Category Archives for Exam Tips

Improve Your Vocabulary in Creative Writing and Composition

Improve Your Vocabulary in Creative Writing and Composition 

There are many ways to improve your vocabulary. Here are some ways you can hone your word-building prowess:

Part 1: Use Idiomatic Body Parts 

Parts of the body have long featured in how humans express ourselves. Not only do body parts feature heavily in metaphors and idioms alike, there are entire songs dedicated to them! For example, a well-known nursery rhyme goes, "head and shoulders, knees and toes". After all, our bodies and accompanying bodily sensations are the most direct things that we physically experience. Here are some idioms related to body parts:

Head
The head contains the brain, arguably the most important organ in the body. Is it any wonder then that there are a slew of idioms dedicated to the head? Examples you may hear and use in your everyday life include:

  • head start (an advantage)
  • off the top of my head (without careful thought, often due to lack of time)
  • bury one's head in the sand (to ignore an unpleasant reality)

Shoulders
Surprisingly, there are many idioms dedicated to shoulders, which are associated with providing support for one's body. You could...

  • be a shoulder to cry on (someone who listens well to someone's problems)
  • have responsibilities fall on your shoulder
  • give someone the cold shoulder (ignore someone)

Knees... and Toes!
If you bring someone/something to their knees, you have defeated them. What if you're the bee's knees (excellent quality)? There are several more toe-related idioms than knee-related idioms, and these include:

  • toe the line (obey the rules)
  • keep someone on their toes (keep someone alert and prepared)
  • tread on someone's toes (offend someone)

Test Yourself
Can you complete each of the following body part idioms?

Q1. turn a b______ e___
Q2. play by e___
Q3. right u______ one's n____
Q4. up to one's n____
Q5. work one's f_____ to the b____
Q6. b_____f___ in one's s________
Q7. pat on the b____
Q8. b____ of contention
Q9. by the s____ of your t_____
Q10. A______s heel

Answers

A1. turn a blind eye (to sth)
A2. play by ear
A3. right under one's nose
A4. up to one's neck (in sth)
A5. work one's fingers to the bone
A6. butterflies in one's stomach
A7. pat on the back
A8. bone of contention
A9. by the skin of your teeth
A10. Achilles heel

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Other Posts by Fiona

About The Author

Miss Fiona Teo is a Teacher Associate at Creative Campus. As a Hwa Chong Institution and NUS alumna, she is particularly familiar with what it takes to excel in demanding exam conditions.

Top 10 Tips to Ace GP

Top 10 Tips to Ace GP: The Lowdown on Language

For junior college students, General Paper (GP) is possibly the last English paper in your lives – the ‘final boss’, so to speak.

Even though the requirements for GP seem straightforward, scoring well is not as simple as it seems. Hopefully, these tips can help you do just that.

Before we begin, a note for the uninitiated: students will have to sit for two papers as part of the GP examination. Paper 1 requires you to write an essay, while Paper 2 is a comprehension piece that additionally includes a summary and application question.

Doing well in all of these components thus requires you to master different skillsets. This blog post will focus on language. Why?

If you look closely at the rubric ​, “Use of English” – referring to the standardness of your grammar and appropriacy of your vocabulary use – takes up 35% of your total score upon 100.

Having a good sense of how you can use language to your benefit is thus a third of the battle won.

If you don’t pride yourself on “bombastic vocabulary”, don’t worry. As long as your grammar is adequate, you have a fighting chance at a good GP grade!

Choose your synonyms wisely

This is especially pertinent when writing summaries and answering ‘in your own words’ questions: do not think that word X can freely substitute the word Y just because the dictionary/thesaurus states that they are synonyms!

Often, dictionaries need to condense immense amounts of word-related information into tiny pockets of data. Resultantly, the  ‘synonyms’ they provide are acontextual – meaning, blind to the way that word X is actually used in the passage. For example, the word ‘candid’ means frank or forthright; however, a  ‘candid photo’ cannot be rephrased as ‘forthright snapshot’.

When you use ‘synonyms’ inappropriately, you show the marker that you are merely rephrasing for the sake of it, which does not bode well for your “Use of Language” score.

