• Vanita Pal

7 Tips to Score Well in O Level English Composition Writing Exams

1. First Tip – How to Choose the Correct Question?

Choosing the correct question is not as easy as it sounds. In fact, many have fallen prey to this most common of mistakes. What is that, you may ask? The mistake is to choose a topic because it sounds so familiar or because it looks so simple. Be careful. That’s because such topics come with a hidden catch.

Example

Write about the simplest pleasures in life.


This sounds simple enough as the topic says. Most students will pounce on it and write about the pleasure of spending time with one’s family or friends. Sounds good. Then they will go on to describe how spending time with their family is a rewarding and delightful experience and reinforce it with wholesome truths about moral values and family unity.

Delightful.

Except for one Glaring error. The entire topic has been misread. The topic mentioned ‘pleasures’ not ‘pleasure’ which means that more than one pleasure has to be written. Failure to do so will mean a fail grade or just a borderline pass if the examiner is merciful.

What is the lesson to be learnt from this? Never jump to the writing part without analysing the question carefully. Writing on more than one pleasure is not that easy as it requires careful balance and time management of writing 2 sets of experiences.


2. Second Tip – That secret Vocabulary Trick

This is not really such a big secret but most students do not use this ‘trick’. The trick is simply this. Sprinkle some of the vocabulary words and phrases which you have learnt in your English class or in your self-study. They should be descriptive and attractive adjectives/ phrases. Examples, ‘succinct’, ‘with great deliberation’, ‘hoisted with his own petard’. These are all very descriptive words and phrases and they will be enticing to the marker when reading it. They signal to the marker that you possess a gift with words and it will immediately prevent your essay from being run-of-the-mill or boring.




3. Third Tip – The Neat Template


The Neat Template means organising your essay into paragraphs that reflect the intent of the question. There should be an introduction with a Hook and an exploration of key words with a Thesis statement at the end if it’s not a narrative essay.

Then there should be a sub – division of paragraphs with a Point, Evidence, Elaboration and Link back format for each paragraph. Even narrative essays need a point and the evidence can be a reference to an observation reflecting your personal struggle. Most narrative essays follow the template of etching out a background which leads to a climax or the main struggle. Then the gradual ‘realisation’ followed by the ‘learning point’ which should hold the main residual change in the story.

Other types of essays such as expository or argumentative should rely on the PEEL format. The most important part is to organise your paragraphs properly so that there is enough coverage of the question. Then, the final paragraph, the conclusion should be given enough space so that you round up everything.


4. Fourth Tip – That Impressive Start

The start has to be impressive, no doubt about that. It is like making a great first impression. Of course, it cannot be all about impression only. That is why I mentioned the Template and Choice of question first. Preparing for the entire essay is very important.

However, that great first paragraph of that impressive first line is like putting your foot in the door and making sure that you are giving it all you’ve got!

The Hook is that opening line where you shoot out your view of the question. Many authors have started with great opening lines for their masterpieces and those words have stuck. You may start with a personal view of how you now feel about that experience and then work your way back to the past.


5. Fifth Tip – Impact with Idioms/ Modern Phrases

A great way to express your learning point or a salient observation is to reinforce it with an idiom or a modern phrase or quote from a famous person. “Never judge a book by its cover”. This means to look beyond the surface and can be used for a variety of topics. Such words always create more sympathy with the reader. Modern quotes or phrases such as famous presidents such as Franklin D Roosevelt’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. Such words resonate with examiners and jump start you on the path to glittering grades!


6. Sixth Tip – The ‘original’ plot

There is really no such thing as the original plot. There have been so many hackneyed story plots based on Hollywood, Bollywood etc movies or the other way around that it is really hard to tell if a story is original or simply a borrowed version of ‘old’ and ‘new’.

Never fear. There is a way to write an ‘original’ story. You have to be good with borrowing bits from several sources and rehashing them. The story has to ‘sound’ original. It does not have to ‘be’ original. In order to do this, you need to be able to tap on plays, books, news articles or even actual observations to write a really good ‘original’ seeming story. This will mean instant appreciation on the part of the marker and you will be able to score an A effortlessly.


7. Seventh Tip – That Resounding Conclusion


Your conclusion should be vibrant, dynamic and philosophical. It should provoke and compel the reader to agree with your point. Does that sound like a tall order?

Do not despair. All you need is a format for your conclusion. Make sure that you summarise the main points you have made briefly at the start of this paragraph. Then explain your views and insert a philosophical point of view at the end. This should relate to the question and also reflect your state of mind about what has happened so far or is likely to.

Always put some effort in writing your conclusion. At Wizpals, we have formulas for conclusion writing skills. Most students think this is the area of the least concern but it should be the most important area for you to score. After all, this is the paragraph where you can create the greatest impact as that is also when you will be graded immediately after. It is up to you to create that dynamic finish and earn your grades.