The overriding quality of a good student is that he/she should be motivated
by the subject matter, not primarily by examination results.
—Leung Hing Man, FBA
Good students are active rather than passive. They try to understand
in class rather than just taking notes in class and leaving understanding
for later. They are curious and ask questions. Lecturers often only give
one way to solve a problem; good students look for alternative ways to
solve it. When they don’t understand something, they get it clarified
as soon as possible, rather than leaving it for the day before the exam.
They don’t try to concentrate on “important” topics
but read everything. They don’t study for exams, but for knowledge.
In the long run, they find that this pays off even for scoring in exams.
—Sanjay Jain, SOC
A good student displays strong interest in the subject; without enthusiasm,
he/she will not become the best in any field. Good students also set short-term
and long-term goals and try to achieve them step by step.
—Su Jui-lung, FASS
We all like smart students, but smart students are not necessarily good
students. Good students have a learning mind-set: i.e., an eagerness and
willingness to question and to contribute or share their opinions, experiences
and views. They are willing to argue with others and yet are not offended
if their own ideas are not accepted. They nourish or enable their fellow
students to be better people.
—Shu Moo Yoong, FBA
Good students are pathologically curious. They will not accept everything
they are told at face value and constantly search for the best answers
(the eternal quest for truth). They demand more of themselves than of
their teachers and they have great initiative. They do not expect to be
told the basics. If they want to know or learn something, they will take
the first step and try to find out as much as they can themselves before
engaging their teachers in further discussion.
—Kevin Tan, LAW
Good students ask questions which other students wish they dared to ask.
—Tang Loon Ching, ENG
Good students are proactive and prepared. In a tutorial, for example,
the student who is prepared will benefit far more than the student who
sits back and waits for information and is unable to take part in any
—Alice Christudason, FABRE
One of my expectations of a good student is one that Confucious described:
“When given one example, return with three more.” A good student
should have the ability and initiative to read up or think of three more
examples to support or counter the one taught by the teacher. I also expect
good students to have the ability to analyse and re-synthesise what is
taught, and to present or communicate the knowledge in alternate forms.
It is a re-creation process that requires the student to have a good understanding
of the subject. Creativity from the student is also manifested this way.
—Lim Tit Meng, SCI
A good student is willing to follow her/his passions in academics, and
is open-minded in learning. He/she is willing to make mistakes; in particular,
this means asking frank questions in class when she/he cannot follow something.
This also means that he/she doesn’t judge fellow students when they
ask questions that seem “stupid”. Overall, this should lead
to a lively learning environment that is by no means a monologue by the
A good student has a critical mind and likes to challenge the lecturer.
He/she is vocal during tutorial sessions, rather than sitting quietly
waiting for answers from the tutor.
A good student: comes to NUS to learn as well as to achieve a paper qualification;
is open-minded in expecting that at least some learning will be exciting;
accepts that learning involves some hard work and that education is not
a branch of the entertainment industry; looks at learning in a systems
context, not as a series of info-bytes; seeks out ways to grow as a whole
—Ann Wee, FASS
What makes good students good? The differentiation lies in the intention.
Good students work towards gaining a firm foundation of the basics with
the intention of applying such information to applications which are of
service to the nation, organization, etc. Smart students do so for the
sake of scoring well in exams so that there will be short cuts to success.
The educational system must work to close the loopholes which allow the
“smart” student to appear to outperform the “good”
—Ng Tuck Wah, ENG
A good student has an inquiring mind and thinks through issues raised
during lectures and tutorials.
—Janet Lim, CELC
A good student will attempt to directly solve problems assigned as homework
and will not “hunt around” for solutions from seniors. Focused,
consistent and unrelenting hard work are indispensable for a student who
wishes to perform well in exams as well as master the subject matter.
