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Types of Composition Essays Tested at O Level / G3 English

by | Nov 27, 2023 | 0 comments

1. Introduction | Types of Composition Essays Tested at O Level / G3 English


Unlike the PSLE where students are exposed primarily to writing stories, the O Level / G3 English syllabus at secondary school expects students to be proficient in various text types or text genres. Text types refer to different styles of presenting information, classified based on the intent or purpose of the communicator. O Level / G3 English assesses a range of text types, including personal recounts, descriptive essays, expositions (argumentative and discursive essays), reflective essays, as well as hybrid or mixed genres.


2. Text Types Tested at O Level / G3 English Exam Essay Writing


2.1 Personal Recount


A personal recount is a storytelling form where writers share real-life experiences they have personally lived through. It involves the chronological retelling of a series of events, adopting a first-person perspective and using past tense. Show not tell is also used to craft a vivid, sensory experience for the reader.

A personal recount also delves into the writer’s emotions, thoughts, and reflections throughout the experience. This introspective element adds depth to the storytelling, allowing readers to connect on a personal level and gain insights into the writer’s perspective. Ultimately, a personal recount is more than just a recollection of events. It is an invitation for readers to join the writer on a journey through his memories and emotions.


Examples of Past Year O Level English Exam Essay Questions:

  • ‘As I looked back, I realised I had made the right decision.’ What about a time when you felt like this. [O Level 2023]
  • ‘I realised that I was much stronger than I had previously thought.’ Write about a time when you felt like this. [O Level 2022]
  • Write about a time when you did something just to impress someone which you later regretted. [O Level 2020]


2.2 Descriptive


A descriptive essay is a literary composition that engages the reader’s senses by vividly portraying a person, place, object, or experience. This form of writing intricately weaves together details that appeal to our five senses – sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch. The primary aim is to create vivid mental images in the reader’s mind, transporting them to the depicted scene or experience.

A descriptive essay does not necessarily require a fixed structure. Instead, it focuses primarily on capturing the essence of the topic through a wide array of descriptive language techniques. Examples of descriptive language techniques include the use of adjectives, adverbs, metaphors, similes, personification, and other literary devices to evoke specific sensory experiences. These descriptions can be organised logically or chronologically, depending on the writer’s intent. The result is a vivid, immersive portrayal that captivates the reader’s imagination.

Descriptive essays in the O Level / G3 English exam also quite commonly come in the form of hybrids.


Examples of Past Year O Level English Exam Essay Questions:

  • What is your idea of a perfect afternoon? Describe what you like to do and how it makes you feel. [O Level 2023]
  • Some people enjoy being in a crowded place, while others prefer somewhere quieter with fewer people. Describe your perfect place where you want to relax. [O Level 2022]
  • Describe the sights and sounds at a busy shopping mall. Remember to describe some of the people there as well. [O Level 2021]


2.3 Exposition


An expository essay is a type of writing which explains, illustrates, or clarifies a topic such that it becomes clear for the readers. It requires the writer to explain an idea, evaluate evidence, or set forth an argument concerning an idea in a clear and concise manner.

There are two primary sub-types of expository texts: argumentative and discursive.


2.3.1 Argumentative


Argumentative essays are designed to persuade or convince the reader to adopt a specific viewpoint or take a particular course of action. They present a clear argument or thesis, supported by compelling evidence, reasoning, and persuasive language.

The structure of an argumentative essay typically includes an introduction that states the thesis, followed by a presentation of supporting evidence and a conclusion that reinforces the author’s position. It may also provide counter arguments and offer rebuttals to refute these opposing arguments.


Examples of Past Year O Level English Exam Essay Questions:

  • ‘Schools should teach practical skills such as cooking and managing our finances.’ Do you agree? Why or why not? [O Level 2023]
  • ‘People today are far too easily persuaded to spend money on things they don’t need.’ Do you agree that advertising has made us wasteful? [O Level 2022]
  • ‘A happy person is a healthy person.’ How far would you agree? [O Level 2021]


2.3.2 Discursive


Discursive essays are characterised by their neutral and balanced presentation of information. Unlike an argumentative essay, a discursive piece presents different perspectives on a given topic without necessarily taking a clear stance or arguing for a specific point of view. These texts aim to provide a comprehensive overview by presenting various arguments or ideas related to the subject.

