O-Level Tips #1: Answer the question|| A Small Writing Guide

So I decided to set up a small series of tips and tutorials to help students who are weaker in essay writing based on my experience as a volunteer tutor. Hopefully this will be helpful. I hope ;w;

Okay, so the first thing I always check in a weaker student’s work is if they are answering the question. This may sound obvious and thus unnecessary to students, but I always start there. Why? Because this is the most important element of any essay and this seemingly uncomplicated question actually involves in a lot of the skills you need to write a good essay. As this is meant to be short, I will only touch on question analysis and thesis statement writing.

Question Analysis

Possibly the most important thing for weaker students. Without proper question analysis, students are unable to understand the requirements of the question at hand and thus write poor essays because they cannot grasp the implication of the questions they are trying to answer. Normally, the exercises I do are asking the student themselves to identify parts in the question (in some questions, you have to cover 2 parts while in others, you will only need to cover 1 part) and ask them what the part is asking and consequently, what kind of essay is needed.

eg. How can people live healthier lives?

This question has only one part to it: it is asking for methods on the ways people can lead healthier lifestyles, which make it easy to answer. As such, this question calls for a discursive essay.

eg. Will the use of technology, such as the e-book and online reference sites, mean that the traditionally printed books will no longer be needed?

This question is something you might more commonly see. While there is only one question (will technology make print books obsolete?), there are 2 parts you should cover: The E-book and Online reference sites as they are specifically mentioned in the question. As such, if you decide to go along with the question, there are actually more than 2 possibilities.

1) The E book and the Online Reference sites will make physical books obsolete.

2) The E-book and the online reference site will NOT make physical books obsolete.

3) The E-Book will make physical books obsolete, but the Online Reference Sites will not.

4) The Online Reference Sites will make physical books obsolete, but the E-Book will not.

While the weaker students may not want to deal with the question after seeing the above combinations, they will still have to identify the questions to know what to avoid. Additionally, this question calls for an argumentative essay as well, given that it is a question which requires a stand and which requires substantiation to the stand rather than giving facts.

Okay, so now you’ve selected the question and then go on to write the thesis statement. Excellent! So the thesis statement is like, the part that will make or break your essay. For the student, the thesis statement serves 2 purposes: 1) telling themselves how they proceed and 2) telling the examiner how they proceed. For this purpose, I like the thesis statement to be one clear sentence (at least for weaker students) that answers your question. Normally, I start with a Yes/No approach and then work my way out to introducing a more complex statement.

So for the example of this question: Will the use of technology, such as the e-book and online reference sites, mean that the traditionally printed books will no longer be needed?

I will start with asking: Do you think that it will or not? Answer Yes or No.

A thesis statement at this level will look something like: Yes, the use of technology means that traditionally printed books will no longer be needed.

If I think the student is capable of more complexity in the essay, I will then ask: Do you think that E-Books and Reference Websites are equal? I will then present the 4 permutations on top and ask the student which the student is most comfortable with writing before letting the student do the writing. Chances are this this will not produce the most sophisticated writing but it will help avoid the pitfall of not knowing how to start or what to write.

So yep, that’s my small tip for weaker students: Always ask yourself if you’re answering the question.


Guidelines For NTU’s appeal || Appeals

So I have been notified that NTU has increased its appeal space to 250 words I can’t remember, but I think it was on the tune of 250 words to 300 words. Yay! This is good news for those of you who like long rambly letters, much less so for the people who are more succinct. Anyway, since the space has increased, I thought it best to talk about how best to make use of your extra space.

1) Great News: Now you can write in the breakdown of your grades.

With the 50 word limit, I advised people not to write in their grades. While I still don’t think writing in your grades is the best idea because they do have the information on hand, you can point out the breakdown of your grades in your appeal (eg. I didn’t do so well for my A Levels but I did well for XXX subject which shows that I may be a good fit for the course in question because both subjects utilise Skill Y, which is crucial to the study of XXX.)

2) Great news: You can further explain your leadership roles/ roles outside of school.

This is pretty self-explanatory. You can detail the roles you played or the things you did and how it will help you in your course of study. (eg. I was the chairperson of XXX society, I had to organize outdoor activities even though I had never organized an event before. However, this helped me to become more tenacious, which I believe will aid me in my course of study as I have not done this course of study before.)

3) Great news: With the Extra Space, you can give your appeal a super snazzy opening

I have no examples, but this will help make your appeal stand out from the piles of appeals that people have to read.

4) Reminder: You do not have to use ALL the words.

This is something people tend to forget. No, you do not need to use all the words. And people tend to get frustrated when you add useless information. So do yourself and your appeal reader a favour and choose NOT to add in extra words just to fill the word limit. Be considerate to your appeal reader too.

5) Reminder: Do not state information in the file.

Really, just don’t. I have said it above, I said it in my own post about appeals and I will say it here. DO NOT DO THIS.

Ok so I am done about my piece on how I think best to utilize your word count. Is there anything you think I missed out? Let me know and I’ll write it in 🙂

On doing Literature in College || Musings

Hi all new Literature Students! By now, most of you will be aware of your postings to a Literature course (at least for my Singaporean readers anyway). I am aware that some of you will be excited to do literature; some of you will not be as excited (for various reasons). Some of you will have done literature before; some of you have not taken a single literature class.

Whichever kind of Literature student you are, welcome to the world of Literature. 🙂 Now get prepared for 4 years of late night essay writing, reading and arguing with your friends.

Yes, I want you to get it out of your head that this will be an easy journey. Forget the stereotype of English majors clubbing and getting drunk while the science students memorize stack of notes (that only ever happens on exchange and then it is highly dependent on where you go to). While it is true that science students may memorize stacks of notes, we don’t have it much easier. This is especially true if you hate reading (unfortunately). So be prepared to read late into the night, argue things inside your head and laugh at how ludicrous some things may be.

And when it comes to essay season, be prepared to work into the night sometimes. There will be that moment when you have an essay you just cannot seem to write with a deadline in less than 24 hours and you have to produce something somehow. But that sense of achievement when you produce something will be something that you can hold on to and will be something that you can refer to in those moments when you need to think “I can do this”.

Be prepared to be horrified at the state of the human condition sometimes. To travel to the depths of what some might know as evil, and to empathize with these same people who we may think of as evil. Be prepared to question the assumptions that you hold at the present moment, and then reconstruct your values when they don’t hold. But don’t lose faith in the human condition- just as you should mentally prepare yourself for the stories that will shake you, also remember that there is good in the world.

Finally, there will be people who will tell you all your major is good for is teaching. If you want to laze about in bed all day and not get anything out of your degree, it doesn’t matter which degree you are taking. Your degree is automatically useless. If you are prepared to go the extra mile though, the things you can get out of your literature degree will be immensely valuable. You will learn how to communicate well. You will be able to persuade people easily. Most of all, you will learn how to question everything, including yourself. While this is not something unique to Literature, that is the point- you will be on equal footing with a lot of people. What you do with the skills… well, that is up to you.

As for why you should believe me? Technically I am an anonymous person on the Internet telling you about a topic that I may not have any experience on. So you should read this and question me. When you do, my job here is done.