JC General Paper – How to Get Started
The General Paper (GP) is one of the most abstract, and toughest papers to score at the A Level examinations. JC students often find themselves barely passing or getting a mere D/E grade for this subject throughout their 2 years in school, and are struggling to find a way to grasp the subject adequately. It is the first time students are exposed to a writing-based subject of this scale and advanced argumentative nature that is required of them, and they are clueless on how to prepare for the examination. Do not panic, this article will provide you some top ways to study for the General Paper, as recommended from our top JC GP Tutors.
After surveying 500 private home tuition students, MindFlex has observed that a large percentage of them deem General Paper the most challenging for them as there is no real “formula” or absolute answers to the subject, unlike others like Mathematics or Chemistry. Many of them are seeking help by getting JC GP tuition. It requires extensive knowledge of a broad diversity of topics, and the statements frequently raised are “but we simply have no time to read”, “there is so much to read and cover, where and how to I even get started?”. In 2018, 97.1% of students had passed the GP / KI (Knowledge and Inquiry), and we will help to ensure that you do not fall behind in the last 2.9%. Also bear in mind that most university courses require a good passing grade in this subject to showcase that you possess a relatively good command of the English language, as well as the important writing, analysis and evaluation skills needed for use throughout your tertiary education.
Get Reading and Writing!
The first piece of advice that all General Paper tutors would give, is that it is never too late to start reading and to always constantly keep abreast of the current news, latest trending issues, global affairs and themes. Reading enables you to discover new facts, and helps to develop one’s imagination – helpful for the writing that one needs to do for GP! Start today, and every single piece of reading would count towards broadening your general knowledge, as well as honing those analytical skills needed for the exam. Set a weekly quota of articles to read, and subscribe to credible, educational and intellectual online content, such as The Straits Times and the TIME magazine. More reading materials and resources can also be given to you at your private JC GP Tuition lessons upon request. Make sure that you are not only aware of what is happening on local grounds, but also keep a keen eye on the happenings all around the world as well, even if it does not directly involve you. Remain inquisitive, curious and open to new knowledge, and this would help you get your content grounded for the General Paper.
The next essential requirement to getting ready for this subject is to ensure that your English language skills are at an adequate level. The General Paper demands a good command of English – students need to accurately comprehend the texts and questions given, correctly infer what is expected of their answers, and of course, be able to pen down and translate their thoughts clearly on paper. If you are an O Level student struggling to score well with English, you can get help quickly by engaging the assistance of an O Level English tutor. Practise writing in clear and concise sentences, and minimising grammar, spelling and punctuation errors would be great in helping you to present your points across more accurately. If you already have your language foundation proficiently mastered on solid grounds, reading can also then provide you new grounds for creating your own personal style of writing. The use of literary devices can help bring your essays to life; some unique flair in your writing style and the use of some sophisticated vocabulary would be a bonus in impressing the examiners as well! Of course – GP tutors do also advise you to write effectively, as creative writing can sometimes turn into contentless fluff.
Now that we have established good reading and writing skills, next on the checklist on how to prepare for the GP examination would be to comprehend and answer the paper correctly. Students need to show that they have the ability to process relevant information correctly and synthesis them, and to articulate their own personal opinions as well. The syllabus and examination format of the A Level General Paper can be found here. There are several themes that the paper will cover, and due to limited time, GP tutors recommend that it would be clever to perhaps choose 3-4 disciplinary fields to master in. Read deeply into these selected topics, as you would need prior knowledge and a grounded holistic understanding about them before even being able to form any opinions on these issues. GP tutors also advise against focusing and attempting only on 1 topic repeatedly for all your GP assignments, as it would not be wise in case the topic does not appear in the examination itself. Opinionated commentaries and sample essays will give you good writing tips on top of content, and also new insight and perspectives that could change the way you approach on how to design your arguments to tackle your GP questions.
