Category Archives for English Enrichment Resource

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.

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.

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.

The Worst House Guests

Houseflies. They are everywhere and anywhere.

Believed to be native to Asia, houseflies now inhabit nearly every corner of the globe. Except for Antarctica and a few islands, houseflies live everywhere people do. Houseflies are synanthropic organisms: they benefit ecologically from their association with humans and domesticated animals. Conversely, houseflies are rarely found in the wilderness or in places where humans are absent. Should humankind cease to exist, houseflies might share our fate.

They procreate anywhere too, as and when they wish, laying their eggs even in feces. Their rate of reproduction is so fast that, if not for environmental conditions and predation, houseflies would perhaps rule the world.

Houseflies breed in the things we revile - garbage, animal dung, sewage, human excrement, and other nasty substances. While living among these filth, they feed on them too. With sponge-like mouth-parts, houseflies soak up liquefied substances. When a housefly locates something tasty but solid, it regurgitates onto the food. Its vomit contains digestive enzymes that quickly predigest and liquefy the food for the fly suck it all up.

Other than its gross vomits, houseflies poop a lot too. Nearly every time a housefly lands, it defecates. So, the housefly almost always does poop where it eats. Keep that in mind next time when one touches down on your favourite meal...

Something to ponder

1. How do houseflies decide something is appetising? 

2. How do houseflies transmit diseases?

Here's how

They step on it! Like butterflies, houseflies have their taste buds on their toes, so to speak. Taste receptors, called chemosensilla, are located at the far ends of the fly's tibia and tarsa (in simpler terms, the lower leg and foot). The moment they land on something of interest – your garbage, a pile of horse manure, or perhaps your lunch – they start sampling its flavour by walking around.

Houseflies thrive in places that are teeming with pathogens, hence they have a bad habit of carrying disease-causing agents with them from place to place. A housefly will land on a pile of dog poop, inspect it thoroughly with its feet, and then fly over to your picnic table and walk around on your hamburger bun for a bit. Their food and breeding sites are already overflowing with bacteria, and then they vomit and defecate on them to add to the mess. Houseflies are known to transmit at least 65 diseases and infections, including cholera, dysentery, giardiasis, typhoid, leprosy, conjunctivitis, salmonella, and many more.

Spotlight on MOE’s ‘No-Streaming’ by 2024

Major reforms to Singapore's education system were announced in parliament recently, most notably the abolishment of streaming by 2024, towards a system of Subject-based Banding (SBB). What will this mean for parents and students?

From the commentary that we have sampled, a most significant drawback of streaming is how it unwittingly punishes academically weaker students through labelling and stigmatisation. The new system of SBB will blunt this negative effect but not eradicate it, because while streaming is now less overt, it is but masked under the subject classifications G1-3.

We expect it will be quite challenging for schools to deliver on this new policy: there are time-table issues, and teachers having to juggle multiple levels within the same class, to say the least. Administrative and logistical issues can disrupt lesson delivery and the learning process in the classroom, because every system operates within limits that are made even more acute by the burdens it must bear. 

There is an upside to this, though: mixing up of students of different bands, if managed properly, can be very conducive for learning. In perforating that cultural and social divide between 'weaker' and 'stronger' students, weaker students are motivated to do better when they see that the stronger students are human just like them; stronger students are pushed to excel lest they rest on their laurels. For both groups, their horizons are broadened. Anxious parents might feel more assured if their children have a one-track mind and focus on academic excellence -- but life is a long race, and its challenges, multi-faceted. In a well-managed multi-band classroom, students could pick up a more holistic spread of personal and social skills that will serve them well in life.

Moreover, unlike streaming which is very much fixed, SBB seems to offer flexibility – chances for mobility within the subject bands means that a student's education pathway is now less determined by the system than his or her own choices and commitment. For late bloomers, and those who desire to do better, they will have more chances to make good.

That said, the core of education and learning has not changed. In whatever way the education system is tweaked, the fundamental truth remains that learning happens and is determined at the level of the individual. For instance, the system may label a student – this is an operational matter. It is up to the student to not let the label define him and get in the way of what he must do: to be educated. 

At Creative Campus, we focus on building the individual. The education system is not tailored to the individual, teachers at school may be over-burdened, and even good schools can be 'bad' as the case may be; but the student with the motivation and skills to learn, can prevail over these factors, and do all right. We teach English only – language is the conduit of thought, and through our programme, children learn to be curious, to imagine, analyse and express themselves with clarity and perspective. Regardless of the stream or band, this core ability makes the effective difference in one's education. 

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.  
  • Arrow Circle Right
    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?
  • Arrow Circle Right
    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.

What some of our students have to say about lessons at Creative Campus

Click on each student's name to view their survey responses.

  • Joshua Tjioe, Catholic High S4 2018
  • Maya Raisha Zainudin, SCGS S4(IP) 2018
  • Matthew Cheong, ACS Barker S3 2018
  • Zheng Zhi Hui, NYGH S3(IP) 2018

Prefer To Have Your Questions Answered?  Why Not Speak With Bryan?

Bryan is Creative Campus' very experienced administrative executive who has helped countless parents with their queries. So, why not put him to the test? 

