Gwyn’s Guide to NTU Psych Modules (or: PSYCcess)

Y1S1 (AY17/18)

HP1000 Introduction to Psychology | Core | 3AUs

Lecturer: Qiu Lin (my batch), Victoria Leong (later batches)
Assessments: RP (5%), class part (10%), mid-terms/final exam (80-90%)?
Workload/difficulty: Low/easy

This is the class that all the misguided youth of NTU clamour for because they think psychology is “fun and interesting“. Extremely popular module. I’m guessing extremely steep bell curve too. It roughly has the content that you would find in a pop psychology book but with more academic flair. It does a good enough job of familiarising you with the basics.

Prof Qiu helped to break down concepts further by incorporating the occasional brain teaser (in the form of printouts and videos). Tutorials were group discussions on simple questions; the exams were a matter of memory. Because the module entirely relies on secondary-source content, reading the textbook alone was enough for me.

Following my batch, Prof Victoria took over this module (sorry juniors, you missed the golden era HAHAHAHAH). Mini-review from a junior Tarif: The module was a solid introduction to the basics. Prof Vic was straightforward and clear in her explanations, so you’re in good hands. To score well in assessments, you need a confident grasp of the textbook materials as there are application questions. So when reviewing the content, think carefully about the implications of the content covered and its relevance to the world or the field of psychology.

HP1100 Fundamentals of Social Science Research | Core | 3AUs

Lecturer: Olivia Choy
Assessments: Mid-term (40%), final exam (60%)
Workload/difficulty: Medium/medium

Let me get this out before we proceed: statistics is my nemesis. It will be an uphill challenge to some, juniors and seniors alike. This is because statistics is classically incompatible with the traditional method of studying that we’re accustomed to and that typically works (i.e. last-minute mugging). I can brute force my way through about anything except statistics. Granted, the ability to command the numbers is an essential skill for any good student of psychology. It is also a badge of honour. Master statistics and dazzle your peers with your outstanding brilliance! And you will forever be in demand for group projects!

Prof Olivia is a sharp cookie. Her slides are good quality (she has an affinity for the colours black and red). She knows how to test your understanding rather than your regurgitation skills. Example: we learn about various types of interaction effects in class. The mid-terms question throws out some specific scenario where I had to chart the DV and draw out the whole ass interaction graph. Still got it wrong though. And that was 1 out of 40 questions. To stand out you need an excellent grasp of the basics – and that won’t come from reading the slides alone, not even the textbook. But don’t be disheartened! Practice makes perfect in statistics. Or so I’ve heard. That means you have to make the effort to go above and beyond. If you see a practice exercise unanswered in your notes, you’d better get to working on it. NOW! IMMEDIATELY! (For more tips, read HP2100/HP3101)

I am having so much fun with these

HW0105 Academic Communication in the Arts, Humanities, & Social Sciences | GER-Core | 2AUs

*for incoming freshmen in AY21/22: “Inquiry and Communication in an Interdisciplinary World”?

Lecturer: Alvin Leong
Assessments: “Observational research” essay (25%), argumentative essay (40%), class presentation (20%), class part (15%)
Workload/difficulty: Medium/easy

Acad Comms is a unique course for two reasons: 1) it is compulsory for every SSS student and 2) it is a game of luck, because each class has a different lecturer, even though the syllabus is fixed. Since modules in your first semester are registered for you, students are grouped in classes with others of the same major. But I transferred out of mine volitionally and joined one for economics students instead. Fantastic decision because Dr Alvin is an amazing lecturer. He trusted that we had the discipline to read the textbook independently and instead spent most of his time giving targeted suggestions to improve our writing. I prided myself on my Anglais skills before but was totally nerfed in his Zone. I vividly recall one time he corrected me because I mistakenly assumed that “an” preceded “university” because the latter started with a vowel (u). He kindly pointed out that the starting sound (you-niversity) rather than the letter matters – because the word starts with a “y” therefore it is preceded by an “a” (a university). English is hard.

The assignments were simple. The first was a descriptive essay. We had at least 3 weeks in advance to write it. Even O-level English students have it tougher. The remaining assignments involved writing an argumentative paper and presenting on that topic. I argued that free will is an illusion. I remember the grudging look on Dr Alvin’s face as he tried to accept my proposition. It was fun.

To score better, brush up on your English skills by reading academic essays, opinion pieces, and even fiction (for descriptive inspiration). Finish your essays early and spend 1-2 days away from it before QCing it again, so that you are better able to re-evaluate your work with a critical eye (I know this is common knowledge, but we don’t follow it! I might not even be doing it with THIS post!) Swap essays with your friends and comment on each others’ strengths and weaknesses. And get reviews from Comms Cube; it’s free! (See HW0208 for more.)

Y1S2 (AY17/18)

HP2100 Research Design & Data Analysis in Psychology | Core | 3AUs

Lecturer: Ringo Ho, immortal practitioner of the Dark Arts
Assessments: Quizzes (10%), mid-term (20%), group project (20%), final exam (50%)
Workload/difficulty: High/Ringo

New semester, same old suffering! This time we are face-to-face with the omniscient Stats God himself. You will learn the permutations of ANOVA and multiple regression. (In the words of my idol, Prof Catherine: everything, in the end, is merely regression.) The module is well-structured and progressively builds across lessons. It puts your skills to practice; the group project substantially value-adds to your learning of relevant content (if you recover from the blow you have been dealt). But the good things in life never come easy. It demands active concentration in connecting concepts that rapidly mutate into complex forms. There is a lot to imbibe every class, and little room to falter. A weak foundation makes for a shaky building.

I thought about it. Why did I struggle so much? I have many excuses. First, Prof R doesn’t subscribe to recording lectures – apparently he compared the performance of 2 cohorts with and without recordings and found no significant difference. (Might change with Covid.) Second, and compounding the issue, classes were at 9:30am. I am not a morning person. But those reasons are hardly adequate. It boils down to me delaying my inevitable confrontation with the module until it was too late, because I wanted to avoid the feeling of failure. You can run, but you cannot hide!

me running away from statistics

Prof Ringo is a seasoned lecturer. He knows what he is doing. He’s done it so many times he can probably predict who the winners and losers will be, and how the emotional turmoil of students will play out. Sometimes I feel he is desensitised. I remember him telling me to “go back and read the notes” multiple times. Maybe I didn’t.