A Level General Paper – Paper 1 Format & Tips
The first paper that students would need to tackle is Paper 1 – the Essay component. With a duration of 1 Hour 30 Minutes, the paper has a 50% weightage, and students are required to write an essay ranging from 500 to 800 words. Totalling at 50 marks, content marking takes up 30 marks, while the Use of English encompasses 20 marks. The paper will present 12 essay questions, and students need to select only 1 to answer. The questions posed are expected to cover a variety of themes:
– Political, historical, social, economic, social, cultural and philosophical topics
– Science – general principles, philosophy, developments and applications
– Language / Literature
– Mathematical / Geographical topics
– Arts and Crafts
– Other topics of local and global concernment
Firstly, take 1 minute to read through and choose your question wisely. There will not be time for a change once you have started. Pick the question that seems most straightforward or applicable to you. If you had prepared a few topics well (as advised above), this is where all your facts come in handy now. The objective of this paper is to enable you to draw on prior knowledge to address the issues from the multitude of disciplines listed, and relate them to both global and local contexts. Read carefully and take note of the keywords that will help you to identify the approach on how to answer the question. Some words to look out for:
– “To what extent / how far”
– “Evaluate / Discuss”
– “More / Less / Most / Least”
These words above are crucial to pay attention to – they differentiate the question types and their specific answering structures and writing techniques required. You will get better at this throughout the course of your JC GP tuition course. Always write a balanced essay and acknowledge the limitations to show that you are aware of the room for argument flaws. JC GP Tutors always advise against taking an absolute stand – always look at the debated question from various angles to show open-minded thinking. Students who attend JC GP tuition have learnt that in tackling these argumentative and discursive essays – one must produce sound and logical arguments, backed up by strong factual evidence in order to convince the marker.
The next crucial tip by JC General Paper Tutors – spend the first 10 minutes of the examination planning an essay outline before the actual writing. Planning will prevent you from going off-track from the argument, and the results will later show that your arguments have been well thought out. Design a good essay structure and organise your points well so that it will be able to flow coherently. At the start of each paragraph, make sure to have a topic sentence that encompasses its main message. Pen down your arguments in a short but effective manner, and frequently look back at your outline to ensure that the points are not repeated, and flowing in the intended direction. In each paragraph, ensure that you use a good range of vocabulary to list your points as well as elaborate on them thoroughly. Bring up your acquired facts of the topic – not only does it show the examiner that you are well-read, it also greatly helps to substantiate and justify your points. Lastly, despite bringing up the limitations on some of your points, it is paramount that an effective conclusion paragraph is written to wrap up your primary stance and position of the overall problem. Do not get lost in your arguments, make sure to end your essay convincingly.
A Level General Paper – Paper 2 Format & Tips
The second paper that students need to complete for the A Level General Paper examination is Paper 2 – the Comprehension portion of the paper. The paper spans across 1 Hour 30 Minutes, accounts for the other 50% weightage, and comes with 3 components within. The Comprehension or Short-Answer Questions (SAQ) take up 17 marks, Summary takes up 8 marks, and the Application Question takes up 10 marks. In addition to these 35 marks, the 50-mark paper also takes into consideration the Use of English (15 marks).
The comprehension questions, as the name suggests, seek to test our level of understanding of both the text passage(s) and questions given. This is similar to the O Level comprehension paper, but the passage content at the A-Levels are more elaborate and complex (and there may be 1 or 2 passages), which requires higher-order thinking and more advanced inference skills to tackle. The answers to some simpler questions can be easily extracted directly from the passage, so be sure not to waste on these marks! Other questions require deductions and inferences, and this is where students often need help in. Read the passage very thoroughly and try to find the tone, key messages and stand taken on the issues mentioned. Your personal GP tutor will be able to provide you with comprehension practice papers, so do attempt them to ensure that you are familiar with the forms of the passage(s), types of questions asked, as well as to practice on how to answer them correctly.
The next section would the Summary, which requires strong comprehension and analysis skills to pick out key sentences encompassing the main topics to be summarised. The challenge next faced is to wrap these key sentences and return them in a more condensed one, without losing its essence. JC GP tutors recommend 10-15 minutes for this section to be completed. GP tutors also advise against students replacing the content word for word. Summarise the key sentences in the passage by rephrasing them – yet leaving as close to its actual meaning as possible and not losing the integrity of the message. With the word limit, consciously leave out examples, elaborations, quotations and similarly repeated points. A good tip to improve your word substitution is to make use of thesaurus when typing on your computer in day-to-day activities! If you are hiring an A-Levels GP Tutor, he/she will guide you in picking out the key points which might be difficult to differentiate at first, but be rest assured that improvement will be seen with practice!
