Full marks for Secondary English Paper 2? No sweat!

English Paper 2 in the O Levels tests your child’s comprehension of the language – basically: how well your child understands the language.
Therefore, know this: It is possible to score 100%.
Or, at the very least, a 90% — both of which will place your child firmly in the upper echelons of the A1 club.
The secret? Read on to find out!


“Shoot for the moon, and if you miss, you’ll still be among the stars”
  • Les Brown


1) Know what examiners are looking for
Having a clear idea of how and what you are being graded for is imperative to doing well. The different types of questions asked in this paper will test your child on how well he or she is able to interpret the information provided in the paper. Examiners are looking for clear and articulate responses that prove that your child is able to grasp the concepts, subtleties and nuances presented in the text and stimulus.


2) Understand exam requirements
The paper is broken up into 3 sections:
  • Visual Text Comprehension (5 marks)
  • Narrative Comprehension (20 marks)
  • Non-narrative Comprehension (25 marks)
One thing to take note:
If your child is taking O Levels this year (syllabus 1128), Section A (Visual Text) remains the same and would have been what he or she has been practising for the last three years or so.
The change in syllabus applies to the current Secondary 3 batch – who will be the first to take the new syllabus. Much of the fundamental concepts tested will be the same; the only major difference lies in how the questions are being presented.
So no need to panic if your child happens to be in Secondary 3 this year, the basics remain, and yes, that means that he or she will still need to have a good understanding of PAC (that’s Purpose, Audience and Context), and those dreaded Inferential questions still hover around.


3) Brush up on vocabulary
Having a wide vocabulary with a range of adjectives and verbs that your child can draw from to articulate his response on paper is a must.
Your child will be asked questions that will require him to explain and elaborate on the language used, the author’s intent and purpose, or the impact a phrase or word has on the reader, to cite some examples.
To score for such questions, avoid using words that are too generic like ‘good’ or ‘nice’, and aim for more specific ones – words that are able to adequately describe an action, feeling or event instead.


4) Avoid careless mistakes
This must surely be the most-often used phrase of any parent or teacher. However, we cannot stress it enough. Below are four of the most common careless mistakes in Paper 2, so sit up and pay attention.
  • 2 words = 2 words
When a question calls for your child to quote two words, your child should quote two words, no more and no less. Markers are notoriously strict with this, and it would result in a complete loss of marks if requirements are not met.
  • A phrase is not a sentence
A phrase should not start with a capital letter and end with a full stop. Many students quote full sentences when the question calls for a phrase and end up losing all marks for the question.
  • Consecutive words = one after another
When questions call for consecutive words, or separate words, please remind your child to follow as required, please. It is not worth losing marks over.
  • Spelling mistakes
Spelling mistakes are unforgiveable mistakes, especially if the spelling mistake occurs when your child is to refer to, or quote, a certain part of the text for his answer. Trust us, this happens way more often than you would think possible, and sometimes can even be the difference between an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ grade.


5) Avoid misunderstandings
Some questions are deliberately misleading – and are designed as such to separate the ‘A’ students from the rest. Make sure your child errs on the side of caution – read and re-read the question. Use that highlighter wisely!


6) Understand question requirements
There are several types of questions that will appear in the English O Level paper. Every question type has specific requirements for their answers. Having a clear understanding of each question type will help your child with his response to each question better.


7) Ace the summary question
Time management is especially important for Section C’s non-narrative text, because the summary question makes its appearance here. Note that the paper is 1 hour and 50 minutes long.
The summary is the biggest question in this paper of the English examination; worth a whopping 15 marks, that’s broken down into 2 components: content and language.
It is advised that your child sets aside at least 20 to 30 minutes of his time to attempt this question.
8 marks will be allocated for content, and it is imperative that your child aims to score full marks for this. To do so, emphasise the need for your child to highlight key words that will guide him or her into finding the right points.
Scoring the full 7 marks for the language component of the summary question will require your child to make a consistent effort to paraphrase the points, as well as use good connectors to ensure that his or her ideas flow seamlessly.


English Paper 2 may be difficult for some students despite their best efforts. Cognitus Academy has developed a keen strategy to help our students achieve their goals in the O Level English examinations with our Critical Reading and Writing framework. We combine this with our Elements of Thought model, which encourages higher order thinking and questioning to getting students the results they aim for.
Come join countless others who have made it over the years and drop us a message, or call us at 8321 8252 today!

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