Good news for you all is that my failure translates to your success. To succeed in this module, it is imperative that you revise regularly. By “regularly” I don’t mean shortly before each quiz or mid-term. I mean like every week after each class. 2.5h for the exam is deceptively short. You need to know the formulae at the back of your hand because there isn’t enough time. Catch Prof Ringo for consultations; collaborate with your friends and compile a list of questions before prostrating yourself to avoid humiliation. Practice your SPSS. And don’t burn the midnight oil for ANY assessment. You can’t handle it. I couldn’t.

Don’t worry; you’ll be fine. (For more hijinks, see HP3101)

HP2300 Developmental Psychology | Core | 3AUs

Lecturer: Setoh Pei Pei
Assessments: Letter (5%), online questionnaires (5%), group presentation (10%), 2 quizzes (30%), final exam (50%)
Workload/difficulty: Like caring for a child/Medium

Your first lesson from this module might be on how to politely draft an email to an academic superior. It’s a running joke in my cohort. This module covers early development up to around adolescence across multiple dimensions – physical, mental, emotional, and moral. The content is extensive; the notes from this module (along with statistics) take up the most space in the organising file I keep them in.

One aspect of this module that differentiates it from the other junior-level cores is its emphasis on primary research. Prof PP’s slides are frequently interspersed with journal articles, many of which include groundbreaking discoveries. The tutorials serve the function of contextualising what we learnt in lecture, usually by providing real-life examples (e.g. the case of Genie, feral child) or further expanding upon said journal articles. Two assessments – the letter and the group presentation – each involve examining a research paper and explaining it to an audience. Free marks for participating in Prof’s recent research.

This is all to say: pay attention to the studies highlighted every tutorial. Hell, pay attention to every single study that’s name-dropped in the course. If you can find the original papers online, even better: read the abstracts and summarise their key findings. It goes without saying that you should peruse the tutorial papers throughly. The module is heavy in content, but is not difficult – you just have to figure out how to connect the little dots to form the bigger picture. It will ultimately contribute to your skills in critiquing papers, which is another quality expected of a psychology major.

HP2400 Social Psychology | Core | 3AUs

Lecturer: Albert Lee
Assessments: Class part (10%), group project (20%), mid-term (20%), final exam (50%)
Workload/difficulty: Medium/easy

A fan favourite. The nature of social psychology is fundamentally compelling because it gives meaning to the world that we [dramatic tone] find ourselves inescapably immersed in. The content of this module scratches an itch in your mind that you didn’t know you had. Sometimes it rings like common sense. Other times you learn something new. It gently nudges you towards the epiphany that the world does not revolve around you (though I can at least name you one person who did not attain that realisation), and that everyone is the protagonist of their own unique story. One of the best ways to learn is to relate a concept to yourself, and this module makes it easy. For example: think about the last time you judged someone harshly for something they did to offend you without delving deeper into the circumstances. That’s the fundamental attribution error! Still gonna judge people tho, losers!

Prof Albert is a Big Personality who is adored by glittery-eyed students. He has a quirky sense of humour that makes lectures a breeze. Speaking of lectures, keep an eye out for his policy of “skeletal class notes” i.e. where the slides he uploads have ___B L A N K S___! Among other out of context quotes that I could use from him, “creativity is central to learning” prefaces the section Group Project in the syllabus. Well, creativity comes in the form of a poster here, where poster roughly means mini research project with fancy aesthetics. Fancy aesthetics has never been my forte, so I concentrated on the research. I feel that a lot of times group projects spiral out of control, but matching each person to their forte may help – research, organisation, or artistic flair. Ideally, teammates can help each other to improve on their respective weaknesses by assisting one another. Ideally. Whatever it is, don’t be that person who loafs without contributing. Nobody likes habitual freeloaders; they’re scum.

OK, before I get carried away. The textbook is pivotal in this module: you are, of course, expected to read the relevant chapters before lectures. (But who does that?). See HP3901 Cultural Psychology for more tips.

HW0208 Academic Communication in the Social Sciences | GER-Core | 2AUs

*For incoming freshmen in AY21/22: probably “Effective Communication II”?

Lecturer: Waheeda Gapar
Assessments: Annotated bibliography (25%), research paper (40%), oral presentation (20%), class part (15%)
Workload/difficulty: Medium/easy

Every lecturer has their unique quirks and preferences, and if you can adapt to those, it can make for a more smooth-sailing journey. HW0208 is essentially HW0105 with a technical edge so the content ultimately can’t stray far. Ms Waheeda, in contrast with Dr Alvin, was more by-the-book – literally. There was a steady adherence to the textbook, that cold slab of black, white and grey. Learning to read and write critically is pretty meta and can get dry – I found myself more distracted than I’d have liked to be. Nevertheless, this module is important because it lays the foundation for another crucial skill: report writing. The more journal articles I read, the more it seems to me that persuasion boils down to artful storytelling. The more compelling, the more reiteration, the more your points stick. (My social media handle is @gwynethtyt. Remember it. ASDLKLDKFD)

The assignments are easy to score – if you know what your lecturer is looking for. So ask for pointers and use whatever you can get. I wasn’t clear on her standards of excellence; that reflected in my grades when I decided to just ram through everything like a bull, as I tend to do. For the benefit of those who did not read HW0105 above, get your writing reviewed at Comms Cube. Getting an external opinion on your work helps by revealing weaknesses as well as new perspectives. Be ruthless in interrogating your own work and omitting redundancy. For the presentation, which I performed only mediocrely, my strategy was to cram all my result/discussion pointers from my research paper into 5 minutes. In hindsight, it might have been more important to catch my audience’s attention and keep them entertained instead. Who cares about the central route to persuasion when you have the peripheral route, amirite? LMAO

Y2S1 (AY18/19)

HP2200 Biological Psychology | Core | 3AUs

Lecturer: Ryo Kitada
Assessments: Attendance/online quiz (10%), mid-term quiz (25%), in-class essay (15%), final exam (50%)
Workload/difficulty: High/Big Brain

It’s impossible not to like Prof Ryo. He is so soft. And amicable. Unfortunately everything else in this module is hard. LOOOOL. Biopsych is the “hard science” child of the field. We love social and personality psych but those feature relatively intangible constructs. Here you learn about entities and processes that have a physical existence. The brain and its four lobes. The basal ganglia. The retina and its RODS and CONES. The mitochondrion being the POWERHOUSE OF THE CELL. (Wait – maybe not that one.) It feels more grounded as a result – though this perception in no way means that biopsych is more legitimate.

