Sunday, July 26, 2015

Be Grateful: Dreams Are Always Valid!

Allow me to share my failure experience to other people out there. Some of you (most likely a lot) might fail to enter your desired university. I can tell you that being grateful is the most difficult task for everyone.

Everyone has the right to covet anything he/she wants. The nature of greed is deeply rooted in every single heart. Thereby, people begin to make life dreams and goals, and so do I.

Uniquely, most dreams are created with almost zero percent of failure.

I once dreamed to study in Singapore. I prepared a lot of things to make sure that I would be admitted. From being a sluggish student, I transformed drastically into an assiduous student. Every night or every two nights, I always spent some time to study. I was extremely proud of myself that I was invited to sit the exam on both NUS and NTU. Even my two classmates were not invited by both universities. This just boosted my confidence that I would ace the exams.

And the exams were ultimately strenuous, not like what I had thought. I predicted that one hundred percent I would fail on both universities, and I was right.

I was indeed deeply saddened, but mostly, the reason was not about myself. I paid almost $150 for both tests. I traveled from Bandung to Jakarta. And all of them were provided by my lovely parents. I really wanted to make them really proud. It's like, how could I still fail after what they have given me all these years?

I began to blame a lot of things. I started blaming my school for not teaching right, blaming my parents that I was not schooled at a famous christian/catholic school, regretting that I chose to be an acceleration class student so that I only had a shallow comprehension on the school subjects, and crying over a lot of things. I know that this doesn't solve anything, but I just need something to blamed for.

Two months later, I opened the SNMPTN results. And yeah, I was admitted at STEI ITB. I was neither happy nor sad at that time. If anything, I was slightly happy that I could still study in somewhere and all of my parents' friends and family celebrated me like I am an Einstein (only my brother, my oldest aunt, and I could make it to ITB in my big family's history). I was being somewhat arrogant that time. It's like, why ITB? Why the dreams had to be lost? I am more brilliant than a lot of people and I deserve a much better university, but why?

Finally, I realized that I should be grateful for what I have attained.

There are a lot of geniuses in ITB. Unlike students in high school where talking about academic things is kind of taboo, I can discuss academic things freely with other friends. There are a lot of brighter and more gifted people in this faculty, and rather than just studying by myself,  I can ask other geniuses to help me comprehend anything. I am really proud of myself now that I enter this university. There is a reason why ITB is always considered the best university in the country.

What makes me more grateful is when I hear my friends' results in this year's national university admission. All of my friends that I know failed to enter ITB. And guess what, even entering a not-so-famous university is already difficult. I realized that entering a famous national university is super tough. Only people with huge luck (luck is of course proportional to hard work and intelligence) can enter.

You know what? Even until now I really want to be a genius in computer science and live in a developed country. Studying in Singapore seems to be the best way. I even once had the thoughts to reapply to NTU and NUS again. Sadly, NTU does not allow applicants who have taken the test to resit the exam. NUS only accepts national exam score for the next admission, and I screwed up my score. There is almost no way to reapply. Perhaps this is just God's destined way. I think studying in ITB is the way to be even a better computer scientist. I could still have a lot of opportunity to live in another country. Life is still long so nothing is impossible!

I already told one of my best friend this story, and her response was, "Our situation is different. You are still accepted at a prestigious university. Dazzling future is one step further. But me? I have to study in a faraway place and the university is not even known by people here! The students are from small cities and they have no match for me! There is no reason of you to not be thankful at all!"

I can relate to that. But then I told her about other students who are not even accepted at any university. I told her about students who are only accepted at expensive private universities and they can't afford the money. There are always people who are worse than you. I told her the same thing: No reason of her to be ungrateful.

Nevertheless, although I have tried to believe all universities are the "same", there is a paradox that has always been my firmest opinion. I still believe that students who have bright future are mostly students who pursue their degree at prestigious universities. It's no bullshit though; it's a fact. The teachers' quality of a good and a bad university is different, and most of all, in  a good university, you can also befriend with a lot of brilliant students as well. If I failed my dreamed university, I would still try my best to re-apply, even though one year is going to be wasted. However, it's everyone's choice. Everyone has his or her way to live the life :).If you are still depressed after what you have got, trust me. There is a lot of time for you to begin accepting your destiny, and later live with it, or do some change.

In the end, may I remind everybody that your dreams are always valid. There are just a lot of different ways and God already destined one!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Why Be a Secular?

Two reasons why I choose to be secular: freedom and tolerance.

