There will be no statement specifically asking for examples; it is assumed that they will form a natural part of the response. Some questions will require specific reference to Singapore and Singapore issues. The paper will consist of a mixture of direct questions and statements that are intended to provoke a response from the candidate. The latter should provoke thought, rather than just acceptance of the assertion. Whilst some questions may appear to have a particularly ‘topical flavor’, this is the result of chance, not design, since questions are set well in advance of the year in which any given examination is taken.
Of course, candidates are able to make use of such material for the purpose of relevant illustration, but any attempt to ;spot’ a likely topic for a given year is unlikely to prove useful. The Framing of the Questions The Principal Examiner submits a selection of proposed questions, covering a range of topic areas. These are then scrutinized by a panel of Senior Examiners / Moderators for comment / suggested changes or modifications. The purpose of this is to ensure balance and to avoid any possible misunderstanding Or ambiguity in the wording that could disadvantage candidates.
The Principal Examiner reviews the first draft in the light of the above and submits a second version of the Paper which is discussed and finalized at a meeting with the Subject Officer and the Scrutinizers. All questions are equally weighted. There is no credit given to a response to a question simply because it may be deemed ‘more difficult’. For the sake of rarity in the Paper, various words / phrase are used as question ‘prompts’ e. G Discuss, Do you agree? , To what extent, Is it fair…? , How far…? . There is little or no difference in the demands of the question depending on the ‘prompt’ that is used.
However, key words to note are ‘always’, ‘never’, ‘every’, ‘all’, and any other words that seem to suggest an extreme position, or one that offers no alternative view. This is a highly unlikely situation and such words or phrases should be challenged. Some Thoughts on the Use of English The Principal Examiner’s report for the past few years has stressed the point hat Centers and Candidates appear to be well aware of the demands of the Paper, but that it is the quality of expression that is the clearest discriminator between scripts.
The Reports have also listed the recurrent nature of the problems to be found in weaker scripts. Essentially, these relate to a) subject / verb agreement; b) confused and insecure use of tenses; c) incorrect use of prepositions; d) incorrect use of language / common confusions; e) certain recurrent Structures, especially’ Although… Because’ . Candidates sometimes seem to rely on stock words and phrases. Whilst this can assist retain students, it can also detract from a sense of a confident personal voice.
Nothing can replace the experience of developing language in context through broad reading of quality texts. Candidates are given credit for what is termed ‘felicitous expression’ and examples of good vocabulary and phrasing are acknowledged with a ‘tick’ in the text. This often acts as an indicator when assessing the ‘Use of English’ mark that a script is approaching the top band. Nevertheless, this only applies if the use of such vocabulary forms part of an overall fluency in the writing. A simple style does not have to be simplistic.
Poor control, leading to a breakdown in sentence structure, is the greatest reason for a poor English mark. By simply varying sentence openings, and ensuring that economy of language is achieved, a good mark can be gained for use of English. The use of jargon, especially when addressing economic and social issues, has already been raised. These are not necessarily undesirable, as long as they are explained and form part of the candidate’s own individual style. Introductions are very important and examiners are asked to make a brief comment on the Opening to each essay.
An effective introduction shows an immediate awareness of the central issues of the question, defining any difficult words, or ones that require clear parameters for the purpose of the discussion. Often, however, candidates waste too much time in defining unnecessarily simple ideas, such as a ‘school’ or a ‘business’. Of course, it is useful to give a brief account of the different types in each case, but there are occasions when an over-pedantic attempt at definition merely blurs the introduction, rather than clarifying the direction that the essay will aim to pursue.
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