H3 Subjects

With the Promotional Exams just ended for J1s, this means that the Subject Combination Revision Exercise (SCORE) is just around the corner. Some of you may be looking to drop a difficult subject to H1, while some of you may look to further your knowledge on a subject as you are passionate about it. Today, we are focusing on the H3 subjects, in which the application process will take place on the 12th – 18th October.

Just a little summary of what H3 is: It is an extension of its accompanying H2 subject and serves as an opportunity to deepen your interest and learning.

Here are some of our interviews with EJ seniors taking the different H3 subjects just to give you a little insight to what’s in store for you! Namely, H3 Literature, Chemistry, Economics, Biology and History.


Wong Zann Yee (17-O1) – H3 Literature

Why did you choose to take H3 Literature?

I chose to do H3 Literature because it’s very exciting to be able to go beyond curriculum mandated texts, and explore concepts at a higher level. H2 Lit doesn’t really allow you the scope to use literary theory to analyse texts, so H3 Lit was a good avenue to extend my interest in Lit!

How has the workload been thus far?

The workload is kind of like writing an extra long essay using 3 texts (as compared to the 2 we usually use). Because it’s a research paper, so a lot of it is based on your own independence and commitment to work on it without prompting from the teachers. If you time things and work on it periodically, then the stress is much less than if you leave it to the last minute.

Can you give a brief description about what goes on during lessons?

For the H3 Lit research paper, there are no formal lessons — only 2 mandated consultations with your research mentor. You have to learn things on the go and it really is just a lot of independent thought and work. While your research mentor can guide you and give pointers on how to frame your essay, as well as how to use critical theory (if you choose to), they can only work with what you give them, and the quality of their guidance depends on the quality of your work.

What are some sacrifices you had to make?

I wouldn’t say that I made a lot of sacrifices — it was more of an accumulation of hours spent working on my essay. As I only had 2 consults with basically months in between, I worked on my essay periodically, so it doesn’t seem like that much. That said, the I probably spent quite a lot of time on it in total. Sometimes inspiration strikes so I go on a mad writing spree and other times it’s like a barren wasteland — I think that everyone will have a different experience with the essay, but at the end of the day it’s really about enjoying the process and putting your Lit brain to work. Honestly, the greatest sacrifice is that if you choose books you like (as I did), you’ll eventually grow a kind of dread at the sight of them because you spend so much time pouring over the text; but of course, once you’re done it’s like a huge weight off your shoulders and you can once again look upon the book with joy!


Hong Jing (17-U4) – H3 Pharmaceutical Chemistry

Why did you choose to take H3 Pharmaceutical Chemistry?

I was offered both H3 NTU Semi Conductor Physics and MOE H3 Pharmaceutical Chemistry in fact. I ultimately chose chemistry because having taken triple science in Catholic High, I wanted to interact with some Biology again as I take PCME in JC.

How has the workload been thus far?

It is fairly manageable but gets a little hectic when exams are near. Both my CCAs were on Wednesday and Friday while H3 lessons are every Tuesday and Thursday so it does take away quite some leisure time.

Can you give a brief description about what goes on during lessons?

We learn things that are supplementary to H2 Chemistry but at times completely new concepts and topics that sees overlaps with physics and biology. For example the concept of magnetic and electric fields in Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and Mass Spectrometry, and some biology in the form of gel electrophoresis and drug interactions. The lesson is similar to secondary school, a mixture of lecture and tutorial. The lessons are twice a week, two hours each time. As mine happens to be internal, it takes place in school, typically at an LT.

What are some sacrifices you had to make?

I would say that though 4 hours a week may not seem very substantial, it takes up a lot of time. This includes pre reading and digesting notes (at times pretty complicated and novel concepts) and completing assignments. So the major sacrifice would be time that could have been spent on revising H2 subjects.


Fiona Tan (17-A2) – Game Theory Economics

Why did you choose to take H3 Game Theory Economics?

I wanted to experience for myself what econs at the university level would be like as I was then seriously considering pursuing econs as a major. Also, I chose to do an external module instead of a research paper as I felt that it would be more structured and the syllabus would be more targeted in delivering specific learning outcomes


How has the workload been thus far?

The learning is pretty self-directed – you can choose to read up the content before he teaches it since he follows the lesson plan quite closely. The real workload comes from being able to keep up with the content which is extremely mathematical in nature, as opposed to huge amounts of assignments (I had a total of 4 assignments – each were just 2-4 questions).


Can you give a brief description about what goes on during lessons?

My entire Game Theory module lasted from Jan-April this year, with a total of 12 sessions, and my final exam was on 21 April. So yes, I was done with H3 a long time ago! It follows a seminar style, so no lectures or tutorials, but there are lessons once a week – I could choose between Fridays and Saturdays. Each session lasts for about 3 hours each. It was held at SMU and each class consists of about 45 students (mine was overwhelmingly populated by Rafflesians – no surprises there). Generally the professor goes through the syllabus content and we’re expected to be able to keep up. Almost every week there is some kind of game (you are learning about game theory, after all) like real-life auctions, which are pretty fun! Sometimes the prof sets homework which are all graded and he may or may not return these to you…


What are some sacrifices you had to make?

