Assessment books can be extremely valuable resources and companions in your learning journey. But there are many kinds of assessment books out there. And they are not all created equal. Different students need different types of assessment books. Chances are you may even need more than one assessment book for a particular subject, depending on your needs.
Here are 5 types of assessment books that are written to help students in different ways. If you are looking for assessment books and guides to help yourself or your child, there are certain aspects and features to look out so that the assistance provided by the book can be optimised. Here are some guidelines that can help you make your choices.
1. Practice makes Perfect
Students may feel that do not have enough practice from the worksheets or assignments that they get from school. Practise is extremely important. For some students, trying out new questions is more effective than retrying previously attempted questions.
The practice type of assessment books can be categorised into two kinds: mock papers or specialised practice. For most students, continuously practising a particular section (e.g. the application question in General Paper) or topic (e.g. probability in H1/H2 Math) can help them target specific areas that they are less proficient in. However, it is important for students to attempt mock papers, which will put everything together and create the experience of sitting through an examination. After all, assessment books are but a means to an end, so one should keep the final task in mind. By sitting through an entire timed paper, students can get a better sense of time management and be familiarised with the experience. A review of one’s results from attempting a mock paper can then serve as feedback as to which specific need can be further addressed through practice.
Thus both of these types of assessment books actually complement each other. Usually, mock papers are attempted closer to the examination, when one feels that he or she is fairly prepared to do a paper.
2. Model Answers to Model After
Students learn well through emulation. After all, how is one supposed to produce a good answer if one does not know how it looks like? Model answers such as model essays for GP and Economics can really help students get a headstart when it comes to improving their own writing.
But a common pitfall of students utilising this kind of assessment books is that they tend to regurgitate entire essays or chunks of it when they think they come across a similar question. Unfortunately, this strategy can backfire because it is unlikely that two questions are exactly the same, and chances are also slim that the same question will be featured in an examination paper. Memorising entire essays is also not the most productive and efficient method of learning.
However, that is not to say that model answers are not useful. The key lies in how they are used. In order to get the maximum benefit out of them, students should analyse the merits of the model answer and find out why they are considered to be ‘models’. For students who may not know how to do that, they should consider first getting assessment books that provide detailed annotations and comments. These answers should thus serve as models in terms of their approach, rather than the specific content. Taking note of some good phrases may be helpful, but always be conscious of why you are doing it.
3. Going Beyond the Content
This kind of guides is really for students who think that they can absorb more content to give them an edge over their peers. Going beyond the content can mean learning more topics (e.g. in the General Paper) or going more in-depth into topics in the prescribed syllabus (e.g. more case studies for externalities in H2 Economics). By exposing yourself with more content, you will not only be able to have more content knowledge, which may come in handy during examinations, but also reinforce your grasp of concepts as you go through more case studies.
One thing to be mindful of when selecting and using such books is to ensure that the content relates to what is in the standard syllabus. After all, there is a fine line between giving more relevant case studies and gobbling down wholly irrelevant content. You want to be strategic when it comes to stretching yourself. So make sure that you are always asking: “How can this be put into good use in my examination?” This kind of books, if they are written well and used effectively by students, can bring help you take your answers to the next level by providing more breadth and depth of discussion.
4. Mastering Selected Skills
There are some excellent assessment books that can almost take on the role of a guiding teacher to help students master skills like diagram drawing in H2 economics or identifying question types in the General Paper. These assessment books break down thought processes, guiding the user through them. These kinds of assessment books are thus extremely helpful for students who are struggling with certain skills, which is often the reason why they fall behind in the subject even if they are diligent.
When looking out for books to help you brush up on skills, try reading some of it first to see if you like the writing style of the book in terms of its structure and delivery. After all, whether the book will be of value to you depends much on whether you can understand it. If you need detailed explanations, go for those with lengthy paragraphs for you to go through over and over again. If you are a visual learner, explanations in diagram or annotated forms will be more helpful to you in understanding concepts. It is almost like finding a book with the same language that you speak.
5. Summary Notes for Revision
The content for various subjects at the JC level can be extremely dense. While having a deep understanding of the syllabus cannot be substituted, having summaries and concise notes can be useful when one needs a quick overview of the content right before the examination. There are many assessment books and guides that summarises the content in a concise manner for students to ensure they have got their bases covered (when it comes to content).
There are two things to keep in mind when you are shopping for this kind of assessment book. Firstly, check that the content is up-to-date when it comes to the syllabus. After all, the point of using it is to ensure that you will study whatever there is to study.
Secondly, this book should not be your only source of notes. Many students think they can get away with only one guide and ignore the notes provided by their schoolteacher. This is a big no-no. Cross referencing can help you get the most out of these books, as, firstly, you cannot be sure that a guide covers everything and, secondly, you may learn more from these books compared to the notes you have in school. The accuracy of the content should always be verified when in doubt, especially when it comes to subjects like Economics and Science, where definitions are important.
Lastly, as pointed out earlier, these books usually trade depth for conciseness. Thus they will work well for students who already have a fairly strong mastery of the relevant content and merely want a set of summary notes to remind themselves of the key points. For students who are not as familiar, studying the more detailed notes first is recommended.