Preparing for SA1 English


In view of the upcoming SA1 examinations, we will be launching a series of blog posts featuring helpful advice from our very own teachers. We will be discussing English in this post.

What is Tested

The English examination comprises two papers. Paper 1 tests writing skills (Composition and Situational Writing) while Paper 2 is primarily focused on foundational English skills (Grammar and Vocabulary) as well as Comprehension skills (Visual Text Comprehension, Comprehension Cloze, and Comprehension Open-ended questions).

Identify Strengths and Weaknesses

It is crucial for you to identify aspects which you have much room for improvement. A quick way is to examine the scores of each section in your CA1 exam paper. Pay close attention not to repeat similar mistakes, and place extra effort into strengthening weak areas. It is also advisable, during the exam, to have the habit of beginning with sections that you are adept in (such as Visual Text Comprehension). This makes good time management and reduces the exam jitters.

Paper 1: Composition Tips


Always plan your story! It may seem like a waste of the limited time but a good plan would help you to write faster as there is an existing structure. Do not end up changing your story after having spent a considerable amount of time writing. Mind maps, story flowcharts, character walk-throughs, 5W1H, and the five senses description method are just a sampling of the diverse ways one can go about establishing the scaffolding of a story. Practice makes perfect.

Variety is Key

Your child’s linguistic skills form the major bulk of the assessment criteria. A plain composition won’t lead to a high score. Add flavour into ordinary words. For example, instead of merely using the word ‘said’, employ vividly descriptive words such as “snarl’, ‘whisper’, squeal’ or ‘mutter’ to better fit the context. Also, use varied and complex sentence structures. An example:

  • Simple sentences: I sat down in a reserved seat on the train. I noticed a pregnant lady trying to find a place to sit.
  • Complex sentence: As I sat down in a reserved seat on the train, I noticed a pregnant lady trying to find a place to sit. (A more coherent flow of ideas)

To this end, it is a good idea for you to commit a list of common verbs to memory. A possible example of an entry of the list:
Ran: darted, hurried, raced, etc.
Gave: granted, awarded, provided, bestowed, etc.

Paper 2: Vocab & Comprehension tips

Enhancing Vocabulary

Maintain a vocabulary book. Learn three new words daily and add them in. By the time you are due to take the PSLE, you would have a wealth of vocabulary to tackle both Papers 1 and 2.

Comprehension: 3 Different Question Types

  1. Literal

Answers for this type of question are obvious and can be readily picked up from the passage. You should extract only relevant portions and rephrase them as necessary.

  1. Inferential

This requires a bit of reading in between the lines. Contextual clues are helpful to decipher the answer. An example:
The phrase ‘Lisa brought down the house’ suggests that her performance was a huge success.

  1. Reasoning

Such questions require you to determine if a statement is true or false. When a statement is true, you need to provide evidence from the passage, rephrased in your own words (strictly no lifting of sentences). If a statement is false, you have to state what is true and similarly support your answer with evidence from the passage.

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