New O level English syllabus for 2013

Recently, a Straits Times reader wrote a letter about the new English O levels syllabus. I thought I should share more information about the revised syllabus.

The new syllabus, English O level Paper 1128, is going to be examined in 2013. In other words, all Secondary 3 students in 2012 will take the new paper. The current Secondary 4 (Normal Academic and Express) are still going to take the old syllabus. Of course, the Normal Academic students will only take the old syllabus in 2013.

What are the differences? There are substantial differences in the formats – it is totally revamped and there are changes in the exam format for every paper. There is even one additional paper. Let me through each individual paper.

Paper 1 has three sections now. Section A is completely new – Editing. Students are supposed to identify and edit grammatical errors in a short written text. Section B, Situational Writing, differs slightly from the previous syllabus. The principle of writing a letter, speech or report still stands, but instead of using just words, a visual stimulus is given to guide the students. The last section is just like the old syllabus, except there are only four questions. Another difference is that not all text types need to be tested. For example, the Narrative text type is not reflected in the sample O level English paper given to teachers.

For Paper 2, there is an additional visual text component. This visual text tests student’s ability to understand the use of visuals as well as the use of language for impact – in other words, this section focuses on inferential, language and literary skills. The second section consist of a narrative text type and the last section will be of a text which is non-narrative in nature. The last two sections are similar to the previous syllabus except the summary component has been reduced. Previously, summary took up 50% of Paper 2 while in the revised syllabus, summary only takes up only 30%.

There is a new paper – the listening comprehension paper which is Paper 3. Students will answer questions based on a variety of texts. There is even a note-taking task in the paper.

Finally, Paper 4 is Oral Communication. The usual Reading Aloud section remains but the Picture Discussion and Conversation sections has been merged. The picture or visual stimulus will be a springboard for the conversation.

With the introduction of Paper 3, the previous weighting of Paper 1 and 2 has been reduced and given to Paper 3. The new weighting is as follows:

Paper 1 (Writing) – 35%

Paper 2 (Comprehension) – 35%

Paper 3 (Listening) – 10%

Oral Communication (Spoken) – 20%

Other than the more obvious format changes, what other differences are there? There is a subtle difference in that the new syllabus tests grammar and literary skills more vigourously. However, these sections are relatively small and will impact the students trying to score distinctions the most. For weaker students who hover around C or even B grades, the traditional skill sets are still the utmost importance. For the better students, it is recommended to look for schools or tutors that have teachers with suitable experience and qualifications to ensure that all sections are taught properly.

As for your children, they really need to write a variety of English materials. Get them to read novels, newspapers and and even poetry. Tell them not to ignore their lower secondary English Literature, even if they do not intend to do it at Upper Secondary level. More exposure to a wide diverse range of English genres will definitely lead to better results.

If any parents have any queries, we at Educaltion Future School will be pleased to answer them.

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