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  • Vanita Pal


There are many invaluable tips and formulas out there about doing exceptionally well in your English exams. Even if you know the best possible ways to guide you through your exams, the most important factor you should know is this. HOW TO AVOID THE WORST MISTAKES.

Yes, dear students and parents. Avoiding those dreaded mistakes in writing can be a great boon in helping you to steer clear of the fail grade.

Now, why are mistakes so important? You may be saying this and shaking your head.

It’s the same reason why History is so important. It teaches us not to repeat the same awful mistakes and to keep going on a safe track.

Let us look at it from this point of view shall we?

You may have paid careful attention to your

a) grammar

b) vocabulary

c) content

and yet you may find that something has gone wrong with your English paper.

That is because you may have committed 1-3 of those mistakes I was mentioning earlier.

Now, let us take a look at what I intend to focus on


This is the Numero Uno of all mistakes.


Yes, this is a rather common mistake but a costly one.

Example: Write about the things which give you the greatest pleasure.

One of my students wrote about the ‘thing’ which gave him the greatest pleasure and did not notice that the question mentioned ‘things.’


This is a great mistake as he wrote in the singular and the question meant to write on two or more things which gave him pleasure.

My poor student’s grammar was impeccable, his vocabulary had been honed and polished through continuous exercises from myself and he had worked really hard.

The poor young man had not read the question through properly and did not allow himself the time to properly digest the meaning of the question. Misreading the question like this can be a costly mistake and it can set you back entirely for the entire paper. My student got a D despite having written a brilliant essay on the greatest thing as spending time with his mother and related how they had spent many a pleasurable moment going to museums and travelling together. It was taken as a collective pleasure and even though he had written about many outings with his mum, it was regarded as one ‘thing.’

The lesson to be learnt from this costly mistake is to read, read and read the question repeatedly until you really understand what it wants you to do.

And oh, please note whether the key words are in singular or plural nouns. That will make a big difference.


Do not write in an overly exaggerated manner. Too many exquisite metaphors signalling the virtues of a person will make it hard to believe. When describing a person, keep it simple. Let the situation speak for itself. Never let the character dominate the story to the extent that the story lapses in the ludicrous. When writing something, never overdo the description of that character even though it is the key character. This will not add to the momentum of the story. Rather, it will have the opposite effect and drag the story down into the mire.

When writing an Argumentative essay, make sure that you do not exaggerate the negative or positive effects to the point of making it sound larger than what it is.

For example, when writing about global warming, do not exaggerate and write that global warming will cause the rapid rise of temperatures which will mean the certain and inevitable extinction of all mankind.

We do not know if this will happen for a certainty and to project your view as a certainty is a gross exaggeration. You may have written instead that ‘global warming will cause the rise of temperatures and if nothing is done, it will lead to grave danger for us in the future.”

You did not say exactly what sort of danger and by mentioning it in general terms, you have avoided forecasting. And the meaning is clear without being dramatic. This is a better style of writing.


This is the worst thing you can do. And that is to….”not plan your essay.”

Students who do not plan their essay will find that they may

a) run out of points to write midway or

b) not have enough time to finish writing the entire essay

Both a and b are equally risky. There are several students who feel that they ‘know’ the question very well. That is fine. However, a little planning on the side will mean that you will know exactly how many paragraphs to write and how to delegate your content.

Some of the paragraphs may be rather long-winded and this may cause the student to drastically reduce another paragraph where the content was just as relevant due to time constraint. Many students who do not plan run out of points midway and end up choosing another question.

This will mean that you had lost invaluable time writing about something you should not have chosen in the first place.

Avoiding such dilemmas will mean that you can write peacefully without having to write in agony.

Many students do not PLAN and end up suffering from anxiety and self-doubt.

Although planning for an essay before you start writing sounds like a rather unimportant piece of advice, it has prevented many students from failing their paper.

It is a time-honoured piece of advice which can be used for most examinations.

After all, how much time does it set you back? 5 minutes at the very most? It is well worth it.

Planning an essay should not take you longer than that. I have another little blog on Planning and it will be well worth your time to read it.

In the meanwhile, please pay a little attention to my advice and try your best to follow it. I have observed students making the same mistakes repeatedly during my course of teaching and have often wondered ruefully about how I could rescue them from such a pitiful scenario.

Writing for your O Level English exams should be a well-planned and organized effort. Nothing should be left to chance.

Well, we have come to the end of our little advice forum on how to avoid those ghastly mistakes during your English Composition exams.

Keep all these little tips in mind and you will find yourself coasting along to a successful finish.


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