Firstly, I believe that I do not have to be supremely pious to enter the heaven. Pious in this case means that I need more than just doing five prayers all the time. I also have to do dress properly, speak properly, etc. according to the Koran AND "the additional Koran" which actually limits me from even being a human. I also do not like the fact that being a true woman who can enjoy her beauty and sexuality is forbidden. I decided to be irreligious after I was fooled for a lot of years. God never shows up so why do religions exist in the first place? I just see religion as another support for politics, including Islam which is used to make Indonesians act like pure (or brainless) Muslims who came from Arab.

"All religions are equally sublime to the ignorant, useful to the politician, and ludicrous to the philosopher." - Lucretius

Secondly, my religion has become a source of intolerance for the sake of desire for power. You see that a lot of religious-political groups have popped out across the country. They mock other religions for being fake and misleading and think they are the savior for Indonesian people to enter Allah's heaven. You can see how Muslims went crazy when they see a mosque getting burned here in Papua. And shamefully, ALMOST nobody blamed the culprit solely; some idiots blamed the religion wholly. They cried over the fact that they are majority and how they could face this issue. So what? Even Christians out there are anxious. They might get attacks on their churches on Christmas. This is religion-based conflict, but the extremists want to solve to make sure that the majority wins. That's all they care. Peace approach is not the way for them; they want to show the victory of Islam, ignoring other religions' existence.

I really want to break out myself from this chain of Islam. But, what should I call myself?

Atheist? This is not what I want to be called.

What you need to be aware of is that atheism itself could lead to extremism. Being an atheist means that you do not believe in God. It's the actual and sufficient definition; however some atheists even disapprove and belittle other people's beliefs by claiming that these people are blinded. Bashing religious people is just another form of intolerance. I am not the type of person who will chant those words. It's ultimately fine for someone to believe in his own God as spirituality is a way that has corroborated a lot of people to survive in this world. It just does not work for some people, including myself.

I would call myself as a secular. I think it defines me correctly. I do not care if you embrace a religion or not, but I do not have to care about other people's religions. I am open-minded. I even still believe that God somehow exists because if he does not, who creates this gigantic world? He could be an entity, aliens, humans from the future, or anything mysterious though. Everything is just about respect of differences.

I still want to be identified as a Muslim although currently I rarely do prayers. I still do prayers when my mother urges me and when I am with my Muslim friends. Declaring yourself as a secular is taboo. I could not imagine if I came out to my mother like "Oi, I hate prayers". Most likely, I would be kicked out from my house, or even be burned alive... Nevertheless, being a Muslim has a lot of benefits for me to survive in this country, especially the human rights.

To conclude, I am Rangga, I am raised as a Muslim, but I choose to be secular because tolerance and freedom are everything for me.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

TOEFL iBT 2015 Experience | Pengalaman TOEFL iBT 2015

For those of you who wonder whether you should take TOEFL ITP, TOEFL iBT, or IELTS, please visit this page.

I will not discuss about TOEFL iBT's basics; research about the test on Google. This is my experience of taking TOEFL iBT for the first time! :)

1. Registering
You can just register at the official TOEFL website. No worries, just register because you will not be charged for anything yet. After you are done registering, if you just want to check the test centers availability, log in to your account first. Then, click register for a test - > TOEFL test -> I agree to the statement (no worries just do this) -> check your city's test centers.

I scheduled my test to be on Sunday, 1st February at TBI Dago. I only chose my home and HKUST as the only scores report destination. You can actually send four free scores reports to any destination! It was extremely expensive and I vowed to myself that I need to get a good score in this test. $180 was around Rp2.200.000,00 at that time... Again, I paid the fees by using PayPal (well the PayPal is linked to a credit card, so it is actually paying by a credit card xD). After the registration was done, I spent the January's holiday weeks to spend some time to prepare for the test (along with preparing for SAT Subject Tests).

2. Preparations
I strongly recommend you to open this kaskus thread. It has a lot of suggestions, especially for recommended e-books, TOEFL simulation software, and preparations. I downloaded four test simulation programs: Barron's, Longman's, The Offficial Guide's, and Cambridge's. I personally only used the The Official's Guide's for all sections. As I was afraid of the speaking test, I also did all the speaking sections in the other programs. I additionally did few reading and listening practices using the Longman's.