Hence, you must consider if the synonym you want to use suits the context at hand. If you are having trouble with force-fitting literal one-to-one rephrases (for example, if you can’t think of a good synonym), try paraphrasing more broadly. For example,

This is for all the people who struggle with essays and AQs. I am a huge fan of signposting, which is the practice of using key words and phrases to guide your reader through your piece.

Signposts express the relationships between concepts in your essay, allowing the reader to understand your flow of logic better.

There are two main types of signposts that you can use. Firstly, there are what people call major signposts, which are the signposting phrases that go at the start of each paragraph.

  • In your introduction, you can write something like “in this essay, I will…” or “this essay argues/discusses/outlines…” (depending on whether your essay is argumentative or discursive in nature).
  • In your body paragraphs, you can use signposts that suggest chronological order, like “firstly/secondly/thirdly/lastly”. If you want to get fancy with it, you can employ variations like “first and foremost” or “the penultimate (second-last) reason is…”.
  • However, a better GP argumentative essay would use major signposts that indicate your specific line of reasoning, especially when you’re introducing contrasting arguments e.g. “however”, “on the other hand” and “in contrast/contrarily/conversely”.
  • Most students know the obvious, yet highly unimaginative, signpost for conclusions… “in conclusion”. Switch it up, surprise the marker! Other than using variations like “to conclude/in sum/summing up”, you can simply make statements such as “it is evident/clear from [insert argument] that [insert stand]”.

Then, there are what I like to call minor signposts, which are signposting phrases that go inside paragraphs. Minor signposts relationally link the various ideas that you introduce within each body paragraph. These A.R.E.:

  • Addition – “furthermore/moreover/in addition, [elaborate]”. Sometimes you have to clearly express causality between factors, in which case you can use e.g. “A causes/gives rise to/leads to/brings about/engenders B”, “A incites/triggers/sparks B”, or “A expedites/accelerates B”.
  • Reiteration – “again”/”similarly”.
  • Evidence – “for example/instance”, “examples include…”, “…, which proves/evinces/shows that…” are all useful phrases to use.

To reiterate, using signposts makes your arguments/discussion more easily understandable to the marker. Their usefulness cannot be overstated!

Sometimes, an essay topic may be particularly complex. Sometimes, a paragraph may seem impossible to paraphrase. At these times, you may have issues with content, let alone language!

If you ever come across this situation, focus on content (after all, it’s two-thirds of your total grade). Ensure that your sentences are grammatically sound and that your points make sense.

For tips on how to improve your content, refer to our next post 🙂

GP Classes

As time is required to cultivate the skills needed for the GP components, we urge students wishing to improve their GP grades to enrol in classes ASAP.

Our GP classes with Ms Geraldine Chew are filling up fast, with an average of 2 seats remaining for each class:

  • Thursday 7pm
  • Saturday 12pm

However, we are looking to open other GP classes conducted by teacher Mr Ten Ting Kai on one of the following days and timings:

  • Tuesday 7pm
  • Saturday 2pm
  • Sunday 2pm

To find out more about Mr Ten, click on this link Meet Our Teachers

Do contact us at 6455 3063 or chalk@creativecampus.com.sg to enrol your child and/or for more information.

Want more GP-related information?

We share some insight into the GP 2019 Papers 1 and 2 General Paper 2019 post mortem

For more information on our GP programme, visit GP tuition

Other posts by Fiona

About The Author

Miss Fiona Tan is a Teacher Associate at Creative Campus. As a Hwa Chong Institution and NUS alumna, she is particularly familiar with what it takes to excel in demanding exam conditions.

For the Love of Poems and Puns

For the Love of Poems and Puns

Valentine’s Day is smack in the middle of February. As such, some people also call it the Month of Love – including us. To commemorate this lovely fact, this post is dedicated to celebrating the L ♡ V E of what we do best – English!

Have you ever pondered on Valentine’s Day card greetings? While the classic type is oft-adorned with simple, swirling penmanship, fancier cards may feature cut-outs, pop-ups, graphics and the like – providing a pleasant visual surprise for the recipient.

Other cards may be fancy, but the cards that we fancy are those plastered with adorable wordplay – who knew! Be it poetry or puns, linguistic surprises always catch our heart. But how do they work?

Poetry

The romantic nature of poems is a tale old as time – or at least, as old as Shakespeare. Some say that it was Shakespeare’s 154 love sonnets that pioneered the modern conception of poetry as romantic.

