By Marcus Goh and Adrian Kuek
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The situational writing component of Paper 1 is worth 15 marks, but that doesn’t mean students should overlook it. It’s easy to score in this section, because examiners aren’t looking for beautiful, flowery bits of prose. They’re looking for how well students can use English for a specific, situational purpose (hence the name of the component), rather than a literary piece.
Thus, following these simple rules will ensure that you maximise the marks for this section. Since all the information is provided and you don’t need to come up with an original plot or content, it also means that you can finish this section quickly and go on to your continuous writing.
1. Use direct language
As mentioned earlier, markers aren’t looking for the the next Shakespeare when they mark situational writing pieces. Most of the time, the exam question will ask for an email, letter or report. Hence, it’s important to recognise that clearly explained facts are required, rather than figurative language.
Students don’t need to include similes, metaphors and personification in situational writing. In fact, these are appropriate only if the situational writing piece is informal. Students should aim to be as accurate and factual as possible in their situational writing, especially for formal pieces.
2. Number the key information points and tick them off once they’ve been included
Five key information points will be provided, and it is necessary that the student writes about all the points if they want to maximise their content marks. While it is not a 1-for-1 correlation (since content is marked on a holistic basis now, rather than a point-for-point basis), every point must be included. Leaving out a point will incur penalties to content marks scored.
3. Don’t take more than 12 minutes for your situational writing section
The situational writing piece should take no more than 12 minutes to complete, so that students have sufficient time to plan and write their continuous writing piece. Remember that as almost all the information is already provided, students don’t need to come up with new content.
4. Determine if it is a formal or informal piece
A report will always be a formal piece. However, letters and emails may be informal or formal, and the student must determine this before writing. This will affect what tone to use, their manner of signing off and the types of words that the student will use in a piece. For example, a formal letter would necessitate the use of words like “request” or “appreciate”, while an informal letter can include phrases like “hey” or “you know”.
When signing off, students should use:
“Yours sincerely” followed by their first name and surname, if it is a formal letter or email
“Regards” followed by their first name only, if it is an informal letter or email
5. Determine who you are writing to
The question will always state who the situational writing piece is for, and students must ensure they are writing to the correct person. If they are writing to a stranger, they must state who they are and the purpose of the piece.
If they are writing to friend or family member, students should remember to ask how they are before launching into the main objective of the piece.
Situational writing should be a snap if students follow these simple rules!
Marcus Goh runs Write-Handed, a creative writing studio. At the same time, he teaches Secondary English at The Write Connection. He has been a specialist tutor for English and Literature (Secondary) since 2005.
Adrian Kuek runs Joyous Learning, an enrichment centre that specialises in English, Mathematics, Science and Creative Writing for Primary. He previously served as the academic director of one of Singapore’s largest enrichment centre chains for over seven years.