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.
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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

GP Classes- Not Your Average GP Tuition

Our curriculum is pitched at the academic level of top-ranking schools in Singapore, and focusses on the important know-how required to skilfully navigate GP. 

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/