Indeed, several of the Bard’s pieces are truly iconic in their description of love. I dare say that many of us are familiar with the first line of Sonnet 18: “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?”
(Bonus points if you can fill in the next sentence! Answers below)

Because poetry uses both the aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language, it can be effectively used to convey depth of love for someone or something. Of course, poetry can be flipped onto its head and thought of as
humorous. Case in point? “Roses are red, violets are blue…” (What are the next two lines?)

Puns

While we’re on the topic of humour, let’s not forget puns! Puns, also known by the technical term ‘paronomasia’, are rhetorical devices that intentionally exploit the similarities between words for comedic effect. Many puns rely on linguistic phenomena such as homophones.

(Sidenote: If you were not privy to the January edition of OnCampus, our monthly e-publication, homophones are words with the same pronunciation, but different meanings. You may sign up for future issues of OnCampus on the bottom of this page.]

As you may expect, homophones and near-homophones are a prolific source of Valentine’s puns.
A pun that uses total homophones would be something like “would you be(e) mine?” In this case, ‘be’ and ‘bee’ sound the exact same. This pun is usually accompanied by bee/honey imagery, as in this vintage Valentine’s Day card.

“Would you be(e) mine” graphic:

Image Credit to https://live.staticflickr.com/5557/15189206665_ddc68211bf_b.jpg

Meanwhile, a pun that incorporates near-homophones might be something like “lettuce (let us) romaine (remain) together forever”.

“Lettuce romaine together forever” graphic:

image credit to https://live.staticflickr.com/1569/24575440269_1e6a68d86c_b.jpg

Here, “lettuce” and “romaine” (which are strewn on the ground in this picture) do not have the exact same pronunciation as the intended words, but they are close enough that the reader immediately thinks of the desired meaning behind the statement – “let us remain together forever”.

Near-homophones are more common (and perhaps, more delightful!) in Valentine’s greetings. Here are some of our favourites, for you to share with your loved ones this Valentine’s:

  • You’re soda-lightful (so delightful).
  • You’re the loaf (love) of my life.
  • I love you like no otter (other).
  • You’re one in chameleon (a million)!

And here’s one for the Science kids. Can you figure this out?

  • I sulfur when you _________.

Answers

1. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 begins with “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate”

2. The original short poem goes “Roses are red / violets are blue / sugar’s sweet / and so are you”. However, we’ve heard more than one student come up with their own creative stanzas 

3. “I sulfur (suffer) when you argon (are gone)”. Sulfur and argon are
both chemical elements.

Other posts by Fiona

About The Author

Miss Fiona Teo is a Teacher Associate at Creative Campus. As a Hwa Chong Institution and NUS alumna, she is particularly familiar with what it takes to excel in demanding exam conditions.

How To Deal With The Year Ahead

Small Fish in a Big Pond: how to deal with the year ahead

3 bulletproof tips students can arm themselves with

In a blink of an eye, we are more than halfway through the first month of the school year.

For all students, every new year is a frightening prospect: not only will there be a brand new curriculum, but also a fresh set of challenges. The questions of “how to handle the more difficult/increased workload?” and “how to juggle my academic and extracurricular commitments?” frequently recur.

Feelings of stress run especially high in the milestone years, where students have to take their national exams (P6, secondary 4) or enter a completely new school (primary 1, secondary 1, junior college/polytechnic/other institutions).

During these important years, we may feel like ‘small fish in a big pond’, unsure of where and how to start the year right. Here are some tips on getting the headstart you need:

  • Have a Trusted Circle of Confidantes

The importance of social ties cannot be understated. A close friend, or
group of friends, is not only a good emotional support system; they are
also your go-tos for academic or administrative concerns!

Have a question about transferring CCAs? Ask a friend for advice! Have a question about your math or mother tongue homework? Ask a classmate! Feeling blue? Talk to a friend!

Here’s a pro tip: Include your teacher in this circle of friends. Due to their position in school and teaching knowledge, teachers can often give you advice or help that your peers cannot.

