Fun and Stress with the Bible

Personal testimonies of the three teams from St Joseph’s Private School in the Finals of the 24th National SPM Bible Knowledge Oral Quiz 2020.

Three teams from St Joseph’s Private School made up the thirteen teams nationwide in the Finals of the 24th National SPM Bible Knowledge Oral Quiz organised by the Malayan Christian Schools’ Council on 1 August 2020 using Zoom as the platform for this exciting quiz. The finalists were Sean Tan and Chong Jia Chern in one team; Justin Chong and Jaypheth Balang in the second team; and Bethany Chan and Renee Ling in the third team.

Below are their testimonies:

In the process of preparing for the 24th National SPM Bible Knowledge Oral Quiz, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Reading and memorising the Bible texts also taught me lessons which can be applied in real life. For example, the Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12:16-21 has taught me that accumulating earthly riches does not make one rich in God’s sight. I want to thank Mr Benedict Lo for constantly reminding us to read the Bible texts. His way of teaching in class has also made memorising the Bible texts easier and more interesting. I also want to thank my partner, Chong Jia Chern, for revising the two books with me. We often ask each other questions regarding the Bible texts in order to refresh our memory. All in all, it was an enjoyable journey preparing for this meaningful competition. Jia Chern and I were honestly quite surprised that we managed to obtain second place in the competition as we both thought we didn’t prepare enough.
– Sean Tan (F5P 2020) – National 1st Runner Up

First of all, I’m really glad and thankful to have been a part of this historical event. This quiz has helped me to grow both academically and spiritually. Preparing for it was indeed an experience, and I strongly believe that it is not so much the destination, but the journey that really matters. Besides that, the quiz itself was so much fun as it had to be done differently this year, which was through a video conference with Zoom. Going through the book of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles as well as getting insights and tips from my seniors before the quiz have definitely improved my understanding of the Bible significantly. The quiz has also further developed my interest and love for the subject, and I strongly think that it is helpful to everyone taking the subject for SPM. A sincere thank you to MCSC and all the devoted teachers involved in making this quiz possible!
– Chong Jia Chern (F5P 2020) – National 1st Runner Up

Participating in the National SPM Bible Knowledge Oral Quiz is an enriching experience for me. It is a unique opportunity to help the students who take Bible Knowledge for their SPM in improving their answering techniques. The quiz has helped me to understand more deeply about the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. I have learned a lot through this wonderful experience of taking part in the competition. For me, it is not only about the competition, but also a major learning experience. A lesson that I have learned in that I should not study for the quiz at the last minute. I definitely regretted what I have done.
– Bethany Chan (F5P 2020) – 10th Place

This was my first time participating the National SPM BK Oral Quiz and also doing a quiz with a partner. We had to agree that one of us would focus more on the questions about Luke while the other one on Acts. That was the plan at the beginning, but throughout the quiz, we got panicked and switched without really realising it! We lost our clam at the questions asking about places. When I saw our scores for that round, both of us were really upset, but I still told my partner, “Hey, let’s enjoy the rest of it.” Although we did not make it into the Top 5, we still deepened our friendship and also the knowledge about the Word of God in the process and the hard work of learning.
– Renee Ling (F5P 2020) – 10th Place

To keep things short and sweet, it’s been an exhilarating experience to put my resolve to the test in contesting for the SPM BK National Title. Over the course of the competition, from the start of qualifying, I took it with a light and cheerful spirit, more of a practise to get a gauge of the coming SPM. Nonetheless, I still gave it my utmost and made it past the preliminary qualifying round. In the blink of an eye, one thing led to another, I gradually progressed and climbed to the team-segment of the competition. Past the semi-finals, we were no longer competing as individuals, but rather as a team of two students, one unit if you will. Bearing the hopes and expectations of our school, it was definitely a stressful experience as we had to carefully craft our strategy to approach the remaining stages.

When we moved into the teamwork category, the questions became more demanding, so there was no room to let up. Those were turbulent times, we had our ups and downs, but we were always motivating and pushing each other to the limit, leaving no stone unturned for we were determined to leave with no regrets. As our contingent approached the final leg of the competition, our journey was finally nearing its end.

The finals were a rollercoaster of emotions, anxiety, fear and hope, but through it all, there shone a glimmer of hope, hope for us to continue to persevere in clinching the title. In spite of that, our chances at the title grew slim as we made some costly mistakes, while the remaining contestants were edging away. In the end, we managed to pass the elimination rounds, and were placed fifth. Despite the somewhat disappointing outcome, it’s the journey that matters most and not the destination. The struggles and uplifting moments along the way have truly made this a memorable experience. To our juniors and generations to come, I hope you’ll take a crack at it and try your hand at it too, and remember, don’t forget to have fun!
– Justin Chong (F5P 2020) – 4th Runner Up

My testimony will be split into three parts; first I will be talking about my experience over the course of the competition and the period of preparation before it, followed by some tips and what I did to study for it, and then I will be talking about what I have learned throughout this quiz.