The last and most fearful portion of Paper 2 would be the Application Question (AQ). JC students often bring this up during JC GP tuition lessons as this is what many of them need the most help in. Students are often seen rushing through this section with little time left, so do ensure that you have at least 15 to 20 minutes to work on it. The objective of the AQ is for students to find the link between the main message in the passage(s) and their local society, and to evaluate on how applicable and relevant they are. Interpretation skills are needed here – students need to get into the shoes of the author and recognise his tone and what his opinions are. It is crucial that you pick out the correct information from the passage – the author’s own opinions instead of what he has quoted – and formulate sound arguments to explain if your personal voice runs parallel to that of the author’s. An answer structured into 2-3 paragraphs would be good, encompassing:
– An introduction that states your stand and position.
– 2-3 arguments with supporting and contrasting points to help substantiate your points, listing out 1-2 limitations.
– Conclusion which links back and reiterate your stand and position on the subject. Do make sure it is sustained and not contradictory.
Through JC GP tuition lessons, a mistake that students will learn to recognise and correct is that while picking out the relevant points for their topic of argument, one has to retain the integrity of the statement first. These key sentences, when taken out of context and in isolation, may pose as a different meaning, and it is imperative that students do not twist the authors’ judgements and retain its accuracy. This is a basic requirement of the paper – to be able to unpack and address the various viewpoints in the passage accurately. Another tip that JC GP tutors often give is that on top of quoting parts of the passage to help substantiate your points, always try to include personal input as well! Examiners want to get a feel of what your personal opinions are, so do express your own independent thinking as well as give some relatable examples in your society. Use phrases like “I agree / find this relevant to my society to a large extent’, and as with Paper 1, avoid being totally absolute about your stance. Pick out certain assumptions and gaps in the authors’ opinions to explain its limited relevance to your society, and balance your points with counter-arguments and logical reasoning.
Seek Help to Improve your General Paper skills
General Paper is not a subject that can be excelled in just by correcting concepts and formulas like Maths or Science subjects. It essentially revolves around the English language and using it for effective communication to discuss real-world issues to a good level of depth. Talk to your JC GP teachers in school, and formulate debates with your friends, centralised around these topics of discussion. With more conversation and writing comes more practice on how to organise your thoughts well, as well as the ability to gain better insight and new perspectives on things. Enrol yourself in JC GP Tuition early to get the conversation going too! With the help of your GP tutor, you will be able to hone the necessary skills to think critically under pressure, to make inferences using correct information and to formulate better quality arguments.
Do your own homework first by keeping a book to compile interesting facts and opinions that could be used as evidence related to your several topics of interest. Organise them by the different disciplinary fields and collate information as you read and gather more. With the groundwork constantly being updated, you can then engage a tutor to help you unpack your work and teach you how to apply them appropriately. JC GP tuition lessons would teach you how to use your notes and facts in a flexible manner, and how to adapt them to address the questions’ requirements. GP tutors strongly emphasise that you cannot force your arguments or essay structures from other essays into a similar-looking one, as every question comes with different keywords which changes the entire approach of how it is meant to be written. Request for past year papers from other JCs, and your personal GP tutor will be able to provide you with the necessary practice as well as mark your written essays to ensure that you get adequate writing practice, and a good feel of the type of recurring themes that would appear each year.
Preparing for the A Level General Paper is a long-term commitment and there are no shortcuts to acing this. As the name suggests, a lot of “General Knowledge” is required for the “General Paper”. It is an unending journey of knowledge acquisition, and diligent effort is needed to constantly build up on it.
Consistent work from JC1 is key – do not be shy to express your opinions and take on intellectual debates with your friends. The need to articulate your thoughts well is important to help train to use your content in a persuasive manner. Your JC GP tutor will encourage you to take a stand on things, but at the same time to not be to narrow-minded and biased, and to consider the opinions of other as well. Engage Private JC GP Tuition today, and not only will you be honing some life-skills through effective communication, but also be on your way to captivating your General Paper examiner by the end of your JC journey! To find out more about hiring a Private A-Levels GP Home Tutor, do feel free to visit us on our homepage, or contact our friendly team today!
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