O Level Studying

O Level Guide and Tips

The original thread: http://www.pakgamers.com/forums/f163/official-%91o-levels%92-thread-123081/

For people who have yet to start their O Levels and are here to seek O Level subject choice help:

Well, this element depends more on the school you’re studying/aiming to study in than yourself. Yes, you have the choice, but…
The most obvious choices are the Commerce group (Compulsories + Business, Economics, Commerce/Accounts/Both), Medical group (Compulsories + Biology, Chemistry, Physics), Engineering (Compulsories, Physics, Chemistry, in some cases Computers/ICT and in some cases Add Math (how ever most schools give Add Math as an optional subject).

Of course, apart from these, many ‘optional’ subjects are available. There’s an array of them. Sociology, Environmental Management, Add Maths, Commerce, World History, Combined Sciences etc.

However, with these choices comes the ‘more’ important element of ‘what to choose’. Please don’t pick every subject you can think of. It’s seriously the worst choice. Pick the subjects you have a remote interest in. If you have an interest in Geography, and feel you have the ability to grasp the concepts and benefit from a subject pertaining to Geography, you may add Environmental Management to your tally, or say you are certain that you’re opting for Engineering the future, then Add Math is, I’d say, as good as a compulsory for you.

The ‘billion’ A’s are useful only and ONLY if you’re applying abroad, the US in particular. While it’s commendable that the O Level results make about only 20-30% of your Academics half of the application, and the Academic’s so acclaimed ‘half’ itself is barely about 30% (excluding your SAT scores).
If you’re certain you’re staying in Pakistan, and are to take up, say, Engineering, you can go with Physics, Chemistry, Add Math. Even Computers is not needed at the O Levels’ level, however keeping it is an added plus point. If you are in for an additional A, you may take up another subject of remote interest. A common O Level’s Engineering sighted students’ subject of interest is Biology, and I too would recommend it as Bio-Technology and Genetic Engineering is a subject of great scope ahead and has a bright future, unlike the current generation’s finance and corporate banking based plight.

Apart from these, however, I would VERY STRONGLY recommend opting for second and third languages. URDU DOES NOT COUNT AS A SECOND LANGUAGE. French is very easy to learn (slowly over 2-3 years)(possible quicker too but gets difficult) (the O Levels French/DELF A1/B2 level) and is very, very highly regarded by the Universities abroad. Heck, even Aga Khan teach you Spanish in the first few months of the medical courses. Universities abroad, and now here, give A LOT of damn weight-age to the proficiency in understanding and speaking languages apart from English. Spanish, German, Chinese and French are great options. I’d recommend French and Spanish as they’re fairly easy to learn and actually fun. Been there done that.

Wow. I’ve drifted so long on this. Anyway. If anyone here wishing to ask about the subject choices here, please feel free and leave a reply in the thread pertaining to the field of choice of your future career, as well as the university/universities you wish to apply to aswell as your academic record and we’ll be more than glad to help.

Coming to the more important aspect, and bringing the thread to why it was created; Helping current O Level students.

General Tips for the preparation of the final O Level exams:

Make sure you’ve read the syllabus, complete syllabus atleast once. They’re readily available on xtremepapers under the y12/y13/y14 categories depending on the subject.

– Make sure you’ve done everything before actually starting the past papers. (This is for the O3 students).

– Make ABSOLUTELY sure you DO NOT touch the redspot solved pastpaper books. This is especially for the O3 students.

– Take honest, timed assessments of yourself. Do the pastpapers. The last 5 years, both sessions = 10 past papers are more than enough. DO NOT cheat through the exam AND DO NOT even for ONCE peek into the marking scheme. This KILLS. Assess yourself. Mark your shortcomings, revise them, in case of any ambiguity contact your teachers or post here, and re-try that question.

– Try to NOT be too dependent on tuitions. It’s possible to get good grades without them. Been there, done that.

– DO NOT EVER rely on rote study for O Levels (ratta), even for Pakstudies and Islamiyat. DO NOT memorize the books and the past papers. THIS IS NOT what CIE wants!

Specific tips:
I’m going to start with the compulsories. These are the tips and guidelines given by those, and added upon inquiry of the students who got A*s and A’s over the past 2-3 years.

Pak Studies:

First off, many students appearing for this exam, including myself , left section 3, often termed as the ‘shit’ part of paper 1. Section 3 is the post 1947 part. It’s an optional, or so we suppose, part. Optional in the sense that the examiner will never and can never, until they change the syllabus format, set more than two questions from section 3. There will, however, be ATLEAST one question from it, and a maximum of two. If you have prepared well enough for Section 1 and 2, I can guarantee you an A* provided you answered the way they want. I’d be opinionated on this one, however, I left section 3, yet got an A* in the paper 1 part, which is History, despite getting Question 1 a, Question 2a wrong(this is where the percentile part kicks in and saves your arse).

– The tips which I’d advice is atleast 2×5 years of past papers of paper 1 and 2 x 7 years of past papers for paper 2. Your paper 2 prep should be spotless and you should score atleast 95% to achieve the best marks and cope with any marks being lost in paper 1.

– Do not write too lengthy answers. Our teachers these days mostly ill guided themselves, and seldom d o they read the syllabus themselves. CIE requires around 4-5 lines of 10 words per line for Qxa (4 marks, source response). Around 10-14 lines for the 7 mark ones, and 2 pages of the CIE sheet (each containing perhaps around 20-22 lines) for the 14 mark ones.

– Don’t go off topic even the slightest. It makes the examiner drop down a level on the marking scheme.