Apart from the inevitable sacrifice of sleeping in on Saturday mornings (which really took a toll sometimes), I really found myself struggling with my other H2 subjects, transitioning from J1 to J2, CCA, and my other commitments. What kept me going was the thought of everything being over in just a few months and post-H3 life returning to normal. My CT grades also took a hit as my mid-term exam was the Saturday right before CTs started and I was so demoralised after the mid-term because of how bloody difficult it was. But it’s all turned out well! And game theory really feels like another lifetime ago when I see my friends taking other H3s struggling with their research papers, their coursework and portfolios, etc etc.


Overall game theory was a really good experience in itself. Distinction rates are absurdly low so this is definitely not the subject you should take if you want an easy distinction – I think I’ll be lucky to even pass. Those who are mathematically-inclined, go for it – it has more to do with math than with econs in my honest opinion. But a certain level of grit and passion has to be present to get through all those gruelling sessions of course – I can safely say H3 has helped me grow as a person and I really don’t regret having taken it. 🙂


Ryan Lee (17-U2) – H3 Molecular Biology

Why did you choose to take H3 Molecular Biology?

I chose to take on this H3 subject because I was truly interested in learning about biology from a perspective that leans towards chemistry. Molecular Biology is a marriage of both Bio and Chem and is a very interesting fusion that i wanted to find out more about


How has the workload been thus far?

We have one lecture and one wet lab session every week. My H3 exams have already been completed in late May this year.


Can you give a brief description about what goes on during lessons?

Lectures are in a very similar format as those in school. As for the wet lab sessions, they exposed us to a very diverse set of experimental and analytical skill that was very different from what we do in school practicals


What are some sacrifices you had to make?

One major sacrifice was to drop my second CCA, Ultimate Frisbee, so that I could better devote my time to the H3 subject. Other sacrifices that I’m sure taking an extra subject will definitely bring about would be the reduced time for family.


Some Lab techniques taught:

1) Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionisation – Time of Flight

2) Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate – Polyacrylamide Gel Electrophoresis

3) Affinity chromatography and Ion Exchange chromatography


Some theory learnt:

1) A, B and Z forms of DNA

2) 310 Helix, Pi helix, Omega turn and Beta Turn in proteins secondary structure


Ryan (17-O1) – H3 History

Why did you choose to take H3 History?


The freedom to write on any topic of my choosing was compelling, and I thought this would be an excellent chance to learn more about History outside of the H2 syllabus, while building upon my writing chops. But truth be told, I would not have made the decision were it not for the encouragement of Ms Rachel Teo, because…


How has the workload been thus far?


… I had imagined the workload to be too much for my liking, and I wanted to focus on my weaker subjects. She urged me to keep the faith and the pleasant truth was that the workload was considerably manageable.


What are some sacrifices you had to make?


Obviously the time I spent researching on the Cambodian genocide could have gone towards watching a mindless film, playing darts, finding a girlfriend, or even studying for my H2 subjects (see also point 4.). I don’t see these as “sacrifices” though, and I honestly feel that I did not sacrifice anything while on my H3 journey. On the contrary, I gained tremendously: I learnt a bit more about this very dark tragedy; I forged a deeper relationship with my mentor, Mr Mahmood Fahmi, whose counsel was very much insightful and cherished; and, all that being said, I produced a research essay that I am very proud of.


Did it affect your other subjects?


Therefore my answer is no – not to say that I did spectacularly for all my H2s, in fact it was quite the opposite, but I would never attribute my failures to the H3. To those reading this, nothing but the lack of discipline and focus can take a toll on your subjects. Don’t imagine otherwise and miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — follow your heart!


Jeff (17-U1) – H3 History

Why did you choose to take H3 history?

I saw H3 History as an opportunity to grow myself intellectually, especially since I was never good at writing. But beyond the practical consideration of growth, H3 History was also a way for me to pursue my passion and love for history: The idea that I can learn first hand the nature of historical research while doing my own research on almost any topic that I’m interested in.

How has the workload been thus far?

I think it’s generally manageable, even for someone like me who has 2 CCAs.

What are some sacrifices you had to make?

Truth to be told, my decision to take up H3 wasn’t easy. On top of my 2 CCAs in EJ, I was also a Venture scout and I had to return to my secondary school on a weekly basis. As such in order to pursue my H3, I had to give up on one of my commitments because no average human can ever manage this many commitments. And unfortunately, it was scouting that was sacrificed.

Did it affect your other subjects?

I don’t think it’s fair to say that my H2s were affected by my H3 because it would be more of the fact that I had many commitments to manage in the first place. Nonetheless, if there’s anything valuable to learn from my experience, its the importance of discipline and perseverance in pursuing all passions.

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