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Five surefire tips to crack the English paper

Ellen Maumkel | March 07, 2005

You can score in Mathematics, Science and Geography.

But how do you crack that tricky conundrum called English, especially if yours is not as impeccable as you want it to be?

It helps if you understand the nuances of different writing exercises. For instance, an essay would require a different treatment than writing a report.

Get Ahead tips you off on how to write your English paper to perfection.

1. Letter writing: presentation is important

You can really score in this section. It is not creativity or impressive writing skills, but format, presentation and the ability to communicate, that make the difference.

i. Limit your letter to the length of one page. Spillovers are messy. Start at the beginning of a fresh page and end at the bottom of the page.

ii. You have a choice between an informal letter and a formal letter. If you are not so confident, opt for the informal letter because you need to write just one address as opposed to two in the formal letter.

iii. Be prepared with a fictitious address and name.

iv. The letter should be in three paragraphs as follows:

  • Para I: It should have just two sentences and must contain the main reason for writing letter. You could look for this reason in the question paper itself. 
  • Para II: This should have five sentences and must contain the details of your letter.
  • Para III: This is a courtesy ending and should have two sentences. It must reinforce your reason for writing and thank the person.

v. The salutation of each paragraph must touch the margin, with no finger spaces at all. Also, start each sentence with a capital letter.

2. Essay writing: unleash your imagination!

If you like making your opinion known, the essay composition gives you a chance to do it!

i. Bring alive your imagination. For instance, if the topic is, A wedding I attended, try to make it an offbeat wedding.

A good trick is to remember the films you have watched that revolved around the same theme as your essay and derive ideas from here to plump up the content of your essay.

ii. Do not just narrate the events of the wedding. Let your opinion come through as well. For instance, you could admire the décor or criticise it.

iii. The important thing is to make your essay unique and interesting to read. Originality, usage of language and overall presentation will earn you some marks.

Bonus tip: In the SSC Board English paper, you have a choice of four essays to choose from. One essay is usually a 'seen' essay, which will be available in Kumar Bharathi school textbooks, under writing activities.

Make sure you check this list at the end of every chapter, as one of the essays is sure to feature in the list of topics.

3. Report writing: maintain objectivity

Students often confuse report writing with essay writing.

i. When you write a report, it must be a very objective description of events. You are the third party whose job is to merely translate the event into words.

ii. Your opinion cannot seep into the writing. Save this for your essay.

iii. Give an appropriate headline and sign off as, By a staff reporter, at the end of the piece.

iv. Read the newspapers every day for a good idea of report writing.

v. Report the event in the past tense.

5. Comprehension: how much should you write?

i. If the answer carries just one mark, it is just information that you need to give. In this case, fish out the facts and present them in one sentence.

ii. If the answer carries two marks, you need to offer an opinion. In this case, your answer could go up to two sentences. 

6. Précis: keep it short and sweet

i. The biggest confusion about précis is the word count. Just divide the original number of words by three. Of the new figure, you could add or take away five words.

ii. Make sure you mention the number of words.

Good luck for your examination!

Ellen Maumkel is an English teacher with 19 years of experience. She teaches at St Michael's School, Mumbai




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hello mam, hope you recognize me..i am arun pillai.. was a student of yours from the 1997 batch .. i understand it has been a ...


Posted by arun pillai





Sub: doctor, heal thyself !

Ellen, you wrote... "For instance, an essay would require a different treatment than writing a report." The correct expression is "different from" and not, "different ...


Posted by abhiram





Sub: Tips for exams

Hi!friends.I would like to share some tips with you. *Always motivate yourself that you know all the questions. *Donot have last minute revisions. *Before the ...


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