Monday, May 4, 2009




    In the first section of the SPM English Paper 2, students are expected to spend about thirty minutes, expanding on given notes. For this section, imagination and creativity do come into play because even though certain facts are given, they serve as a mere guide. You are required to do at least three major things:

    1. Use the right format for your writing
    2. Include all the facts given in the question
    3. Elaborate or provide your OWN but relevant details) on these given facts.

    From the total of 30 marks awarded here, 15 are for CONTENT and the other 15 is for LANGUAGE USE.

    As a student, you can easily get full marks for content provided you follow the ensuing good advice.


    There are three important aspects to awarding of marks for content.

    a) Format

    Marks awarded are usually in the range of 2-3. Make sure you read the instructions carefully. You may be required to write an informal letter, a formal letter, a speech, an article or a report. In each case, you must thoroughly realize how important it is that you suit the right format to the questions.

    b) Inclusion of Given Facts

    Certain facts are given in the question itself. Usually 6-7 marks are awarded if you include ALL the given facts in your writing do not leave even a single one. Couch each fact in a complete sentence. If you just use phrases or if the sentence you make is meaningless, no marks will be given.

    c) Elaboration

    Finally about 6-7 marks are awarded if you add details of your own to make your writing more intresting. No details - no marks !

    Remember, one extra sentence or two is usually enough. You don’t have to write and write. Also, the details must be relevant, suitable and interesting too. You need to invest a little time and imagination here so that your writing won’t come across as "dry and dull".


    Finally, the remainder 15 marks are allocated for language use. You must try and make sure that grammar, spelling and punctuation are as error-free as possible. Do take a little trouble to check through your writing. Write shorter sentences if you are not too sure about grammar. Avoid words that you do not know how to spell. But do begin from now to revise the spelling of simple words like "sincerely", "faithfully", "fine", "thank you", and other such frequently used words.


Section B of the SPM English Paper 2 presents a question on summary writing. You are advised to spend forty-five minutes on this section.

For this section, a total of 3 marks are allocated. Of these, 20 are awarded for content and another 10 for language accuracy and style. Read the instructions carefully. By doing this, you ought to know very clearly:

  1. Which part of the passage is supposed to be summarized (you may to be required to summarize the WHOLE passage)
  2. What aspect of the content of the passage is to be summarized. (For instance, you may be asked to summarize only the advantages or disadvantages, or certain reactions of people or even the causes/outcomes of certain incident.
  3. The length of your summary – i.e the number of words that you are allowed in your final summary. If it is stated that your summary MUST not be longer than 160 words, please adhere to this word limit. If you write more than 160 words, all the extra facts contained there are NOT taken into account by the examiner.
  4. Take note of any starting words or phrases given and use them as instructed to begin your summary. Don’t forget the number of words in the starting line are included in counting the total number of words in your summary.

Once you have understood the question clearly, only ten should you begin to read the passage. Try to understand what the passage is all about – what its message/theme is or what the story is about.

During the second reading, begin to underline the important ideas and relevant tails. Pick these out and list them down. Do ensure that the points you are picking out are meeting the requirements of the question given. Read the passage once more to ensure that you have not left out any pertinent points.

Now, begin summarizing. Ignore irrelevant explanations and superfluous examples. Focus on the main ideas and those that support the theme of the passage. Generalize and convert lengthy sentences into shorter ones. Use one, or shorter words that can substitute the meaning of a long phrase in the passage. For example, "my mother, my father, my brother, and sister" can be rephrased as my family.

Group similar points together - for example the feelings of a person or the advantages of a certain procedure/machine. Rather than use three or four sentences to convey all of it, you ca put it all in one or two sentences. Use commas – they help. You will need skill for this, and that is why you should practice writing a lot of summaries before the real examination.

Many students grapple with summary writing because they get caught up with the words used in the passage. They want to use all of them. The reason? They feel that the author’s words are best and that almost all that is contained within the original passage is important and necessary to be included in their summary. As such, most students tend to copy the author’s words as much as possible and try to include almost everything from the original passage into the summary.

The result is a chop cut-and-paste version of the original. It has little meaning and relevance. It is NOT even a summary and you get a few marks when you write a chopped summary like this.

Remember, you get more marks if you use your OWN WORDS. I know this is not easy, but you must try. Don’t be afraid to rearrange, reorganize and compound facts. The main issue here is whether you have understood the meaning of the passage and whether you can faithfully translate it into a passage that is made up mainly of your own words.

So, begin practicing writing a lot of summaries now. Every time you read a report in a newspaper or an article in a magazine, ask yourself – what is this repot/article all about? What is its message? Try to summarize it in your mind. Imagine that someone younger is asking you what is it that you are reading, and try to visualize the simplified answer/version that you are going to tell him/her. That is a summary.

Where marks are concerned, try to get as many as you can for CONTENT. Stick to the meaning of the passage as much as possible but do it using your own words. Do not be lazy. Secure as many points as you can by reading and scanning the passage carefully for relevant facts and details.

Jot all of these down diligently and try to incorporate them all in a simplified, summarized form. Try not to leave out important fact. Each fact left out means one less mark for you.

As for language, do take the trouble to read through your final draft and make sure that your grammar, punctuation and spelling are as accurate as you can possibly make them. Your error must be minimal and the language you use must not make it difficult for the examiner to understand what you are trying to say.


Section C of the SPM English Paper 2 presents a question on Continuous Writing. Students are advised to spend about one hour on this section.

5 topics will be given and choose only ONE.

  1. Recognise the type of essay you are going to attempt i.e. whether it’s a narrative, descriptive, expository, argumentative or reflective.
  2. Understand the chosen topic so that you do not write out of point.
  3. Plan what you are going to write about.
  4. Include enough good and relevant points.
  5. Organize your points well and present each new or main point in a separate paragraph.
  6. Show coherence in paragraphs.
  7. Use idiomatic expression and include the active voice for narrative essays.
  8. Vary the length and structure of sentences
  9. Introduce your essay impressively and conclude it in a meaningful or original way.
  10. Check for spelling, punctuation, grammatical correctness, especially the usage of tenses and pronouns.
  11. Factual topics should as far as possible be avoided. This is because the material you use must be based on facts and not "guess work".

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