SPM English 1119: Tips For Scoring High Marks

Paper 1

Section B : Continuous Writing

These are the criteria for getting the best grades (A1 and A2, 41 - 50 marks):

1) Hardly any mistakes in grammar (including spelling and punctuation)

2) Effective use of varied sentence structures

3) Wide vocabulary, used expressively/precisely

4) Good and relevant points

5) Coherence in paragraphing

6) Well-organised paragraphing

7) Essay is very interesting and shows originality

(Click here for the full list of the marking band)

Here are the tips on how to write a good essay, based on each criterion:

1) Hardly any mistakes in grammar (including spelling and punctuation)

Good essays should be without any major grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors. So, focus on these key aspects. Make sure that you know the grammar rules well and apply them when you write. To learn grammar, click here. To understand the importance of learning grammar, click here.

2) Effective use of varied sentence structures

Many students face problems with the sentence structure of the English language. The problem can be solved through plenty of reading. When you read, your mind is fed with the correct sentence structures over and over. In time, you will be able to write sentences with the right structure. When you write an essay, use a variety of sentences - simple, compound, complex, sentences in both the active voice and passive voice, etc. Thus, it is advisable to make good use of as much variety of reading material as possible - storybooks, magazines, newspapers, etc. to expose yourself to different types of sentence structures.To read, click here for the reading room of this website and click here to read SPM model essays.

3) Wide vocabulary, used expressively/precisely

Reading helps to increase your vocabulary. When you see a new word, look it up in a dictionary to learn its meaning. To score high marks, you need to show that you have a wide vocabulary. For example, you can use 'delighted' or 'overjoyed' instead of 'happy'. Instead of using 'sad', use 'upset' or 'downhearted'. Try not to use the same word repeatedly. Use different words with the same meaning to impress the examiner. It is also important that you use a word precisely or accurately. Wrong use of words result in mark deduction. So, make sure that a word is suitable to be used in a sentence or a particular situation before using it. Make good use of the 'Increase your vocabulary' section of this website to help you build your vocabulary. Reading helps you understand the meaning of a word accurately. When you read extensively, you tend to be familiar with words and know when to use them and when not to. Look it up in a dictionary again when you forget the meaning of a particular word. To learn a new word each day, go to the home page of this website or click here. To learn the words that were featured in the past, click here.

4) Good and relevant points

When writing an essay, it is important to write about relevant points, or write about what the question ask for. For example, for the title 'Describe an outing with your friends', the whole essay should be about the outing. If you write about other things such as your friends' hobbies, that would be irrelevant. As long as you understand the title and write relevant points, you will be safe. The lack of points or ideas is a common problem faced by students when writing essays. Reading model essays helps a lot, since it gives you plenty of ideas. To read SPM model essays, click here. To look at past year paper essay titles and the model answers, click here.

5) Coherence in paragraphing & 6) Well-organised paragraphing

An Oxford dictionary defines 'coherence' as 'the situation in which all the parts of something fit together well'. For instance, when writing an essay entitled 'My Hero', it is advisable to write about things that are of the same nature in a paragraph. For example, after the introduction, you can write about the childhood of your hero in the first paragraph. Then, in the second, third, fourth and fifth paragraphs, you can write about his educational background, occupation, personalities and accomplishments respectively. It is unwise to mix them up as it lacks coherence and is not well-organised.

7) Essay is very interesting and shows originality

An interesting essay does not talk about the boring stuff. For example, you decide to write an essay entitled 'Describe an enjoyable weekend you have experienced' and describe a camping trip at the beach with your family. Avoid including stuff like:

"When I woke up that morning, I went to the toilet to brush my teeth and wash my face. After that, I dressed up and went downstairs to have my breakfast. I have bread and butter for breakfast..."

You can put it this way:

"When I woke up that morning, I was excited as my whole family would be going on a camping trip at the beach. After getting everything ready, we set off for the beach in my father's van..."

You can continue the essay by describing all the interesting things that you and your family saw and did at the beach. It is a good idea to write about your own experience, since it shows originality. When writing essays, it is also important to write about logical things.

Click here for Dr Grammar's tips on how to write a good essay.

Stated above are the important points to note. Apart from those based on the criteria, other points to take note of include:

i) Practise writing essays, since 'practice makes perfect'. Besides school assignments, try to write more essays and have someone qualified to correct them for you. When you make mistakes, learn from them and make it a point not to repeat them again, in order to improve your writing skills effectively. When practising, learn to finish an essay within the time frame given. For instance, in SPM, you have about an hour to complete an essay. Spend about 10 minutes, 35 minutes and 15 minutes on planning, writing and checking the essay respectively. If you wish to, you can submit your essays to Dr Grammar. After Dr Grammar has corrected your essays, they will be included in the "Students' Essays" section. You can then compare the corrected essay with your original essay to find out where your weak points are and improve accordingly. To submit an essay, click here.

ii) Remember, there are no short cuts to success. Essay writing skills take time to develop. There goes the saying, 'Rome wasn't built in a day'. Diligence and perseverance are the keys to success. Do not give up until you succeed. If you face problems or have any questions, do not hesitate to contact Dr Grammar. To submit a question, click here.

iii) Look at the past year papers and study the examination format. Then, refer to the model answers and familiarise yourself with the answering techniques in order to score high marks. To look at the essay titles of past year papers and model answers, click here.

To summarise:

1 Learn the grammar rules well and be familiar with them.

2 Do more reading, as it helps in all aspects of writing good essays.

3 Practise writing essays and learn from your mistakes.
(*Note: while it is good to learn from your mistakes, it is even better if you are able to learn from others' mistakes. You can do so by possessing the ebook entitled '48 Essays Corrected and Explained'.)

**Note: Dr Grammar's assistance is available after you make a purchase of the ebook entitiled '48 Essays Corrected and Explained'. You can purchase either Book 1, Book 2 or the combined edition of Book 1 and 2 at a discount price. The books are available for reading instantly after your payment. After purchasing the book(s), you can fill in the form on this page to get unlimited help from Dr Grammar. Please note that a purchase is valid only if you make the purchase by using Dr Grammar's affiliate link, which can be performed by clicking the ad below, or by clicking here. If you need assistance purchasing the book, feel free to email us at [email protected].

Good luck to you in all your examinations!