To get these programs/e-books, search them on

These are some preparations that I have done for each particular section:

a. Reading
I cannot tell you how long I spent for the preparation. For the reading, I think I already studied probably six months before the test, mostly studying new vocabularies. I also regularly read English news. I did two tests on Longman's Test and I scored perfect on both. Then, I just ignored my concern on the reading section as I thought it would not be a problem at all :).

b. Listening
I can tell you that I SUCK at listening. Though my English knowledge is much better than my friends', I still think they hear and understand English conversations better than I do. I only trained a month prior to the test by using Longman's and The Official Guide's program. Well, all of the conversations are spoken with slow-spoken and clear English. This was why I thought the real TOEFL's listening would be easy as well, aanndd I stopped training. Nevertheless, IT WAS WRONG. Speakers in the real TOEFL's listening sections talk soo fast. The answer options can also ask you two choose 3 from 5 answers. I think you should also try other programs like Barron's or Cambridge's which offer harder listening section.

c. Speaking
Trained the skill one month before the test, and I definitely feared this one most. I devoured all speaking questions on all of the three programs that I have. Even until now, I am not able to answer the first two questions (experience/opinion and preference) smoothly. The questions were like, "what is your best childhood moment", and I was like, wtf, could I really pick a childhood memory in a 15 seconds interval? -_- But anyway, for the other four questions, with a lot of training, I managed to convey my ideas more clearly. Practices do extremely help!

d. Writing
I took a writing class in campus, and I think this is already sufficient for my writing skills. It was a mistake, nonetheless. I should have tried to write a lot of independent essays to make me brainstorm faster.

I also learned how the integrated task is and how to tackle it. The reading passage will usually (as what happened in my test) offer three solutions/opinions, and the lecture will reject/support all of it. You just need to explain each point in both passages in one paragraph. Here is one template that I used on the test:

-The reading said a b c; however, the lecture disagrees with the passage by presenting these following reasons.
-First, the lecture asserts that a is..
-Second, the lecture declares that b is..
-Third, c is .. according to the lecturer
-To conclude, the lecture sums up points which make the reading passage's assertions doubtful.

So there is one of my friend who asked me "Should I take a TOEFL course?" The answer depends on each test taker, but for me, I think you do not have to. Most of the preparatory courses are super pricy! If you only want strategies, you can look them up on the internet. The only way to ace this test is by practicing regularly.

3. Test Day
It was so sh*tty actually because I forgot that there is always a car-free-day in Dago every Sunday -__- Therefore, I could not park my motorcycle at TBI directly. I parked mine at my campus, ITB, and walked along the street for fifteen minutes until I arrived at the test center. There were approximately 10 people in the test center. All of the guys look 'smart', and this fact made me quite nervous. There was a pretty girl among them anyway.

I was asked to enter the test room for a briefing. After that, we all went out from that room and queued to be photographed and checked about our identities. Then, we were all assigned into chosen computers. I got the computer number one (idk whether it was chosen randomly or it was because I registered earliest). The first thing that you will do is that you will confirm your identity shown in the monitor and then you will be given a task to speak answering the "Describe the city you live in" question. You can answer anything actually, even singing alphabet as the girl beside me (she looked like she retook the test.) did. It was hilarious xD It is actually for the microphone's volume adjustment.

a. Reading
Ding dong, the reading section began. Oh well, I was quite sad because I only got three passages. That means... I would have to face three additional listening passages -_- I must warn you that the reading questions here are MUCH HARDER than Longman's and even the Official Test's questions -_- There are a lot of word inferences like (not really tough words) don, confounded, elaborate, etc. These are easy for me though as I acknowledge these words very well. The passages are also somehow boring. The only question that I was quite unsure is a summary of the Dinosaur passage. I think that was the reason why my reading score did not reach perfection huehue.

I was given one hour to answer all 42 questions. I was left with 7 minutes after I was done answering the questions. I did not do anything but just try to concentrate myself to listen the next section carefully until the time was up..

b. Listening

I hate listening and I was forced to face nine passages -_- Well, the first three listening passages went well literally. But really, although the lectures were still interesting, the speakers talked really fast, and they often cut each other's speech.

Then the fourth listening passage popped out.. It was a conversation between a black lady (as depicted in the picture lol) and a mechanic. It was really damn hard to understand what the lady was saying. Her accent was bizarre... The mechanic also talked really really fast and he often interrupted the lady's speaking. Of the five questions, I could not answer three questions :( I was truly hoping that this was only an additional listening passage (it will not be graded).

Thankfully, the other later listening passages went on normally. Unlike the practice tests where I usually scored perfectly, I was doubtful on perhaps one question per passage. Oh God, how much my scores are going to be?