– Incase you’re running out of time, and it’s obvious that you won’t be able to finish in time, instead of leaving it incomplete, write in notation form.
For example, you have a question that requires you to state the reasons why the Congress rule was hated and you’re midway into it. You know you cannot finish. The sentence structure would become something like “Biased Hindu rulers abused and tortured Muslims. Hindu’s suppressed Muslims and the possible usurping of Islam. Hindi replaced Urdu as the national language. Muslims were attacked and ridiculed especially when worshipping in Mosques. An offending national anthem, Bande Matarm, which made derogatory remarks to Muslims and Muslim saints was made compulsory. Wardha educational scheme was imposed under which students bowed before Gandhi’s image. Tringa flag issue where Muslims weren’t given a share in the flag colours.” Get the point? You can write this concisely in 2 minutes. You cannot, however, explain every point. If you began explaining them, you’d probably run out of time by the time you’d reach Bande Mataram, hence making you lose more marks than you would by not explaining but stating everything. Please remember, this is only to be used as a last resort life saver when out of time.
You have a 14 mark question, say, and you are half way into it. You know there’s no possible way you can finish it and only 2 minutes are left. You don’t write till the 2 minutes end and leave the answer abruptly.

– Pertaining to answering the 14 mark questions,

  • Give both sides of the stories ; the goods and the bads
  • Give all details you can think of relevant to the answer
  • Give all relevant reformers details if you get the reformers question
  • Most importantly, give a conclusion, stating why you believe, say if the question was, xyz was the most influential, explain, giving the pro’s and cons of all of them, conclude saying who in your opinion was the most successful/influential etc. The 14 mark questions will ALWAYS require a conclusion.


A very important aspect of this exam is Quranic and Ahadith references. Make sure you learn the quotations, the gist is important. A few words here and there are fine as long as the core of the text remains the same. The Surah name and ayat number, or Surah number and ayat number are preferred, but not compulsory. I wrote perhaps 2 or 3 surah and ayat numbers and –Al Quran in places where I did not remember the number. It’s better to leave the number than to write it. People who say that A*s are impossible without them are wrong. I got A*s in both Paper 1 and Paper 2 without practically numbering the quotes.
-Make lots of notes. The syllabus is lengthy and so I’ll suggest you make notes of the topics. Come in very handy.

– Again, too lengthy an answer is not needed. Nor is rote study of the books needed. You need to get the gist of the text and events, and be able to quote ANY relevant Quranic OR Ahadith references. The references are a MUST to mention for an A*. Very easy to learn if you do the past papers.

– Don’t do very old past papers as they are vague and have many topics which aren’t to be done. I’ll recommend the past 4-5 years at max.

Mastering O Level Islamiat is a nice book available in the market to study some topics. Enjoyed reading this. Make sure you go through the Caliphs part of this book when preparing. The e-Version will suffice.

Maths and Add Maths:

These two require more than just the basic learning. The more practice you have, the better off you are conceptually. Add Math is usually a dreaded subject because people don’t practice well enough and it’s a big jump from O Level Math to Add Math (not really tbh). It’s very easy, and easier to score in than O Level Math. Make sure you practice loads. Go through ATLEAST alternative questions in all the 4 Math and 1 Add Math book, the standard ones available. Forgot the authors. Will confirm.
Once you’ve done all the books, come to past papers and attempt them honestly. I suggest the past 10 years for these two, though 5 are enough, because the more the merrier. The more you practice, the more you gain confidence, the easier the paper for you to score.

Make sure you don’t omit essential steps, as they are what gain you marks.
Some useful stuff that may come in handy. :
Add Math Formulae
Math key Formulae The logarithm part is not in the O Level Math course though.

Physics, Chemistry and Biology:

-Make sure your conceptual learning is given the 100% and DO NOT rely on rote study. Some part, formulae, names of stuff, bond type etc need to be memorized, but you MUST know what is formed if compound X is added in compound Y NOT because you learnt it from the book, but because you’re analyzing the chain reaction.

– Past papers. The past 5 years x 2 sessions are more than enough.

– MCQs, the part most take for granted and go ‘less’ prepared as they feel are easier, are actually the toughest and decide your grade. A* students should eye nothing less
than 36/40 in this part.

– Chemistry and Physics ATP are the most scoring papers in the trio. Make sure you get 100% in these as it’s literally nothing, and a standardized pattern with different values as such is follows.

Some stuff that may come in handy:
Revision checklist for O Level Physics. This contains a summary of all the chapters you need to cover, and what’s expected from you. Make sure you guys read the official O Level syllabus too, though.
Physics Formulae Sheet
Chemistry Notes. (Not the best, but still decent).


This is perhaps one of the easiest O Level subjects.
-Make sure you read the whole book once.

-Download a copy of these notes and refer to them after reading once through the book. They are the concise and much better form of the book and cover in depth everything.

– Do the past 8 years of Paper 2 past papers and atleast 10 years of Paper 1 past papers since the questions very often repeat from the old papers in Paper 1 and obtaining a high mark in paper 1 is essential for an A grade.

English Language:

– Read up on the recent Medical issues, economical problems (basic), etc. Read the newspaper daily and you’ll have no issues answering the Directed Writing part.

– Book reading and general vocab is the obvious answer to essay part. I’ll suggest writing the story.

– You must score very, VERY high in the paper 2, comprehensions, to get the best marks and A*s. It’s very easy to score in the comprehensions. Do lots of comprehensions as the more the practice, the better you are, despite the older papers not covering the newer requirement of the syllabus. A comprehension is a comprehension afterall, and will enhance your comprehending skills.

O Level Guide and Tips
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