It is a comprehensive module, and there is much to internalise. His slides are pretty self-sufficient. The content spans broadly (from memory to sexual behaviour) and is yet simultaneously specific (long-term potentiation, INAH-3 somehow predicting homosexuality). The good news is what you see is what you get: there’s no need to get creative with the information given. Understanding the process and function of each bodily part – and what happens when they fail – is what matters. No projects! Just plain ol’ understanding and application questions! We love you, Prof Ryo! A cognitive neuroscientist, and a KING!

The assessments: be careful with the in-class essay. Because it is an open-ended question, you need to be comprehensive in your response or you’ll omit key points. Perhaps due to the complexity of the content, he allows a double-sided A4 cheat sheet in the final exam. And he instituted this particular rule for short answer questions: respond in no more than two sentences. Not AT ALL my cup of tea – how else would we have this post – but a commendable strategy to sift out the most lucid answers. He is superb at setting tricky questions, though he provides contextual detail to compensate for it. Like I said, focus on process and function.

I will end my fangirling with a heartwarming story. He used to use a generic red laser pointer in lectures. A student apparently informed him that the tiny dot was hard to see in the recordings. The lesson after summer break, he proudly unleashed his brand new $300 laser pointer. Imagine a dot except magnified a hundred times and it came in the shape of a hand pointing a finger. No joke. He was proud of himself. Again: a KING.

I am CONVINCED it looks like this

HP2500 Personality & Individual Differences | Core | 3AUs

Lecturer: Tania Nagpaul
Assessments: Duo presentation (20%), midterms (30%), exam (50%)? Not sure – there was no syllabus given(!)
Workload/difficulty: Ezpz

Perhaps because I found this module interesting, it was a breeze. It’s hard not to find personality theories compelling, if only because they are so relatable. Lectures are truncated versions of the textbook and readily digestible. The textbook itself is similarly clear and easy to read. No primary research or readings required here either. There are many interpretations of personality to explore – dispositional, cognitive, humanistic and more. All more diverse and promising than the MBTI. It’s a fun and chill mod handed to you on a silver platter.

For the presentation, we had to apply a self-chosen personality theory to a public figure. Other than ensuring that the theory clearly explains prominent facets of the individual, it may be useful to critique the theory. Lastly, the tests aren’t hard, though they sometimes demand an intricate understanding of the theories’ rationale and predictions to score. You’ll need the textbook’s elaboration and perhaps some online material.

HP3101 Applied Statistical Methods for Psychological Research | Major-PE | 3AUs

Lecturer: Ringo Ho
Assessments: Quiz (8%), mid-term (22%), group project (20%), final exam (50%)
Workload/difficulty: Ringo/Ringo

This module is my only B in university. Given my prior reports, you might be wondering at this point why of all things I opted for this as a 3k module. Well… I have a complicated relationship with statistics. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it. No matter what, I know I needed it, and I trusted that future me would appreciate the decision. (Even if the consequence was a B.) The problem is I, apparently, did not learn from my previous experiences of failure, and continued to fail. So let me be a cautionary tale to you all.

me entering this module waiting to be terrorised

The format is identical to HP2100. So is the focus: ANOVA and regression. Everything’s just harder. My affectionate name for this module is HP2100 On Crack Where I Get 1/5 On My Weekly Quizzes Because I Don’t Understand!. The topics covered range from clearly relevant (model fitting, simple slopes) to you might need this someday (diagnostics, dominance analysis). Honestly: diagnostics still eludes me. There are also academic papers written by statisticians(!) as recommended reading. As if there wasn’t enough for my feeble mind to fret about. Also, I wish to take this opportunity to once again apologise to my statistics groupmates ASFDFSKJ

Well, was it worth it? I can at least say I have seen a marginal improvement in my ability to understand results sections in journal articles. There remain numerous terms that are beyond my reach, but they’re not as daunting anymore. Recently I read this paper that used a contrast comparison at one point (where you compare multiple groups in combinations instead of separately, e.g. A+B vs C). It was one of the topics covered. I realised, even if I had forgotten most what I’d learnt, I roughly knew what was going on. Another paper used polynomial regression analysis and I was like OK… that’s regression with extra steps. LOL

It’s business as usual with Prof Ringo. His exams are fine-tuned to perfection: they test understanding of key content, the ability to deliver under immense time pressure, and comfort with application and generalisation. He especially excels with the last one, likely due to the nature of his work. As for tutorials, well:

I could have 3 hands and still not have enough time

All my printouts for this semester share office space in a red arch file, except my stats notes. THOSE get an exclusive black file to themselves. I have a feeling I will be reviewing them a lot for FYP.

So, yeah, I don’t regret it… I think :,-)

Y2S2 (AY18/19)

HP2600 Cognitive Psychology | Core | 3AUs

Lecturer: Charles Or
Assessments: Class part (10%), quiz (15%), group report (15%), final exam (60%)
Workload/difficulty: Just right

In my opinion, cognitive psychology was just right. There is just enough content in every lecture to challenge you, whilst not overpowering. The specifics of cogpsych are far from easy (honestly, what is this) but Prof Charles keeps it accessible. He sprinkles all sorts of interactive activities in his lectures, which break the monotony of theory and keep our attention. Many are iterations of famous experiments in the field. Included also are real-life examples to illustrate how susceptible we are to our cognitive tendencies. Understanding how your brain operates to make sense of the world around you is both enlightening and exciting.

The tutorials generate thought-provoking questions and provide hands-on engagement through activities e.g. online visual search tasks. Class discussions encouraged us to search for recent findings and primary research papers, only to realise that the answers are not clean-cut. They never are in academia.

The group report was interesting – we were given a set of results and expected to build a report around it. This is counterintuitive since the literature review traditionally comes before the results, but it’s nothing that can’t be resolved with some reading. To make a strong case, you will need to familiarise yourself with the phenomenon and the rationales behind specific experimental designs. Furthermore, you will need to be able to explain the results convincingly. That means lots of supporting evidence from other papers. For the quiz and final exam, ensure you have a good grasp of the major theories/models covered in the slides relating to each topic (similar to HP2300). Each set of slides covers a broad range of info so drawing up mind (cognitive, geddit?) maps may help.