Again, if you think you suck at listening like I do, you might want to allocate a lot of time to train your listening skills with harder practice materials.

It was a sad break actually as I lamented my performance on the listening section.. But well, life must go on. I only brought my Teh Kotak outside and waited for 10 minutes. Later, my name was called and I began the last two sections..

c. Speaking
There were a lot of guys speaking simultaneously answering the questions. I read a lot of blogs and most of the writers complain about the noisy situation. Nonetheless, the situation was not as chaotic as I first thought. Wearing the headset is sufficient to prevent you from the distractions. There might be some distractions, however. For instance, there were two a**holes in my room who spoke like they were delivering a public speech even though their accents and pronunciations were really disgusting. The girl beside me already started her speaking section, but her voice was low.

The microphone volume adjustment task emerged for the second time. After that, I started the speaking section! The first question asked me about "Do you study in a group, study in (uhh I forgot), or study by yourself?" and I managed to answer this question well as I once spoke about this in a practice test. However, the second question was sh*tty: "Some people want to be fashionable, some don't. Which one do you prefer?" I do not want to tell you my answer because it was completely ridiculous -_-

The other questions were easy for me. You just need to make good notes and voice your notes clearly. I can assure you that I did not speak fluently like an answer example in the Youtube (it was actually too smooth for a test taker haha). I answered like "The ancient civilization, has, has, two, umm, blablabla." I do not really know the criteria of score of 4, but I hope that my last responses were excellent enough.

d. Writing
The first one is the integrated task. Easy as pie! I even finished the task for 13 minutes :P

The independent's topic task was unfortunate for me. I was very clueless, and I believe I would screw up my scores :( The question asked you to agree or disagree to this statement: "TV gives more negative influences than positive ones to young poeple." I was utterly brainless that after I decided to oppose the statement, I altered the whole plan to support the statement -_- Indeed, I wasted a lot of time, perhaps around 8 minutes. Anyway, I finished the essay with 315 words in it. Then, the time ended and I was allowed to leave the test room.

At the end of the test, I was really scared of my scores, especially the Listening and the Writing sections. What if my listening score were only 20... Well, let's hope that the total scores are at least 90...

4. Results
It was really on the 10th day after the test (11th February). I somehow woke up at 3.00 am for no reason. Then I checked my phone and, uh, there was this sent email from ETS at 1 am. I was quite reluctant as I wonder whether I should view the scores or not. If I got bad scores, then I could not sleep, and if I got great scores, I could not sleep either xD. Well, I finally decided to view the scores while I was pooping in the bathroom to try make everything just normal (?).

Unbelievable actually.. I got 106!
PRAISE LORD FOR THE LISTENING SECTION'S SCORE! I assume that I did great on the listening section because the black lady's conversation was only the additional listening passage. I was also just not confident enough while the answers I gave were actually true :')

As I predicted, I only got "fair" score (2.5-3.5) on the independent writing. I also got "fair" score on the first and second questions of the speaking sections. Others are dubbed as good.

Unlike the old tests in which you could only view the score, for the 2015 tests (and onward probably), you can also download a PDF report on the website! This one will need time though. I got mine on 18th February, that is one week after the scores. Take notes that this is only your temporary record, as on both pages of the PDF, there is this "not an official report" sentence. The official one would be the delivered results later or the one that you asked to be delivered to your desired destination.

Update: Yay, I received the letter after approximately one month! I always thought that it is going to be a hard-paper certificate, but well it is just a usual letter...

Finally, that's everything I can tell you. I hope this post will help you facing the test! :D

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


A lot of English proficiency tests, and you are confused which one should you take? Well, I have summarized some of the most common tests conducted in Indonesia.

Firstly, let yourself acknowledge three types of common TOEFL Tests: ITP, PBT, and iBT.

TOEFL ITP is what most of Indonesians think as the usual TOEFL. This test, however, is not official from the ETS (the TOEFL company). The test is offered by particular institutions, and most of the reliable institutions are universities like UI, ITB, etc. It is fairly cheap, ranging from Rp300,000 to Rp500,000 per test, ITB offers this test for Rp350,000. This test is comprised of three sections: Listening, Structure, and Reading. The maximum score is 677. 

TOEFL PBT (Paper-Based Test) is the same as TOEFL ITP, yet it is officially conducted by ETS. However, there is an additional section which is TWE (Test of Written English), and I think this part is scored separately. Only few countries that do not support iBT test have this test, e.g. New Papua Guinea. Note that you cannot take this test again in Indonesia. Currently in Indonesia, ETS only offers TOEFL iBT.

