PSLE English Paper 1 is just around the corner! Here are some tips on what to do, and what NOT to do when that Paper rolls around!
Firstly, you SHOULD know by now that Paper 1 consists of TWO parts.
Part 1 – Situational Writing – 15 marks
Part 2 – Continuous Writing – 40 marks
Time allotted – 1 hr 10 min
Part 1 usually entails writing a brief functional piece, usually an email or letter, and depending on the purpose, it could be formal or informal. Most students (by now) should be familiar with these 2 formats / tones.
- DO take note that there will always be SIX content points. Even if there are only FIVE bulleted points, there will be SIX content points to be answered. So DO check that you have answered ALL six.
- DO take note that although content is SIX marks, this includes marks for the PAC*. So even if you do answer all 6 content points, but you do NOT satisfy PAC, you may NOT get all 6 marks.
- DO keep it short and simple. You are NOT meant to write creatively for this section. No need for flowery language or metaphors. Relate all relevant information COHERENTLY, LOGICALLY and SUCCINCTLY. Try to finish your Part 1 within 10 to 15 minutes tops. Save the rest for the Continuous writing section.
- DO use paragraphs. It’s just BETTER organization. And it’s NEAT. Trust me, PRESENTATION is important. Teachers will be marking DOZENS and DOZENS of scripts. If yours is NICE, NEAT and PRESENTABLE, it REALLY makes a difference when I’m deciding if I should give you 13 or 15 marks.
- DON’T start with Part 2! With the intention to do Part 1 AFTER you complete your composition. NEVER do that. You’ll run out of time, and you LOSE 15 marks!
- DON’T take longer than 15 minutes! You’ll need every extra minute you have to write an impressive Part 2!
- DON’T be messy and disorganized! Write logically, coherently and neatly! You ARE allowed to re-arrange the points in a more logical manner, though most of the time they already are.
- DON’T add in your own information or assumptions. Use only info from the text! Unless they specifically ask for your opinion on something, only use what’s provided by the text.
For the uninitiated, PAC stands for
P – Purpose, WHAT is the purpose or objective of this piece of writing (email/letter/report etc). The purpose is usually stated in the task box.
A – Audience, WHO you are writing to, your target audience will usually dictate the TONE and REGISTER of your writing, whether it is FORMAL or INFORMAL. For example, writing to your Principal / Higher authority would be formal, while writing to your Friend / classmate / peer would be informal. Differences lie in the type of words used too, for example inform vs tell, purchase vs buy etc.
C – Context, ah this is the tricky one. Many think this actually decides tone/register. It doesn’t. Context is about EXPLANATION. You have to set up the context before giving information, otherwise, your audience/reader will be utterly confused as to WHAT you’re talking about. For example:
Hi, how are you? The competition will start at 1pm on the 12th June and you will be allowed to bring only your pencil case and stationery. See you then!
The above writing has ZERO context.
Now just to add a little context.
Hi, how are you? I noticed a poster about an art competition along the hall, would you like to take part? It will start at 1pm on the 12th June. Oh by the way, the rules state you are only allowed to bring your pencil case and stationery!. See you then!
See the difference?
Part 2 is a continuous writing exam, involving 3 different pictures and centered around 1 theme. Writers need to write a story of at least 150 words, using at least ONE picture for inspiration, and they MUST write the story based on the given theme. They also need to answer the prompts provided in the paper.
- DO write in the PAST tense. Check ALL your verbs. They should all be in the past tense unless you’re using dialogue. It’s that simple. It’s a story, you’re writing about incidents that have ALREADY happened. Keep it in the past, don’t confuse yourself with time travel.
- DO check that you have LITERALLY described the picture you chose to use. I have had students lose up to 5 marks (an entire band) because they ASSUMED that just because they mentioned something regarding the picture, it is considered used. If the picture is, for example, an adult holding a child’s hand, it is not enough to say that Jack’s father brought him out to USS. You have to describe Jack’s father, holding Jack’s hand, some time in the story.
- DO check that you have paragraphed and organized your story. Part of Language marks go to Organization. Each paragraph should transition to the next smoothly. You cannot be in the classroom in one scene, and in Sentosa in the next, without letting the reader know that time has passed, or you have traveled.
- DO remind the reader of the theme, at the end of the story. For example, if the theme is A Dangerous Situation, end off with something like: Jack never wanted to be placed in such a dangerous situation again in his life. He had learned his lesson. It helps remind the marker that you have kept to the theme.
1, DON’T change POV. EVER. POV stands for Point of View. There are only TWO you can use to write a narrative. 1st Person or 3rd Person. 1st POV involves YOU (or I – eg. I was on my way to school when I heard a scream.) as the narrator.
3rd POV uses a main character (Jack was on his way to school when HE heard a scream.) as the protagonist of the story. If you change your POV, that’s at least 1 band of marks gone. Some students get confused. They begin the story with ‘I’ and suddenly switch POV to ‘Jack’. POV also entails that you know you CANNOT write about other people’s thoughts and feelings if you are writing from 1st POV, because you’re NOT them. 1st POV has limited scope as you can only write about what the narrator (you) see, hear, feel, or seem to sense.
2. DON’T take too long to think or plan. Get an idea quickly, jot down a skeletal plot, and start writing. Timing is crucial. You’ll need every minute if you’re aiming to score. A good story doesn’t necessarily mean 10 pages. But you WILL need to have a well-developed and interesting story, and that needs WORDS and DETAILS.
3. DON’T use too much dialogue. Dialogue is good to spice up your story, add humor and excitement, but OVER-use of it slows the story pace down. You’re not writing a movie script or a novel, so you need to get the story down fast. Use dialogue sparingly.
4. DON’T use cliched starters and hooks that you’ve memorized. Trust me we know. It gets VERY lame reading 2 dozen stories with the exact same starter – till now, reading about fluffy white clouds in azure blue skies still make me shudder.
That’s it for now! Best of luck for the upcoming exams!