LECTURE NOTES

Wizpals Education provides tuition in English, Maths, Science and General Paper.
The main exams for which we prepare students for would be the GCE O Level exams, GCE
A Level exams, N Level exams and PSLE.
We also prepare students for the international exams and IP exams.

COMPOSITION TIPS

COMPOSITION GENRES


 Descriptive
 Reflective
 Argumentative
 Narrative
 Hybrid

Select Your Genre

 


Selecting the correct genre for yourself is of prime importance.
Whether it is argumentative or descriptive, knowing the difference and choosing one
accordingly can make all the difference.
First, identify the genre of the essay question. Is it asking you to choose a side? Or is it
simply about recounting something that goes on in your society? The former is an
argumentative and the latter is reflective.

Looking out for the type of essay you are more suited for will be the first step in writing an
essay. As soon as you have made a selection, move on to thinking about the content.
Actually, content planning is a fairly straightforward task. The first step is to organise your
facts in point form. All you need would be 4 points in writing an expository or reflective
essay. You will need 3 pros and 1-2 rebuttals for an argumentative essay. Once you have
defined what you want to say, the rest is easy.


Unlike a narrative and reflective essay, you will need evidence to back up your points. The
more current your evidence, the better it will be for you. You may start with the most
important point first and support it with evidence from a media source or observation. The
evidence has to be clear, relevant and accurately written.


For reflective and narrative essays, anecdotal or story form of writing is the norm. Writing
clearly is just as important but you will need to think of a strong plot. The plot, which will be
explained in the later chapters, has to be watertight. The resolution should offer a way out of
the difficulty for the main character or protagonist. There should also be a moral or sense of
value being imparted at the end. The narrative or reflective essay will only help a student to
score well if both an imaginative plot and value of the lesson learnt is written clearly. If the
story is flat and boring, the composition fails to make its mark. So, choosing the correct genre
for your exam is very important.


Every composition is accompanied by a guided practice with answers, notes and vocabulary
guide. If you follow the steps outlined for every practice, you will be sure to excel in your
writing.

IMPORTANT TIPS FOR WRITING DESCRIPTIVE ESSAYS

1. What is descriptive?


It is the observation of people, places or circumstances and padding it with one’s
personalised style of describing it.


2. How do you start writing a descriptive essay?


Examine the key words and zoom in on the main word or phrase.


3. How to write the Descriptive Introduction?


The Introduction is the most important paragraph as it tells the marker if you have
understood the question or not.
Always start by mentioning the location or the time. If not, start with the most personal
feeling you have about the subject or happening.
Elaborate slightly on the effect and a general truth or some words of wisdom regarding it.
Keep it brief.
Then lastly, write about how you managed to balance it in your life. This will prepare you
to write on the good and bad effects of the object or event you are going to describe.
This also means you will not run out of content.

COMPOSITION MODEL PRACTICES

1. Write about an incident when you were misunderstood by your
family.

The incidents which happened during the years after my graduation still perturb me. Though I had been cleared of all doubt repercussions still lingered uneasily in the minds of those I had grown up with. It had begun with several small stealing incidents in our rambling mansion house at Larenville. I suppose even a guilty man is allowed the privilege of being thought innocent until a fair trial but I wondered if that ever actually took place. The world chooses to judge based on what it sees. And that would be that.


CONTINUE FROM HERE ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED TO CAUSE THIS.
Incriminating evidence
Nerve-wracking moment
Discarded the thought
Suspended with disbelief

Terse

2. Describe a special friend. What makes this friend so special?

I would not have made it through those trying years if not for my friend.My family had gone through a rough patch and I had to change schools every year but it was the constancy of my friend which meant that I could make it one piece at all. My friend understood my emotional problems too well. I suppose everyone of us needs to have a mentor or a conscience to get through life.