  • Be Organised
    There are few things worse than realising that you have misplaced your revision notes on the day before an exam. How do you prevent that situation from happening? ORGANISE! Some quick and easy actions you can take right now include:
  • For languages, use a notebook to compile new vocabulary or grammar pointers. Writing information down has been proven to help memory recall. Moreover, you will have a consolidated source of key knowledge at the end of the year.
  • Get file dividers for subjects that are tested topically, e.g. science, geography. Remember to file your worksheets promptly!
  • Declutter weekly! Take already-marked worksheets and old notes OUT of your school bag, and file/place them neatly in a location that you can access at a later date (for review and revision).
  • Don’t allow homework or corrections to pile up!
  • Don’t Overdo It

In a busy school schedule, time is precious. More often than not, we have more things than we can fit on our plate!

There are typical “crunch times” in which you can expect yourself to feel overwhelmed by the amount of things you have to do (e.g. before exams, before major CCA events). For these periods, my succinct advice is to do your best (and talk to your support system)!

However – just like an Olympic athlete peaks right before their event, a student should peak at the times that matter most – exams and CCA events.

If you want to maximise your mental and physical well-being, as well as maintain good performance during exams/competitions, try not to jampack your whole year with activities.

Since we are currently at the start of the year, simply focus on easing yourself into the hustle and bustle of the year ahead.

Wishing you all the best!

Other posts by Fiona

About The Author

Miss Fiona Teo is a Teacher Associate at Creative Campus. As a Hwa Chong Institution and NUS alumna, she is particularly familiar with what it takes to excel in demanding exam conditions.

General Paper 2019 Post Mortem


General Paper 2019: A Post-Mortem

Our GP 2019 cohort came from diverse JCs. Each had areas that needed work, be they content development or vocabulary and linguistic intricacies; but work they did! It has been a rewarding year with the graduating class who have each worked hard and made improvements over the months leading up to the exams.  

Most thought both Papers 1 and 2 were manageable except for a couple of more challenging SAQ [comprehension Short Answer Questions].

Weighing in on Paper 1

Answer one question. Answers should be between 500 and 800 words in length.

  1. How far should countries have relations with others whose human rights record is poor?
  2. To what extent should income equality be a goal in your society?
  3. ‘Science is the only answer to global hunger’. Discuss.
  4. Consider the view that social media has more influence than politicians.
  5. To what extent is artificial intelligence replacing the role of humans?
  6. ‘A leader’s responsibility should always be to his or her own country, not other nations.’ Discuss.
  7. ‘Religion is an important part of the lives of young people today.’ Consider whether this is true in your society.
  8. Does violence in the visual media portray reality or encourage the unacceptable?
  9. Is globalisation to be welcomed or feared today?
  10. Should both parents take equal responsibility for raising their children? List Element
  11. Assess the importance of food within Singaporean culture.
  12. Can fiction teach us anything meaningful about the real world?

Paper 1 2019 was another fair paper offering a good range of topics and themes for candidates to choose from. The key to acing the GP essay is in the candidate’s evaluation and analysis of criteria and issues related to the question asked. 

Hence, those who merely listed factors, and/or went about essay topics in a 'pros and cons' manner, would have presented limited arguments. These scripts would not score well in their content; neither would scripts that presented example-driven arguments.

The more popular questions, according to an online poll which candidates took were (in order): 5, 9, 4, 12, 11. 

This year, I thought to review the questions based on the topics that are more popular with candidates.


Science and Technology

Questions on science and technology are a favourite, and popular with exam-setters and students alike. 

This year, there were again, 2 questions on this topic, with Q5 being the more popular.

Q3 : “Science is the only answer to global hunger.” Discuss 

This asks candidates to evaluate the broader topic of science within the narrower scope of global hunger. What this means for candidates is that they need to go deeper into the relationship between the 2 realms.

  • The word “only” is a clear indicator that science alone is not the answer.
  • Candidates must address HOW science can provide answers to alleviate or solve world hunger, but also acknowledge that science alone is intellectual: knowledge about the natural world that is based on facts learned through experiments and observation; an area of study that deals with the natural world.
  • Hence, science is extremely limited in that it can offer studies that lead to technological applications, but essentially, it may not provide tangible tools or solutions, and is dependant on Man’s wielding.
  • Other factors must also be considered: human avarice and self-interest, governmental priorities and policies, that scientific exploration utilises the very resources needed to treat/solve global hunger.

