Category Archives for Exam Reviews

General Paper 2020: A Post-Mortem

General Paper 2020: A Post-Mortem

Even as 2020 presented us with unprecedented challenges to learning—thanks to the virus that shall not be named—our students rallied, mostly online, and worked with resolve and efficiency.

I dare say, we made it work unexpectedly well and the groups were so cohesive that the experience turned out to be an enriching one. I could not be more proud, nor ask for better students.

GP 2020 graduates comprised a mix of students who journeyed with Creative Campus for over 6 years, and those who spent their JC years with us.

Each had personal areas to work on, be they improving essay structure, content development, or refining vocabulary and linguistic intricacies. Most went above and beyond, especially in the final weeks leading up to the GP papers!

I will dearly miss the individual personalities who were the highlights of my Thursdays and Saturdays. It has been an interesting and rewarding year with a graduating class who each adapted, worked hard and persisted right up to ‘go’ time.  

Most thought both Papers 1 and 2 were manageable except for paraphrasing of answers required in a couple of SAQs [comprehension Short Answer Questions].

Weighing in on Paper 1

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

1.How reliable are statistics as a guide for planning the future?

2.To what extent is human life in general about the survival of the fittest?

3.‘Individuals achieve sporting success, not nations.’ Discuss.

4.‘We shape our buildings, but then our buildings shape us.’ To what extent is this true of your society?

5.To what extent can any society claim to be great?

6.Examine the view that the scientist is concerned only with knowledge, not morality.

7.Given greater levels of international cooperation, how necessary is it for countries to engage in the arms trade?

8.Should politicians pursue the popular viewpoint or their own convictions, if they conflict?

9.Is modern technology a benefit or a threat to democracy?

10. ’An appreciation of music is vital for a fully rounded education.’ How true is this of your society?

11. ‘In a free society, there should be no restrictions on freedom of speech.’ Discuss.

12. How far can prosperity and uncontrolled population growth go hand in hand?

Paper 1 2020 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 a poll of our students were (in order of popularity): 6, 9, 3, 5. The honorable mentions were: 12, 4.
__________________

Below is a quick summary of points that candidates could consider in regards to Question 4:  ‘We shape our buildings, but then our buildings shape us.’ To what extent is this true of your society?

Candidates must be mindful to evaluate whether and how our buildings shape [influence, impact] Singapore and Singaporeans. They should not merely expound on what our buildings reveal about Singapore and her citizens.

Possible Points of Argument

  • The buildings are private and public spaces that affect all aspects of our everyday life. While buildings are constructed to serve their various functions, they shape our routines, purpose, the way we socialise etc.
    EG: Housing Development Board flats, community centres, schools/various institutes of learning that have shaped our world-class education standards and are also historical institutions in Singapore [Raffles, ACS etc]
  • EG: Housing Development Board flats, community centres, schools/various institutes of learning that have shaped our world-class education standards and are also historical institutions in Singapore [Raffles, ACS etc]
  • Buildings are physical emblems of our history and culture--shophouses, museums. They continue to impact younger generations of Singaporeans by reminding them of our roots and traditions. EG the Peranakan museum, conservation houses along Joo Chiat, Emerald Hill
  • By extension, our buildings can also serve to fortify our national identity, reminding us of our multiculturalism, multi-religious roots, reinforcing the tenets of ‘regardless of race, language or religion’. EG: various places of worship, ethnic enclaves which buildings showcase the various cultural elements. For Singapore in particular, hallmarks of our political and judicial ideologies also exist--Parliament House, Supreme Court [now National Gallery Singapore]
  • But buildings are designed by Man to serve their primary functions [as purpose-specific venues and little more]. In land-scarce SG, constant urban redevelopment to fulfill practical needs. However, through time, our values and priorities have changed/ developed. We now construct more ‘green’ buildings as more importance is being placed on sustainable development. EG: Gardens by the Bay, Oasis Hotel Downtown, which has four lush sky terraces, 1,793 large planter boxes, and four large structural cores that allow for good cross ventilation reducing the overall energy cost.
  • Constant construction and reconstruction also means that our environment is always changing. This impacts us in terms of national identity, and our sense of rootedness and history. Our original National library was demolished to make way for the Fort Canning tunnel. Constant urban development and modernisation shapes our future-focused attitudes, rather than valuing the past.