CONTINUE FROM HERE MENTIONING THE ‘SPECIAL’ QUALITIES OF YOUR FRIEND.
Make sure that they are special and have nothing to do with common
things like helping with homework.
Highlight the unusual qualities instead.

Vocabulary words
1. admitted
2. rash
3. buckled under
4. admonished
5. languished
6. torrent

3. Write about a time when your act of bravery prevented something disastrous from taking place.

My life had been spent mainly in a hibernation of some sort. I had spent my childhood cooped up in my aunt’s farmhouse and my teenage years were spent holed up in a hostel in France which was more or less on the verge of the countryside. When I decided that I had enough of living on
the outside of life I enlisted as being a volunteer for bringing relief to victims in troubled areas. I was sent to Bosnia Herzogovinia where thousands needed medical attention.

My life was no longer the same and I was thrown headlong into a maelstrom of afflicted victims from the war, homeless children who were starving and the elderly who were pathetically neglected.

NEXT, GIVE AN ACCOUNT OF HOW SOMETHING HAPPENED WHICH DEMANDED THAT YOU HAD TO DO SOMETHING.
Twisted with agony
Hanging by a thread
Turmoil
Plucked up everything I had
Summoned

4. What do you like and dislike most about school?
School had been a means of furthering my education but I was vastly disappointed as the only subject which appealed to me was English literature. I was drawn to the drama and the suspense of that subject. I needed to hang onto something larger than life in order to make sense of
my own. The rest of the subjects were dead to me and I paid only lip service to them.


NEXT YOUR OWN ORIGINAL ESSAY OF WHAT YOU FEEL/FELT ABOUT SCHOOL.
A gamble
Furtive
Whiled away

Pensive
Catalyst
Caught in a trap
Surrendered myself to
Eclipsed it
Surreal
Dragged my feet

4. Write about an encounter with someone which left a lasting
impression.

The memory of that warm summer evening when I met Trish is still vivid in my mind. Though countless other images and incidents followed it is always that particular day when I saw Trish up on the rocks sunning himself in the waning sunset which has become impressed in my mind. I had no idea that that meeting so innocent in itself could lead to countless other obstacles each itself expanding of its own self so horrifically that the end became completely outside of my control and comprehension.
Still, my mind preferred to wander to that warm, summer day so perfect with the sounds of peals of laughter by the water’s edge that I managed to convince one part of myself at least that there was a meaning behind my meeting Trish and that it had some positive value to both of us. Though I tried to hold onto some grain of truth in this thought the memories would often overwhelm me and I would be plunged headlong into a yawning channel of brooding and despair.

Trish was a teenager like myself and responded readily enough to my call to race each other to the water’s edge and back. I had no idea why I had called out to Trish and I always had told myself that it was part of my friendly nature but it was in retrospect that I realized that Trish was a reflection of myself. It was as if we were twins as we laughed about the same things and possessed the same high spirits and sense of amused sarcasm for the droll. My family had rented the chalet for an entire month and Trish and I met each other every day. It was a sort of Huckleberry Finn sort of existence where we lunched on sandwiches on the beach and rowed out to sea where we guzzled on ginger beer. We would dip into the sea with the other on board to pull the swimmer in just in case. The days drifted magically through with sunsets merging into sunrises in an endless succession.


What would be the main topic point in each of the following paragraphs?
Choice words
1. Struck as if with a sword
2. Whiplash
3. Mortified
4. Slipped away from sight
5. Constricted
6. Fixated
7. Brooding intensity

