• Vanita Pal


Secondary 1 is a transitional year and it can be confusing at times.

The first challenge faced by English students is the length and breadth of the syllabus.

The clear absence of MCQs will spell disaster for most students. All answers have to be written out properly in sentences. You will have to start thinking in a more profound way and start writing a little more professionally.

Ok, ok I did not mean professionally but a ‘little’ more like it.

What did I mean?

Though I did not mean professional writing, I stand by what I mentioned. In secondary 1, your writing must be mature and contain links to societal happenings. Therefore, it has to sound a little more professional.

The old way of writing with a ‘blow by blow’ account of an activity will no longer be a criteria. Even when you write a narrative composition, your essay is expected to shed light on personal growth or reflect a sound piece of wisdom. If this is missing, your entire account will be out of point.

In case you think that this is a mammoth task, I have listed out the preparation you need to undertake step by step so that your secondary 1 transitional year will be entirely within your control.

1st Preparation

The first point of contention for you will be the “Continuous writing” portion. Though you can write around 250 words, the content has to be little more than that if you want to write score well.

The writing paper is all about Content.

That is your first point of contention. Your content has to switch between a narrative exercise in your own perception of your experience and the relative moral outcome. The latter is more important as examiners expect you to devote a bit of time explaining why you are writing this story at all.

Most compositions in your first secondary year are narrative, reflective or personal recount. You will need to have a more structured template for your writing. Avoid writing as the thoughts flow into your head. That will never work.


Ok, if you must know, it is because the examiner will see right through it as it will be lacking in depth and style.

Yes, you are graded for depth which is content by the way.

2nd Preparation

Fine, so you are all geared up for your writing paper. What’s next?

The next point will be the comprehension text.

There are 2 texts. B and C.

Text A is the visual text which is an illustrated message. There are only 5 marks for it.

The real preparation will be for Texts B and C.

Ok, how do I prepare? That must be your question I suppose.

Apart from practicing it, the best way to prepare is to thoroughly vet through the questions.

Familiarise yourself with the questions as much as you can. You will notice that there is a noticeable difference from your previous experience with comprehension.

The questions deal with the implication of the vocabulary phrase rather than the meaning of the phrase.

And the author’s intention is another popular question. Explaining what that might be in your own words is a recurring question.

When you realise that the question is rather tricky, start by separating it into key words. If the question is asking about the implication of a phrase, look at the meaning first.

Decipher the exact meaning in terms of the context and why it is there in that part of the passage. Then, try to figure out what happens next in terms of process of actions in that paragraph. When you put both together, you will realise what the ‘intention’ is.

It is a rather long-drawn process for beginners but keep going and you will be able to tackle this in one step.

Preparation 3

This is more of a homework preparation. This preparation does not configure in your exam papers.

This is one of the most important preparations you should undertake.

i) try to observe what is going on around you in your society. Eg Most popular jobs, teenage trends/ fads, the health situation.

ii) observe world events. I am not asking you to read the newspapers from cover to cover though if you do, it will be an asset. You will have to observe how the world behaves. What are the 2 biggest challenges the world is facing? Climate change and…? Perhaps the Covid vaccine situation?

Whatever it may be, you should stay well-informed. That is part of the preparation you will have to undertake as a secondary 1 student. It is time to take your paper more seriously. The English paper is not longer just a test of language fluency but a test of your response to society as well and the way you communicate. So, rise to the challenge and start following the 3 preparation steps I have outlined. They are simple steps but it will help you to get that high score by the end of your secondary 1 year.