To receive the full analysis to:

  • Paper 1 Q5 and other popular questions, 
  • Paper 2 AQ

Weighing in on Paper 2, the Application Question

The two passages offer contrasting views on the topic of zoos. According to feedback from several of our students and other sources, the AQ asks:

Waldorf argues that zoos should be closed down, while Morgan argues the necessity of zoos. How far can you agree with the observations made by these two authors for you and your society? [10]

At the coarsest granularity, the authors’ theses read as follows:

Walford: In principle, zoos deprive animals of their natural habitats and instincts for human pleasure. In practice, animals in zoos suffer from poor living conditions. Hence, zoos are unethical and should not be allowed to exist any longer.

Morgan: In principle, zoos begin from a human concern for animal welfare and serve scientific purposes. In practice, animals in zoos are safe and populations can recover. Hence, zoos are important and have an important ecological role.

What is interesting about this pair of passages is that the authors engage each other head-on. It is not a situation where, for example, A writes from a philosophical standpoint why something is justified or unjustifiable, and B writes from a practical standpoint why, in reality, that something is not all good or not all bad. In those cases, it is easy to evaluate each author on their own merits, and it is easy to achieve a balanced AQ by assembling a coherent picture out of the pieces picked up from both passages.

Here, however, we have to be decisive about things:

  • ​In principle, do we think zoos are really about human enjoyment, or human education? We can’t have it both ways. We can’t argue that zoos are fundamentally premised upon both entertaining and educating humans at once.
  • In practice, do we think zoos actually mistreat animals, or are the animals better off than they would otherwise be? We can’t have it both ways. We can’t argue that zoos turn out to both do more harm than good and more good than harm.
  • And, ultimately, do we think zoos are intolerable or indispensable? Or… do our answers to the first two questions leave us somewhere in between?

To receive the full analysis to:

  • Paper 1 Q5 and other popular questions, 
  • Paper 2 AQ

You can access the full Post Mortems via the links below. Each has been viewed over 2,000 in 2019 alone.

General Paper 2018: A Post-Mortem 

https://www.creativecampus.com.sg/exam-tips/english-enrichment-resource/general-paper-2018-a-post-mortem/

General Paper 2017: A Post-Mortem 

https://www.creativecampus.com.sg/exam-tips/english-enrichment-resource/general-paper-a-level/

Our J1 students have already started preparing hard for General Paper 2020. We take a break from lessons until January 2020. I look forward to more intellectual sparring and argumentation with my students in the new year!
~Contributed by Geraldine Chew [Ms] and Ten Ting Kai [Mr] 5 November 2019

O’ Levels English Paper 1 2019: A Post-Mortem

'O’ Levels English Paper 1 2019: A Post-Mortem

The following are the essay questions from the 2019 O Level English Paper 1, according to feedback from several of our students who took the exam and other sources.

Unlike Paper 1 in 2018, the essay questions posed in the 2019 paper reverted to the usual mix of personal expository, discursive and argumentative options. There was a good range of subject matters that are familiar to students. Hence, I felt that the topics were accessible and the paper, fair. 

You are advised to write between 350 and 500 words on one of the following topics.

  • Who is the person who has made the most positive impact on your life? Describe this individual’s personality and state what he/she has done to influence your life. 
  • What was the proudest moment of your life? (A quote preceded the question)
  • Young people are obsessed with fame and imitating celebrities. What are your views?
  • People can only be happy if they feel that they are fairly treated. Do you agree?

Our students found the paper very manageable as our lessons have comprehensively dealt with structure of various essay types and in particular, discursive writing. Students have also had ample practice writing full essays on topics relating to happiness, inequities, media and youth issues. 

The content to each essay topic has the potential to be elevated and the student who structures and expresses his ideas more eloquently will stand apart from the masses.


In the weeks to come, we will conduct an essay writing lesson with our students on how to competently answer these essay questions.

Should you be interested to receive the complimentary worksheet and lesson notes, fill in your email address below and we will send them to you on the week of the lesson. You will also receive worksheets and lesson notes to the O Levels English Paper 1 2018.

Secondary Regular Classes​​​​​


O Levels 2019 Results: 100% Scored As and Bs. 2/3 Scored As

Early preparation is the key to scoring well for the exams.

About the author:

Ms Geraldine Chew is a Founding Director of Creative Campus. She is also the Director of Programmes for Secondary, General Paper and IB. With over 23 years experience in teaching and curriculum development, her first love is still teaching and interacting with young adults.

