficulties faced throughout the course, they are more than willing to guide you and improving your overall experience in SAM. Discussion among peers can be very helpful in completing your assignment, as you’ll realize that more in depth knowledge on the subject matter can be attained with all the different ideas shared. Being consistent with your internal assessments grades throughout the program can definitely help you to improve your final results, as it holds a considerably higher weightage than the external component and it also allows you to have more control on your intended outcome.

SAM arranges various motivational talks from university representatives and experienced alumni around the world, where they share valuable insights that can help you further in deciding the right course to pursue. Being rather new on the procedures in applying to different universities in Australia, Taylor’s University Placement Services were my literal backbone throughout my university application process. They were always very supportive and willing to dedicate their time to help the students in getting the intended university. Their years of experiences definitely gives an advantage to the students; they have recognized what these universities are looking for in potential students and they always made sure all the forms were filled with relevant details before any submission, leading to an excellent service in entirety.

SAM also offers various opportunities for students to discover their hidden passions and interests apart from education with a variety of clubs and societies to choose from, ranging from sports, arts and affiliations. Through SAM, I have found one of the most moving forms of excitement I could ever accomplish, which is the opportunity to inspire another person and thus making a difference in their life, no matter how small it could be. One of my most valuable SAM experiences was the chance to get involved with the MADU (Made a Difference United) society, which is a special community-based program held only under SAM in TCSJ. In MADU, we had different groups of students doing weekly visits to shelter homes around Subang and Petaling Jaya areas, where we provide mentoring sessions for the students there through our ‘Buddy System’. Basic tutoring as well as engaging and developing long-term relationship with the students to discuss their future endeavors 
were our primary roles as mentors. Our objectives are to inspire and reinvigorate the significance of school education for these students and emphasizing the importance of skill integration in real life. From MADU, I realised that when you have the chance to inspire someone, that person may then inspire others and as this chain reaction grows, an entire generation could be inspired and lives would definitely be changed.

Throughout my one and a half years in Taylor’s, Both SAM and MADU have played a huge role in shaping the person that I am today. It has taught me the need of inculcating wisdom in education to develop a more confident, successful generation. It has equipped me with the much-needed soft skills and life skills that are stressed upon throughout the course particularly with all the assignments and tasks given. I’ve also learned how to manage a team efficiently, adapt quickly to any sudden and unexpected changes and socialize well with people from different background. Another life lesson that I’ve gotten and persistently remind my mentees and myself with is that we are our own limits; nothing could stop us from achieving our goals other than ourselves. It is essential for us to believe in ourselves when nobody else would and our beliefs will then determine our actions and that actions will evidently determine our results. If we have the passion and desire to reach for our own ambition, with hard work, constant dedication and much needed self-confidence, that could be achieved effortlessly.

Razana Aqila

Razana is going into her second year of university, where she is undertaking an engineering degree in Monash University, Australia under Majilis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) Scholarship. She is a music enthusiast with a profound passion for photography and suffers severe ornithophobia.