Discursive essays use logical reasoning, evidence, and facts to support each perspective without any criticism or persuasion. They allow readers to develop their own opinions due to its objectivity.


Examples of Past Year O Level English Exam Essay Questions:

  • ‘Young people are changing the world for the better.’ What is your opinion? [O Level 2021]
  • ‘People should always tell the truth.’ Do you think there are any situations in which this might not be the best thing to do? Explain your views. [O Level 2017]
  • ‘Shoppers have too much choice, from chocolate bars to jeans.’ What, in your opinion, are the advantages and disadvantages of having many things to choose from? [O Level 2015]


2.4 Reflective


A reflective essay is a form of writing where the writer examines his thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Writers adopt a contemplative and introspective tone, aiming to provide insights into their personal growth, learning, and self-discovery. The structure of a reflective essay typically involves the presentation of an event or experience, an examination of its significance, and a reflection on what was learned or gained from it.

Reflective writing encourages self-awareness and personal development, allowing both the writer and the reader to gain a deeper understanding of the writer’s inner world. This can be a powerful form of self-expression and a means to convey valuable life lessons.

In writing reflective pieces, always aim for a personal voice. Share experiences with a unique personal touch. Aim not only to recount experiences but to infuse them with personal perspectives, emotions, and insights.


Examples of Past Year O Level English Exam Essay Questions:

  • ‘There is no place like home.’ How true is this for you? [O Level 2020]
  • Some people like to stand out from the crowd, others just want to be part of it. Which do you prefer and why? [O Level 2018]
  • Which person has the greatest influence on your life at the present time, and why? [O Level 2014]


2.5 Hybrid / Mixed Genre


Hybrid essays, also known as mixed genre, are a creative blend of two different text types within a single composition. They combine elements of personal recount, descriptive, reflective, or expository essay to create a versatile piece of writing. The structure of a hybrid text varies depending on the specific blend of text types used. Depending on the question requirements, students may use storytelling to illustrate concepts or mix personal reflections with informative content. There is freedom to adapt and experiment with the structure and style, and there is no right or wrong as long as the question requirements are fulfilled.

In answering hybrid questions in the exam, it is important to ensure that all parts of the question have been addressed in detail. This, however, does not mean that equal weight needs to be given to both parts. Students just need to ensure there is a somewhat even ratio of both parts so as not to lose marks in content.


Examples of Past Year O Level English Exam Essay Questions:

  • Describe the things that you do to relax after you have been very busy. Explain why you find them enjoyable. [O Level 2020]
  • Which person has had the most positive impact on your life? Describe this individual’s personality and in what ways he or she has influenced you. [O Level 2019]
  • Which modern invention is essential for you and your family and which one could you and your family live without? Explain your views. [O Level 2018]


3. Conclusion | Types of Composition Essays Tested at O Level / G3 English


It is important to be able to identify the correct text type because different genres have different structures and therefore require different approaches in writing. Just as a carpenter selects different tools for specific tasks, understanding text genres allows you as the writer to choose the right approach to tackle various exam questions.

At Learning Gems, our experienced MOE-trained teachers are well-equipped to guide you towards exam success, be it through our weekly online classes or ad hoc booster workshops. Beyond the exams, we also aim to nurture your ability to wield the power of words in your unique way. Join us on this journey of language mastery and self-expression!

Learning Gems is a premium tuition centre that provides quality online English tuition classes to PSLE and GCE ‘O’ Level students in Singapore. Our teachers are well-versed with the latest MOE syllabus and have taught at various schools in Singapore. Be it the primary or secondary level, we possess the relevant experience and are fully qualified to help your child.

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