Effective Steps To Surviving The IP

Effective Steps To Surviving The IP

Being in the Integrated Programme has its perks – and make no mistake, it is a privilege that students in the IP track have more autonomy to explore academic subjects as they want. That said, this is not a privilege that one should take lightly.

Before you commence on your IP journey, be prepared to make certain tweaks to your mindset. To borrow the words of Dorothy from Wizards of Oz: Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas primary school anymore.

Your Worst Competitor Is...

One might think that in the absence of an entire national exam (the O Levels, typically slated for a student’s fourth year of secondary school), competition between peers would be less stiff. I honestly think that – just like it is outside of the IP scheme – the degree of competition mostly depends on one’s school environment.

My own IP classes were fortunately far from dog-eat-dog, but I did feel a constant pressure to keep up with my peers in the programme. Others may argue that competition in IP is bound to be more tense, given its reputation for being ‘elite’. 

But this post is not about debate. What I can confidently say is that your internal sense of competition is bound to increase, given the entrance requirements and expectations of the IP, no matter the external environment. That is:

  • Your peers will naturally seem more well put-together than you, and you might consequently feel a sense of inferiority.

  • The curriculum will seem way tougher than what you personally think you can handle, and you might consequently feel a sense of inferiority.

You see where I’m going with this? Do prepare for the fact that your worst competitor (AND critic, all rolled into one) might be yourself. 

If you’re struggling in a competitive environment, many will tell you, “don’t compare yourself to others”. I think it’s important to add: if you feel negatively overwhelmed, don’t compare yourself to who you think you should be, or the stage you think you should be at! This brings me to my next point … 

Give Yourself Time and Space

The IP scheme was introduced in 2002 for the express purpose of allowing students “broader learning experiences that would develop their creativity, critical thinking, intellectual curiosity and leadership skills” (MOE, 2002). These are soft skills in which progress is often not linear, nor immediately visible. 

  • Don’t let your fear of not being ‘good enough’ inhibit the fun and joy that you’re learning to have
  • Grant yourself enough time to get used to the demands of the programme, which may seem all-too-rigorous at the start.
  • Give yourself space to experiment with new ideas, even if it means you risk making mistakes. The IP allows students more freedom to play around with different aspects of academic thought, so make the best of it.
  • If you’re facing extreme difficulty, talk to your friends or adults you trust. There’s always a way out!

Create your Own Structure

It is no coincidence that many students who leave the IP midway to pursue an alternative path cite the same reason: because the programme gives so much flexibility, structure has to be self-imposed. 

Taking personal responsibility and staying disciplined thus become crucial to surviving the IP. From CCA and leadership positions to the choice of subjects taken, it is you who will be in charge of carving your own path in the programme. 

I remember doing a lot of introspection in the programme, as I had to decide what choices to make on my own. I cannot say that I made the best ones as a carefree teenager, but I genuinely appreciate the freedom of choice which I was given.

When push comes to shove in the sixth (and last) year of the programme, discipline becomes all the more important. One obstacle that I, and many of my friends, experienced was the transition from blithe independence to the ‘now or never’ mindset that teachers started to drive home.

From my experience, friends who had experienced the O-Level crunch – and were therefore used to the levels of discipline necessary for staying on track – were more mentally equipped for the A-Levels. Still, you need not fret so long as you cultivate discipline within freedom.

Other posts by Fiona

About The Author

Miss Fiona Teo is a Teacher Associate at Creative Campus. As a Hwa Chong Institution and NUS alumna, she is particularly familiar with what it takes to excel in demanding exam conditions.

New Ideas For Learning English

3 Powerful And Effective Skills To Write, Speak And Communicate With Impact

Now that we have hopefully put things into perspective, let’s put them into practice. I have compiled a fresh list of ideas that ideally will inject new life into your English learning.

Keep your ears perked

While I believe that books in their written form are timeless artefacts, they are not the be-all-end-all of language improvement. This is especially so if you are not a learner that thrives on written linguistic stimuli. 

  • Want to read more but prefer auditory input? Try audiobooks! There are many such sites (audiobooks.com ; audible.com) and mobile applications (e.g. Google Play Books) that allow you to access an extensive variety of titles whenever you like.