Weighing in on Paper 2, the Application Question

The single passage was on the topic of apologising. This year, the SAQ [comprehension Short Answer Questions] required much paraphrasing of answers and several carried 3 marks. Because the passage was fairly easy, paraphrasing of answers in the SAQ and Summary sections would require a good range of vocabulary.

According to feedback from several of our students and other sources, the AQ asks:

In the passage, the author discusses the constituents of successful and less successful apologies. How far do you agree with the views expressed by the author, based on your experience in your society? [10]

As part of our GP curriculum, we will be conducting lessons with our students on how to competently handle the 2020 GP Papers 1 and 2.

Should you be interested to receive complimentary worksheet and lesson notes, fill in your email address below and we will send you, on the week of the lesson, the analysis to:
  • Paper 1 Q4 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 2020 alone.

General Paper 2019: A Post-Mortem
https://www.creativecampus.com.sg/general-paper-2019-post-mortem/

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/

GP 2020 Worksheet Giveaway!

Simply fill in your details below and get your copy delivered to your email inbox instantly for FREE!

PSLE 2020 Paper 1: A Post- Mortem

PSLE 2020 English Paper 1: A Post-Mortem

The PSLE 2020 is finally done and dusted. We are pleased that our graduating cohort has attempted similar scenarios on separate themes, and that they have been equipped with the know-how to handle this essay question. 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.

The following is the essay questions from the 2020 PSLE English Paper 1:

Write a composition of at least 150 words about something that was lost. 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 lost?
  • Who lost it?
  • How did it end?
  • What were the lessons learnt?

You may use the points in any order and include other relevant points as well. [* The three pictures given include a mobile phone on a bench; a boy at an information counter; and a poster of a missing cat.]

At Creative Campus, we want our students to get first-hand information about the PSLE English Paper 1 which took place on Thursday, 1 October 2020. 

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 2020 Sample Worksheets

On the week after the PSLE, students at Creative Campus were taught how to handle the PSLE 2020 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.

‘O’ Levels English Paper 1 2020: A Post-Mortem

'O' Levels English Paper 1 2020: A Post-Mortem

The essay questions posed in the 2020 paper offered a mix of question types. Unlike most years, this year’s paper saw a higher dose of descriptive options and all questions took on a personal slant, rather than an objectively discursive one. There was a good range of subject matters that are familiar to students, and our student found the paper manageable.

The following are the essay questions from the 2020 O Level English Paper 1, according to feedback from several of our students who took the exam, as well as other sources. As such, variations in the phrasing of the questions exist.

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

  • Describe some things you do to relax after you were busy. Why do you find them enjoyable?
  • ‘There is no place like home'. Is this true for you?
  • Describe a time when you tried to impress someone but ended up regretting it.
  • Learning from our mistakes will help us to be successful. What is your opinion?

Our students have had ample practice writing full essays on topics relating to youth issues and all things SIngaporean. They have also explored subjects that are more personal in nature.

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.

For the questions with the explicit requirement to ‘describe’, students would need to inject descriptive elements into their writing. Since all the questions require students to tap into their personal experiences, students need to be cautious that language is not overly casual nor conversational, as writing from the first-person perspective tends to be. Therefore, the differentiator to excel in Paper 1 2020 is likely to be language.


As part of our Secondary curriculum, we will be conducting 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 2019.

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 24 years experience in teaching and curriculum development, her first love is still teaching and interacting with young adults.

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.

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.

PSLE English Paper 1 2018: A Post-Mortem

The following is the essay question from the 2018 PSLE English Paper 1, according to feedback from several of our students and other sources. 

Write a composition of at least 150 words about teamwork. 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 teamwork?
  • Why was teamwork required?
  • What happened in the end?

You may use the points in any order and include other relevant points as well. [* The three pictures given include a trophy; a group of students cooking; and several students gathering around, looking at a laptop.]

The topic was expected and the pictures were equally relatable.  After all, all students need to do is to choose at least one picture and tell a story about how it relates to teamwork. However, merely doing so will give students an average grade. Delving deeper and handling the essay with a better perspective is what differentiates average students from the crème de la crème.

 The trick to rise above the competition is to do one or more of the following:

  1. use more than one picture;
  2. indicate the relationship between the picture(s) and the topic clearly and concisely;
  3. use an interesting genre: as students are not penalised on text types, this means that they can attempt an essay with one of, or a combination of, the following:
  • by telling a story (narrative);
  • by giving their own take on a collaborated teamwork episode they have experienced before (personal recount);
  • by describing the event in detail with relevant responses (descriptive); or
  • by discussing how the three pictures highlight the theme (expository).

