• Vanita Pal

Why is it important to prepare for 2 genres for GCE O Level English composition exams?

Ok. So, you think you are fully prepared for argumentative writing? You are only interested in that? Why?

Oh, you dislike narrative composition writing? Ok.

Well, folks, I really have to tell you that it is all right to prepare for argumentative or that one genre which you like so much as long as you have PLAN B.

Yes. PLAN B.

Wait a minute. These are school exam preparations. And you write better in argumentative. So, why PLAN B?

It is perfectly fine to write an argumentative topic but you will NEED a backup. Plan B means having a backup preparation in another genre.


That’s because during one of the GCE O Level English exams, there was a significant absence of argumentative questions. All the questions focussed on narrative, descriptive and expository.

It was such a shock for students who had placed a safe bet on argumentative topics that they were completely flabbergasted. They opted to do a descriptive topic as they had no choice. As they had not prepared for this genre, the method and techniques for this topic were not known to them and they could not finish it in time. I felt truly sorry for these students as they had painstakingly prepared for political, social, environmental and education topics the entire year. It really wasn’t their fault as they had always been used to doing argumentative and it had appeared in all past papers.

Now, this is the main reason why it will be really ideal to prepare for 2 genres. Sounds practical doesn’t it?

What sort of Genres should you prepare for?

The first option is to choose something which suits your style. It should be your ‘cup of tea.’ Or it should be an option you had always found appealing.

What if you do not have any favourites?

Ok. I will list out some Plan A and Plan B options which you can safely follow.

Plan A Argumentative, Plan B Narrative/ Reflective

Why did I choose this option?

That’s because either one of the two options always appear in exams. AND…. Narrative questions have lately begun to be popular.

Really? Why?

I think it has to do with the fact that ‘storytelling’ has become a pivotal interest in our working lives. Let us face it, storytelling is all about who you are and where you are from. And in the business world, where people are marketing something of value, they always induce you to believe in them by telling you their story. It reinforces their credibility and it forms the presupposition of openness and honesty. You tend to believe in people more when they tell their story. This is very modern and smart, I’ve been told.

If narrative topics are becoming popular, it is time for you to whip out your narrative writing skills workbooks and do a bit of practicing.

What? You have no idea what narrative writing skills are? You do not really like narrative writing?

Ok. That is certainly a common rejoinder. Most students think that narrative writing means telling a story (which they are not very good at) and furnishing it with all kinds of decorative descriptions about backgrounds, landscapes, characterisations and interior decor.

It does not have to be that way. Narrative writing is all about thinking of a good Plot. You need to have some background and build-up before you branch off to describe an important happening followed by some sort of learning point at the end.

And in case you think you don’t want to have anything to do with narrative writing, think again. Reflective and personal recount writing follows more or less the same steps. The only other option will be to try Descriptive or Expository. And expository goes along the same lines as Argumentative.

You will need a good Plan B and the only way is to try to come to grips with storytelling.

Now, for the Argumentative and Expository genre. What you really need is some world news savviness. You really need to be on top of the latest news and read a bit otherwise, argumentative writing will be a hard choice for you.

If you were to inculcate, the habit of poking your nose into world affairs every now and then, it will be quite a breeze to deal with topics on world/ social/ environment topics. All you have to do is to think of evidence to support your views. That is all it takes, believe me.

If you think you have understood my Plan A and B idea, then please start preparing for both types of topics. Remember, preparation is the key to success. And I’d like to wish you the very best of success in your writing.