As you know, the sifting and filtering for competitors for this quiz happened over the course of the Covid-19 lockdown and honestly, I barely studied for most of the exams, including the selections for this quiz. There wasn’t a lot of drive for me to study as my bedroom is definitely not the most conducive study environment, especially for someone like me with a pretty short attention span. Most attempts at studying would end with me on my phone or asleep unless there was someone actively speaking to me. For some of the BK quizzes, I only started studying the night before and my studies would only constitute a skimming through of the tested chapters. In fact, as long as the quiz or exam was MCQ, I would barely study at all and would bank on the fact that the answers would sort of be given to me. Also, I studied pretty hard for my mid-year examinations and that left me pretty burnt out by the end of it. Therefore when it came to the quiz before the semi-finals, I only studied on the morning of the test itself. Once I found out that I was shortlisted to enter the semi-finals of the BK quiz, that was when I began studying hard. In school, as long as there was a short break, my Book of Acts would be out on the table before me. I remember one of the other teams from our school bringing out their notes to study during our morning walks. All-in-all, we were the definition of try-hards.

On the day of the finals, I arrived an hour and a half early and as a last minute revision, I watched the videos on the Book of Acts that Mr Ben had sent. Probably a bit too late but at the time I thought it was a good idea. As soon as my team mate Justin arrived, we began quizzing each other but we soon descended into silence when we began asking each other questions that neither of us knew the answer to. It got a bit stressful then, but honestly it was pretty bearable. After a quick briefing and prayer, the quiz began. The first four rounds were honestly not too hard if you knew what the verses were talking about and the only thing that made it hard was the time limit. That put me and my team mate under quite a bit of mental duress and made us write down the answers in full confidence that were obviously wrong. For example when I confidently wrote that Simon the Magician was in Caesarea instead of Samaria, which was an answer I immediately regretted once I held up my board to be marked by the judges. Justin and I barely made it into the final round and passed the elimination rounds as we were the team with the fifth highest score. Five teams made it into the finals, two being from our school. The finals consisted of three rounds if I am not mistaken, which felt significantly harder be it because of the pressure or just because I kept second guessing my answers. We did not do the best in the finals and since the marks from the elimination rounds were carried forward, we maintained our fifth position in the end, which is a nice way of saying we lost to the other four teams and were the last in the finals.

As anyone can tell, my method of studying was by no means the best or most efficient. The only reason I did as well as I did was not because of how I studied before the test, but was an accumulation of all the times I have read both the Book of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles over the course of my life. The sheer amount of time I read these two books or had it recited to me led to a familiarity with the stories and the language used in both books. By no means was this knowledge enough but it got me through. For example, the type of language in a sermon can be recognised by certain keywords like the use of the word ‘grace’ which I believe the footnotes of our textbook refers to as a Pauline term, meaning a term used by Paul to attribute God’s actions of sending Jesus and all His acts of mercy to people who have sinned. When it came to the time they asked us to fill in the blanks for certain verses or to state where a certain phrase was said and by whom, the questions became answerable even without ever having memorising that verse just because it felt like there was only this word that matched the verse. It was a feeling of familiarity. Basically, what I am trying to say is that if you’re like me and can’t memorise things very well, just read and read again until a sense of familiarity rises between you and the verses in both books. Of course, if you can memorise the whole book like Justin could, then go ahead. In fact, that would be much more preferable, and you will definitely do better. However, the most important thing is, and I cannot stress this enough, do not begin last minute and don’t try to cram everything in at once. Start early and maintain a steady pace in your studies so you have sufficient time to get familiar with the verses and not have them blend together in the end, just like it did for me where I kept mixing up Paul’s third journey and first journey. Do not be like me.

What I learned over the entire experience was that there is still so much to learn in Bible Knowledge. I have read both books many, many times and heard multiple sermons on the parables even before I began studying this subject and even then, it feels like every time I really study the Scriptures, some random new fact pops up that I can’t remember for the life of me. There is so much depth and context to what we study and this quiz tests exactly that. Linking actions all throughout both books to gain a deeper understanding of what is going on, tying the actions of different communities to their way of life, and thinking about the reasons behind everything that goes on in both books all require some effort and thinking to make sense of. I think what was important about this quiz wasn’t the quiz itself or your achievements in it, but the knowledge and the “sikap ingin tahu” that we end up nurturing along the way (although of course being champion of the National SPM BK Oral Quiz looks so much better on a resume than fifth place).
– Jaypheth Balang (F5P 2020) – 4th Runner Up