  • Want to make the most of your commute? If you have earphones, podcasts (or audiobooks, as previously mentioned and informative videos are great for enjoying on the go! TEDTalks or How Stuff Works, which are available both as podcasts or as videos, are tried-and-tested channels that cover an immense number of topics. Feel free to find any channel that you like and will continue enjoying; consistency is after all, key to improvement.

Build your reading stamina 

If your purpose is to excel in school comprehensions and essay writing, I still do suggest that you ensure you have the stamina to understand or write an entire short text. If need be, you can slowly build up your ability to concentrate on texts:

  • Short attention span? Try reading shorter books, like novellas, short story compilations, or poetry collections! They still help you concretise your command of the language, and as a plus – you gain exposure to a more diverse range of writing styles.

  • Read when no one’s looking! Next time you come across an event brochure, advertisement, or any sort of non-conventional media material – pay attention to how its written or laid out, try asking yourself questions about its purpose, and challenge yourself to structure your thoughts into full sentences. This is of course good practice for VTC, but much more importantly – it’s good practice for life! Who knows, maybe you’ll end up wanting to go for the event!

Make conscious effort

Will Smith famously once said, “if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready”, and it’s a good motto to prepare for exams by. Once you make conscious effort at the beginning of your learning process, it becomes much easier to keep it a habit. 

  • Make a list. I have been guilty of wondering what a word or phrase means, looking it up once, and then having this entire situation repeat itself the next time I see that particular word or phrase. To combat this endlessly cyclical phenomenon, try keeping a word log of words you don’t know. Collect words from all the compres you’ve had, books you’ve read, and people you’ve met. Look them up, so you’ve a working idea of what the dictionary defines them as. Then…

  • USE THE WORDS! Challenge yourself to write any sentence using those words, or even better – use them in your everyday life. I promise you that they become much harder to forget once they become part of your everyday vocabulary!
  • Connect the dots. After a while, you’ll begin to recognise some patterns between words. A particularly good example of this are word affixes that most people have an intuitive understanding of. Let me give an example:

      dis-: has the sense of negation, like in ‘disbelief’ (not-belief) or ‘dissimilar’ (not similar)


      junction: a common enough word, like in ‘road junction’. We know that it’s “a point where two or more things are joined” (Oxford English Dictionary).


      Hence, if we see the word ‘disjunction’, we can safely assume that it means something ‘not-joined’, which is similar to its dictionary definition: “a lack of correspondence or consistency”.

    dis-: has the sense of negation, like in ‘disbelief’ (not-belief) or ‘dissimilar’ (not similar)

    junction: a common enough word, like in ‘road junction’. We know that it’s “a point where two or more things are joined” (Oxford English Dictionary).

    Hence, if we see the word ‘disjunction’, we can safely assume that it means something ‘not-joined’, which is similar to its dictionary definition: “a lack of correspondence or consistency”.

That’s all we have for today. Enjoy the process!

Additional links:

List of audiobooks, available online

List of podcasts suitable for teenagers

More about words

Other posts by Fiona

About The Author

Miss Fiona Teo is a Teacher Associate at Creative Campus. As a Hwa Chong Institution and NUS alumna, she is particularly familiar with what it takes to excel in demanding exam conditions.

PSLE 2019 Paper 1: A Post- Mortem

PSLE 2019 English Paper 1: A Post-Mortem

The PSLE 2019 is finally done and dusted. The general consensus was that Paper 1 was ‘ok’. We are excited to share the following information with you, curated from several of our students and other sources. 

While this serves as a checkpoint to how the current cohort has done, we hope to shed some light on how certain challenging questions can be overcome in the national examinations.

Paper 1

(1) Situational Writing

The pictures depict a comic conversation between a child and her uncle. He has a pair of tickets to a movie but is unable to attend as he would be overseas on a work trip. Write an informal letter to your best friend, Linda, inviting her to a movie with the details, and explaining why she would be interested in joining you. For this letter, the following pointers are crucial:

  • the informal letter format should be observed
  • the letter must address the recipient as ‘Linda’ and his/her ‘best friend’
  • the letter must be signed off in an informal manner eg Yours sincerely,/ Cheers,/
    With love,/ Your best friend
  • students must be meticulous enough to pen down all the necessary information
  • the questions ask for two reasons why Linda would be encouraged to watch the
    movie: students should use the information given as clues eg. free tickets/
    Linda’s love for action movies/ Linda’s favourite actor is the leading man

The following is the essay questions from the 2019 PSLE English Paper 1:

Write a composition of at least 150 words about a celebration. The pictures are provided to help you think about the topic. Your composition should be based on one or more of these pictures. Consider the following points when you plan your composition.