On the one hand, schools tend to play the safe card for a major exam such as the PSLE. Hence, students are generally encouraged to write a narrative essay in the PSLE. The competition heats up with this approach, since the way to break the 35-mark barrier would be to:

  1. have a different but interesting plot eg. including a plot twist
  2. use excellent scene and character descriptors
  3. showcase a personal voice with elegant expression
  4. have a flawless GSP

On the other hand, students should be equipped to approach the PSLE essay. At Creative Campus, while we prepare the students on how to approach the topic differently, we also harness their personal voice to develop a plot that is unique to them. 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.

On the first week of 2019, students at Creative Campus were taught how to handle the PSLE 2018 question effectively. Should you be interested to receive a sample copy of the notes, click the button below to view and download.

If you're viewing the worksheet on a mobile device, click the download icon to save the file.

General Paper 2018: A Post-Mortem

Another year of GP-grind is over and the general consensus has been that both Papers 1 and 2 were ‘ok’ except for the slightly surprising Application Question.

Once again, my students who sat for the A Levels 2018 hail from different JCs. Several students had been under my tutelage since Primary 5--that’s practically half their young lives! Hence, it goes without saying that this bunch is particularly dear to me.

I will miss many of the unique personalities who spent Thursday nights and Saturday afternoons with me, especially the vibrant few who gave me acutely perceptive essays and evaluations. It’s been a wonderful run with this lot. I know each has been invested in his or her learning and worked hard to see improvements, even at the Prelim exams. 

Weighing in on Paper 1 

Paper 1 was a fair paper offering a good range of topics and themes for candidates to choose from.

The more accessible questions are Q 1, 2, 5, 7 and 9. 

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.

​​​​The following made their maiden appearances this year:

Q3. In an age of rapid technological advancement, is a single career for life realistic?

While technology is a favourite and popular topic for exam-setters and students alike, this year, the link to the idea of a single career is new.

  • Candidates must address the notion of ‘realistic’--for instance, practical/ feasible in sustaining themselves and family.
  • Candidates must also be mindful to link their reasons for or against the viability of a single career to the rapid technological advancement.

  • One possible argument is: rapid technological advancement would include advancements in artificial intelligence which has--and will continue to--replaced the need for human skills. A single career is not realistic since individuals need to adapt to the needs of the job market and AI competencies.

Q6. Do handicrafts still have value when machine-produced goods are readily available?

A narrower topic than the more oft-asked questions surrounding traditions, culture and traditional skills.

  • Students must be sure about what constitutes handicraft before embarking on this essay. Handicraft comprises the elements of traditional skills engaging the hands [as opposed to being produced by machines in a factory], and the making of decorative domestic objects. The key notion of ‘handmade’ is important. It is not craft per se but these two ideas can overlap in limited situations.
  • Value should also be addressed--valuable to whom, and in what way?

Q9. Is pressure a motivating force or a cause for unhappiness?

The question presents ‘pressure’ as a new version of its more popular cousin ‘competition’.

  • Again, candidates must be careful not to conflate competition with pressure. Pressure is a by-product or effect of competition. Pressure can come in the form of persuasion, coercion or intimidation; some thrive under pressure while others crack. Much depends on an individual’s make up.
  • This is more an ‘extent’ question since pressure is not absolutely motivational nor a cause for unhappiness. 

Weighing in on Paper 2, the Application Question

Paper 2 comprised a single passage on millennials across ‘rich worlds’ failing to voteMost found the Comprehension Short Questions and Summary manageable. The ‘curveball’ was the Application Question which, according to feedback from several of our students and other sources, is framed as follows:

Application Question

The author argues that “Whilst they are most interested in issues and causes that they are given credit for, are better educated than past generations, are more likely to go on a protest or to become vegetarian, and are less keen on drugs and alcohol, millennials seldom establish the habits that inclined their parents to vote.”

To what extent do you agree with the author’s view, based on the experiences of you and your peers in your society.

The unusual wording of the AQ stumped students momentarily. For the first time at GP, the AQ was framed around a quote instead of the usual requirement of students picking arguments from the passage to evaluate their relevance and applicability to their society.

