In Singapore, English is the first language and is a mandatory subject for O levels L1-R5 computation.
Thus, getting a good grade and abilities in English is paramount for students who want to do well for the GCE O level examinations.
Having a strong foundation in English would open more doors to university courses, A-level subjects and overall better communication with people.
At the end of every academic year, graduating students would face hectic schedules in revising their work, most would be ploughing through every subject's ten-year series, their teachers' worksheets and textbooks.
If you are one of those who are falling behind, fear nothing! We have curated 7 strategies that will help you score a distinction for O-level English.
1. Know the Marking Scheme and Exam Format
To do well for English, you have to familiarise yourself with the 4 different papers and its structure, especially how many marks are in each section so that you can manage your time more effectively - don't spend too much effort for one section and give up on the others!
Here are the 4 papers you will need to clear:
[ Paper 1 ] - Writing. 35% of the total score
This consists of 3 sections.
Section A is editing where students have to identify and edit grammamatical errors in a short written text.
Section B is situational writing where you have to write 250-350 words on a visual text situation.
Section C is continuous writing of 350-500 words on 1 out of 4 topics.
Duration = 1 hour and 50 minutes
[ Paper 2 ] - Comprehension, 35% of the total score
This consists of 3 sections.
Section A is responding to questions on Text 1, a visual text
Section B is responding to a variety of questions based on Text 2, a narrative/recount
Section C is responding to a variety of questions based on Text 3, a non-narrative text, and write a 80 word response to a summary writing task
Duration = 1 hour 50 mins
[ Paper 3 ] - Listening, 10% of the total score
This consists of 2 sections.
Section A is where candidates will hear twice of a number of recordings first, then respond to a variety of listening tasks.
Section B is where candidates will listen to a recording once and then do a simple note-taking exercise
Duration = About 45 mins
[ Paper 4 ] - Oral Communication, 20% of the total score (This paper is only for School candidates)
This consists of 2 parts.
Part 1 is Reading Aloud, where candidates have to read aloud a short text from a computer screen.
Part 2 is Spoken interaction, where candidates have to engage in a discussion with the examiners on a topic based on a video clip.
2. Customising Your Own Notes
Your English school teacher will give you lots of worksheets and assessment papers or exam papers to help you ready yourself to sit for the year-end O level English examinations.
The materials will consist of large piles of comprehension papers, model answers, personalised notes and it can get very frustrating to read through everything, digest them and re-organise them to suit your studying habits.
So I believe that every student should rewrite and recreate their own notes.
It has to be written in your own words and your style, even if your handwriting is like chicken scratchings its okay because you understand them and can recall them better when you need during the examination.
One more beneﬁt of creating your own notes is the portability factor. You can condense the notes into smaller bites so that you can carry them around in your bag or file, then have a quick glance at them just before the exam or when you are travelling around on the MRT / bus, or having a coffee at the canteen, or waiting for your friends to arrive.
3. Reading Aloud To Improve Your Oral Skills!
Many past O level students said that reading blog posts, articles, story books every day will build your interest in the language.
Reading aloud helps with fluency and and helps you perform better in oral for paper 4.
Some advised that if you want to memorise model essays for composition, then read aloud the model essays that you can find. It works just as well.
More tips to prep you for Oral exam:
- Pronounciation for O level Oral Examination by Mr Goh Bang Rui
- Want to Excel in the Oral Exams? Start with these 10 tips!
- Youtube Video: 9 Easy Ways to Ace In Your Oral Pt 1 (GCE 'O' Level English)
4. Planning and Writing
For Paper 1: when you look at the question, identify the key words and common topics which you can use e.g. environment, economy, sports or family issues. Then make mind maps to connect and link up the topics to these key words.
A lot of students don't plan what they want to write and end up having a disorganised essay which confuses the marker on what the topic is all about.
The most important thing to do first is to draft an essay plan by using point form. The easiest way is to think up of 3-4 points, recall some examples and expand on them.
This will take around 10 minutes but it gives a bird's eye view on what the structure and flow of your essay will be like.
For Paper 2: the summary question in Section C is where students should try to get full marks for content by just picking out the main points.
To get as many marks for style, link these main ideas with simple conjuctions which should give you around 4 marks out of the 6-7 marks.
Read also: 7 tips for good O-level English situational writing pieces
5. Get Help From Others
If you still have weak areas that you still cannot resolve with the strategies above, take action. The steps above can help you prepare for your O-level English examination but you will need more assistance so don't feel shy to ask around.
The first source that is most convenient to ask help from are your English School Teachers, since they are the ones who interact with you week in week out so they know your shortcomings and how to tackle them.
Try to request for additional materials, model answers, worksheets or stay back after school for extra lessons if they are available.
However, most school teachers are extremely busy expecially pre-exam period so they may not be able to squeeze more time for you.
Thus, the next source are your close friends who are very strong in English, so try to organise small study groups during weekends or after-school hours.
Many a time, a friend can explain concepts in a simpler way as compared to your school teacher, or a different angle to word or phrase.
They can also share study notes, other school exam papers, online resources or tips which you didn't know of! Remember to give them a small treat as a reward for helping you!
However, should the above options still fail to help, then it would be wise to consult a tuition agency or tuition centres who have good English tutors who may be able to lend you a helping hand.
Spend some money now to improve your grades pronto!
This could mean the difference between a F grade and a A/B grade, and save you a lot of pain and disappointment later when you receive your results slip.
6. Download Free Exam Papers
Past years exam papers is the de facto method of most secondary students to practice answering the O level questions as this gives them the skills of mapping out how much time to spend for each section and the confidence of handling repeat questions which appears in every year's paper.
Check out these websites where you can download past year papers:
If you come across other website, do let us know to update the list.
7. Take care of your body!
There is no way you are going to follow all the steps above if your body breaks down, so keep it in good shape!
Here are some suggestions from health experts:
+ You need minimum 8 hours of sleep to keep a sound mind and increase alertness.
Since you have to memorise all the phrases and model essays, analyse and be creative in your compositions, a good state of mind is definitely crucial.
Try not to stay up late at nights, instead sleep early and wake up early because the brain can work better when it is fresh in the morning.
+ It is not just the quantiy of sleep, but also good quality of sleep is highly recommended to improve your performance whilst mugging for long hours during the day.
If you are the type who cannot fall asleep easily or always distracted by your phone at night, then you need to find ways to stop all these. Such as listening to slow music (instead of rock!) or read an interesting book (See our recommended list!) which are good ways of putting your mind to sleep.
+ Exercise at least 2-3 times weekly for 30 mins each eg. skipping, swimming, jogging or other sports to get a good sweat and burn off those extra calories from your snacking and sweet drinks.
Good exercise can boost your physical stamina and mental strength to last a longer race, prevent burnout and a better appetite.
+ Don't skip meals! Regular meals give you the energy and prevents your hunger pangs from making you faint or lose steam during your study sessions.
+ Experts also recommend drinking 8-10 glasses of water everyday to prevent dehydration and better bowel movement.
If you don't like to drink water, eat more fruits and vegetables instead. Especially those with high water content and easily digestable. You don't want to be constipated and feel uncomfortable with a bloated stomach!
There you go!
We hope our 7 strategies can help you ace the O-level English examinations or at least improve your current state. You will be pleasantly surprised when you finally get your results slip!
Good luck and all the best!