top of page
  • Vanita Pal


Most students and parents think the English exam paper is based on everything. Editing, Visual Text, Situation writing, Comprehension, summary and continuous writing.

Yes, these are the various components of the O Level English paper.

Now, for the million-dollar question?

Is it possible for the paper to be based on all these or is there one singular skill which it is based on?

To tell you the truth, the O level English paper is one of the most difficult papers in English exams.

The GCE O Level Cambridge exams are in themselves one of the most difficult papers to score in. The questions are tougher than the other exams and students are supposed to prepare rigorously and sit for the papers with a sort of religious zeal.

The O Level English paper tests you on several skills including the ability to read and speak spontaneously.

And the written papers have several important components.

The Components for the O Level English Paper

1 Comprehension analysis skills

2 Journalistic/ letter writing styles

3 summary skills

4 writing on unseen topics

5 visual texts which demand interpretation of situations

6 grammar, punctuation skills

All of these require skills which have to be honed and polished till you can apply them in your exams.

And the preparation has to go on for a few years of which at least one year has to be spent in intensive preparation.

What if you have only one year or less to prepare for this rigorous examination?

What if your grades have been consistently low and you are now facing the last few months before your exams?

You will probably be racking your brain and feverishly doing some assessments at the last minute. There is no harm in doing assessment papers but seriously, how many papers are you going to do before your O levels?

10? 20? And will all that have an impact at the last minute? What about your other papers?

Cramming is not really the best option, though in some cases, in may help if it were to be just a solo test. In the case of the rigorous O level exams, I would suggest studying qualitatively rather than quantitatively.

What I mean is that it is better to get to the bottom of the English O level paper and try to figure out what the paper is really based on?

I know, I know…it is an English Language paper.

What I meant is if there is a consistency in the focus of this paper.

The only real consistency in the focus of all these sections is vocabulary.

How can it be vocabulary when each section has different questions and content?

That may be so, but if you were to look closely at the focus and questions, they invariably concern your ability to understand, interpret and answer the questions ‘in your own words.’

It always boils down to that. Answering in your own words. This means that you have to be able to analyse the contextual meaning and be able to paraphrase it clearly.

In case you think that this is only needed in the composition paper, you are wrong.

Yes, a good command of vocabulary is needed for writing and you will be able to sail high with a good score but the questions in both the comprehension texts focus primarily on vocabulary.

Text B, the narrative passage, focuses on vocabulary and Text C, the information-based passage tests you on inference skills which means the ability to guess the answers based on the text.

Both passages are meant to test students on their ability to understand the text clearly and read the hidden meanings effectively.

The only skill which will help you in this area is, Vocabulary skills.

The summary component explicitly mentions that you will need to paraphrase and not lift from the passage. You are expected to edit and paraphrase, another area where your vocabulary skills will be useful.

The visual text component expects you to interpret the ‘message’ in the illustration and interpret it in your own words too. You will also be asked to give your view of what the main content is and how to interpret the captions. You are expected to infer and give your own view of these.

The emphasis is always on vocabulary skills throughout all of these sections. And if you already have a good store of vocabulary words, your task is quite simple. For those of you who would like to improve in your vocabulary skills, take heart.

You still have time in the next few months to prepare for your English O level exams. Turn to my blogs on vocabulary skills where I have given plenty of tips on trying to improve yourself.

Or you may look out for my forthcoming blogs where I will share specific vocabulary skills just for Paper 1 and 2.

In the meantime, stay focused and keep your eyes peeled for vocabulary words which you can use. Remember, it is really all about vocabulary if you need to get ahead in this rigorous paper.


bottom of page