8. Something had died from within
9. Incomprehensible
10. Delved into

5. A memorable encounter
It was the summer of 1985 and I can still remember the events of that year as firmly as if they were etched in my mind with a chisel. My parents were both out of a job and my father had not been working for the past three months. The recession had bitten deeply into the economy and people were tottering from its effects. Our family was in a state of tenterhooks and my
elder sister had been recently married. So any form of sustenance from her had to meet the approval of her husband.
I just finished an art course at La Boheme School of Fine Arts and had a diploma to teach students in secondary school. My basic pay was only a meager $2000 a month as was with all other graduands like myself. I was filled with dismay almost from the start of my teaching career as I knew that I would have to put my shoulder to the wheel no matter what it took. It was then that I met my former tutor, Mr Bobby Zhong during one of our teaching meets. He had taught me when I had been in secondary two and I had had a strong liking for him at that time. I knew that my feelings for him were still unabated and I wondered how he felt about me at the present and if at all he knew about my childish fantasies of the past. When I met Bobby at the function I thought that time had not seemed to have passed despite the fact that it had been eight years since I had last seen him. We struck up an easy conversation and soon I found myself relating to
him all my problems in my new school. I related about the bickering that was going on in my new school and how I had been ostracized by the majority of the girls. My misery and self-pity deepened until I suddenly found tears welling up in my eyes.

TRY TO CONTINUE FROM HERE


1. meditatively
2. despondent
3. trials tribulations
4. juxtapose

5. bitten by anxiety
6. learnt the bitter truth
7. wavered for a moment
8. gasped in shock

You are required to write a letter stating your desire to gain a position in a marketing company based overseas. You have to state your reason for your interest in this position, your wanting to join this company, your qualifications and other matters which you think would be suitable.

Words to use

Impeccable
Sought after
Gained in
Meritorious
Yearning for

6. Write a letter to your friend in the United States about your life in Singapore and ask him about how it would be like if you went there to study.
 

Include any relevant points and queries which are related to your interest. You have to state the time, date and duration of your studies. Also include the field in which you would be interested in pursuing your studies.


Words
1. persevere
2. tangible
3. ideals
4. goal-oriented
5. hurdles

STUDY TIPS FOR COMPREHENSION

Different types of questions
 Analytical questions
 Vocabulary questions
 Inferential questions
 Summary question


Analytical questions
These questions are aimed at answers which are straight from the text. There may be some implication involved. Look at the example below.


Example
The branches swayed in the stormy wind as Lindsey huddled under her blanket. She only looked up once to see that the branches did not seem to be like branches at all but like people climbing up onto the window sill trying to break into her cosy bedroom. She peered feverishly at the
windows trying to convince herself that they were really branches till she heard one of the branches creak ominously. She had ducked her head under the blanket and broken out in a cold sweat. She chanted all the prayers which she had learnt from the Sisters at the convent which she
had attended as a child.

Question
1. Why were the branches swaying?
Answer
They were swaying as there was a stormy wind.
(This answer is correct and straight from the text)

2. Why was Lindsey afraid to look out from under her blanket?
(The intention of this question is to find out if the reader knows how to infer from the text and support it at the same time.)
Answer
She imagined that the branches were people who were trying to break into her bedroom.
(The point about imagining it is not mentioned in the text but it can be inferred.)


Vocabulary questions to be answered using your own words.
How to use your own words.
Vocabulary questions are no longer the standard set which ask for direct meanings of words at the end of the list of comprehension questions. There are many more vocabulary questions which are usually ‘hidden’ in the comprehension set of questions.
There are several phrases which need to be explained. And there is always the type of questions which says “answer using your own words.” These take up about 70% of the questions in this paper. The best way is to remember that adjectives, adverbs and verbs are the
easiest to be paraphrased.

Example 1
He had trodden down the same path at least a dozen times. He wondered how he could have got it wrong. The same Casuarina tree was there with the boles at the base. Yet the house simply was not there anymore. His mind raced ahead to determine possible scenarios where an entire house could have simply disappeared. He felt the most curious feeling at the pit of his stomach which instinctively warned him to choose his next step with care.


Question
1. What is implied by “how he could have got it wrong?”
Answer
It means that he thought he had made a mistake but knew at the back of his mind that he was on the same path.
The meaning of “how he could have got it wrong” is explained in detail.