Finally TOEFL iBT (Internet-Based Test) is the test that is officially offered by ETS. You will not do the test by writing in paper; you will do the test in a computer. This is the TOEFL test that you can use to apply abroad. The test's sections are similar to those of IELTS: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. The test is very expensive as it costs $180 for Indonesians..

So which one should you take? If you do not have much money and you want to use the scores to only apply for companies in the country, you might want to choose ITP test as some companies in Indonesia accept the TOEFL ITP results by certain institutions. However, if you want to apply to companies/universities abroad, I can assure you that the results cannot be used. You need to take TOEFL IBT.

If you ask me which one is easier, I pick the iBT test. The reason is that the listening section in ITP test is hard and boring, whereas the iBT's listening section is quite interesting. Most importantly, you are allowed to take notes. I think test takers are mostly troubled with the iBT's speaking section, but with good preparations, it will not be horrendous as what most test takers assume.

A lot of explanations in the internet about this one. It should be you to determine which test you favor most. These are some differences:

- All reading and listening questions in TOEFL are multiple-choice questions, whereas IELTS' questions are mostly "fill in the blank" questions.
- The speaking section is very different. In TOEFL, you talk to a computer, while in IELTS, you talk to a human,
- IELTS is more expensive. It costs $~15 more than TOEFL.
- Most US universities only accept TOEFL, while most UK universities only accept IELTS. You can choose either test if you want to apply for Asian or other universities.

If you ask me which one I prefer, I definitely choose TOEFL iBT. First, I'm very comfortable with iBT's listening section. Second, I would rather to do multiple choice questions. And third - this is perhaps only my assumption - IELTS's grading for writing and speaking seems to be harsh.

But still, my brother, for example, prefers IELTS for the speaking and the listening sections. He does not have the guts to record his voice to a computer lol. He also said the listening section is not boring.

If you are still undecided, just try to at least do each of the tests. Study carefully each test's pattern. Then, decide which one is fit for you!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Taking SAT Subject Tests Experience | Pengalaman Mengambil SAT Subject Tests

Many of you probably are curious how to register and how it feels to take the tests. I think there are only a few Indonesians who told their experiences of taking the test on the internet, either in blogs or facebook. Err, to be honest, I did not even find one. I would like to tell you my experience.

1. What are SAT Subject Tests?

The SAT Tests are primarily used only for US undergraduate admissions, although Asian universities like KAIST, HKU, HKUST, and NUS acknowledge the test as well. There are two types of the tests:

a. SAT Reasoning Test (also known as SAT I)

It is quite tantamount to "Tes TPA" in Indonesia. The test will evaluate three skills: Critical Reading, Math, and Writing. It has ten sections. Look at the website for more information.

My opinion? You want to get 2100, or even 2200+? Warning: do not take the test, especially if you rarely read reading materials that have lots of high-level vocabulary words. This warning is intended especially to the guys who are clueless about the SAT and to students who only study at regular public schools (no racism intended) like me, not international christian/catholic/boarding schools.

I once took few practice tests. The critical reading sections are a real pain in the ass. Words like grandiloquent, brouhaha, magnanimous, resilient, etc. often show up. When a passage from a novel shows up, I have no idea what that passage means.. The writing sections are also hard. 25-minute essay is a big trouble for me. I must say that the math is abso-freaking-lutely easy if you do math well in high school.

Just do not take the test except your reading and writing scores of TOEFL exceed 28+, because even native test takers think the test is difficult. This test needs a lot of preparations, especially broading your knowledge about vocabulary and writing samples. This time, I do not want to discuss this test as I myself have not taken the test yet.

b. SAT Subject Tests (also known as SAT II)

SAT Subject Tests evaluate you in a particular subject, e.g. Chemistry, Math, Physics, English Literature, etc. In one day, you can take up to three subject tests.

The tests are actually similar to Ujian Nasional 2014 (the hard one)! You can also score perfectly even though your answers on some questions are wrong. In my case, I left some answers blank because I do not have time though. For instance, I left 2 blanks in my Math Level 2 test and 3 blanks in the Physics test. Well I was actually unsure with another 6 questions in Physics but I just guessed them lol.

2. Registering and Fees

Register at For the SAT Subject Tests, you can take up to three tests. US universities usually require two subject tests (one in math and one in science). I can actually only take two tests, but as the fee difference is not that much, I chose to take three subjects: Math Level 2, Chemistry, and Physics.

