Falling short in just one section due to a flawed idea or misinterpretation of the question will make you bomb out of the entire paper.
– I know of several students who scored AAA/A for their content H2 subjects in the A Levels but get an S for General Paper.
For this guide, we will be focusing solely on 2 sections in Paper 2:
– Summary (8 marks)
– Application Question (AQ, 10 marks)
General A Level Application Question (AQ) Tips
Studying for an English A Level application question can be a daunting task, but with the right approach, it can be manageable. To ensure success, it is important to be organized and to have a plan of attack.
The first step is to read the question carefully and to understand what it is asking. Make sure to highlight key words and phrases that will help you answer the question. After reading the question, it is important to brainstorm ideas. Think about what you already know about the topic and consider any outside sources that may help you answer the question.
Once you have brainstormed ideas, it is time to start researching. Make sure to use reliable sources and to take detailed notes. This will help you keep track of the information you have gathered and will make it easier to write your answer.
When writing your answer, make sure to answer the question directly and to use evidence from your research to support your points. It is also important to proofread your answer for any spelling or grammar mistakes.
Finally, it is important to practice. Take practice tests and review your answers. This will help you become more familiar with the material and will help you identify any areas that need improvement.
Summary is all about language.
This section requires you to identify key sentences/points from the passage and paraphrase accordingly, to answer the summary question.
Read more (maybe look at a thesaurus) and create a list of synonyms for easy reference. Practice and practice paraphrasing.
Also, read the answers provided to see what the model answer is.
Sometimes, it’s not just paraphrasing that scores, it’s your expression and how easy you make it for your marker to understand the points. Don’t lie about the word count!
2. Application Question (AQ)
AQ is about writing a mini essay with coherent points and sufficient critical analysis. This section will be in great detail, breaking down how to score for Application Question:
(a) Overall Structure
– Introduction + Stand
– Argument 1
– Argument 2
– Argument 3 (Optional)
Writing a good AQ will pull you up to a Distinction. Mastering the techniques and analysis is key!
(b) Before you begin (Analysis)
- Read the question carefully. Check out keywords/what the question is asking.
– If the passage is talking about both problems and solutions, but the AQ question wants you to evaluate the problems only, you must not evaluate the solutions!
2. Make sure you AQ is going to be balanced. There are two ways to achieve balance:
(a) Overall balance (1 for and 1 against paragraph)
(b) Balance in each paragraph (for each author’s point, you agree to a certain extent and explain your reservations.
- Introduction should be short and concise, at most three lines. In your introduction, you can write your overall stand. Remember, your overall stand must be balanced. You cannot completely agree/disagree!
– For example: Although there are some exceptions to the trends he observed, I largely agree with his views as they are relevant to Singapore.
- Introduction should be like this (1 line each):
- simple summary of what the author wrote
- your stand
- simple summary of what your argument about
- According to some schools (e.g. RI), introduction is not required. But I have read the markers report myself and Cambridge markers are saying that they want to see an introduction.
Nevertheless, a summary would take at most three minutes, so why not write to play safe.
(d) Argument (7 Steps)
Step 1: Topic Sentence
– You have to first select an observation/trend that the author mentioned. What you select cannot be an example; it should be a main point/topic sentence that the author is talking about.
– Usually, there is a topic sentence in each paragraph. After you have picked up an observation/trend, you can now write you first line of your main paragraph. The most simple way is: The author mentions that “your quote..” (line xx).
Step 2: Explain
– Elaborate what the author is saying if it’s not obvious to you. A simple one line of explanation will suffice. This is optional if the quote is self-explanatory.
Step 3: Your Stand
– I find that such an observation is largely relevant in Singapore, hence I agree with (the author’s view).
– Although I have some reservations, I find that such an observation is still largely relevant in Singapore, hence I agree with (the author’s view). *Write this if you want balance in a single paragraph.
Step 4: Example + Evaluation
– Example: Don’t need to be too specific. Write what you see in your Singapore. E.g. The younger generation in Singapore are spending too much time on social media…./Many parents tend to send their children to enrichment classes at a very young age….
– Evaluation: The most important part in Application Question. What is evaluation? In simple words, evaluation is about using logical reasoning to explain your examples in Singapore’s context. There are two types of evaluation:
(a) Positive evaluation – agree with the author by providing amplification/another reason in the context of your society
(b) Negative evaluation – you disagree with the author by saying that the views are limited/only applicable to minority/based on assumptions that are invalid in Singapore’s context
Step 5: Your Reservations for Balance (Optional)
Repeat Step 4. Try to use contrasting lenses:
– “In short term, I agree with the author, but in long term I do not…”
– “In theory, I agree with the author, but in reality I do not…”
– “Although the author’s views may seem relevant to my society, they don’t apply to a small minority in Singapore…”
Step 6: Link
Link back to the question. A simple one will do. Hence, I find that (author’s name) views are relevant to my society and I agree with him.
Bad Example: John mentions that, “parents tend to bring their children to tuition classes”. I agree with John’s view. I say this because many parents in Singapore also bring their children to tuition classes.
Why is this bad? There is no evaluation at all!
Better Example: John mentions that, “parents tend to bring their children to tuition classes”. I agree with John’s view. I say this because many parents in Singapore also bring their children to tuition classes. This is because stakes in exams in Singapore are high…./Parents are kiasu…./Parents have the notion that achieving excellent results is the golden ticket to success in life….
– To write a good evaluation, it really depends on the question. For the most part, linking your point and stance back to Singapore’s context and evaluating it’s relevance/prevalence in view of our society should be fine.
– Identifying assumptions/fallacies/gaps in reasoning in the author’s points is also another way you can evaluate the validity of his statement.
– For evaluating persuasiveness, learn the ways to analyse the arguments of the writer(s) and how to identify its shortcomings.
For example, you may be able to tell that they are exaggerating the benefits while ignoring the downfalls and so, you say that “While I agree that (the issue) has many benefits indeed, the writer highlights them excessively and omits the disadvantages of (the issue). This leads to an imbalanced argument.”
Application Question for 2 Passages
– Stand: Agree with the less contentious author, disagree with the more contentious one.
Body: Write either 1A 2DA or 1DA 2A using the respective authors that you have chosen. Use the same method above of constructing body paragraphs.
– When picking points, make sure not to Agree and Disagree 2 points using the same author.
Stick with agreeing/disagreeing wholly with one, since they tend to present two polarised views of the same topic.
– Usually you have to highlight both opposing/conflicting viewpoints and then justify your evaluation by weighing. Which paragraph you agree more with.
AQ Final Tips
As for time, I usually leave AQ for the very end, after trying to secure all the SAQ and summary marks.
I personally believe it’s the hardest component to score, so that usually leaves with 20-30 mins. Sufficient time to write 2-3 paragraphs, but 2 paragraphs is probably enough to get good marks, provided you fulfill all the question requirements.
One important thing is to read local news & gather information about Singapore. It will give you ammunition to write for your examples, evaluation and for analysis.