2. Why did his “mind race ahead?” Answer using your own words.
Answer
His mind raced ahead as the house seemed to have disappeared and he was trying to explore different solutions to the confused state he was in while still being confronted with the perplexing state of finding that he was at the right place without the usual house.


Example 2
She jumped swiftly the minute she heard the measured footfalls which she had been dreading so much. Gertrude could almost hear the rustle of Mr Gordon’s tailored Italian trousers as he strode into the room, his face betraying none of the anxiety that the results of the State exams always
caused. Mr Gordon was always composed and unruffled with that slight smile he wore which was halfway between a cynical sneer and a slightly plastic attempt at being cheerful. Gertrude could never make up her mind about Mr Gordon.


Question
1. What is meant by “measured footfalls”?
Answer
It means Mr Gordon’s footsteps were regular and paced evenly.
The answer of footsteps would be insufficient as the emphasis is on Mr Gordon’s stability in the way he walked.


Question
2. How do the sound of the trousers and the look on his face relate to the
anxiety felt by Gertrude?
Mr Gordon’s trousers rustled and his face did not betray anxiety so it is obvious that his apparent lack of fear only prompts Gertrude into feeling even more anxious.


3. How is it obvious that Gertrude is more concerned here about Mr Gordon’s smile than the exams itself?
Gertrude is more concerned about Mr Gordon’s smile as his smile wavers between being cynical and being cheerful. She is unable to make up her mind which occupies her attention more than the thought of the exams for the time being.


Vocabulary questions with one word questions.
Example
Find the meanings of the words from the passage.
measured
Answer: exact timing

footfalls
Answer: sound of steps
rustle
Answer: sound of cloth moving in contact
composed
Answer: in total control
unruffled
Answer: not easily upset
cynical
Answer: slight indication of mockery
sneer
Answer: scorn

The answers in this type of vocabulary question have to be kept short and as close as possible to the meaning in the context. Therefore understanding of the text is of great importance as word usage in terms of meaning can vary widely.

Answer Vocabulary questions according to the meaning in the context.


Example
Zack thought of the endless combinations as he stood there being confronted by the mass of red, blue and green wires. A tiny trickle of sweat started to form at the base of his temple. The vein behind it throbbed as if it wanted to warn him of the immense danger he stood in. His team stood silently, respectfully as he was the head of the bomb squad with the most experience and also the most likely to lose his life if anything were to go wrong. Zack tenderly touched the red wire as if he would touch a baby. His look betrayed nothing and yet his mind was clocking the possibility of the combination of the red and blue or the red, blue and green or the red and
green or the blue and green or just red or blue or green. It was mind boggling but to Zack it was all in just a day’s work. His tiny cutter appeared in his hand as if by magic and it stood poised above the red wire which he had selected. And yet the tiny voice sensed that this was a different job and that there was something wrong. His hand hovered over it and he knew that he was running out of time. He looked at the giant numerals on the timer which were quickly racing towards zero. There were barely seconds left. His hand hovered above the green wire now and
he cut it quickly. The timer stopped. It had been defused.

Question
1. Why did the wires seem to be confronting Zack? Explain the meaning of “confronted” in this context.
Answer
It means to be perplexed by as Zack could not decide which was the wire which needed to be cut.

Question
1. How could the vein warn him?
Answer
The vein was throbbing and it is the author’s perception that it seemed as if it was trying to warn him by throbbing.

2. Explain the meaning of the “tiny voice” in relation to the passage.
Answer
The tiny voice was actually Zack’s mind trying to warn him that there was something amiss.


3. What does “defused” mean in this context?
Answer
It means to put out the bomb.


Inferential questions
Inferential questions demand an educated guess. The student will not find
the entire information for the question from the text. Most of the information has to be detected. 