Additionally, you need to pick universities that you want to send the scores. You might leave it blank at first. Also, you CAN request the results paper to your home if you wish to. To do this, you need to finish the registration, including the payment, and then log in to with your username. There is a score sending preference (if I'm not mistaken) menu. In that website, you can also list and change your score destinations until the deadline. For instance, I took the test on 24th January, and I can still change my score destinations until 2nd February.

For the fees, you might want to look This is the general fee for an international student:
$26: Basic Fee
$42 (for East Asia/Pacific): International Process Fee
+$26: /Language + Listening Tests Fee
+$16: /Other Subject Tests Fee

For example, because I selected 3 non-listening subjects, then my fees would be 26 + 42 + 16x3 (three tests) = $116. Well, quite expensive huh, but thankfully it is not as expensive as taking the TOEFL. Oh yeah, I registered for the January test. I paid the test by using PayPal.

For those of you who only have mononymous or single name (like I do), I once asked the College Board and it said you will need to write your last name as "Noname".

3. Preparations (Book reviews)

Almost all of the subjects are covered in high school, except for few chapters on math, but it's better to read some preparatory books. FYI, I prepared one month prior to the test by taking important notes from some awesome preparatory books. Let's review the books! As I only take CH PH and MAT2, I recommend you these books:

1. Barron's Math Level 1/2
(For you Indonesian fellows, there are no derivatives and integrals in the test, but you need to learn conic sections, some functions (odd/even function), and some statistics (regression) as these are not taught in schools. )

I actually only used the level 2 book. This book provides great explanations! I enjoy taking notes from the book. Aanndd the practice tests are VERY TOUGH. But do not worry, if you are used to this book, you will definitely ace the real test!

I scored only 680-740 on all practice tests.

2. Princeton Review's Cracking the SAT Physics
(For Indonesians, all chapters are covered in school. No worries.)

The explanations here are not that great. It's not listed in points, and I am easily bored with paragraph explanations. But really, if you want to ace the test, you might want to review.

There is a MUST however. The practice questions are definitely helpful. In my case, some questions fixed my misconceptions about particular fundamentals. Also DO THE PRACTICE TESTS! There are only two tests, but these tests are absolutely similar to the real test. I once used the McGrawhill's, and guess what, the practice tests are NOWHERE to the real test.

I scored 780 and 800 on the two practice tests.

3. Barron's Chemistry and PR's Cracking the SAT Chemistry
(For Indonesians, all chapters are covered in school, but I strongly recommend you read the book because there are lots of theories that you might want to learn, especialy things related to laboratory experiments)

I am the weakest (although I am still considered good) at Chemistry. For the reading materials, I used Barron's books. Barron's explanations are just comprehensible and thorough! You do not have to memorize the Laboratory chapter though as the questions did not pop out in my test. Practice tests are also good for additional knowledge.

Do all of the practice questions and practice tests in PR's book. PR's practice tests are more 'quite' similar to the real test compared to Barron's. Can't remember my practice test scores on both books, but the scores range arbitrarily from low 600 to 800 lol.

It's hard to find these books in Indonesia. If you want these things illegally free, you can search these books on torrent. Just search on and you will find these books.

I was about to buy the SAT Subject Tests Official Guide (no e-book), but I do not think it is necessary... I mean, you do not want to study Chinese and French yet these books contain these subjects. The only positive thing is that the book gives you official practice test, but I believe PR's practice tests are already sufficient.

4. Test Day
It was on Saturday, 24th of January. I took the test at Pribadi Bilingual Boarding School in Bandung. Most of you are probably concerned whether you are allowed to bring phones or not. I did not bring one though haha, but other test takers brought theirs and I think it was fine. The test proctors will take care of it. I was the 'one and only' SAT Subject Tests taker in the school whereas other students took the SAT Test. Well, I guess it's a jackpot because I could concentrate well! And if you wonder what "No. 2" Pencils are, while the internet suggests that these pencils are equivalent to HB pencils, my test proctors suggested me to use 2B pencils. Therefore, just bring both types of pencil.

Upon arriving, you will be asked to show your identity (passport etc.) and the printed SAT admission ticket that can be downloaded. My printer was bad and I had a trouble with my dark photo. I was so damn afraid that I would be not allowed to take the test, but after around 2-3 minutes, the test proctor finally allowed me. So I guess it's better to make sure that your identity on your test ticket is right and the photo quality is good.