HP2700 Abnormal Psychology | Core | 3AUs

Lecturer: Shen Biing-Jiun
Assessments: Mid-terms (35%), finals (50%), discussion boards (10%), attendance (5%)
Workload/difficulty: Normal/normal

A remarkably Normal course, considering its name. And SuperDry. A quick check for this lecture’s schedule this coming semester (AY20/21 Sem 2) informs me that it will be held every Monday from 3:30-6:30pm. From personal experience, let’s just say that you want to avoid heavy lunches right before class.

The course syllabus in my year did not offer information about what topics were covered, so I never had a good grasp of what was going on. I can say there is a LOT to be covered. I typically print 4 slides per page (to annotate during revision) but my records show that some point I switched to 9 (nine) slides per page for this module only. And then I gave up on printing the later lectures LOL. The number of slides ranges from 70 on a good day to the 100s on a challenging one. Lecture information seems to be organised around major disorders in the DSM (e.g. eating disorders, autism, schizophrenia), their etiology, clinical criteria, prevalence and so on. Multiple disorders are included in a single lecture, so the learning experience is really about being pummelled with an overwhelming stream of new information that you can’t do anything about except absorb. Thankfully, the textbook provides a useful and structured complement to the information in his slides.

Due to the broad nature of this module, the exams similarly request answers on a wide range of things as opposed to a focus on specific theories or models. To do well in this module, I believe that you will need to take the initiative to reorganise the information in the slides into a format that is easier to understand for yourself. I would say study widely rather than closely spotting. He also has the trollish tendency to test esoteric information from his slides (e.g. the phobia of peanut butter – of which the answer I still do not know and do NOT care for). Nothing new about the discussion boards, except do them on time and spare at least 30 minutes to write a good quality post. Attend classes for your free 5%, despite how tempting it is to skip them – I know…

This should have no bearing on the evaluation of the module, but I can’t help but like Prof Shen despite everything. I feel profound empathy with his cause when I watch him struggle to finish presenting his 100 navy blue slides (juxtaposed against yellow text, for the love of eye strain) each lecture, give up, and then bring over the remaining content to the following lecture only to suffer through the same process.

HP3002 Positive Psychology | Major-PE | 3AUs

Lecturer: Andy Ho, and his 9 titles
Assessments: 2 quizzes (20%), 2 group presentations (20%+20%), group report (20%), weekly gratitude journal (20%)
Workload/difficulty: Not too positive about this one

Thriving, flourishing, unbothered – all these memeish words that I use ironically to step on my haters stem from this branch of psychology. I registered for this module with the intention of bettering myself and my perspective toward living. I am not an optimistic person by any means – rather its pragmatic antithesis. But I didn’t find what I was looking for. Not to mention that his class imbued me with more stress than positivity. The quizzes demanded a lot and I chronically underestimated the time required to revise. There were ups and downs with the group components (and social loafing) that left me drained. In his three-minute meditation exercises at the start of class, I would fall asleep half the time. But above all is the reason I might have failed: because happiness is in finding contentment now, rather than in some elusive ideal only attainable later. At least, that’s the main lesson I’ve taken away from positive psychology.

This module takes on the mighty task of balancing theory and application – with its side effect being a sizeable amount of work. Across the semester, he will cover 10 topics, each tagged to a textbook chapter of ~30 pages. The quizzes (10%+10%) are split evenly, each covering 5 topics. That’s about 150 pages, so you want to start preparing at least one week in advance, not two days like me (imo, the % accorded to tests for the amount of content is disproportionate.) He tests from the textbook, so you can’t get away with just the slides.

Onto the group presentations: there are two. He really likes things in pairs. The first is categorised as a “flipped classroom activity” (20%), which means you do the teaching (if I ever become a lecturer you can be sure I will do this all the time too…). Each group is randomly assigned a movie and they have to deconstruct it using the concepts covered that lecture. I think depth matters more than breadth here. To be frank, I have never known how well/badly I perform in his classes because he does not return us his grading for presentations, and he sandwiches his verbal feedback. Anyhow, the other presentation (20%) is one half of the main group project deliverable for the module, with the other half being a written report (20%). Creative liberty is encouraged, so you can pick anything that speaks to you as long as you can apply relevant concepts. I think of it as a tyranny of choice, but it can be fun to experiment with something new. With Andy’s modules (HP3002 and HP4002), the key ingredients are teamwork and creativity. As you may have observed, group components make up 60% of the entire module. You want – need – a group of people you can trust to carry a project through, and you want to impress with an innovative idea.

Additionally, there’s this weekly gratitude journal on Discussion Board. You reflect on a good experience you had that week, which is commented upon by a anonymous (randomly assigned) peer. In turn, you provide constructive encouragement to another student anonymously. I know that writing gratitude journals work – if you can cultivate a regular habit – and social support further bolsters the effect. The journals are due every week at a set time, so you want to set reminders in advance to write. I forgot some of the time and that was a real waste of free marks.

To wrap up: this module does a fair job at attempting to integrate theory and application. However, the bulk of the assignments are academic, and it lacks exercises that train your capacity for positivity besides the weekly gratitude journal. If you are looking for an immersive practical experience to positive psychology, I recommend taking the MOOC course The Science of Well-Being (it’s covered by NTU so it’s free!). The focus of the module is on integrating practice into everyday life through hands-on activities. With it, I’ve been practicing savouring my everyday experiences and getting into states of ~Flow~.

Later on I took another module with Andy – HP4002 Qualitative Psychology – in Y4S1 (see below). Its structure, expectations, workload, and murkiness is equivalent.

HP3708 Biopsychosocial Criminology | Major-PE | 3AUs

Lecturer: Olivia Choy
Assessments: CA1 (20%), CA2 (20%), class part (20%), research paper (40%)
Workload/difficulty: High/normal (wanted to put “psycho” for kicks but it’s really manageable)

Welcome… to cRiMe! Featuring the factors behind criminality and many types of criminals. This module is the prototypical ideal in my non-criminal mind. Two tests and a research paper, and class participation for the remainder. What a fantabulous grading scheme. I was thriving, flourishing, and unbothered, so to speak. The content of the module is curated, not relying on any textbook but a selection of journal articles (about 2 articles/week, averaging 30 pages). These included one with her as main author, and her mentor Adrian Raine features occasionally (they have made some interesting, if controversial, findings together).