Example
The workload had left him exhausted and yet it had not completely satisfied his boss. Wilfred felt bound by the terms of his contract at the university. He had a bond to repay in return for having had his fees paid for the expensive archaeology degree at Yalesmith University. Wilfred had slaved all term working for his boss who hardly prepared any research notes. The lecture notes, research notes and marking had been entrusted in Wilfred’s care and he had undertaken them without so much as a murmur. The term had wound laboriously to an end and Wilfred had
looked forward to the farm holiday with his only surviving relative, his aunt Beth. His plans had been dashed when Professor Dunce Longfellow had sent him a memo informing him of his trip to Botswana in search of archaeological diggings for his new paper. It would be weeks of sweltering in the valley amidst lush rainforests. The air would be thick with dry heat and the distant cries of predators would probably add to his blood pressure, thought Wilfred dismally.


Question
1. What can be learnt of Wilfred’s boss, Professor Dunce Longfellow
from this context?


Answer
Wilfred’s boss, Professor Dunce Longfellow seems to be a lazy,
selfish man who seems to have a lot of spare time for himself as he
has manipulated Wilfred into doing his share of the work.

Summary question

The summary question deals with four major rules.

Firstly, reading the required lines and underlining the suitable points.
Secondly, editing or shortening the sentences which are suitable.
Thirdly, paraphrasing or using one’s own words instead of lifting from the text.

Fourthly, the word count.

 

Every paragraph has at least one major point and some supporting points. The student has to emphasize the major point in the summary and tag on the supporting point. Some supporting points are weak and therefore not relevant as in eg some statistics. Knowing what should be left out and what to include requires practice. One should not leave out too much and cutting down of points to get the required word count would only mean loss of marks. The only way to cut down on words is to edit in such a way that in paraphrasing, the words are shortened but have the same meaning. Paraphrasing is extremely important. Skillful paraphrasing means that one can both edit and do the paraphrasing together in one step.

TIME MANAGEMENT

Time management is very important in every examination. Always allow yourself 5 minutes to scan through the passages once. The scanning will give you enough time to get a rough idea of what the passages are about.

Then give yourself 10 minutes to read through the passages more thoroughly this time.

For the questions, give yourself 5 minutes to scan through to get an overall view. Do NOT attempt the questions straightaway. The reason being that you might be answering the next question which may be asking for certain details which you might not want to repeat. Then give yourself about 8 minutes to read all the questions thoroughly. Attempting of the questions alone should take you 30 minutes.


By this time, with the reading done earlier, you should find it easy to tackle the questions as you will know exactly what the passage wants you to answer.

Remember to always give yourself some extra time to go back and attempt the questions you had skipped earlier on. 5 minutes to organize your summary points. Then 15 minutes to write it.
Finally give yourself at least 5 minutes to check all answers.

UNDERSTANDING THE PASSAGE

The most important rule is to always remember to never attempt the questions straightaway after reading the passage once.

Most students do this and it means that you would not have understood the passage thoroughly. Answers will be inadequate and lacking in content.

Skim through the passage once. This is actually a very rough look at the passage which should be faster than scanning. Skimming is very important as you can gauge the contents roughly and
determine which parts you want to spend more time on understanding later.

Example of skimming

It was four o’clock in the afternoon and Nelly found herself feeling a little faint. She missed her tea in her porcelain mug with the lilac flowers.
That fragrant, slightly spiced tea at four always boosted her energy level and did wonders for her mood. Nelly felt deflated when she noticed the empty dining table and remembered just in time that she had had to brew it herself as no one else was around. She reached out for the tea leaves
and left it to brew for a few minutes in a porcelain tea pot. Then she strained it with a silver strainer which her god mother had given her. As the fragrant tea assailed her nostrils Nelly closed her eyes for a minute, savouring the moment just before the hot, spicy tea filled her with
buoyancy.

After skimming, you should have taken in these words at a glance. Four o’clock, Nelly, missed, tea, mug, fragrant, spiced tea, energy, wonders, mood, deflated, empty, table, brew, herself, no one, tea, brew, tea pot, strained, strainer, god mother, given, tea, nostrils, closed, eyes, savouring, moment, hot, tea, filled, buoyancy.


