Tips to score an ‘A’ In English Exams
“English can study meh?”
“I’m just gonna wing it.”
I’ve been guilty of saying these famous last words before every English exam but it is a common consensus among most students and not without good reason. Whether or not English comes naturally to you, approaching any exam is tough and stressful.
If you don’t want to end up looking like this, get yourself prepared with the following study tips
Image credits: Charlotte Lee
But, there are ways to prepare for the dreaded English paper, especially for those who may be more inclined towards Math and Science. From writing essays to oral examinations to acing the comprehension components, these seven tips shared by English tutors will help you get that ‘A’ in English exams.
1. Familiarise yourself with the marking scheme and exam format
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” Sun Tzu’s Art of War quote perfectly encompasses the preparation one needs to make before any exam. It’s also a good quote you can throw into your Continuous Writing.
Being well aware of your own personal weaknesses and the type of challenges ahead can keep you prepared for what to expect and help you decide which components to focus on. This information can easily be found on SEAB’s website with other information like important dates for candidates.
Exams at both the Secondary and Primary levels are similar, each consisting of four papers with components like continuous writing, comprehension, oral, and listening comprehension.
Understanding what to expect and the percentage breakdown of each component can help you allocate your time properly, and focus on your weak areas.
2. Memorise structures like the PEEL format to better organise your essays
One of the most important things that English teachers recommend is having a good format to follow when writing an essay, so that you can present your ideas in a clear, concise manner.
The most commonly taught format is the PEEL method that requires you to present your ideas by point, elaboration, example, and link. Particularly in discursive writing, which is built from several arguments, having a persuasive, coherent paragraph is more important than just having a good command of the language.
Using these as a guideline can give you some direction on how to prepare for your exam. For example, you could prepare a document of possible arguments and organise it via PEEL format so that you can be well-prepared during the actual thing.
3. Compile a vocabulary bank of idioms, descriptive words, and phrases
Another great way to prepare for the exam would be to start a bank of idioms, and descriptive words or phrases. This is particularly useful, not just for Paper One’s Continuous Writing, but for the summary section, which requires you to rephrase important points in the passage.
Adding some oomph to your continuous writing can also impress the examiner so it’s a good idea to throw in some good idioms once in a while just to shake things up a bit. This method is highly useful for expanding your vocabulary and gives you a good way to study for an exam that you otherwise might not be sure how to.
Note: You can also have a section that is focused on synonyms of the same words.
4. Use methods like SVOCA to form grammatical coherent sentences
A table of possible formations of grammatically coherent sentences
SVOCA (Subject Verb Object Complement Adverbial) is an equation used by those learning English as their second or third language to form sentences. It breaks down English grammar into a mathematical formula, to ensure that your sentences are grammatically correct.
Following the previous tip, it would be useful to categorise each word under the above categories – subject, verb, object – to have a better understanding of how to use this method. This could be useful because, tbh, even after 14 years of education, I still don’t know what subjects, verbs, or adverbials are. Cue the shame bells.
Example of how to use the equations:
Subject+Verb+Object = I (S) finished (V) the work (O).
5. Listen to online news channels like Vox or John Oliver to practise for Listening Comprehension
If you thought English was hard to study for, Listening Comprehension is another level of “How to study sia?”
With the introduction of more localised speaking and different accents, preparing for Paper Four may be more important than ever. Long gone are the good ol’ days of the slow, articulated speakers. The format today emphasises the importance of exposing yourself to as many different accents as possible.
On top of CNA or YouTube channels like Vox, you can spend time at home listening to a range of shows from different local channels to get used to listening and picking up information spoken from unfamiliar voices.
To ensure that this method works, you should review the content afterwards so you know if you’ve understood the right information. This practice also gets you used to listening to well-spoken English and prepares you for the real thing.
6. Plan argument pointers for possible Oral topics based on past year papers
As a self-declared socially inept individual, oral examinations can be stressful, especially when you have to think up a coherent thought with close to no preparation. But past-year questions can be found online on sites like Scribd or even Reddit threads to give you an idea of the possible topics that can be tested.
To further capitalise on these resources, it helps to prepare argument pointers so that you wouldn’t be caught so off guard during the actual thing. That said, it’s also important to maintain flexibility so that you can tweak your argument to be relevant to the question.
This method also works for Continuous Writing. In addition to past year questions like “Should young children be given a formal education?”, you can also arrange arguments under commonly tested themes like environment and nature, or science and technology. This ensures you have a bank of possible arguments that are suited across the board.
7. Utilise computational methods to study in a more systematic way
Some tuition centres utilise computational methods to help students gain a clear understanding of how to tackle subjects that were once understood as hit or miss papers.
This method can be used in comprehension to prepare a suitable answer based on the type of question. For example, some questions can be categorised as Inferential questions which can be identified by the word, “Why”, and require a 50% direct + 50% indirect answer.
For more left-brained individuals, having such systematic methods can help them arrive at an answer they can be more certain of. After using the equation to form several options, they are advised to then test the various answers and see which fits the context best.
Learn more about these computational methods at Good School Learning Hub
Image credits: Good School Learning Hub
These methods were uniquely derived from Good School Learning Hub which aims to help left-brained students score As in English exams. They’ve since developed methods inspired by computational thinking like the Branch and Bound method to help students categorise their thoughts to ensure more efficient, and systematic planning to avoid any frantic answers.
This changes the way students view English as the subject that can’t really be studied for into an exam that can be approached with a clear answer and strategy. Other than personalised advice and strategies suited to the student’s abilities, GSLH helps students understand grammar rules instead of simply memorising them like a mindless sponge.
So, if you’re one of the many who depend heavily on luck in these “hit or miss” examinations, Good School Learning Hub is open for registrations to help you get the most out of your English exam and achieve the best possible result.
Good School Learning Hub Kovan
Address: 1026A Upper Serangoon Road, Singapore 534764
Telephone: 6635 6047 / 9380 1966
Good School Learning Hub Tampines
Address: 824 Tampines Street 81, #01-20, Singapore 520824
Telephone: 6721 9484 / 9853 0430
This post was brought to you by Good School Learning Hub.