Classes are straightforward lectures, with designated activities for collective discussion and sharing. The class size is small (30-40 students max) such that you have no good reason not to participate. There are a healthy number of slides, but the content is dense. Fun counter-intuitive tidbits pop up sometimes, like the findings that prison visit (“scared straight”) programmes may actually increase offending. Or that drug educational programmes, much like the sex ed programmes that scare you into abstinence, are ineffective. Peppered throughout the slides are also references to other studies. Her tests include both the reading articles and these studies. I cannot remember if there were MCQs in her papers but SAQs feature prominently. It is good to overstudy.

sample, under the topic of nutrition (health factors). feed your kids omega-3 supplements.

The key assignment is the research paper (40%). In short you pick a criminal phenomenon/behaviour that intrigues you and deconstruct it using a biopsychosocial perspective. You should go beyond the readings of the course so some independent research is in order. (My paper had 37 references.) Prof Olivia provided a set of writing tips, but otherwise we were free to structure the essay however we wanted, and go in whatever direction we wanted. One tip I found helpful was to set up a central question/argument and address it. I think presenting competing views and evaluating which is better supported by evidence is another useful strategy.

This module is popular even among seniors so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it the first time. Good luck!

HE9015 Undergraduate Research | UE | 4AUs

If you’re considering URECA, read this!

Y2S2 Special Term (AY18/19)

6-week language immersion in Tokyo, Japan – see review here.

Y3S1 (AY19/20)

Things got heated in Year 3.1 – with 22 AUs, I needed two arch files to hold all my notes. My term in the Students’ Union Exco had ended with the new academic year, and I figured I had more time on my hands. By this time I had already secured my spot at McGill University for overseas exchange in 3.2, so my plan was to complete more modules this semester such that I could devote more time to fussing over my Final Year Project (FYP) in Year 4. All psych students have to complete four 4k modules by graduation, with one of the four being a laboratory module. Because the lab mod is a prerequisite for taking on FYP, you should aim to complete it by end of Y3. Lab mods are limited by semester so keep an eye out – content of courses is your best friend.

HP4103 Forensic & Criminal Psychology | Major-PE | 4AUs

Note: Previously “HP4106 The Forensic Psychology of Crime, Terrorism and Disasters”

Lecturer: Majeed Khader, Singapore’s first criminal-forensic psychologist
Assessments: Group presentation (20%), individual report (30%), final exam (50%)
Workload/difficulty: Medium/medium

This review was contributed by Yunyee (@yunyeeeeeeee)

Thoughts: this was my first 4k, so I was initially surprised by the workload. It turned out to be manageable and typical for a module of this level though. The title of the module speaks for itself – crIME, TERrorisM and DISasTERS. Cue the Crimewatch (meLvin? that’s no name for a gang member). Prof Majeed is a laidback prof who has a knack for making gruesome topics palatable with humour. He keeps the atmosphere light even as he shares dark stories of rape, crime, terrorism, and pedophilia, and the motives of the offenders behind these crimes. Through these lessons, we were led to question the definition of crime. Overall, it prompted me to reconsider what crime really is, how we can best rehabilitate offenders and victims, and how local enforcement treads the lines of justice and morality in their everyday work.

Assessments: Group presentation (20%) was judged by Prof Majeed and his colleagues from HTBSC(!). It was stressful knowing real professionals were scrutinising our speech and presentation (nervous sweat). The upside was that we were able to gain industry-relevant perspectives on our presentations. For the individual report (30%), we were tasked to develop a crime profile using the profiling method Prof Majeed pioneered. You can choose your own topic from a few broad areas. Although there are many crimes in the world, pick wisely – it has to be a topic that is widely researched and relevant to Singapore as well. I recommend that you start preparing for this early on, even before learning the profiling method. Researching heavily and widely on your chosen topic is essential and will give you an edge during the profiling process, as you will be evaluated on the quality of your analyses and recommendations for the offender/victim. The final portion of the assessment is the open-book final exam (50%). It’s straightforward enough – as long as you prepare your notes beforehand, you’ll be fine.

Tips for juniors: Find your group members early. I joined the mod with one friend, and we had to spend some time adjusting to new group dynamics before we could start work. For the individual assignment, it is pertinent that you start researching on your topic early on. You don’t have to start writing, but gathering some key information on the crime and case studies of the crime will make your life easier! 🙂

HP4041 Laboratory in Social Psychology | Major-PE | 4AUs

Lecturer: Kenichi Ito (proud father of his cute daughter)
Assessments: Class part (5%), quizzes (10%), group presentation (10%), individual research proposal (20%), presentation (25%), report (30%)
Workload/difficulty: High/easy

Three lab mods were offered in 3.1 – social (Ito), cognitive (Charles), and neuroscience (Gianluca). All lab modules are geared towards preparing students for FYP. I never had any doubt I would end up anywhere else but social lab. Guess I’m boring. Laboratory is used to describe the module in the sense that we learn to conduct scientific experiments, but most of your research will be performed outside the classroom in your own time.

Social lab was a well-structured course, even with lots of things going on. The progression of content mirrored a report: introduction, literature review, ethics application, results, and analysis. Each week, we had to read 1-2 articles in preparation for lessons, which was assessed via a quiz (10%) that was due the morning of class. One week he presented two published papers that contradicted each other to illustrate the importance of alternative explanations; that was great.

Prof Ito is humourous and succinct. He loves his daughter very much and he will make sure EVERYONE KNOWS. Lessons/slides were short and sweet; it’s a 3-hour seminar, but we were usually released earlier. His lesson format begins with a short lecture (about 30 minutes to an hour), followed by independent or collaborative activity. The tasks are simple extensions of class material and provide good practice.

Aside from the quizzes, there were no examination-type assessments. More than half of the module revolves around an independent project. We came up with a research proposal and implemented it (on a small scale). This was followed by report writing and an individual presentation. Without a doubt, my report writing skills improved with the resources he provided. I still refer to those notes today when I write. In addition, there’s a pair presentation where we were made to partner up and explain the findings of an existing academic article.

HP4104 Evidence-based Practice in Clinical Psychology | Major-PE | 4AU

Lecturer: Chermain Wong
Assessments: Class part (10%), group presentation (20%), individual report (30%), final exam (40%) – 20 MCQs, choose 2 of 3 essays
Workload/difficulty: Everything is on fire!!!

