Stressed about your upcoming O Level Computing papers? We’re right by your side in this final lap with analysis of past year papers, tips and guidance (and interactive questions to test your knowledge) straight from our Lead Educator Mona Tan, who conducts our O Level tuition programme.
As a subject that just began with 2017’s Secondary Three cohort, we know that there aren’t that many resources or information out there for you to tackle your Computing papers. Our team has therefore scoured the net (and much more – so you won’t have to) to compile this list of essential information to aid you in your Computing paper. With multiple subjects and other exams to manage, here’s how you can make the most of your time and be ready for the Computing exam on 2 November 2020!
1. Know your papers!
As the old adage goes, “The man who is prepared has his battle half fought”. Do you know how the examination will happen and its detailed breakdown? Here’s your first question in our interactive quiz to test your knowledge!
There are ___ papers with a total duration of ___ hours.
There are two papers in the GCE O Level Computing examination.
Paper One is 2 hours, while Paper Two is 2 hours 30 minutes.
Knowing what material is covered in the syllabus and the format of the different papers is crucial. For example, Paper 1 is a written exam while Paper 2 is a practical exam taken with the use of a computer, spreadsheet and programming software.
Here’s what else you need to know about your papers – expand the buttons below to view more – you don’t want to miss out on the information we have below!
2. Revise and practice consistently
“Start early by breaking down content into manageable chunks,” Mona advises. “It is important to remember and assess your understanding of all the important concepts required for the paper.”
She also suggests getting familiar with the formula sheet attached in your O Level paper. You can find it here (pages 30 and 31).
With a formula sheet provided, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to remember what’s on it at all. Here’s the thing: you should know that formula sheet like the back of your hand – save precious exam time to ponder over questions instead. Leave the referring for emergency mind blocks! (Psst, this is the same for Mathematics.)
We all know that practice makes perfect! However, practice questions are scarce when it comes to the O Level Computing papers. As this year is the third year of the O Level papers, the best option would be to request and rely on the resources from your teachers. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if needed! And practice, practice, practice… and more practice.
3. Analysing Questions
While understanding the content is important, knowing how to apply it is equally as – if not more – essential. Here at Coding Lab, we create the questions for our O Level Computing Tuition classes, drawing on the O Level paper questions and our extensive experience in Computing education. We also put together revision papers for Secondary 4 students to have mock papers under exam-like conditions.
Paper 1 is more theoretical and ‘easier to score’ in the sense that memorisation can ‘give’ you some marks, but Paper 2 is more of demonstrating your knowledge and honing your time management by practising under time constraints. Do you know how to effectively break questions down into more digestible and easy-to-tackle questions?
Here’s how we would break down the thought process for this pseudocode question from 2018’s O Level Paper 1.
Question: A check digit for an 8-digit number is calculated by:
- multiplying each digit by 3 or 1 alternately as shown in the following table
- adding together the result of each multiplication
- dividing the total by 10 which gives a remainder
- subtracting the remainder from 10 to give the check digit, unless the remainder is 0.
If the remainder is zero (0), the check digit is 0.
The calculation of the check digit for the number 19483725 is:
Write an algorithm, using pseudo-code or a flowchart, to generate a check digit using the method given in the question.
We begin with defining the problem and identifying different parts of our program to write the pseudocode.
Input: 8-digit number
Output: Check digit
Process: Multiply each digit in the input, alternating between 3 and 1.
Sum up the results of multiplication. Divide the total sum by 10 and find the remainder.
Check if remainder is 0. If yes, output 0.
Else to find the check digit, take the result of 10 – remainder
That sums up our walkthrough of a sample O Level question. Pseudocode questions make up the majority of Paper 1, so understanding the steps to solve such questions is a key ingredient for that A1!
Bonus: Create a cheatsheet
It is undeniable that the Computing papers involve memory work. Hence, a common difficulty students face is remembering the fundamental blocks for the exam, such as logic gates, functions and formulae. Questions tend to ask a range of things, from identifying components and explaining what it does to the pros and cons.
The solution? Create a cheat sheet with all the functions and relevant information to create a personalised resource where the most important information is available at a glance. We get our Computing students to consolidate their learning via cheatsheets and instil the information through practising practical problems, which – as mentioned above – builds memory for programming in the process.
Your cheatsheet could be a black and white A4 one-page or you could use coloured pens and highlighters to facilitate your memory – it all depends on your preference and learning style!
It is normal to feel stressed and confused after practising various exercises. Although it is important to continuously practise, it is just as important to play hard as well.
“Sometimes when my codes don’t work, I would just do other things,” Mona laughs. “The solution will suddenly come to me out of nowhere, then I’ll go back and continue my codes.”
We would also suggest taking breaks throughout study sessions and not to forget having some time off, especially during this stressful period. Overall, it is important to achieve a balance between studying and taking breaks, while preparing for the examinations. This is especially so during these unprecedented times of the current Covid-19 pandemic.
From all of us here at Coding Lab, we would like to wish everyone all the best for their upcoming examinations! 🙂
Taking the ‘O’ level Computing Paper this November 2020? Join our Bootcamps, where we share essential tips and tricks in achieving that A1 or get your burning questions answered by booking a semi-personalised consultation with us (Limited Slots available).
(Written by Cheryl Tang and Lakshmi Suresh)
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