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Score an A1 for O-level Chinese With Our 6 Simple Tips

Every year, there comes a time when Secondary 4 and 5 students would be busy racing to revise their work using 10 year series, school notes and textbooks in preparation for the O-level examinations.

There are students struggling with Mother Tongue, notable for Chinese or Higher Chinese, scoring D7 to F9 all year round. If you fall into one of these categories, taking the GCE O level examination would cause you many late nights catching up with what you fall short in.

Here are some important strategies that you can take to do better in O-level Chinese and Higher Chinese.


1. Different formats for Chinese or Higher Chinese

To do well for Chinese, you have to familiarise yourself with the different structures of the paper and how many marks are in each section so that you can do proper time management - allocate time more effectively for each section so that you don't overcommit on one part and leave out another important section.

There are 3 papers you will need to sit for in Chinese or Higher Chinese.
Source: https://www.seab.gov.sg/home/examinations/gce-o-level


[ Paper 1 ] - Essay Writing. 30% of the total score
This consists of 2 sections.
Section 1 is functional writing (1 personal email, 1 formal email) where you have to choose 1 out of 2 questions.
Section 2 is essay writing (narrative/expository/argumentative or situational writing) where you have to choose 1 out of 3 questions.
Duration = 2 hours

[ Paper 2 ] - Structured Questions, 35% of the total score
This consists of 3 sections.
Section 1 is Cloze Passage of 10 MCQs
Section 2 is Comprehension 1 of 10 MCQs
Section 3 is Comprehension 2 of 10 OEQs
Duration = 1 hour 30 mins

[ Paper 3 ] - Oral and Listening Comprehension, 35% of the total score
Oral comprise of reading passage read-a-loud (10 mins) and video clip question-and-answer (5-10 mins).
Listening comprehension is to listen to 4 passages and answer 10 MCQs. (30 mins)

Higher Chinese

[ Paper 1 ] - Essay Writing. 40% of the total score
This consists of 2 sections.
Section 1 is functional writing (1 personal email, 1 formal email, email responding to blog, forum) where you have to choose 1 out of 2 questions.
Section 2 is essay writing (narrative/expository/argumentative/speech or situational writing) where you have to choose 1 out of 3 questions.
Duration = 2 hours

[ Paper 2 ] - Structured Questions, 40% of the total score
This consists of 4 sections.
Section 1 is Cloze Passage 5 MCQs and Editing 5 MCQs
Section 2 is Comprehension 1 of 5 MCQs 
Section 3 is Comprehension 2 of 9 OEQs
Section 4 is Summary of Comprehension 2 passage, 1 OEQ
Duration = 1 hour 45 mins

[ Paper 3 ] - Oral and Listening Comprehension, 20% of the total score
Oral Presentation where the student will watch a video clip (10 mins) and do a presentation (2 mins)
Conversation where the student will answer 3-4 OEQs based on the oral presentation and topic (5-10 minutes)


2. Make Your Own Notes

Your teacher will provide plenty of revision materials so that you can prepare for the O level Chinese or Higher Chinese examinations.

However, these notes that your teachers give you are likely to be huge stacks of papers and it can get rather daunting to organise and sort everything to your liking.

You might have a big stack of reading lists, comprehension papers, assessment papers, worksheets, so many students find it hard to get started.

I believe that every student should customise and create their own notes.

As long as its in your own words, it can get as messy as you want but you will know exactly what they mean and organise in a way you can retrieve it easily later.

One more benefit of creating your own notes is the convenience of reference. You can have a quick glance at them just before the exam or when you are sitting in the library waiting for someone, or having a quick meal at the tuckshop.




3. Read... A LOT!

You should spend more time reading every day to build your interest in the language. Reading aloud helps with fluency and and indirectly helps in comprehension / cloze passage in paper 2, as well as your Paper 3 Oral.

If you want to memorise model essays, then read aloud the model essays.

If you like reading Chinese newspapers or blog posts, read them aloud too. Of course, do it when no one is around!

Diana Ser has a lot of useful tips on how to incorporate Chinese into your daily activities, visit her blog at http://www.dianaser.com/


4. Get Help From Others

Upon identifying your weak areas or topics you have to work on, take action. The strategies above can help you prepare for your O-level Chinese / Higher Chinese examination but you will need external help if you still cannot resolve certain pain points.

The first person you should seek help from are your Chinese school teachers. This is because your Chinese teachers would know where are your weak areas and how to help you overcome them.
Ask them for extra worksheets or remedial lessons after school to help you clarify your doubts.

If your teachers are too busy and have no time to help you, then you have to target your friends who are very strong in Chinese. Organise study groups with 2-4 friends who willing to help you.

Sometimes, a friend can explain things in ways which you can digest better compared to your teacher. Or they can provide you with materials, online resources, tips from other experts or websites.

However, should both options be impossible to organise, get advice from tuition agencies or tuition centres who have good Chinese tutors and can provide materials.

It would be better to spend some money now to get a good Chinese tutor to improve your grades at the last minute, cos this could mean the difference between a C grade and a A grade.


Chinese Tuition for O levels


5. Online Guides & Free Exam Papers

Most students use past years exam papers to practice because this gives them the confidence to solve questions which may repeat themselves every year, and it improves the time management skills as it gives you an idea how long it takes to solve each question.

If you cannot find other resources and need more practice, here are some sites you can download past year papers, comprehension worksheets from top schools:



You can also get further tips from other online resources:

15 Common and Useful Chinese Idioms

Youtube Video: Chinese Oral Exam Tips

Studying of Chinese: Guide and Technique (2nd Edition)

How do I ace the GCE O level Express Higher Chinese in Singapore

Chinese O levels How did you study for it


6. Be Healthy At All Time

You need to stay healthy so you can build up your energy to fight this battle!

Some key steps to take:

Get at least 8 hours of sleep so that your mind is alert and can memorise all the idioms and recall model essays, create good sentence structures etc.
Don't burn the midnight oil as the brain often cannot absorb as well as mornings.

+ Having good quality of sleep is also crucuial in maintaing a balanced state of mind.
Many students cannot sleep well and end up staring at your ceiling or picking up your phone to surf the web.
Listen to slow music or read a book for leisure are effective ways of putting your mind to sleep.

+ Exercise at least 2-3 times weekly for 30 mins each to keep the metabolism up! 
Go for a long run or skipping to get a good sweat. Burning off those calories and enhance physical stamina to improve your thinking skills and last a longer race. 

+ Have meals regularly, don't skip your dinner else you will hear your stomach growling and cause distraction while you are mugging for long hours. 

+ Drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water everyday, because dehydration would cause fainting spells and make you fall ill more often. If you don't like to drink water, eat more fruits and vegetables instead.


There you go!

We hope our 6 strategies can help you score a distinction or at least improve a few grades up for the O-level Chinese examinations

Good luck and all the best!

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About Author

Tutor City's blog focuses on balancing informative and relevant content, never at the expense of providing an enriching read. 

We want our readers to expand their horizons by learning more and find meaning to what they learn.

Resident author - Mr Wee Ben Sen, has a wealth of experience in crafting articles to provide valuable insights in the field of private education.

Ben Sen has also been running Tutor City, a leading home tuition agency in Singapore since 2010.