Is H2 Math Hard? Why do many JC students struggle with the subject?

Timothy Gan

Just finished your O level and thinking about going to JC? Many students heard about the horror stories from their seniors that math at the JC level is difficult, particularly JC H2 Math. Is it that bad?

This blog post will explore the main reasons why students find H2 Maths hard and provide some tips and strategies to help anyone struggling with this subject. Hopefully, these tips are able to help you to mitigate some of the problems students commonly face.

From my experience as a JC H2 Math tutor, these are the 5 top reasons why JC students find H2 Math hard.

H2 Math Hard Is H2 Math Hard? Why do many JC students struggle with the subject?

1. Foundation in Secondary School Mathematics is Not Strong

“The syllabus prepares students adequately for A-Level H2 Mathematics” – This is the opening line from the 4047 ADDITIONAL MATHEMATICS GCE ORDINARY LEVEL SYLLABUS

I can’t stress this more, I think I have mentioned this many times in my other posts but it’s worth mentioning here. This is the opening line in the Secondary school o level mathematics syllabus. The idea of burning your textbooks after your exams are not applicable to H2 math subjects. Coming to take H2 math at JC level without remembering the content in O level A math is like building a house without its foundation. The house can stand but not firmly.


Mathematics concepts are built on small and fundamental concepts or axioms. At the H2 math level, you can’t afford to forget concepts in the Secondary School Syllabus.

Recommendation to overcome this problem: You should start revising your O level core concepts if you have the time. Here are some of the topics you should revisit before taking H2 Mathematics:

Additional Mathematics

Elementary Mathematics

2. The Jump in Academic Rigour is Enormous

Many intermediate workings for H2 Math requires you to have a strong grasp of secondary school concepts. Let’s look at the following simple equation,

$n=\frac{3}{4}x+1$

At the Secondary School level, you will be asked how to express x in terms of n, which will give the following working,

$\frac{3x}{4}=n-1$

$3x=4\left( n-1 \right)$

$x=\frac{4}{3}\left( n-1 \right)$

which will earn you 2 marks for this question, M1 and A1. Pretty straight forward and most students are able to do it.

At the JC H2 Math level, for the same equation, you will have to know what is the smallest positive integer value of $n$ given that $x$ is an integer. Note that I state that “to know”, not “asked”, this is because the question will imply.

So to understand that, if $x$ is an integer, the smallest $x$ value that will make $n$ an integer would be $x=4$ as it is multiplied by $\frac{3}{4}$.

How many marks are given for this step? 1 mark for A1.

There are many such examples in H2 math questions, you have to know all the basics and things you learnt from O level. It gets worst when trigonometric functions and identities are deeply ingrained in many H2 math topics, including the major topics like Vectors and Complex Numbers.

Recommendation to overcome this problem: Don’t be shy to ask questions from your peers and teacher. By asking questions, you formalise and conceptualise your thought process and allow others to give proper feedback. Once you think you get the answer, try explaining the answers to your friends or teach a friend. By teaching others, you challenge the concepts you know and reinforce your understanding by verbalising them.

3. The Different Types of Intelligences Required by the Syllabus

Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences states that we learn things through a combination of 8 intelligences instead of what we usually perceived as one general intelligence. Intelligence such as spatial, logical or interpersonal intelligences are often required in solving H2 Math questions.

For example, finding a volume of a body in applications of integration. To successfully find the volume students are required to

  • Imagine the solid form after rotation
  • Imagine what are the possible subtraction or addition of solids needed
  • Apply the concepts learn and write them down in mathematical formulae.
  • Find the integral and arrive at the final answer

Students with highly developed visual intelligence or mathematical intelligence will be able to successfully arrive at the correct answer.

H2 Math Tuition Resourcefulness

Many chapters like Vectors and Complex Numbers require such rigorous approaches too. For other topics like Sequence and Series, you need to engage your pattern recognition skills as well.

Suggested Solution: Draw diagrams when you are solving questions. If your teachers or tutors are able to, ask them for help to model the objects or solids for you to aid in visualising.

4. Too busy with JC life, Poor Time Management

JC life is fun and filled with many activities which unfortunately can be a distraction if you don’t keep your time in check. We all aspire to be students who can join many CCA and perform well in exams. But, not everyone is able to do that.

Many JC students started JC on the right note i.e. listening during lectures, studying in the library, submitting their tutorials. Unfortunately, not many can stick to the regime and their determination wane off after a while when other commitments set in and the schedule becomes more packed. Only start studying when nearing exams. H2 Math requires consistency, without it you cannot achieve and excel at it.

Suggested Solution: Before starting your JC life, know your weaknesses and your strengths when it comes to time management. Are you the kind who will say yes to everyone? or are you the kind who wait till the last minute? Plan ahead, always allocate time to study for all the subjects, especially the H2 subjects.

5. The Content is Heavy

The easiest way to compare how heavy the content for H2 mathematics is, take a look at these two syllabus outlines of the topic on Vectors here:

O Level E.Math Vectors VS A-Level H2 Math Vectors

Have a look at both of the syllabus outlines. H2 math vectors can be 4 times more heavy than what you learnt in O level and yet they usually take about the same amount of time to finish in Secondary School and JC.

The topic of Vectors in H2 math incorporates a lot of concepts from Additional Mathematics and Elementary Mathematics. E.g. trigonometric identities, similarity and congruency. Knowledge and concepts learnt in secondary school are considered a prerequisite and typically are part of the working and marks are not awarded.

Suggested Solution: Just have to keep in mind what are the heavier topics, i.e. Vectors, Complex Numbers and Calculus. Try to keep up with the tutorials and also have good time management.

6. The Mindset

One of the many reasons why students choose to ‘give up’ or ‘not do well’ in H2 Math is because my friends or seniors all say it is difficult so it’s normal to not do well in the subject.

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

– Albert Einstein

This is probably one of my favourite quotes but of course, we know that Albert Einstein is being modest here. I think the underlying message is the adoption of a growth mindset. Don’t stick with the notion that since H2 maths is difficult and not giving it enough time and practice. Mathematics achievement can only be attained through practice and mastery of concepts, there is no shortcut here.

Suggested Solution: As cliche as it sounds, you can do it! Set a high standard for yourself and set yourself up for success in H2 Math, don’t settle for something less. Keep trying.

7. Don’t know how to use the GC and MF26 properly

In H2 Mathematics examinations, the graphing calculator (GC) and MF 26 are the two tools students get. Thus, it is not surprising to say that mastering them both will have a direct positive impact on the grades. Many students do not spend adequate time honing their GC skills and learning how to apply the MF 26 properly.

Suggested Solution: Always have the MF 26 and GC with you whenever you practice your H2 Math. Read our blog on how to use the MF 26 like a pro and our guide on how to use GC.

I’m struggling with H2 maths, what should I do?

A-level H2 Mathematics can be a tricky subject to master, especially if you are struggling with O Level Additional mathematical content. There are many ways in which you can help yourself with your maths revision, and there are also some great tips for how to tackle Mathematics problems differently.

Struggling with H2 Math is more common than you think as Mathematics is not everyone’s favourite subject.

One way is to check out our free resources where we compile 5 essential questions from each topic with free worksheets here!

There is also an h2 math study tips which I have written here.

And of course, there are merits in joining structured JC Maths Tuition!

Is H2 Math Hard?
Published: 22nd April 2022
Written by
Timothy Gan
This is Tim. Tim loves to teach math. Tim seeks to improve his teaching incessantly! Help Tim by telling him how he can do better.
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