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Complete Guide to O Level English (Syllabus 1184)

by | Mar 27, 2023 | 0 comments

Introduction | Complete Guide to O Level English (Syllabus 1184)


The O level English exam is a crucial milestone for students in Singapore, as it is one of the key subjects required for admission to many tertiary institutions. It is thus important for students and parents alike to have a good understanding of what the exam entails and how to prepare effectively for it. This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the O level English exam (Syllabus 1184), including the format of the exam, the skills that are tested, and some strategies for improving those skills. Whether you are a student preparing for the exam or a parent looking to support your child, this guide will provide you with the information and resources you need to succeed in O level English.

From 2023, students will be taking the new syllabus, Syllabus 1184. The key differences in the new syllabus include:

  • Paper 1, Continuous Writing: New content component in Section C
  • Paper 2, Visual Text Comprehension: Questions based on two texts instead of one
  • Paper 3, Listening Comprehension: Section on Stated/Implied removed, its 4 marks redistributed to the last 2 sections on note-taking
  • Paper 4, Oral: Reading Aloud removed, replaced by Planned Response.


1. Assessment Objectives | O Level English Syllabus 1184


The assessment objectives for the O level English exam cover a range of skills, including writing effectively for different purposes, understanding and analysing various texts, summarising information from different sources, listening to audio texts and understanding them, presenting ideas clearly and engaging in discussions. Candidates will be evaluated on their ability to use standard English, including vocabulary, grammar, punctuation, and spelling, to communicate ideas effectively and engage their audience.


2. Format of the Exam | O Level English Syllabus 1184


2.1. Paper 1 Writing


Paper 1 Writing is a component of the O level English exam that lasts for 1 hour and 50 minutes and is worth 70 marks. It comprises three sections.

Section A, Editing, is worth 10 marks and requires candidates to identify and correct grammatical errors in a text of not more than 250 words.

Section B, Situational Writing, is worth 30 marks and entails writing a text of 250-350 words based on a given situation that involves viewing a visual text. Candidates are required to write the text in a format that suits the purpose, audience and context.

Section C, Continuous Writing, is worth 30 marks and requires candidates to write a text of 350-500 words in continuous prose based on one out of four topics provided. The composition can take the form of a personal recount, descriptive or expository essay. It could also be a hybrid of two different text types.


2.2. Paper 2 Comprehension


The duration of Paper 2 is 1 hour and 50 minutes, and it is divided into three sections.

Section A [5 marks] includes Texts 1 and 2, one of which includes visuals, and candidates must answer questions testing comprehension, the use of visuals, and language for effect.

Section B [20 marks] contains Text 3, which is narrative, and candidates must answer questions testing comprehension, vocabulary in context, and the use of language for effect.

Section C [25 marks] contains Text 4, which is non-narrative, and candidates must answer questions testing comprehension, vocabulary in context, and the use of language for effect. Additionally, candidates must write a summary of about 80 words (excluding the introductory words that will be provided). Texts 3 and 4 combined will be about 1200 words in length.


2.3. Paper 3 Listening


Paper 3 Listening assesses candidates’ listening skills, and it is worth 30 marks. The paper consists of two sections and has an approximate duration of 45 minutes.

In Section A, which is worth 22 marks, candidates will be required to respond to a variety of listening tasks based on different types of audio texts. The tasks may include visuals where appropriate, and candidates will be assessed on a range of listening skills. Various question types, such as multiple choice, matching, and filling in a graphic organiser, may be set. Each recording will be played twice.

Section B, worth 8 marks, requires candidates to listen to an informational text and complete a note-taking task. The recording will only be played once.


2.4. Paper 4 Oral Communication


The Oral Communication component of the O level English exam is worth 30 marks and has an approximate duration of 20 minutes per candidate, including 10 minutes of preparation time. This paper consists of two parts that may be thematically linked.

Part 1 is the Planned Response section, which is worth 15 marks. Candidates are required to plan and deliver a response of up to 2 minutes to a video clip and accompanying prompt presented on a computer screen. Candidates are evaluated on their ability to present their ideas and opinions fluently and effectively to engage the listener.

Part 2 is the Spoken Interaction section, which is also worth 15 marks. Candidates engage in a discussion with the examiners on a topic broadly related to the video clip used in Part 1.


3. Tips and Strategies | O Level English Syllabus 1184


3.1. Paper 1 Writing


When it comes to doing well in Paper 1 of the O-Level English exam, there are a few tips and strategies that can help you improve your performance.