Evidence-based Practice in Psychology (EBPP) is more than a string of words. It is a commitment; it is a creed; it is an entire movement. And this module will etch it into your MIND FOREVER.

EBPP is the integration of the best available research with clinical expertise in the context of patient characteristics, culture, and preference. – APA

read it again until you live and breathe it!

This module is centred exclusively on clinical practice and psychotherapeutic methods. The specialised nature of the content meant that it was my first time encountering many concepts introduced. There’s a little bit of everything – case formulation and implementation, depression and anxiety, treatment models, specific procedures in treatment… I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t picture how the lectures fit together until the final lesson, when Ms Chermain literally drew a pictorial diagram connecting the major themes. That and after I read the textbook, which was incredibly helpful in connecting the dots. But by then it was too late, of course. (This should be clear by now but last-minute studying never works. Yes, starting 2 weeks before your exams is also last-minute.)

The two assignments – an individual paper and group presentation – both require direct application of the content taught. For the individual paper, we were asked to build a case formulation given a fictional scenario. It’s one of the most challenging and time-consuming assignments I’ve had to do. The good news: all the resources we needed to write the paper were compiled neatly for us beforehand; we only had to download and read them. The bad news: the amount of reading to do was monumental. There was no word limit, so I ended up with a 28-page report. One thing she did that I have mixed opinions about was sharing a model report submitted by an ace student a few years prior. Because the entire class now used it as reference, everyone’s papers were virtually identical. The best students stood out by thoughtfully including novel elements.

me but I am Bowser

The group presentation did not give me a good time. It was again a case formulation. The instructions were simple: create from scratch a character presenting with any disorder, and tailor a comprehensive treatment plan. There were other pointers, but we otherwise had absolute freedom. I struggled a lot with the lack of boundaries due to the innumerable choices available at every turn. The four group presentations that emerged from that class were diametrically different as a result. The discrepancy was so great at times I felt physically uncomfortable. Ironically, this group situation was opposite of that with the individual paper. What a time to be alive.

I must append this section by saying I underestimated this module, which at least partially accounts for my less-than-optimal experience. 4000-level modules are meant to be specialised and consequently challenging; that is why their weightage is greater (4AUs). There were many motivated students in that class who fared better, and who likely have more positive testimonials. It remains a valuable opportunity for students considering a career in clinical psychology.

Y3S2 (AY19/20)

Semester exchange at McGill University in Montreal, Canada – see review here.

Y4S1 (AY20/21)

I wish I had kept more 4000-level Psych mods for Y4 instead of clearing 3 (out of 4) in Y3. That left me with only one this year, which I cleared with Qualitative. Now sexy ones like Intergroup Relations (HP4243) are coming up in S2 and I can only watch and cry. I repeat: draw up an 8-semester plan, even if you’re a junior and think you have a lot of time left. There’s no need to rush to clear all your modules early on.

HP3203 Conservation Psychology | Major-PE | 3AUs

Lecturer: Michael Gumert, friend of macaques
Assessments: Essays (20%), project (40%), in-class tests (40%)
Workload/difficulty: Medium/medium

This review was contributed by Zheng Yu (@buffalowlzy).

Thoughts: this was a fascinating module! Although Covid struck when I was taking this module leading to the cancellation of some events, Prof Gumert kept the content engaging. Before Covid, there were field trips to the zoo or Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Post-Covid, we watched documentaries and wrote reviews/reflections (example). The interesting way the content was presented in this mod kept it enjoyable and engaging for me compared to other mods.

Assessments: There were 3 class tests that tested heavily on content. Thankfully, they’re non-cumulative, so you can just chiong study for each (LOL). But note that there really is a LOT of content covered. There are also reflection assignments where we reviewed documentaries and films. I think there were 3 of them too. The most exciting of all was the solo project, where you create a blog webpage about a topic that interests you. I had the most fun here because I got to make something of my own (#contentcreator). Prof Gumert also mentioned he did not want it to be overly scientific given the blog medium – it should be readable by laypeople. That meant I could write in a chill manner.

Tips for juniors: Be prepared to study hard. Be open to the numerous assessment formats. And be sure to enjoy the process of creating your own blog – picture it as an opportunity to share about an environmental issue that you are passionate about! Of course, it helps to be keen about environmental stuff in the first place, but taking this module can also be a means to improve your knowledge and exposure to advocacy work.

HP3901 Cultural Psychology | Major-PE | 3AUs

Lecturer: Albert Lee
Assessments: Quiz 1 (20%), Quiz 2 (40%), group project (30%), class participation (10%)
Workload/difficulty: Medium/easy

Cult psych ranks among my top three favourite modules in NTU Psych. To me, the course material and assessment criterion are (almost) perfectly balanced… as all things should be. One quirk of this module is that the weekly 3-hour class incorporates both the lecture (2h) and tutorial (1h) component, with the latter held immediately after the former. So class is held once a week and that’s it. I love it. Who could ask for more?

This module is essentially v2 of HP2400 Social Psychology. I will say again that Prof Albert is a great lecturer who consistently endeavours to deliver the best learning experience for his students. (And that he graced me with an A+ even though I spent half the time in his class loudly chewing on Mr Bean pancakes. Not sure what the takeaway is here though.) He would set aside time to accommodate our questions after class and offer his own insights. He spared no effort at responding to students’ queries over email with comprehensive and thought-provoking responses. With such a supportive lecturer, there is no reason to not learn the content well.

Quiz 1 is all MCQs. Quiz 2 has SAQs. The textbook is essential – he tests beyond the slides. The group project is once again a poster showcase because what else. You’re expected to experimentally expand on a theory in social psychology. The class participation marks are derived from 5 weekly mini-assignments of about 2 pages each, double-spaced. You’ll form a group of 3-4 people and work on the assignments together. My group got into a routine of meeting every week such that we avoided the last-minute rush and were even able to submit early.

