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How to Ace Your Combined Humanities?

Updated: Jun 7, 2019

If you are a high school student anywhere in the world today, having a compulsory humanities subject in your curriculum is not a surprised. In Singapore, all secondary school students (aka high school students) are required to do take at least Combined Humanities in their school. This is a form of balance in our education systems to ensure that our students grow up knowing the world around them and also a sense of history in their country.

Many students in Singapore seem to struggle in their Combined Humanities which is a mystery to me. The combined humanities are subjects which are exceedingly relevant to our lives. Where else will you see live geography in action than in your lives? When you study why tourists visit Singapore, don’t you see that in real life when you stroll along the promenade at Marina Bay Sands? When you study volcanic eruptions, don’t you read and see the news of Mount Kilauea erupting in Hawaii right this very moment? If you were to compare Mathematics and languages, you will know what I mean.

I have written in an earlier post about how to cultivate a love of the humanities. Today, my intention is very focused – to offer some technical insights to all students about doing well in their Combined Humanities. To do well in this subject, you really have to break it down into 3 main subjects and deal with them differently.

1. Doing Well in Combined Humanities (Social Studies)

By far the biggest headache and obstacle to a Combined Humanities distinction grade for many Singaporean teenagers is their Social Studies. First there is Source-Based Questions which can be exceedingly hard to master. Secondly, the content within Social Studies is relatively dry. Which topic would you be more interested in “The Rise of the PAP” or “The Rise of Hitler”? Next, there are just too many technical jargon within our Singapore history and culture to get acquainted with. Think of Central Provident Funds, the Legistrature, multiculturalism, etc. I am not saying that these are not important. They are, but to a teenager wanting to see more relevance in their lives, these are the words furthest away from their vocabulary. Finally, based on the latest Source-Reference Question format and syllabus, there are just too much content to learn. No wonder, many students dread this subject.

But to do well in your combined humanities, you cannot give up your Social Studies. If you want to do well in your social studies and achieve distinction in your combined humanities eventually, I recommend that your read my post on “3 Secrets to Distinction in Social Studies” and also go through our Video Lesson Series on becoming Source-Based Champions.

2. Doing Well in Combined Humanities (Geography Elective)

The Geography Elective with the subject of Combined Humanities is the easiest to score in my opinion. This is so because the answers required in all 3 sections can easily be mastered technically. There is also less content to study and remember compared to the other two Combined Humanities subjects. All you need to do is master the answer techniques and be able to remember the main content through a simple memory technique which I will show you in this post.

In Section A of Geography Elective within this Combined Humanities subject is on Geographic Investigation. To do well here, the main skills you need to become good at is the ability to describe procedures of conducting the investigation together with explaining the precautions needed to ensure that the investigation is accurate and reliable. Secondly, you need to be apt at describing if the data recorded and presented can prove the hypothesis right or wrong. You can refer to our G.I. Video Lesson Series to improve your skills.

Section B of the Geography Elective in the Combined Humanities subject is focused on the topic of Tourism and Climate/Weather. This section is the easiest to score and you ought to aim for at least a 10 out 12 marks. There are only two things that I recommend you strive to achieve here that will enable you to do well. Firstly, use the Humanities Codes we provide to remember your content. Secondly, master writing LORMS answers using the PEEL methods. You can refer to our LORMS and PEEL Video Lesson Series to improve the skills here.

Finally, in Section C of the Geography Elective in the Combined Humanities subject, your just need to remember the same two skills on memorizing content and writing your answers as the preceding paragraphs. The content in this two topics on Plate Tectonics and Food is lengthier, but it should not be too big a hurdle.

3. Doing Well in Combined Humanities (History Elective)

The History Elective within the Combined Humanities subject is arguably more difficult, but the interesting stories and content within this subject more than make up for it. This is also a subject whereby SBQ is tested. Hence, becoming our SBQ Champion through our Video Lesson Series on becoming Source-Based Champions is another step you must take. Here is an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. So learn your SBQ skills well and apply these in two subjects.

Besides the SBQ components, the Structured Essay Question (SEQ) components of this elective will also be important for you to do well if you desire a distinction for your Combined Humanities subject. For SEQ in history, the most important skill you must learn is to be able to reduce your content to chronological sequences with special emphasis on events and people. At Gummy Humanities, we teach our students to use flow charts to summary their content. We will be developing a Video Series for this soon, and all of you can benefit from this resource from our website.

Just as an example here – How Appeasement in Europe led to the outbreak of war in Europe? Below is a summarized timeline of the key events, year and people/parties


Combined Humanities as a subject is something compulsory that all O-Level Students will have to take. It is also one of the L1R5 subjects that will be counted towards the aggregate score. Hence, there is no way to give up on this subject. But the distinction in Combined Humanities is still very achievable if students learn to master SBQ techniques and use effective memorization techniques like Humanities Code Words and also flow charts to help in your learning.

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