  • What was the reason for the occasion?
  • How did the occasion turn out in the end?

You may use the points in any order and include other relevant points as well. [* The three pictures given include people dancing on a stage; a family portrait of 4 – parents, baby and elder sibling; and an invitation card.]

The topic was doable and the pictures were equally relatable. At Creative Campus, our students had practice on this theme twice, with the various scenarios included.

This year, the topic calls for students to reinforce the theme by relating it to a celebration, such as a performance for a Teacher’s Day celebration, a baby’s first birthday bash, or an invitation to a best friend’s graduation party.

Delving deeper and handling the essay with a better perspective is what differentiates an average student from the crème de la crème. Students should inject scene and emotion descriptors; address the problem and solution that arise from the plot; and showcase their personal voice with unique metaphors, imagery and tone.

The focus on techniques, rather than staid model essays, will gear them to attempt any topic with ease, and in the process, stand out from their peers.

Free PSLE 2019 Sample Worksheets

On the week after the PSLE, students at Creative Campus were taught how to handle the PSLE 2019 question effectively.


We have prepared a simulation of the essay question, based on the feedback from several of our students and other sources.

 Fill in your details to receive your free worksheets.

Valuable Tips To Improving English

A FRESH LOOK AT ENGLISH FUNDAMENTALS

Greek mythology tells of a king named Sisyphus, punished by Zeus for an act of deceit. In the story, Sisyphus is eternally tasked to roll an enormous boulder up a steep hill, only to watch helplessly as the boulder inevitably rolls down when it reaches the top. 

Today, the Oxford English Dictionary defines “Sisyphean” as “denoting a task that can never be completed”. A Sisyphean task – this is what I think of when friends and family ask me for quick and easy ways to improve their English.

To me, learning is a life-long process, and few can ensure learning that is both immediate and authentic. I can, of course, do my best to help. 

STICK TO THE BASICS AND GO WIDE

How many of us here have heard that to get better at a language, we have to listen, read, write, and speak? Although these so-called four ‘language skills’ seem simple in theory, many people either under- or overthink them, leading to much spinning of their wheels.

The fact is that neither discounting the practice of fundamental usage skills, nor obsessing over the kind of material to consume, is beneficial towards the learner. All listening, reading, writing, and speaking will be helpful; in fact, the more diverse the content you consume, the better.  

DEVELOP DIVERSITY BY READING ANYTHING KNOWLEDGEABLE 

There is no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ type of thing to read! When I was younger, literature reigned king, and so I was told to only read books. Today, primary school students take Media Studies, which is “designed to train students to be media literate individuals” (SEAB, 2017).

Indeed, improving our English means being able to understand any text, so that we can critically think about its content or communicate effectively with its author. 

To borrow the words of linguist Wilhem von Humboldt: language is the ‘infinite use of finite means’. English, like any other language, does not draw from a fixed pool of knowledge.

Outside the classroom – which is to say, in the grander scheme of things – English is used in multifarious ways. Reading (and listening, speaking, and writing) diversely is a surefire way to improve without even feeling like you’re trying. It’s like ‘learning by osmosis’!

EXERCISE YOUR BRAIN FOR BETTER RECALL AND MEMORY

I may be biased as a Linguistics major, but delving into the history of language and words is one of my favourite ways to improve. Have you ever looked at a list of irregular verbs and wondered why English grammar was so hard to master?

Have you ever looked at an idiom and questioned how exactly their meaning could differ so drastically from its literal one? Well, your answers lie in history – how English has changed over time. 

This video, for example, explains why irregular verbs even exist:

By looking up how a particularly difficult-to-remember grammar or vocabulary point has evolved over time to be the way it currently is, you equip yourself with a mnemonic device that will concretise your memory further. 

Download Your Free Copy of our Pro Tips for Comprehension, Composition and Cloze Passages

Pro Tips To Help Your Child In The EOYs

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Other posts by Fiona

About The Author

Miss Fiona Teo is a Teacher Associate at Creative Campus. As a Hwa Chong Institution and NUS alumna, she is particularly familiar with what it takes to excel in demanding exam conditions.

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