Tips to score: read your textbook to prepare before classes. Set aside 3-4 hours every week to meet your group and complete the tutorial assignments/group project. Pace yourself for the group project and start work early. Reflect upon the material, ask questions, and read his email responses.

busy getting that bread

HP4002 Qualitative Methods in Psychology | Major-PE | 4AUs

Lecturer: Andy Ho
Assessments: 2 quizzes (20%), qualitative paper critique (20%), group presentation (15%), group report (35%)
Workload/difficulty: You’ll need to meditate

I feel that Prof Andy’s modules are much like a bowling game — some students are the bowlers while others are the pins LMAO. Get strikes or get knocked out. He announced 15 minutes into the first class that qualitative psych should not be construed as a substitute to its quantitative counterpart, which is often what students have in mind when joining (“I’m not very good with statistics, so…”). Watch his research sharings and you’ll realise that both are used in conjunction. The good news: it is true that you will not encounter numbers in this module. The bad news: you are sorely mistaken if you believe words and meanings are any easier to grasp.

What you’ll experience in this module swings between the wildly abstract (intersubjective epistemology, interpretative phenomenological analysis) and concrete practice (interviewing real individuals, transcribing, and conducting thematic analysis). For example, a few lectures were dedicated to hands-on activities. In one, we practiced extrapolating themes from transcripts of real interviews. In another, I interviewed another student in class to find out about her lived experience.

Commensurate with the mod’s 4AU weightage, every lesson is densely packed with material. The typical readings required every week are 1-2 textbook chapters (30 pages each) and a 10-page journal article. Even though he does not cover everything in his slides, nothing is off the table when it comes to the quizzes. For the individual assignment, we were to evaluate and critique the quality of a published paper. For the group assignment, we were to generate an original research questions, collect and analyse data from scratch, and tell a compelling story. The project alone made this module the biggest black hole for me.

Tips: his assignments require an application of specific skills so you’ll need to be clear about what is expected and what you’re doing every step of the way. One way to do this might be to collaborate with your friends or groupmates. Leverage on each other’s strengths and divide to conquer.

Y4S2 (AY20/21)

HP3402 Social Cognition | Major-PE | 3AUs

Lecturer: Catherine Wan
Assessments: Group assignment 1 (20%), group assignment 2 (30%), quiz 1 (15%), quiz 2 (25%), class participation (10%)
Workload/difficulty: can’t comment because am Prof C’s fan

Having known Prof Catherine since my URECA days in Year 2, I was so excited to finally witness her in action! You can bet I had a ball of a time in class. Prof C is known to be a polarising figure. She is feared and respected – in varying proportions – by students. Expect to grow, but also expect it to hurt. No pain no gain, right? Not to mention her pay grade is too high to deal with our petty concerns… case in point:

“Yes”: A Tragedy in Four Texts

Jokes aside, I thought the class was manageable. The shift to an online format in light of COVID-19 also seemed to mute her commanding energy somewhat, and I thought I got to see a more playful side of her. There is no textbook for this course due to its curated nature; instead, each class is accompanied by one reading (rarely two) averaging 15 pages. Each 3-hour lecture entails a class activity where the class is split into breakout rooms of 5-6 people to answer a worksheet. She references many classic studies in her slides – you just need to know the results and what the findings mean. Finally, she gives breaks every hour or so, which I greatly appreciated.

The assignments were scheduled in this order: quiz 1 – assignment 1 – quiz 2 – assignment 2. No finals, so the second quiz was held the week following the last class. The quizzes are a balance of MCQs and SAQs, and are straightforward enough. She does not throw curveballs – you won’t find anything that wasn’t covered in class. (If you do, that’s on you.) Both assignments were done in groups of 2-3 people, with a limit of 2,000 words each. The first assignment was on priming. For the second one, we had to select two journal articles and link it to perspectives in social cognition. I’ve heard of friendships fragmenting from the assignments. HAHAHAHA

Tips: I found that it was helpful to organise my studying based on the major concepts of each lecture. There are usually about three “main headings” that the content falls under. After doing so, I would ask myself questions to recall the content. In a sense, I was clustering information. Pay attention to the questions used in the class activities and her explanations of the readings in class. If she has a set of intended takeaways for you, what do you think she will test? (Haha, this just sounds like I’m asking you to focus in class, huh?)

A schema of professors that students can testify to

HP4099 Graduation Project | Core | 8AUs

Will write about my FYP experience sometime – stay tuned!


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GER-PEs and UEs / BDEs

*For the batches AY21/22 onwards, GER-PEs and UEs appear to have been subsumed under a single category aka the Broadening and Deepening Electives (BDEs). Ah, the joy of semantics!

HG0201 Singapore’s Languages | Ger-Core | 3AUs

Lecturer: Tan Ying Ying
Assessments: Quiz 1 (30%), quiz 2 (30%), project (15%+25%)
Workload/difficulty: OK lah/Cannot leh

Ever felt like you had to speak “Good English” to make a good impression? If you were given three accents of British English, American English, and Singaporean English, how would you rank them in terms of prestige? And why? How does your impression of people change based on the way they speak?

I would call this module a true original because you won’t find it overseas or in other institutions. Even NUS doesn’t seem to have an equivalent (this was the closest I could find and that it’s dated 7 years ago). Not only do I strongly recommend every student to take this, I would recommend it to every Singaporean. Through her incisive research and commentary, Prof YY paints a compelling picture of the state’s turbulent relationship with Singlish – and how the effects of state policy have manifested in a profound “linguistic insecurity” among locals. You are guaranteed to walk away with a new perspective of the politics of language in Singapore, as well as a renewed appreciation for Singlish. It simply is that good. She also keeps the class entertained with her trove of her personal stories and scalding hot takes. For example, she detests Jack Neo[‘s films], and you’ll be pretty convinced yourself when you get to hear her reasoning.

Note that her quizzes are notoriously difficult (think averages of 17/30), but the bell curve evens it out. Infamous quote heard in class: “I don’t know how to set easy quizzes”. The project involves interpreting a real dataset (on any topic that strikes her fancy at the moment) and answering essay questions. The essay submission is worth 25%. The remaining 15% is gifted to you when you recruit 5 participants each from the three racial groups in Singapore to create the dataset.

ES8005 Environmental Earth Systems Science | UE/BDE | 3AUs

Lecturer: Can’t recall, but he was French AND handsome
Assessments: 2 mid-terms (40%), final exam (60%)
Workload/difficulty: Height of Mt Everest/easy

This module was my first S/U. I knew it the moment I saw the final paper. It was geography – but ambitious and on crack. There was the Sun, earthquakes, rocks, clouds, global warming, volcanoes, the oceans… and not enough time. The top grades were likely dominated by people with H2 geography credentials and/or who were taking the EESS major in the first place. Kinda like a non-psych student taking an introductory psych module against others who’ve already taken it in poly, not realising they’ll be stepped on thoroughly. I guess what goes around comes around…

To me this module is the equivalent of the other famous UE Astronomy, except it deals with Earth. Fascinating, but heavy in content, and requires a lot of memory space to ace. A background in/passion for geography will help. The syllabus appears to have been modified since AY17/18 to include an online discussion component (20%), but is still exam-heavy.


