6 ways to ace the GCE O-Level English examinations

Sujin Thomas
Fri, Oct 7, 2016

It's that time of the year when year-end examinations are around the corner.

For those about to sit for their GCE O-Level exams and parents, it's a daunting period of stress, preparation and anticipation.

But help is at hand: AsiaOne spoke to an expert from the British Council Singapore who offered sagely advice on how to prepare and ace both GCE O-Level English papers - Writing and Comprehension - which will be held on Oct 24.

Mr Robert Playfair, is the British Council Singapore's head of Secondary Courses and has worked as a teacher in the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan and Vietnam.

He has taught since 2005 and is also a teacher trainer, having delivered workshops and training courses to Ministry of Education teachers as well as British Council teachers in Vietnam and Singapore.


1. Paper 2: Get four points in the summary question in Section C and move on

For the summary question in Section C of the Comprehension paper, most students are able to pick out main points to get full marks for content, but it is very rare to get the full 6-7 marks for style. The easiest way to tackle this is to link these main ideas with simple conjunctions. This gives you those four points for style and then, move on.

Read also: Effective ways to help children revise for exams

2. Work on drawing up an essay plan

Don't just do past-year examination papers to prepare for Paper 1 (Writing) of the exam. It is one way and gives you fluency but it is quite time consuming. An easier way is to write out an essay plan in point form - pick out three points, come up with examples and elaborate on them. This should take you no more than 10 minutes to do. Planning is something students generally don't do and creates a distinction between an essay which is confused and one that's well developed.

3. Use the 10-year-series to improve on grammar

It's really how you use the 10-year-series. When you work on a 10-year-series assessment, look at the answers and ask why something is right and then try to identify the common forms of errors. Common errors include those involving singular and plural nouns, tenses and subject/verb agreement.

4. Paper 1 strategy

In the exam, the basic strategy is to identify the key words in the question and draw on background knowledge of the topic. Before the exam, identify common topics in areas of technology, environment, family issues and sports for example, and make mind maps using what you know about the topics.

5. Try out a past-year A-Level English paper.

Just do this once. The huge jump in difficulty will you give you a boost of confidence once you go back to looking at an O-Level 10-year-series assessment again.

6. Talk to your parents (Yes, really)

Exam periods can be times of stress and isolation so don't go through this alone. Talk to your parents about issues you are concerned about or don't really understand. Even if your parents are not teachers, they will be able to share their points of view and give you a boost of confidence.