5 reasons why PW prepares you for university life

The articles on this website often relate to life during university.

For the readers who are still looking forward to their university years, though, your preparation can begin even before you enrol in a university. While there are really a lot of ways to do so (just ask your seniors and/or teachers to point you in the right direction!), I’m choosing to focus on one (often underrated) aspect of the JC Curriculum that I hope will help make the transition to higher education easier.

The topic of H1 Project Work is one which usually brings about negative reactions from students. PW is often cited as a waste of time or even useless, and I too have gone through the frustration of taking the subject. My batch mates, and peers who went to other JCs, expressed similar frustrations at this seemingly useless subject too. We were all glad that it was over when we finished our Oral Presentation at the end of the year.

After all, this commonly dreaded subject is:

  • Not that relevant to university admissions

Truth be told, your PW results do not really affect your chances of getting into most university courses, even more so if they are overseas universities. Academically, the focus would definitely be more on your H2s. Thus, there often is not much difference between an A, B or even a C grade for PW (except perhaps for the most competitive courses).

  • Purely academic, no real-life implications

Your ideas most likely won’t translate into action (unless you use them to initiate a CIP project on your own)—so it might feel like a waste to do your research and come up with good ideas, but have them used only in an academic capacity.

  • Very time-consuming

The PW exam is a year-long affair, meaning you must juggle working on your assignments with your other subjects and exams (mid-years, Promos, etc.) alongside other commitments such as CCA.

However, I would say that, while it does not carry the same weight as your H2 subjects, PW is still very important and often underrated.

Unlike the other more conventional subjects, PW is a skills-based subject. What you learn can be applied—sometimes even completely directly—to other areas, including in university, such as when writing your thesis, or writing reports, articles etc. While PW does not have the same structure and same rigour as university-level research and dissertations, it does prepare you for it, and lessens the shock when you enter university. In a sense, PW is one of the most relevant subjects you’ll take.

In fact, I’ve applied what I learnt from PW when writing this article, such as making the language clear yet getting my point across, and also making reading easier using point form and pictures.

Some of the main skills you acquire from doing your PW properly include:

1. Research

When I was in secondary school, I did not have the opportunity to do proper, in-depth research. It was PW that introduced me to the proper rigour of conducting research and how to apply it to my work.

Prior to this, my idea of research was just googling for information. I had no idea how to make proper footnotes, bibliographies and cite sources. (a common way in secondary school was to just write “source: Wikipedia”)

We have all been there at some point—quoting Wikipedia as our source

Through PW, I learnt about better ways of doing research (one resource you can use is NLB’s ProQuest, which is free for all Singapore students). In University, better and broader libraries and resources will be available.

Screenshot of ProQuest app by NLB

2. Independence

A common point of frustration between my peers and I was the limited amount of opportunities to consult our tutors on work. Furthermore, PW is a subject where there is no fixed script to follow; you cannot simply force an A grade out through mindless mugging. So, there were often extended periods of time where we were left on our own. But if you can get used to it, it would prepare you for an even more independent style of learning later in university.

3. Presentation

This involves both the written and verbal aspects.

In writing, your reports must be coherent and within the word limit, while adhering to the rules of formatting. You learn to be clear and organised, so as not to confuse the reader (read: the person grading your paper).

In the oral presentation, you learn to be organised and how to speak in front of a crowd (to be fair, it is usually just a small group).

For some of us, that may be the first time we are making a presentation with such high stakes. You learn to deal with the nerves and pick up effective speaking techniques. When you find yourself in a similar situation at work or in university later on in life, be glad that you had the chance to ‘rehearse’ it already!

4. Teamwork

Yes, it’s a cliché point, but you do learn to work with people whom you may or may not click with; like it or not you guys are in it together and hopefully, if there are any differences between you and your groupmates, you learn to deal with them peacefully.

As the only A-level subject that requires teamwork, it is definitely a valuable opportunity to develop some much-needed social skills, which would see you through some tough times in the future.

5. Deadlines

I will be honest, I do like to procrastinate (who doesn’t?).

But because of the independent nature of this subject, your tutors will not be pushing you all the time to make sure you are not too far behind your peers. This prepares you for university life where your lecturers will give you assignments which you have to learn to manage in your own time before the deadline—procrastinate too much, and you pay the price of doing 4 weeks’ worth of work in 4 days…or 4 hours.

Add in the nitty gritty stuff like formatting that you must also worry about, you learn to add plenty of buffer time before the actual deadline of submission. Gone are the (secondary school) days of doing work at the last minute, it is now time to step up and learn to manage your schedule wisely.

Ultimately, Project Work is a good—even if small—way to help you manage your transition to academic life in university. The benefits might not be large, nor apparent at first, but from my experience, I believe that it eases the transition to higher academic rigour.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to score an A, but even if you don’t, recognise that you are going through part of a longer journey and do take away some new skills which would help you prepare for the future. There’s no need to rush your preparation, but it would be a waste to just ignore the opportunity to develop relevant skills that’d help you years from now.

Sure, there are many other ways to get you prepared for university life, but this is one opportunity which often goes under-appreciated and thus becomes wasted. So, get a one-up on your peers and make your future uni life easier by taking PW seriously. Whenever things gets tough or feels pointless, just remember that you are giving yourself practice for an easier future!

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