HS8008 Understanding Culture and Globalisation | GER-PE/BDE | 3AUs

Lecturer: Ian Rowen
Assessments: Class participation/quizzes (25%), group presentation (15%), final exam (60%)
Workload/difficulty: Medium/hard

This module was my first foray into sociology in university. It doesn’t require any foreknowledge of sociological theories and so is accessible for the layman. However, concepts tackled could be jarringly abstract. We learnt about globalisation in the context of people flows, material flows, culture flows, whatever flows. And we had discussions about things like malls becoming nothing because everything was increasingly homogenised. The complexity of the content drove me to overinvest myself (what’s new) on the group project. This was the paper we had to deconstruct. Even Prof Ian acknowledged that it was a complicated piece. (He removed it in the following year’s syllabus.)

The content provided a unique and relevant take on various aspects of everyday life. We covered local cultural icons, the Internet, K-pop (yes, oppa), and tourism among others. The module epitomises the magic of sociology: it illuminates and gives dimension to parts of your social world that you know exist but take for granted and don’t question. I don’t regret taking it, though had I known better I would’ve counterbalanced it with a less intensive UE.

Prof Ian is stoic, no-nonsense, and exceedingly accomplished. A lecturer that one can learn much from. He was helpful and treated me kindly when I faced difficulties. As intimidated as I am, I would love to take another module under him again.

HP8003 Are You Okay? Mental Health in Singapore | GER-PE/BDE | 3AUs

Lecturer: Lim Choon Guan
Assessments: Mid-term/s (40%), final exam (60%)
Workload/difficulty: I’m okay for both

Yes, it’s that module. Open book. Massively oversubscribed. Dr Lim is an actual psychiatrist with the Institute of Mental Health, so that’s cool. His slides are well-rounded, somewhat heavy in content, with frequent nods to local statistics. Each lecture is about 50 slides, which he delivers with charisma and ease. His repository of resources includes his own notes, and other expositions; it’s a nice touch that I appreciate. No textbook – it’s a personalised course. Mid-terms are MCQ, final exam has essay questions.

I wouldn’t say this module is easy to ace, though it is easy to S/U. I will note that it didn’t significantly value-add to my knowledge as a psychology student because a lot of the content is implicated in other cores e.g. abnormal psychology. The module stands well on its own however, and is a good primer for anyone interested in exploring mental health in Singapore.

HP8005 Introduction to Human Resource Management | GER-PE/BDE | 3AUs

Lecturer: He was always reticent with his name… Jerry? Gary? I can at least tell you that he sported a distinctive tuft of shoulder-length hair that was always slickly oiled. And he wore rimless glasses. I miss his eccentricities.
Assessments: Mid-terms (40%), final exam (60%)
Workload/difficulty: Medium/medium

Welcome to IO Psych for the Layman. The content covered in this course is more pragmatic than theoretical. You have topics such as hiring decisions, employee development, and performance management. Mr Cool Hair would launch into passionate monologues of the state of affairs in the corporate world. He spent much time discussing how local policies and regulations (e.g. CPF, healthcare) had ramifications on businesses. My printouts are littered with hasty annotations of his observations, delivered in rapid fire.

Many concepts here come intuitively to the psychology student. Test validity and reliability, motivation, reinforcement – our daily bread and butter. At the same time, you have business ideas sprinkled throughout the course – organisational models, equity, market forces. It’s a niche module; I doubt I’ll be applying what I’ve learnt in my pedestrian not-in-HR life. But there is much targeted knowledge to be gleaned here, with the module’s sharp awareness of the world in which it exists. It can be beneficial when searching for a suitable career environment – especially if you’re considering binding yourself to any bureaucratic conglomerate.

Pay close attention to what he says, and attend his exam review.

HS1001 Person & Society | UE/BDE (2nd Major) | 3AUs

Lecturer: Shirley Sun
Assessments: Class part (20%), term paper (30%), final exam (50%)
Workload/difficulty: Medium/medium (easy for social science students)

Midway through Year 1 I became fixated on Sociology as a 2nd Major. It seemed too great an opportunity to pass up. It’s Study Another Thing You Like and Profit, But With Less Commitment. I can get behind that. The trade-off is you can’t S/U your modules under the programme (same goes for a minor), such that they are in effect cores or electives. If you are interested, here are all the 2nd Majors available to you. Plan ahead.

Sociology is a fantastic complement to psychology. The two disciplines share the same tenet: the individual is influenced by the social. But psychology begins with the individual as the unit of analysis while sociology is everything but the individual. In the words of Durkheim, social structures transcend the individual and have a life of their own. Therefore, they deserve study in and of themselves.

Similar to HP1000, HS1001 is a module open to all colleges and is thus chronically oversubscribed. The textbook title reveals much – “The Practical Skeptic: Core Concepts in Sociology”. The course covers topics that have a significant impact on my own writing: inequality, culture, and social control among others. I should note that I think the term paper’s topic is too specialised considering the nature of the course. But everything that is taught is appropriate for a general audience.

If I could recommend one module for all students this would be it, because of its enormous applicability to everyday living. It imbues you with the priceless skill of thinking about the social world critically. It challenges your assumptions with inconvenient facts. By cultivating the sociological imagination (the ability to detach yourself from the situation you are immersed in), you’ll find that life is indeed full of surprises.

P/S: I will get around to writing my review for all the sociology modules I have taken someday. (??)


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3 thoughts on “Gwyn’s Guide to NTU Psych Modules (or: PSYCcess)”

  1. Hello,

    Thank you so much for the writeup!

    Can I check if HP2600 cognitive psych is ok for a year 1 who has not touched biopsych?


    1. Hello Wk! In my opinion, the content covered in cognitive and biological psych is quite distinct (in fact, I might argue bio is harder) so it shouldn’t be an issue. But I would recommend some caution if you’re intending to take it in Y1S2 because you’ll be taking it a year earlier than your peers. So that means you’ll need to stay on your toes for skills like report writing/reading and statistics.


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