A Few Words About The Directors 

Creative Campus embodies two teachers’ shared vision of the ideal learning environment; an ideal that has been honed over 20 years of collaboration. Directors, Ms Geraldine Chew and Mrs Elizabeth Yeo, were the pioneer teachers of The Learning Lab. Together, they have been instrumental in training the pioneering stable of teachers at the Lab and developing its English curriculum.

Ms Geraldine Chew


Mrs Elizabeth Yeo


Learn More About Creative Campus!

Horrible Homonyms (Part 2)

Previously, we discussed homophones, which are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and mean different things. This month, we'll be looking at homographs, which are words that are spelled in the same way, but mean different things.

For instance, the word cap could refer to a limit on something, or to a kind of hat. In the exercise below, match the homograph with the right sentences! Be careful, some sentences share the same homograph!

(a) bear, (b) minute, (c) bow, (d). fine, (e) wound

1. If you litter, you might have to pay a ______.

2. Tim is very conscientious; he takes care of even the most ______ details.

3. Hilda could not ______ to tell Joe the news of his dog passing away.

4. He ______ his clock up before going to bed.

5. After the performance, all the ballerinas took a ______.

6. "Help! A large grizzly ______ is chasing us!"

7. People often say that there is a ______ line between love and hate.

8. Charles ran to the nurse to get his ______ bandaged up.

9. "Do you have a ______ to spare? I would like to share with you what happened earlier."

10. Jenny loved wearing her bright pink ______ on her head.


1. d,   2. b,   3. a,   4. e,   5. c,   6. a,   7. d,   8. e,   9. b,   10. c

Are you ready for the PSLE?

We are pleased to announce that we have a FREE 2-week PSLE English Boot Camp! In the Boot Camp, students will benefit from Videos and Practice Papers on alternating days. The Videos teach vital grammar rules and commonly mistaken word pairs, while the Practice Papers pertain to the key PSLE English Paper 2 components.

Sign up today to receive our FREE 2-week Boot Camp in your inbox daily.

Horrible Homonyms

Homonyms are a special category of words where the words can either sound the same but are spelled differently (homophones), or spelled the same but mean different things (homographs). Homophones are words like "bear" and "bare" which students tend to mix up in their writing. 

Exercise: Choose the right word from the following pairs of homophones. (Answers are at the bottom of the exercise.)

1. The baby (bald/bawled) when his bottle was taken away from him. 

2. "Oh no! I'm going to be late for my (lessen/lesson)."

3. Tom was so angry with Darla that he (seized/ceased) her toy unicorn from her.

4. The cloth was so (sheer/shear) that you could see right through it. 

5. HMS Victory is a famous (navel/naval) ship that was instrumental in the Battle of Trafalgar.

6. He pulled the line (taut/taught) and settled comfortably on the hammock.

7. A (fowl/foul) smell filled the air as they yanked off the sewer lid.

8. Daniel was too (tyred/tired) to shower when he reached home and plopped onto his bed instead.

9. Tricia raced to reach the airport on time but alas; it was all in (vain/vein).

10. "Could you (pair/pare) the (pear/pair) of (pares/pears) for me please?'


1. bawled, 2. lesson, 3. seized, 4. sheer, 5. naval, 6. taut, 7. foul, 8. tired 9. vain, 10. pare/ pair/ pears

Are you ready for the PSLE?

We are pleased to announce that we have a FREE 2-week PSLE English Boot Camp! In the Boot Camp, students will benefit from Videos and Practice Papers on alternating days. The Videos teach vital grammar rules and commonly mistaken word pairs, while the Practice Papers pertain to the key PSLE English Paper 2 components.

Sign up today to receive our FREE 2-week Boot Camp in your inbox daily.

How to Use the Apostrophe

We use the apostrophe in two cases: 

1. When we want to show possession. Eg. The cat belongs to Jack. This is Jack's cat.

Confusion arises when the proper noun that is possessive ends with an 's'. Do we write-

(a) This is James' cat. or (b) This is James's cat.

It turns out, both are acceptable. However, if there are multiple Jameses, the apostrophe has to be placed at the end.

Eg. Both Jameses' cats have nine lives. Not - Both Jameses's cats have nine lives.

2. When we are writing short forms (contractions)

Eg. Will not = Won't/ Until = 'till/ I am = I'm/ Let's = Let us/ It's = It is/ It has

Be extra careful about the correct usage of it's and its. To show possession of the pronoun "it", we do not use an apostrophe.

Eg. The cat scratched its own owner. Not - The cat scratched it's own owner.

Start preparing for the PSLE now

Have you subscribed to our FREE 2-week PSLE English Boot Camp? Students from Primary 3 and up can benefit from this course.

In the Boot Camp, students will benefit from Videos and Practice Papers on alternating days. The Videos teach vital grammar rules and commonly mistaken word pairs, while the Practice Papers pertain to the key PSLE English Paper 2 components.

Sign up today to receive our FREE 2-week Boot Camp in your inbox daily.

“The habit of writing for my eye is good practice. It loosens the ligaments.”  ~ Virginia Woolf

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