Top 10 Tips to Ace GP: The Lowdown on Language

For junior college students, General Paper (GP) is possibly the last English paper in your lives – the ‘final boss’, so to speak.

Even though the requirements for GP seem straightforward, scoring well is not as simple as it seems. Hopefully, these tips can help you do just that.

Before we begin, a note for the uninitiated: students will have to sit for two papers as part of the GP examination. Paper 1 requires you to write an essay, while Paper 2 is a comprehension piece that additionally includes a summary and application question.

Doing well in all of these components thus requires you to master different skillsets. This blog post will focus on language. Why?

If you look closely at the rubric , “Use of English” – referring to the standardness of your grammar and appropriacy of your vocabulary use – takes up 35% of your total score upon 100.

Having a good sense of how you can use language to your benefit is thus a third of the battle won.

If you don’t pride yourself on “bombastic vocabulary”, don’t worry. As long as your grammar is adequate, you have a fighting chance at a good GP grade!

Choose your synonyms wisely

This is especially pertinent when writing summaries and answering ‘in your own words’ questions: do not think that word X can freely substitute the word Y just because the dictionary/thesaurus states that they are synonyms!

Often, dictionaries need to condense immense amounts of word-related information into tiny pockets of data. Resultantly, the  ‘synonyms’ they provide are acontextual – meaning, blind to the way that word X is actually used in the passage. For example, the word ‘candid’ means frank or forthright; however, a  ‘candid photo’ cannot be rephrased as ‘forthright snapshot’.

When you use ‘synonyms’ inappropriately, you show the marker that you are merely rephrasing for the sake of it, which does not bode well for your “Use of Language” score.

Hence, you must consider if the synonym you want to use suits the context at hand. If you are having trouble with force-fitting literal one-to-one rephrases (for example, if you can’t think of a good synonym), try paraphrasing more broadly. For example,

This is for all the people who struggle with essays and AQs. I am a huge fan of signposting, which is the practice of using key words and phrases to guide your reader through your piece.

Signposts express the relationships between concepts in your essay, allowing the reader to understand your flow of logic better.

There are two main types of signposts that you can use. Firstly, there are what people call major signposts, which are the signposting phrases that go at the start of each paragraph.

  • In your introduction, you can write something like “in this essay, I will…” or “this essay argues/discusses/outlines…” (depending on whether your essay is argumentative or discursive in nature).
  • In your body paragraphs, you can use signposts that suggest chronological order, like “firstly/secondly/thirdly/lastly”. If you want to get fancy with it, you can employ variations like “first and foremost” or “the penultimate (second-last) reason is…”.
  • However, a better GP argumentative essay would use major signposts that indicate your specific line of reasoning, especially when you’re introducing contrasting arguments e.g. “however”, “on the other hand” and “in contrast/contrarily/conversely”.
  • Most students know the obvious, yet highly unimaginative, signpost for conclusions… “in conclusion”. Switch it up, surprise the marker! Other than using variations like “to conclude/in sum/summing up”, you can simply make statements such as “it is evident/clear from [insert argument] that [insert stand]”.

Then, there are what I like to call minor signposts, which are signposting phrases that go inside paragraphs. Minor signposts relationally link the various ideas that you introduce within each body paragraph. These A.R.E.:

  • Addition – “furthermore/moreover/in addition, [elaborate]”. Sometimes you have to clearly express causality between factors, in which case you can use e.g. “A causes/gives rise to/leads to/brings about/engenders B”, “A incites/triggers/sparks B”, or “A expedites/accelerates B”.
  • Reiteration – “again”/”similarly”.
  • Evidence – “for example/instance”, “examples include…”, “…, which proves/evinces/shows that…” are all useful phrases to use.

To reiterate, using signposts makes your arguments/discussion more easily understandable to the marker. Their usefulness cannot be overstated!

Sometimes, an essay topic may be particularly complex. Sometimes, a paragraph may seem impossible to paraphrase. At these times, you may have issues with content, let alone language!

If you ever come across this situation, focus on content (after all, it’s two-thirds of your total grade). Ensure that your sentences are grammatically sound and that your points make sense.

For tips on how to improve your content, refer to our next post 🙂

GP Classes

As time is required to cultivate the skills needed for the GP components, we urge students wishing to improve their GP grades to enrol in classes ASAP.

Our GP classes are conducted by our director, Ms Geraldine Chew 

  • Thursday 7pm
  • Saturday 12pm

To find out more about Ms Chew, click on this link Meet Our Directors

Do contact us at 6455 3063 or to enrol your child and/or for more information.

Want more GP-related information?

We share some insight into the GP 2019 Papers 1 and 2 General Paper 2019 post mortem

For more information on our GP programme, visit GP tuition