However, once they got past the initial bafflement, students knew to respond to the AQ by evaluating their agreement or disagreement to the quoted assertion, and citing at least one other argument from the passage to support their evaluations.

Some learning points from the experience:

  • Keep calm and adapt. Examination questions can--and often do-- veer away from ‘tried and tested’ modes of enquiry. The aim is to not panic but focus on task fulfilment.
  • Go back to the basics by applying techniques learnt. Regardless of the way the Application Question is posed, the basic objective remains unequivocal: students must answer the question. Those who remember the point of an AQ will know to address the viability and relevance of the author’s arguments, and know that they must evaluate with relevant evidence-- it is insufficient to merely state points.

One of the key questions that my students asked me was whether they were right to quote and address another of the writer’s arguments beyond the sentence quoted in the question.

My personal take is that students should indeed bring in another point from the passage rather than solely address the point(s) quoted in the question. Otherwise, is it no different from a run-of-the-mill discursive essay question framed around a quote? After all, the difference between an AQ and an essay question is that the former requires students to apply the writer’s arguments to their social circumstances. The key qualifier is that the additional quote or argument introduced in their AQ response must be relevant to the issue(s) raised in the statement quoted in the question.

In fact, the statement cited tweaked the focus of the AQ to something more manageable for students [by itemising the key issues they should address] since a standard AQ would have been on the voting habits and behaviour of millennials, which some candidates might have found to be more challenging.

This year, the AQ cued students on addressing certain issues more specifically. Good scripts should evaluate these issues, citing independent evidence and, where possible, bring in additional points of the author’s from the passage. Any links made to voting habits is a plus.

The following is a possible approach to answering the AQ:

First, students can address the first issue quoted in the question: millennials being ‘most interested in issues and causes that they are given credit for’.

1) Evaluation: Millennials’ actions are driven by credit or acknowledgement received, as opposed to genuine empathy or belief in the cause/issue. This suggests that millennials are reward-focussed and hence, lacking sincerity.

2) Intuitively, this seems relevant and applicable to SG because:

  • millennials grew up in an environment that included community service as part of the school curriculum--CIP (Community Involvement Programme), present day VIA (Values in Action Programme). While the aim of CIP was to build social cohesion and inculcate civic responsibility in pupils, it was a compulsory programme and students ended up performing these duties for credits and to fulfill the requisite hours of service, rather than for a genuine interest to the causes.
  • a survey by World Vision Singapore in 2015 found that young Singaporeans believe it is important to help the less fortunate, but few translate this belief into action, mainly due to a lack of time and money. 

3) However, students can qualify their agreement, citing the growing trend of numerous Singaporean millennials who are harnessing the power of the Web and social media to make a difference.

  • Haze-hero, Jeremy Chua Facebook page calling for people to donate their excess masks and mobilised hundreds of volunteers to distribute masks to the needy.
  • Conjunct Consulting, founded by millennials, is touted as Asia’s first pro-bono consulting firm for non-profit organisations and social enterprises. 
  • Arrow Circle Right
    Youth for Ecology — a group of youths who were stirred into action by the debate over the White Paper on Population.

Related Pages
General Paper 2017: A Post-Mortem
General Paper 2019: A Post-Mortem


Second, students can address the next assertion that millennials are “better educated than past generations, are more likely to go on a protest or to become vegetarian, and are less keen on drugs and alcohol.”

1) Evaluation: It is true that because they are better informed and knowledgeable, millennials tend to pick and choose their causes and interests according to personal preferences and interests.

  • This individualising of causes and beliefs is further explained as a habit and lifestyle mindset developed in millennials--as reflected in the author’s argument in para 4 “Millennials are accustomed to tailoring their world to their preferences, such as customising the music they listen to and the news they consume. A system that demands they vote for an all-or-nothing bundle of election promises looks uninviting by comparison.”
  • Students can explain how this statement is true given the widespread use of curated playlists on the likes of Spotify and movie viewing habits on streaming platforms based on their selections rather than going to the movie theatres to watch a feature film.  
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    Hence, it is natural and understandable that this habit and mindset of customisation and individualisation carries over to voting behaviour. 

2) Students can then cross reference the author’s argument in para 8 on how political commitment can be built in school. He asserts that “teenagers who experienced democracy first-hand during their studies are more likely to vote afterwards...Yet, schools and governments, wary of accusations of politicising the classroom, may shy away from such programmes” that involve open discussions and debates.