That should be done in a few seconds.

Next, scan through the passage. Scanning is a bit more thorough and you should be able to take in more words. Scanning is rather similar to skimming but a scan means you are looking for a particular item of information. You have to scan when looking for a comprehension answer. The question you are trying to answer must be fixed firmly in your mind before you run your eyes as quickly as possible down the page. This can save you a great deal of time and energy. Scanning should involve taking in more words than skimming. It is a more thorough reading of the passage.

Example
The ride to the village, Puri was intolerable. The roads had not been laid yet and the ride in the horse and carriage was an experience which Milene was determined never to repeat again. Whatever had prompted her to accept the offer? Milene chastised herself and asked herself miserably if the offer to allow herself to accept the challenge to ride in the carriage while Rene rode in her limousine had been a trick. Rene had as usual asked in her seemingly innocent way if it would not be a completely fulfilling experience if she rode in a carriage in the beautiful landscape filled with mountains set against lush green woods. It had seemed a viable option at that time but as soon as they had ridden for half an hour, Milene had felt sick.

Scanning means you will have these words in mind.

Ride, village, Puri, intolerable, road, not, laid, ride, horse and carriage, experience, never, repeat, whatever, prompted, accept, chastised, herself, asked, challenge, ride, carriage, Rene, rode, limousine, trick, Rene, asked, seemingly, innocent, not, fulfilling, experience, rode, carriage,
landscape, filled, mountains, lush, woods, viable, option, ridden, half an hour, Milene, sick.

So scanning gives you a more thorough view of the passage and more information would have been gathered.

SUMMARY WRITING TIPS

Summary writing is a major segment of the paper. It involves reading, selection, editing and paraphrasing. Many students fail to get anywhere close to full marks as they never
paraphrase. Lifting is a common tendency and though it seems that the answer is there it is wrong to do as you will be penalized for not trying to answer using your own words.

 

The news seemed to have a grip on the people all week. The bleak news of the stocks plummeting seemed to have had a horrific hold on the traders who viewed it as one of the worst financial disasters to have hit them in over forty years. Analysts had forecast a gloomy future in the trading market and the people who had invested heavily viewed the falling prices with a heavy heart. Certainly the times had suddenly turned sour and there was no way of knowing when the grim mood would take a turn for the better again. The currency weakened despite the efforts made to bolster the financial sector and it began to have a ripple effect around the world.

 

How to paraphrase
The news seemed to have a grip on the people …


The news had struck the people …


So editing has also been done which means the words have been shortened too while keeping the main ideas intact.

How to edit
Editing goes hand in hand with paraphrasing. Though you can reduce the sentences first and then paraphrase, it is easier to do it in one step. This also saves time.


Do not attempt the following to edit.

Original text
Certainly the times had suddenly turned sour and there was no way of knowing when the grim mood would take a turn for the better again.

Do not attempt to edit like this.

The times had soured and there was no knowing if the grim mood would
turn.

This is the wrong way of editing.

The sentence has been cut down to almost half and the student might think that cutting down is editing.
Unfortunately if the original information is completely missing than it cannot be correct editing.

 


The Correct way of editing

The times had quickly dulled and it was unsure when the bleakness would change for the good.

All the original information is there and the meaning is still very clear.


Eleven words have been reduced from the original.


The main intent of the summary is to shorten the content but not to leave out information. And this should be done in one’s own words as far as possible.


If this standard is maintained and hardly any grammar mistakes are made, then a perfect score is possible.

ABOUT WIZPALS

Wizpals Education is a tuition centre which is dedicated to seeing you through from manageable grades to outstanding results for English and General Paper (GP). The results are always outstanding provided that you invest yourself in time to get you where you want to be. 

ADDRESS

9627-0300

 

Block 503 Bishan Street 11

#01-450

Singapore 570503

 

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