7 Essential Tips to an ‘A’ for O Level English Paper 1
We all know that doing well for English is a Really Big Deal, and it is notoriously hard to consistently score an ‘A’, even with countless hours of studying, unlike, say Geography or Mathematics, where practise and steady revision of theory and content will most likely get students what they want.
It is, though, not impossible, and here are 7 tips and strategies to get your child in the ‘A’ Club.
1) Time it well
There are 4 papers to the O Level English Paper, each testing a student’s ability in the English language in a different way. When it comes to English Paper 1, there are two things to know:
There are 3 sections: Editing, Situational Writing and Continuous Writing
The paper is 1 hour and 50 minutes long
Why is this important?
Because your child needs to know which section he would require more time to complete well, and then allocate that time accordingly.
Section A (Editing) might prove trickier for some students but not at all for others; while some may find Situational Writing a breeze but other students swear that it is simply their worst nightmare. Knowing where your child’s weaknesses lie is instrumental in helping him understand where he needs to spend more time thinking, planning and checking.
A good rule of the thumb is to spend about 10 – 15 minutes on Editing, 25 – 30 minutes on Situational Writing, and 40 – 45 minutes on Continuous Writing.
Now that we’ve gotten the general planning out of the way, let’s look at specific tips to help your child score in each section.
2) Know what you’re looking for
Ten marks in total for this section, and candidates must identify grammatical errors in a 12-line text. There are no spelling errors, and we can’t stress this enough – so make sure your child corrects the right thing. Popular errors tend to be found in:
Subject Verb Agreement
Students tend to overlook the first and last words of each line, so do make sure they consider all words in the line before they write their final answer.
Always, always tell your child to read through the passage with his corrected answers before calling it a day.
3) Amplify well
Even with 4 years of secondary English education, it’s surprising that some students still do not get the basics of Situational Writing when the O Levels roll around.
A visual stimulus will be provided in this section, and students are required to refer to that to address all 3 or 4 required points in the 250-word (minimum) response that they write.
“Does it have to be 250 words?” Students may whine. (A lot of them do)
Yes, it does.
Remember: short scripts self-penalise. Meaning, if the word count falls below a certain amount, there simply will not be enough development of each required point for any student, no matter how stellar his language abilities are, to get a, well, stellar grade.
4) The power of three
Purpose, Audience and Context
Our old friend PAC makes its appearance once again. This is especially important in Situational Writing where students are heavily assessed on whether they show an awareness of this in their responses.
Remind your child also, to refer to the visual stimulus. It’s situational writing, not free-writing, and the contextual requirements must be made to score well here.
5) Continuous Writing
There will be four questions, which fall broadly into 3 or 4 different categories, namely:
Over the years, most students discover they’re just particularly good at writing for a specific question type, and have spent a goodly amount of time honing their craft, sharpening their blades, perfecting their skill (you get the picture) in that one type of question till they almost always get the grade they’re aiming for.
And all was good.
The good folks at Cambridge caught a whiff of this particular trend, latched on to it like hounds with a bone, and decided to up their game. (Alas!)
Thus, the Hybrid question was born.
This type of question combines two or more of the above-mentioned 4 types, and may exist in such a way:
“Describe the qualities that are most important for you in a friend.”
It combines elements of the Descriptive (to describe), Discursive (to list) and a little of the Personal Recount (to reflect) questions to write a well-rounded essay.
Despite the change, what remains is students are still being tested on development of ideas and language ability, albeit in perhaps a more multidimensional way.
6) Use good words
This is after all, and English examination, so remind your child that even if his grammar is sound, and syntax is near perfect, the difference between an A1 and an A2 script can simply lie in the type of vocabulary your child uses.
Paper 1 tests student’s writing ability, so make sure your child understands that, and approaches the paper with that in mind. Examiners look out for complex words that are accurately used to describe and articulate responses, as well as add colour to writing.
7) Logic and sequencing
This is often overlooked, and that would be a grave mistake indeed. Both sections B and C have a Language component to be graded against, and a large part of that demands that your child writes in a coherent, cohesive way to score well. There must be a clear logic and sequence to students’ writing. Planning is crucial, so do so before penning it down to ensure continuity between each paragraph.