  • This is true of the SG education programmes which tend to be deeply academics-, and hence, grades-focussed. Rare is the school that discusses political issues openly given the time-constraints, and heavily academic and assessment-based curricula.

Finally, students can take on the point that millennials “seldom establish the habits that inclined their parents to vote.”

1) The author further attributes [para 3, lines 30-32] parents’ committed actions to their attachment to their communities.

2) Evaluation: This sense of rootedness makes the older generation more concerned and involved with how their homes and communities are run. Conversely, millennials are marrying and having families much later on in live, with some choosing never to settle down in the conventional/traditional way their parents did.

3) This is true in SG as evidenced by falling birthrates and more single women. This is mainly attributable to females receiving equal opportunities and access to education and careers, and compounded by the rising costs of living which makes financially supporting a family more difficult than in the past generations.

Fewer births but more singles-- ”...more Singapore women are in tertiary educational institutions than men... Getting married is no longer a necessity," said Professor Jean Yeung, director of the Centre for Family and Population Research. Other reasons include long work hours, the high cost of living and a relatively long wait for Housing Board flats, said experts.

Note that:

  1. Given the 30 minutes assigned for the AQ, students should look at handling 2 out of the 3 above points of argument.

  2. By limiting or qualifying agreement of relevance of the authors' arguments, a candidate fulfils the 'extent' or 'how far do you agree' aspect of the question.

Our J1 students have already started preparing hard for General Paper 2019. We take a break from lessons until January 2019. I look forward to more intellectual sparring and argumentation with my students in the new year!

~Contributed by Geraldine Chew [Ms] 14 November 2018

‘O’ Levels English Paper 1 2018: A Post-Mortem

The following are the essay questions from the 2018 O Level English Paper 1, according to feedback from several of our students and other sources.

The paper veered away from the usual mix of personal expository, discursive and argumentative options. You will notice that, for once, there are no argumentative nor pure discursive options. This time round, every question has a personal and/or descriptive aspect.
You are advised to write between 350 and 500 words on one of the following topics.
  • Describe an event you looked forward to which turned out to be disappointing. Explain why you were excited about it and why it did not live up to your expectations.
  • "I've never seen my friend laugh so much.” Write about a time when this happened.
  • Some people like to stand out from the crowd, others just want to be part of it. Which do you prefer and why?
  • Which modern invention is essential to you and your family, and which one could you and your family live without? Explain your views.

On the one hand, the personal slant makes it easier for the student to surface points from their experiences (and content can take on a more analogous/ anecdotal perspective). A more personal voice and informal tone also seem permissible.

On the other hand, however, students might fall into the trap of using less elegant expression. Thus, it might be harder to score well in the language marks. Content can also be more superficial because of the less formal way each question has been framed.

However, 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.


This week, we conducted the lesson with our students on how to competently answer these essay questions. Should you be interested to receive the notes, click the button below to view and download.

If you're viewing the worksheet on a mobile device, click the download icon to save the file.

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.

General Paper 2017: A Post Mortem

Each year, when the General Paper exams loom, my emotions are a tumult of excitement and anxiety: excitement because I absolutely love the challenge posed in the GP exams. As an educator, GP delights me no end as the questions indeed require students to think and evaluate critically, and write cogently on a myriad of current-day issues. So, to be able to navigate the GP papers well is a relevant skill today.

The anxiety arises because I know how hard my students and I have worked over the course of 2 years in preparation for the exams, and, of course I want them to do well--hence the inevitable nerves.

My cohort of students come from different JCs, with varying grasps of GP. I'm not looking for As across the board, but I am expecting improvements in scores as a reflection of their effort put into the subject.

Still, GP2017 is now done and dusted. I've checked in with my students and now weigh in on General Paper 2017...

Paper 1 was a fair paper, offering a good mix of topics for candidates to choose from. 

The ever popular science and technology-related questions took a back seat this year, though Q2--on the use of animals for scientific research--is fairly accessible to most. Those who focused on media-related issues had 2 rather manageable questions to choose from.

The key to acing the GP essay is in the evaluation and analysis, so 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.

In preparing our students for Paper 1, we are delighted to have addressed the following questions particularly well 🙂

Q3: In your society, to what extent is it acceptable for public money to be used for the acquisition of works of art?

