Tips to Boost Language Scores in GP

Now that we have familiarised ourselves with language tips, it’s time to roll up our sleeves even further to focus on the facts – the facts and figures that you will submit to your GP examiner, that is. In other words: content.

While language comprises approximately a third of your total score out of 100, content makes up the other two-thirds, according to the rubric
General Paper Higher 1(2017) (Syllabus 8807)  It is thus evident that having good content is crucial to doing well.

Unlike the language score, however, which is neatly encapsulated under the “Use of English” criterion regardless of paper, ‘content’ differs between GP Paper 1 and Paper 2.

In Paper 1 (the essay), the content component differentiates students based on how well they present an argument to the examiner (see * below)

Paper 2 is a little more complicated, as it contains comprehension questions that
test your literal comprehension, vocabulary, and inference skills; a summary question; and an application question (AQ). 

For the comprehension and summary questions, your content score depends on how well you answer the questions according to a pre-set answer key; for the AQ, your content score would be based on how well you identify the author’s key arguments and respond to them.

If you win one, you win them all

While all components are tricky in their own way, GP students generally have more chronic issues with the essay and AQ components, as those require more complex techniques.

Truth be told, the key to a good essay and AQ are not too different at their core. Both of them reward*:
  • the strength of your premise (the underlying logic of your argument),

  • the comprehensiveness of your elaboration/explanation,
  • the suitability of your examples, and
  • the proficiency in which you link your points, both within a body
    paragraph and across body paragraphs, and so on.

As such, this blog post will provide a few tips and tricks to tackling the approach you should take with essay and AQ questions.

Bookend your Body Paragraphs
A cogent essay (and that includes AQ responses!) is all about structure. Specifically, a bookended structure, like so:

Image source

Thus, the first and last parts of your essay’s macro-structure – the introduction and conclusion – should echo each other. In the same way, the first and last sentences of each body paragraph should also echo each other.

The importance of this cannot be understated: ensure that both (1) a topic sentence and (2) a summary/sum-up/linking sentence exists for each body paragraph, and that (1) and (2) present the same point (i.e. they are ‘twins’).

In particular, many students are ‘distracted’ by their examples or elaboration, such
that these specifics unduly bleed into the sum-up. Always check to make sure that this isn’t the case!

Essence of the Argument in One Word As mentioned in part one of this two-part series link:, using words or phrases that suggest chronology between points (like ‘firstly/second/thirdly’) is fine and dandy – to an extent.

To write an easier-to-understand essay, your topic sentences must capture the essence of your point in one line. Easier said than done, you say? Not quite – you can actually compile a list of information-rich adjectives that capture the essential meaning of your arguments.

These adjectives usually describe either the nature or the significance of each specific point. For example, adjectives like ‘cognitive’, ‘biological’, or ‘philosophical’ describes the nature of a particular argument; since they are so broad, they can be as easily used in an essay about Artificial Intelligence as an essay about healthcare.

On the other hand, we have adjectives like ‘institutional’ (defined as ‘at the level of the institution’, meaning things like government and schools, depending on your particular topic) and ‘systemic’ (relating to a WHOLE system, not just one part of it).

These adjectives, if used, give the examiner information about how significant your point is in comparison to a more surface-level point that deals with only one aspect of the argument.

Over the course of the year, try to identify the nature of arguments as well as their overall significance, then think of adjectives that capture these meanings. By accumulating lists of these words, you not only create a useful cheat-sheet for yourself; you also practise your AQ skills. Talk about killing two birds with one stone!

When Planning, Think in Umbrellas

This final trick is linked to all of the previous ones, and can be implemented during your planning process. Instead of relying purely on numbered lists, try visualising your points in terms of umbrellas under umbrellas under umbrellas. 

In other words: umbrellas all the way down.

  • Your thesis statement should be the biggest umbrella, encapsulating the most abstract and general idea; namely, your overall stand.
  • Under that should be each of your points, which are the clearly-defined and articulated reasons/explanations/factors pertaining to your general stand.
  • Under each point should then be your examples, which will need to relate directly to your point.
What this does is help you plan in a way that corresponds with the final flow of your argument on paper. At the same time, you can check that your examples are appropriate.

All that will be left to do is fill in the explanatory gaps, and voila!