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