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“Black hole” Question

In science, we learn that time slows down near a black hole. Some questions have the same characteristics and are able to draw the students in to focus all their time and effort working on them.  The outcome is the commitment of too much time and effort on those questions while other easier questions are not attempted due to lack of time or effort.  Students have limited time and focus during an examination and these should be invested wisely.

In the tuition centre, when a mock assessment is given, there will always be a few such demanding questions. Students would be coached during English tuition, science tuition and maths tuition on how to identify such “Black hole” questions and to leave them to work on last. Take it as a bonus if you can do it.  The last thing to do is to stake the entire assessment outcome on those questions.


Answer all Questions

Answering questions in an examination is not filling in the survey form. It is not compulsory for all the blanks to be filled and all the questions to be answered.

Focus on the questions that you know how to do and answer them well. Thereafter your remaining time should be spent on those questions that you can best develop some possible answers.

In any assessments, it is expected to have questions that you not able to answer. For MCQ, we will need to make intelligent guesses.  For structured question, it is perfectly fine to leave these questions unanswered except with certain keywords or formulae or expressions that may garner you a point or two.

For questions that you are not able to solve, broadly we can categorise them under 3 groups.


Group 1 – Not understanding the question

During English tuition, essay questions may be scripted such that students easily misunderstood and misinterpret, leading them to write an essay that is completely out of point.

Certain mathematics questions on probability during mock assessment for students attending maths tuition would be worded in ways that can be interpreted incorrectly leading to wrong calculation.

It is thus imperative that students need to understand what the question is asking before they dive in to work out the answers diligently and elaborately. If the students are on the wrong track, all their worked answers would merely consume the precious allocated time for the assessment.


Group 2 – Answer is in the question

The long-structured questions given to students attending physics tuition usually contain numerous numerical data as well as graphical or tabulated information. This type of question will demand the learners to first understand what the question is asking and determine the topic or knowledge required to solve the question. Thereafter, learners are required to pick and analyse the correct data or information provided to solve the question.

The common error is that students overlook the data or information. It is thus important that data provided are highlighted and constantly evaluated to check their relevance when solving questions. Redundant data or excess information not required for answering the question can be provided.

The second possibility is that student incorrectly categorises the question as under a wrong topic and sub-topic. In this case, the student would be searching for specific information but is most likely to be frustrated as the information wanted cannot be found.


Group 3 – Learning and applying new concept taught in the question

In chemistry tuition, challenging question would be provided to students by introducing in the question itself new concept, new formula or new chemical reaction that they have not learnt before.  Normally, examples will be provided to demonstrate the use of this knowledge.

Thereafter the question will require students to apply this concept to a situation.  A more complex question will demand students to use the newly learnt concept together with the knowledge acquired based on the PSLE or GCE O or GCE A level syllabi to solve a problem.

Basically, student needs to be prepared to learn new knowledge in the examination hall and be effective in applying what is taught.

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