All of the tests, even including other tests (Literature, Biology, etc.) are compiled in one test book. So basically, you will first fill in the identity on the answering sheet. After that, you can take the tests in any order that you want. Ask the proctor which test you want to take first (for example, I chose Chemistry first), and you will open the page in the book where the Chemistry test is located. Remember, calculator is ONLY ALLOWED for the math test. Each test took one hour, and there is a 5-minute break between each test.

Well I guess it is time for test review:

1. Math
I think you will be tremendously relieved when you have practiced using the Barron's book. This test is easy! The two questions that I could not answer were about vector and probability. Make sure you bring A CALCULATOR. Scientific calculator is enough, as I brought graphing one yet I did not use it.

2. Physics
It was quite hard. Very similar to PR's two practice tests. There were a lot of theories like prism (this was unexpected and there were two questions), supernova theory, other wtf theories, etc. At the end of the test, I left 9 questions blank, but managed to guess 6 questions.

3. Chemistry
Fairly easy, yet I was clueless about some experiments. Also, the True-False questions are full of traps. Read carefully.

5. Results
Thankfully, I received the score on the scheduled date, 12th February! I was waiting all day long in campus, repeatedly cheking my phone. I even got a 50 on programming basics quiz as my mind got thoroughly distracted -_-. But anyway, I got the scores after I arrived at my home. It was around 5 pm. Taadaa, the scores are actually as I predicted!

Nice scores eh? I thought that I would score much lower on Chemistry xD

The website said that Collegeboard sent the score on 10th February to my desired universities. I was confused though whether the scores will be sent to my home or not. Although it does not really matter, but it's just something that I want to collect lol. 

Well, in the end, I hope that this article will help you preparing for the tests! 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Blight: Could It Happen?

The future of the Earth is a big concern for most of our people. We begin to think a time in which our planet will be an improbable place to live in. Indeed, the 2014 movie Interstellar depicts interstellar travel brilliantly, but the movie has left various questions among the audience. Most viewers are intrigued about the gravitational singularity, the people who are called as “they”, the “Tesseract”, and other nebulous things. One of the most intriguing yet ambiguous thing is the Blight. Though the movie does not explain anything about the cause of the emergence of the Blight, there is one big question: are we ever going to be in danger — in the most extreme and speculative sense — of ever having just corn and okra to eat? In my opinion, the Blight depicted in the film will hardly happen because such pandemic will not occur easily, even if the Blight is caused by either a contagious disease or global warming.

The Blight depicted in Interstellar is possibly a widespread disease, but it might be better to consider the fundamental tenet of plant pathology called the disease triangle. It says that for any disease to spread widely it needs three things: a susceptible host, a pathogen, and the right environmental conditions. Take any one away, and the disease won't spread.[1] If the disease triangle is true, then the Blight in the Interstellar is completely erroneous. According to Dr. Kleinhenz, a professor in the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science at The Ohio State University (2014), “… it's very unlikely that a single superbug would spread across our diverse planet, or even do as well in Alaska as Peru.”[2] First, each pathogen affects different types of hosts. Not all pathogens can attack a specific plant. Also, each pathogen has different adaptability. Most pathogens cannot stand cold climate, so Alaska should be just perfectly safe for the crops. The plague in the movie, if true, is indeed as worse as zombie virus’s spreading.

Some people argue that a widespread disease is still the most possible cause of the plague. They point out that Dr. Brand’s remark about the Blight which breathes nitrogen might happen in real life. Of course it would be logical that if the Blight were existing, the Blight would surely win because the Earth contains 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. Nonetheless, the depiction is very unscientific. I wonder what kind of Blight is known to consume nitrogen. Until today, no viruses consume nitrogen, and only very diminutive amount of bacteria consume nitrogen. Even if the Blight does exist, and it annihilates all plants on the mainland, Lawrence Krauss, a notable physician, stated that there are still many other options of food source. He even ridiculed the nitrogen-consuming Blight in the movie by stating “… humans can just live with the ocean. We can subsist on seaweed and fish and — little known fact — the ocean produces most of our oxygen. No nitrogen!”[3] Thus, according to his statement, the Earth will die only after the disease can find a way to infect the oceans.