—Belal E. Baaquie, SCI
I appreciate students with the courage to admit they’re confused;
a quizzical look from a student during lecture can be a significant contribution
to its final clarity. In general, strong students seem to be mentally
active during lecture. Instead of just absorbing the material at face
value, they are considering alternative solutions and otherwise questioning
what is being presented. I also enjoy cases where students put a little
extra into their work, bypassing the straightforward solution to find
a more elegant or efficient one.
—Phil Long, SOC
Good students are responsive and show enthusiasm for their subjects.
They take initiative in learning and clarifying any doubts with the lecturer.
They regard doing presentations and speaking in class and tutorials as
a precious opportunity to practice one’s communication skills, not
as something that one is forced to do.
—Ni Yibin, FASS
A good student never lets the lecturer get away with an unclear explanation.
—Marcelo H. Ang Jr., ENG
A good student is: more interested in understanding than knowing; will
not accept an unsupported statement as fact but probe its basis, exploring
alternatives and their consequences; spends more effort listening and
thinking about what is being said than copying notes; is not afraid to
voice a question or objection; wonders how a theory, model, issue or problem
can be viewed or constructed in a different way; is less worried about
passing an exam than in failing to see how the pieces fit together.
—John R. Potter, ENG
What makes good students good? Of course some inborn intelligence is
needed, but this needs to be used in the right way; some use their cleverness
to minimize the amount of work needed to get a good grade. Good students
have a combination of intellectual curiosity and persistence that makes
them try to understand things and work them out for themselves, no matter
how long it takes.
Good students are students who read. They read the relevant chapters
in the text, they read the material in the reading list, they read any
extra relevant material they can get their hands on. Only when they read
will they learn—and they will be learning on their own, without
being hand-held by their lecturers. This is infinitely more rewarding.
Good students ask questions. Teachers clarify concepts and facts which
the students are unsure of, but students must ask questions. Reading ensures
that they ask challenging ones.
Good students are good listeners; they pay attention in class, instead
of talking or daydreaming. This is a chicken and egg issue. Sometimes
students don’t listen because the teachers aren’t good and
can’t capture their attention. Still, I place the burden on the
students to pay attention in class. If they find lectures boring or even
useless, they shouldn’t attend rather than turning up, talking in
class and disturbing other students.
Good students talk to other students; this helps clarify their ideas and
makes learning fun.
—William Koh Loh Kiang, FBA
Good students are willing to unravel the why, not just the how of things.
They pursue knowledge for its own sake rather than just wanting to pass.
—Norman N. Lim, ENG
Good students have fortitude and do not easily succumb to failure. They
confront hurdles of learning with great determination and have the courage
to learn from problems and try again.
—Winston Lee Piak Nam, FBA
Some advice for students.
- Love the subject. Notice the extent to which people pursue a beloved
interest? Treat the subject of your study as your most cherished hobby.
- Learn to organize data mentally.
- Speak well. Learn to expound on any subject with panache, style and
confidence. Be convincing. Learn to present what you know impressively
even though it may not be much.
- Be disciplined in study. Set and achieve daily objectives. Never
cram at the last minute.
- Exams are a game which one must learn to play and enjoy. Learn to
be exam orientated and focused when you study. Always play to win and
score, not just to pass.
- Be competitive; not necessarily violently so. Enjoy surpassing your
- Think laterally, be innovative, take short cuts and do the unconventional.
—Peter Goh, MED
Good students treat each class as a learning experience. They look forward
to class and prepare themselves to learn (e.g., sleep well so they won’t
be tired; avoid distractions such as getting a page during class). They
feel responsible for contributing to the learning experience. In discussion,
they flow along with the thought process of the class, ask relevant questions
and challenge possible flaws in logic so that everyone will gain. Good
students are polite to fellow students and the instructors. Learning can
only take place if there is mutual respect.
—Lau Geok Theng, FBA
Regardless of their year of study, good students behave like professionals.
They realise that when they get out of university, the only difference
between them and others is not so much the fact that one has a better
grade point average than the other, but that one acts as a professional.
We must make sure that university education takes the student away from
“kiasuism” and into professionalism.
—Gambhir Bhatta, FASS