--The key to acing this question is to address "acceptable" and "acquisition of art works", rather than simply evaluating whether public funding should be applied to the arts.


Q5:Is regulation of the press desirable?

--The reasons for "desirability" should be addressed, including 'who', and in what way, regulation of the press benefits.


Q8: Examine the role of music in establishing a national identity in your society.

--Candidates should examine what the SG national identity is. They would need to address the extent to which music impacts the establishment of that national identity. Students should not focus excessively on the other factors that influence the development of our national identity.


Q10: 'Practical ability is just as important as intellectual skills.' How far is this true in your society?

--At the onset, candidates need to address what 'practical ability' and 'intellectual skills' are. Then, they need to weigh in on how and why in the context of SG, these two aspects are of of equal importance, or one outweighs the other.


Paper 2 comprised 2 passages on sharing and collecting personal data online. 

Most students found the paper manageable though the Application Question (AQ) took an unexpected turn in its phrasing, requiring students to address how far (they) agree with the arguments presented by both authors, in the context of (their) society. This is a slight deviation from the typical AQ asking which author the candidate agreed with in the context of their society.

Some students found it difficult to justify their responses with concrete evidence.  

One possible approach to the AQ is as follows:

First: Candidates can address a similar argument presented in both passage.

...that (users') information is constantly being collected about their location, demographics, behaviour and habits [Psg 1 para 4] and anyone with an online presence is continuously... broadcasting their personal data [Psg 1 para 4].


This is true in SG because:

  • 70% of Singaporeans are active social media users on-the-go, more than double the global average
  • internet penetration rate in SG is among the highest in the world at 82%
  • we have access to most global e-commerce sites like Amazon, Taobao and social media sites: FB Snapchat, Instagram
  • algorithms and bots are always picking up users' information, evident in how online ads are displayed according to the respective user's preferences and searches. Google search results on a particular keyword also differ from user to user, depending on their search history.
  • a user's location is also immediately detectable so various recommendations can be pushed out by websites. E.g. UBER and Grab services, location app on FB etc

These factors culminate in a constant collection of personal data by various online sites, which are then used to market to the user.

Related Pages
General Paper 2018: A Post-Mortem
General Paper 2019: A Post-Mortem

Second: Candidates can then take the above argument further by referencing Psg 1 [para 1] "If you are not paying for the product, you are the product"...since for most companies, "their services are monetised either by marketing portions of web space to advertisers or through peddling [users' data to organisations]" [Psg 1 para 2].​​​​

  • Student can cite how all online sites and articles feature ads [eerily curated to suit their preferences and interest]
  • Author's point is of limited application in SG due to government regulation e.g. Personal Data Protection Act [briefly state what PDPA does e.g. governs the collection, use and disclosure of personal data to maintain individuals’ trust in organisations that manage data].

Finally: Candidates can address an argument in Psg 2 and present a qualified agreement. For instance, Psg 2 para 5: the author argues that in natural disasters or emergency situations, 'swarm intelligence' or information is useful as more information collected means a more powerful swarm response to the disaster.

  • Agree--in the recent terrorist bombings in major cities and the Hong Kong typhoon, many were able to use the Safety Check app on FB. Similar applications and programs can therefore collate data more comprehensively and enable more thorough response to disasters.
  • However, author's argument is limited in veracity because the infrequency of disaster and low probability of becoming a victim of disaster simply cannot justify the sheer amount of personal data being collected on a daily basis, and used against the individual for marketing and profiteering purposes; or worse, as a tool for crime or other nefarious activity against the person. E.g As it is, SG ranked 6th in a 2016 study on global card frauds. The study looked at risky behaviours like leaving a smartphone unlocked when not in use, shopping or banking online without security software, and responding to e-mail or calls asking for banking information. The instance of identity theft and fraud can only escalate if information is readily and easily "swarmed" online.
  • The adage "nothing is ever deleted from the internet" remains true and personal data protection should be prioritised.

Note that: By limiting or qualifying agreement of relevance of the authors' arguments, a candidate fulfils the 'extent' or 'how far do you agree' aspect of the question.

Our J1 students are already preparing hard for General Paper 2018. We take a break from lessons until January 2018. I look forward to more intellectual sparring and argumentation with my students in the new year!

~Contributed by Geraldine Chew [Ms] 6 November 2017