An Interview with Janet Wong

Janet Wong read Geography at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and joined the Ministry of Education (MOE) upon graduation. She has taught at various government schools in Singapore. Ms Wong believes that as a subject, Geography builds on students’ experiences and prior knowledge to examine the physical and human phenomena found on Earth as well as their complex interactions and patterns across space.

Janet is the author of Ace Your O-Level Geography Elective Key Revision Notes. It is specially designed to help students in their revision for the O-Level examinations. This book contains comprehensive Geography notes and key concepts that students are required to apply to their answers. This book equips students with the necessary knowledge to be able to discuss geographical issues in a logical manner. Students will also be able to apply this knowledge seamlessly to form sound explanations and provide clarity in their answers.

Today, Janet shares more about her book and her passion for Geography.

About your book

Ace Your O-Level Geography Elective Key Revision Notes By Janet Wong
  1. How should students use this book to master O-Level Geography effectively?

    The book provides a multitude of examples for students to cite for their essay questions as well as detailed elaboration to ensure students would be able to explain the concepts in depth, attaining a high level for elaboration, which translates to stellar grades. The book does not merely tackle these complex concepts, but also goes through answering techniques to secure that “A” grade. 
  2. What are some of the key concepts that students must understand for the examinations?

    Students must be well-versed with every concept mentioned in the syllabus document before the examinations, which are comprehensively covered in the book.

    At the end of the day, it is more of mastering tricky concepts that students may wrestle with, which happens to be tectonic plates from my years of teaching experience. 
  3. Can you share what examiners look out for in a student’s answer? 

    Two main things that examiners look out for include elaboration and example, which can be abbreviated as E squared. For elaboration, points stated by the student must be explained, not asserted. Examples must be cited to prove the student’s point.

    Answers must be concise as well, given the tight time restrictions of a humanities paper. Last but not least, answer the question! While it appears straightforward, students have the tendency to not abide by the command words, causing them to lose marks.
  4. What are some common mistakes that students make in Geography and how can they avoid them?

    A huge mistake a student can possibly make is spotting. SEAB can be unpredictable and spotting just isn’t the way to go. Unnecessary risks are taken and it can severely backfire.

    Another mistake students make is not paying attention to keywords. Even the most diligent students cannot ace the O Level examinations if the keywords are not addressed. For example, the keyword “discuss” includes addressing both the question stand as well as the opposing stand. Keywords have to be included in the student’s answer and diagrams should be included if necessary. 
  5. In addition to this book, what else can students do to prepare well for the O-Level Geography examination?

    I am a staunch believer of this mantra, “Practice, practice and more practice”. While this book can aid with the mastering of content and answering, only through practice can students apply their Geography knowledge.

    Learning can be made fun through the use of mnemonic devices of other study methods like visual or auditory learning methods. It always helps to have additional knowledge on top of existing content knowledge, so reading Geography-related articles would surely aid students.
  6. Lastly, do you have any other insights to share with parents and students studying Geography?

    When it comes to studying Geography, do not forget to have fun with it! Do not let the confines of the syllabus restrict you. Do read up more about topics you are interested in and keep asking questions! 

About yourself 

  1. Why did you choose to study Geography? 

    Since I was young, I had a passion for Geography and was especially intrigued by the world. Geography then became a means through which I understood things around me, from understanding the interaction among people to learning about how continents are formed.
  2. Are there any everyday aspects of Geography that people tend to overlook?

    I guess most people would associate Geography with directions and maps, to navigate around an area. However, the realms of Geography are not merely confined to maps but includes very fundamental things like how the earth functions, how earthquakes and other natural phenomena are formed etc.
  3. Can you share what are some new ways of teaching and techniques you have developed?

    Rather than inventing new methods, I do think it’s more of finding a method that is the best fit for a student. Most students would be trying to memorise content. However, to ensure complex concepts are broken down for students, I use unique methods including using biscuits as tectonic plates so students can visualise the process when plates move.
  4. How would you motivate students who are weaker in the subject?

    As for students who are weaker in the subject, I think a crucial point would be to pinpoint why the student may be lacking in Geography, and it tends to fall under two categories – conceptual error and issues that lie with answering techniques.

    For content, it can be broken down to layman’s terms to aid students in understanding. And through practice and constant reinforcement, answering techniques can be corrected.
  5. What are some of the highlights or memorable moments that you have had from teaching Geography over the years?

    The highlight of my teaching career is definitely when students are able to grasp Geography concepts, which makes this whole journey very rewarding. That “Eureka” moment and sense of satisfaction they get makes me feel that all my effort put in was worth it.
  6. What would you like your students to remember you for?

    Rather than geographical knowledge, I’d like students to remember me for the values imparted from lessons with me – like resilience in the face of challenges or even how we can all contribute to the improvement of our planet, regardless of how minute we may perceive our efforts to be.

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