Tips for Engineering Prerequisites in Grade 12

 Goals of this post: 

  • Learn about the different prerequisites for engineering programs in Ontario
  • How to prepare for each course 
  • General study techniques 

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Typically for Ontario engineering post-secondary programs, they require 6 courses to be taken in grade 12 in order for students to apply. These courses include Chemistry (SCH4U), Physics (SPH4U), English (ENG4U), Advanced Functions (MHF4U), Calculus and Vectors (MCV4U), and one other university or mixed level course of your choice. These 5 courses have a fair difficulty level which is why some students find it hard to achieve high marks in them. On top of the difficulty, students also have to worry about which marks they get since a final course mark can be the difference between an acceptance or a rejection for competitive programs. I remember feeling the pressure when I messed up on a test and started to panic about not getting into to my desired programs, but I now realize that messing up on a test is not the end of the world.

English (ENG4U)

This was probably my least favourite course in all of high school. As a person who thinks logically and prefers answers to be trivial, there always seemed to be many different answers to one question in this course which was not my cup of tea. It did not help that English was my lowest mark in each year of high school. I remember spending all my time on an essay just to achieve an 85% on it which was definitely a motivation killer and really frustrating. In this course you will be expected to read several Shakespeare novels (depending on your school) and write many essays.

Some tips I have for this class are:

  • Start essays early. Not only will this give you lots of time to edit and write coherently, but it will allow you to ask your teacher or peers for feedback.
  • If you absolutely hate reading, try finding an audio version of the text online. This is a lazy thing to do, however I feel like this helped me because I could follow the audio of the text online much better since there were no hiccups or mispronunciations.
  • DO NOT USE SPARKNOTES! Not only does this show lack of initiative, but it also leaves out key details that are in the novel which a teacher may decide to test you on. Using sparknotes also prevents you from fully understanding the story first hand which can become really useful in exams when asked to make connections and etc.
  • Always proofread more than once! Many times, your brain ignores errors that you write the first time. While proofreading, make sure to read out loud to see if your writing makes sense. I found a good way of proof reading online – Make your text a weird but readable font with an increased text size. This will make sure you fully read everything carefully since you will not be comfortable with the font itself. 

Advanced Functions (MHF4U)

Almost all students in Ontario take this course during first semester. Make sure to brush up on your math skills over the summer break to increase the chance of getting a high mark in this class. If some of your math skills are weak, you will struggle in this class. If you really want, you can even do the first 1-2 chapters of this course in the summer since they are similar to grade 11 functions. I personally really enjoyed this class which is why it was my highest mark in first semester. Like others, I also found grade 11 functions to have a higher difficulty level compared to this course.

Some tips I have for this class are:

  • DO NOT look at the solution manual until you have struggled with the question yourself. Many times I’ve seen students just copy the solution manual down without even understanding how to solve the question. Doing this will not allow your brain to get to those “eureka” moments. You will not get a solution manual on the test or exam so do not use one during your study time. Of course, if you have tried everything then it is fine to look at the solution.
  • Go ahead. One of the main reasons I really succeeded in this course was because I was really ahead. I was always 2 chapters ahead of the class which enabled me to learn the content twice the amount of times. This not only improved my mark in this class but also my mark in other classes since I had less homework to worry about during the week.
  • Ask for help. Teachers are there to help students out, it is there job. Ask peers, ask siblings, ask cousins. Skipping questions will not help you in any way.
  • Understand what you are doing. It is easy to memorize a way to solve a question, but this only goes so far until the question has a variation to it. Understanding why you solve a question a certain way will allow you to think logically for any type of question.
  • Do online practice tests. Many times, the questions on the test were similar to the ones I found online.
  • Watch YouTube videos 

Calculus & Vectors (MCV4U)

This course is split into 2 sections as the name implies. First half of the semester is usually calculus and second half is vectors (for most schools). Calculus was my highest mark in all of high school, but this is probably also because it was my favourite course. Coming out of advanced functions, I was excited to learn calculus after hearing all about it everywhere. One key thing that really helped me in this course was understanding the material really well. Calculus definitely required more thinking than advanced functions which made me work twice as hard. When I didn’t understand something, I practiced it a lot and watched lots of YouTube videos on it until I understood it. When it got to the vectors part, it got a bit more abstract. For the people who have done well in physics, this will be a breeze for you.

Some tips I have for this class are:

  • Same as advanced functions

Chemistry (SCH4U)

Chemistry was probably the most feared course at my high school. Before entering grade 12 I heard many stories of how people had nightmares of this course, especially the organic chemistry unit. I was lucky enough to have this course in second semester because this allowed me to ask for help from my friends who had taken this course in first semester. I do not think it was as hard as people had said it was, but only about 3 people got above a 90% in my class, me included. The reason many people do struggle is due to the learning gap between grade 11 and 12 chemistry. Grade 11 chemistry is very computational whereas grade 12 chemistry is not.

Some tips I have for this class are:

  • Read class material before going to class. Not only will allow you to actually understand what the teacher says, but also gives your brain the same information twice – helps to remember it more.
  • Practice, practice, and practice. Do the textbook questions and check your answers. Not doing textbook questions will not help you understand the material.
  • Watch YouTube videos. This can really help in this course since many topics are abstract or confusing the first time you read about them.
  • Make smart notes (do not just copy the textbook, put it into your words). This will really come in handy before exam time.

Physics (SPH4U)

Out of all the math-based courses, this course was challenging for certain units. Most of this course, if not all, required critical thinking and many computational calculations that were easy to get confused by. If you cannot understand how a calculation/formula relates to the real-world example, you will struggle in this course. The first half of the course is much easier, so make sure to keep a high mark before going to the second half.

Some tips I have for this class are:

  • Do not fall behind. It can be easy to fall behind in this course since you might not want to start a certain chapter because you do not understand it. Best thing to do is ask the teacher for help where you are stuck.
  • Calculations are important, but so are the concepts. Without the concepts, the calculations would not exist. Read the textbook and make sure you understand the concept behind the chapter/unit. In this course, you will not only be tested on how to do calculations but also the concepts! Make sure you understand how to explain different concepts
  • Practice a lot. Personally, I practiced a lot and by doing so I corrected my own mistakes and mishaps I had.

Additional M/U Course

The course you choose for this is entirely your choice. I recommend choosing a bird course for this to boost your average. Ask upper years or students who have graduated from your school about which courses are the easiest. A bird course at another school may not be so birdie at your school. For this course you should aim to get as close to 100% as possible.

In conclusion, the prerequisites for engineering are definitely hard but doable. At the moment it may seem like this is impossible, but these courses pop up in first year engineering and doing well in grade 12 will really help.

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