What about the global warming? Is Dr. Brand actually referring the nitrogen-consuming Blight as extreme climate change caused by global warming? Many viewers argue that this might be the cause of the disaster because global warming is really happening. In fact, just from the 20th to the 21st century, the Earth’s temperature has risen around 0.3 to 1.7 °C, and the oxygen’s availability has decreased around 0.2%[4]. Nevertheless, even though Dr. Kleinhenz accepted the idea that climate change is probably the possible cause of the plague in Interstellar, he further stated, “I've always been impressed by the resilience and adaptability of [our] community." He gave an example of how Michigan farmers were able to exchange their bad apple seeds caused by climate change with new adaptable apple seeds with the help of technology.[2] Moreover, astrobiologist David Grinspoon points out that even with a voracious climate change it would have taken millions of years to draw down the atmosphere's content of oxygen.[5] Therefore, the Earth would need an extremely long time to change to an uninhabitable planet.

In conclusion, the chance of the Blight attacking the Earth is ultimately small. I believe that we should not believe a film entirely without researching the films’ facts first. Our environment is maybe getting worst, but technological developments are always invented simultaneously. Of course, we should not fully rely on the scientists out there either. Though the chance is small, we people should begin to learn how important a good condition of our environment is. Conserve our environment, and we will preserve our lives.

[1] Agrios, G. N. 2005. Plant Pathology (5th edition). Elsevier-Academic Press. San Diego, CA.
[2] Durand, Faith. 2014. What’s the Deal with the Idea That Corn and Okra Are the Only Crops Left in the Future? Let’s Ask a Scientist. <> [6 November 2014]
[3] Smith, Andrew. 2014. Lawrence Krauss Interviewed, Talks Interstellar and More. <> [22 November 2014]
[4] Climate Change 2013. Technical Summary [PDF Document] <>
[5] Corn, David. 2014. What's Wrong With the Science of "Interstellar"?. <> [12 November 2014]


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Why Standardized Test Is Essential

The fact that many countries use standardized test as the final evaluation has enraged many students across the globe. One of them is an American student, Suli Breaks, who questioned, “why unique individuals tested by the same means?” Similar remark came from an Indonesian student, Nurmillaty Abadiah, who wrote an open letter criticizing the 2013 difficult national exam. Nevertheless, there is indeed a reason why the US’ best universities require standardized tests along with GPA results and why national exam is used in Indonesia for applying to higher educational institutions. Standardized testing is ultimately important because it holds schools accountable, guides teachers to determine their teaching procedure, and is the most objective academic assessment.

To ensure all schools’ accomplishments are as what the government expects, a standardized test is needed to assess schools’ accountability across the country. In Indonesia, every high school has the same curriculum, but each has different standard on measuring the GPA of a student. With a standardized test, which is the national exam, the government can evaluate each school’s performance with equal method. Consequently, the national exam results from year to year have shown that prestigious high schools, although some of them only give small GPA, score better than unpopular high schools. Rural schools are also known for scoring very low at national exam. Therefore, the government will know which schools fail to accomplish what the curriculum expects, and it can allocate appropriate educational aids to these schools.

Standardized testing gives teachers guidance to help them determine what to teach students and when to teach it. Indonesian teachers are able to arrange a schedule and deadline to finish national exam’s curriculum effectively. They will also give attention to subject chapters that are covered in the national exam more intensively. Some creative teachers also invent fast formulas to solve particular problems that are absolutely helpful. In addition, when the students’ results of national exam are bad, teachers are the responsible ones. They will introspect why their students score badly, and they eventually will fix themselves to be better teachers in the future.

Some students believe that standardized testing is very unjust because it merely evaluates student’s progress for years just in a one day-test. Some also believe that most students cheat in the test. However, these remarks actually contradict the truth that standardized testing is perhaps the only available objective assessment. Take Indonesia’s university admission as an example. The “SNMPTN” admission route, which selects students based on their high school GPA, is indeed unfair because universities are very biased. They only favor particular schools. As a result, unpopular schools, usually are located in rural areas, do not have the chance to enter their students’ dreamed universities by “SNMPTN” route. Conversely, with an equal university entrance exam, known as the “SBMPTN”, all high school students are seen equally based on the test results, no matter from which school they are. In addition, who can guarantee that GPA results are not cheated? There are many examples of transactions between a student and a teacher to increase the student’s score.

To summarize, despite the disagreement over standardized testing, it is evident that standardized test is very important. Standardized test is not merely used for a student’s assessment; it is used to evaluate the country’s education to decide further movements by the government to improve the country’s education. It is crucial for every student to receive fundamental education and to be assessed by the test regardless of how good or bad students will score the test,. I wish that students would let the ‘standardized test’-phobia away because as what Suli Breaks said, test results are not the only factor for a great future.