In the Editing section, familiarising yourself with the types of errors that are likely to appear in the paper will greatly increase your chances of getting a perfect score.

In the Situational Writing section, make sure to examine the stimulus carefully and tailor your response to the given PAC (purpose, audience, context). Address all points and develop them in detail using your own ideas. Your ideas should be consistently supported by relevant information from the stimulus. Use appropriate language and tone to convey your message effectively.

As for the Continuous Writing section, make sure to choose a topic that you feel comfortable writing about, and structure your essay in a logical and coherent way. More tips here.


3.2. Paper 2 Comprehension


Reading extensively and widely can greatly improve your understanding of a passage in Paper 2 Comprehension. The more you read, the more background knowledge you acquire, which can help you understand the context and meaning of unfamiliar words or concepts. This can make it easier to comprehend the main ideas and themes of a passage. Moreover, by reading a variety of genres, you can become familiar with different writing styles and techniques, which can enhance your ability to analyse and interpret a text. Therefore, it is important for you to develop a habit of reading extensively and widely, not only to improve your chances of success in the O Level English exam but also to enhance your overall language proficiency.

Adopting active reading strategies is also helpful. Active reading means engaging with the text, underlining key points and making notes as you read. Before diving into the questions, take a moment to skim the passage to get a sense of the topic.

When answering questions, pay attention to the specific instructions, as different questions may require different approaches. For example, questions on language use may require close analysis of individual words or phrases, while global questions or questions on tone may require a broader understanding of the text as a whole.

In terms of study strategies, practice is key. Read widely and practise answering different types of comprehension questions to build your skills and familiarity with the format. Present your answers according to the requirements of Cambridge. Seek advice from an experienced MOE-certified teacher on this. Also work on building your vocabulary, as this will not only help you understand texts more fully but also enable you to answer Language Use, In Your Own Words and Vocabulary in Context questions more confidently.


3.3. Paper 3 Listening


While Paper 3 may appear to be an easy component, it can actually prove to be challenging for many students.

One effective strategy for achieving a good score in the Listening exam is to read the questions carefully BEFORE listening to the recordings. Make good use of the time when instructions are being given before the recording, or during the music interlude between sections. This is to ensure that you know what to listen for. For example, if the question asks for a specific detail, you will know that you need to listen out for that particular information in the recording. Additionally, it will be helpful to underline or circle keywords in the questions to help you focus on what to listen for.

You should also watch and listen to a wide range of programmes that feature English speakers from different ethnicities. Acquainting yourself with the various English accents will help you decode the speech of such speakers. This will serve you well as you will be better able to extract and understand relevant information.

Finally, stay calm and focused during the exam. It can be easy to become distracted or overwhelmed by the audio texts and questions, but it is important to remain composed and focused in order to perform to the best of your ability.


3.4. Paper 4 Oral Communication


One effective strategy for doing well in the Oral exam is to read widely on common themes that appear in the exam, including but not limited to education, technology, environment, and social issues. This can help you to develop a bank of ideas and opinions that you can draw upon during the exam, making it easier to structure your responses and provide relevant examples.

Remember to speak clearly and confidently, use appropriate language and intonation, and maintain good eye contact with the examiner throughout the exam. More tips can be found here.


Conclusion | Complete Guide to O Level English (Syllabus 1184)


Learning a language takes time and consistent effort every day. Many believe that English is a subject that cannot be studied or prepared for, but this is far from the truth. To achieve success in the O Level English exam, it is important to start early and be consistent in your efforts. Apart from reading widely and practising regularly, getting feedback from an experienced teacher is key to developing strong language skills.

To support your journey in learning English, you can join our online tuition classes taught by experienced MOE-certified teachers. Having taught in schools, our teachers know the syllabus inside out, and are the best people to give you feedback to prepare you for the exam. Besides our regular classes, we also conduct workshops that can provide you with the necessary tools and techniques to boost your scores.

Achieving success in the O Level English exam may appear daunting, but with dedication, patience, and the right strategies, you can increase your chances of success. Remember, language learning is a continuous process that requires consistent effort. With the guidance of experienced teachers and regular practice, you can enhance your English language skills and prepare effectively for the exam. By focusing on your weaknesses, identifying areas for improvement, and developing effective study habits, you can confidently approach the exam and achieve the results you desire.

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