Every year thousands of students have to face the English composition component of the PSLE.
Writing a composition does not require mathematical precision, and you do not need to memorize a bunch of formulas. It is the test of the child’s creativity and reasoning.
Thus it is usually more ambiguous, and it is that ambiguity that gives both parents and children a big headache. Each parent wants their child to do well at the exams and be set up for future success.
But we cannot take the exam for them, the best we can do is to give them the knowledge and explain to them what is expected of them.
This article will give you some useful tips on how to write the PSLE English composition as best as you can.
1. Examine the best compositions from the past exams.
One of the best things you can do is create a “database” of all the high scoring compositions from the previous years. Examine the compositions and look for a common pattern.
How are the compositions divided into paragraphs (what size is the introduction/body/conclusion), what linking words are used, what about the grammar (are the sentences in the active voice, passive voice, or both), etc.?
If you are friendly with the parents of the high-scoring students, you may ask them to allow you to have a look at their child’s composition (or you may even ask a teacher).
2. Have your child copy the model compositions.
Copying text is one of the best methods of learning a new language. When the child copies the model composition, they internalize grammar, vocabulary, syntax, and more.
These compositions may be found in many good practice books. Alternatively, the child can write original compositions n various topics and give them to an English tutor/teacher to get feedback.
After the tutor is done correcting the composition, the child can rewrite it, taking all of the tutor's notes into consideration. This will help them learn to avoid the grammatical or spelling errors they may have internalized over time.
3. Building a vocabulary bank.
Vocabulary is crucial when writing the composition. The examiner will pay attention to the correct usage of collocations, whether or not the words are used in the right context, to the synonyms that are used to avoid repeating the same word many times.
It is essential that the child has a broad vocabulary (relative to their age and study level). Help our child build vocabulary bank, pay attention to the idioms and phrasal verbs.
To memorize the new words better, write down a sample sentence under the word.
Ask your child to use new words in their practice compositions (children always try to find an easy way out and resort back to what they already know).
You can occasionally play fun vocabulary games to make your child remember the new words.
For example give your child a category (feelings, verbs of action, mammals, etc.) and ask them to write down as many words as possible in 60 seconds, then for a bonus point in another 2 minutes, you may ask them to make up a sentence for each of these words.
4. The body of the composition.
The body paragraph(s) are the most important ones in the composition.
This is where the action takes place, so it needs to be as clear as possible.
If the sentences are incoherent, the child will get low marks. To convey what you want to say as clearly as possible, write in short and simple sentences.
If you are unsure about how to use a big word or a long idiom, it is better not to risk it and use a simple substitute instead.
If you can’t use the vocabulary appropriately, there is no point in just writing the words down n paper. Take a few minutes to plan what you are going to write.
Make a rough outline of the story; don’t make it up as you go along as this will make the story seem disjointed and incohesive.
The acronym RAFTS stands for role, audience, form, topic, and strong verb. This strategy is often used in writing when the writer is brainstorming ideas.
The “role” means the person who is doing the writing. I.e., is the child writing the composition in the first person, are they writing about someone else in the third person, etc.?
Then, who is the audience? The audience determines the style (formal/informal).
What is the form of the composition? Is it an essay, a letter, a short creative story, or something else? What is the topic?
And finally the strong verb (is the writer trying to persuade the reader, analyze an issue, predict an outcome, etc.)
6. Don’t neglect the punctuation.
Commas, apostrophes, full stops, exclamation, question marks, etc. These may seem insignificant to you, but the examiner may knock off a couple of points off the composition if the rules of punctuation are neglected.
So when the writing part is finished, read all of it from the beginning and add in whatever is necessary.
7. Check your work.
You may think that your job is done once you have finished writing.
Think again. Once the creative part of the brain has done its job, it is time for the critical part of the brain to spring into action.
Reread your composition and check for any grammatical or spelling errors, then reread it again and make sure that you haven’t used some of the words too many times, if you have, think of a synonym that could replace it.
Make sure that the sentences are logically linked to one another (you may use words such as however, although, also, etc.)
If the child is struggling with the compositions, then it may be a good idea to hire a professional English language tutor.
They will have years of experience dealing with similar issues ad will be able to help your child improve their writing skills in a relatively shorter time.
Need more help on PSLE English? We have more informative articles:
How to score for the Comprehension Cloze of PSLE English
7 Common misakes made by Singapore students in the English Oral exams
Top 20 PSLE Crash courses and Intensive tuition
Situational Writing for PSLE English: A step by step guide