General paper is an extremely important subject in Junior College. Besides the fact that it is compulsory for most students, doing decently well in General Paper is also a requirement for many university courses. Even after your A Level examinations, writing may still be a huge part of your life. Most university applications require a personal statement, and a good personal statement is crucial to setting a desirable first impression to set you apart from the rest. This is especially the case for highly sought-after courses, such as medicine and law. In our last article, we talked about question analysis, essay structure and focused on the theme of politics. For this article, Zenith, Singapore’s top JC tuition centre will delve into how to plan for your A Level General Paper essay paragraphs whilst touching on the theme of media. Zenith has divided this article into three main parts: essay planning, paragraph structure, and lastly, key ideas on media.
Part 1: Essay Planning
Having a superb essay plan is the secret to scoring well for your A Level General Paper essay. Hence, we have come up with a foolproof guide to planning to help you in your chase towards your coveted distinction! The A Level General Paper examination is 1 hour and 30 minutes long (Fig 1); of the 90 minutes allocated to this paper, we’d advise you to delegate about 15 minutes just for planning. During those 15 minutes, it’ll be ideal if you spent about 5 minutes choosing the question and 10 minutes constructing the outline of your essay.
Fig 1. A Level General Paper Exam specifications from the SEAB syllabus
Choosing your question
At the top junior college General Paper tuition centre, we caution you to make your question choice wisely. Avoid limiting yourself and hastily choosing the first few questions you read just for convenience. Instead, skim through all 12 questions before making your decision. For a more comprehensive guide on how to pick the right question, check out one of our previous articles here.
Planning the essay
Okay, you’ve chosen the question… now what? First, you should comprehensively annotate your chosen question (Fig 2). Annotating is important because it helps you to better understand the question and its requirements. It also makes it easier for you to quickly refer to the question again when you are in the middle of writing your essay. Since you’ve annotated the question, you can give it a quick glance to jolt your memory on the requirements for content. It also helps in the brainstorming process. After you’ve annotated your question, think of the possible stands that you can take for this essay. Remember to think outside the box!
Fig 2. Example of an annotated question
Zenith recommends you jot these arguments down on a separate piece of rough paper, which you can ask the examiner for. Some students might prefer doing their essay plan on the question paper itself, but space is limited and you might mix up your points if you squeeze everything together.
Fig 3. Quick draft of a sample essay plan
To make it easier for you to understand, we have written the points in full sentences. When planning your essay during your General Paper A Level examinations, feel free to write in point form to save time. Remember, it is very important to have a supporting stand and an opposing stand in your essay in order for it to be a balanced response. Under each heading, jot down the scope you wish to cover, quotes that come up, evidence and examples, and you can even write down certain points you wish to elaborate more on. By the end of the 10 minutes, you should have a rough idea of what your essay is going to look like. Remember, do not hand in your draft!
If you are unsure about the mechanisms of essay planning or would just like more practice, Zenith’s JC GP Tuition Programme is exactly what you are looking for. At Zenith, you never have to worry about being under-prepared before any examination, be it school tests or your actual GCE A Level examinations. Our meticulous tutors will always go the extra mile to personally compile notes for you to ensure that you have enough materials and practice before the big day. You’d also have more than sufficient practice during our hyper-focused lessons.
Part 2: Paragraph Structure
While essay planning is vital to your success, having an appropriate paragraph structure is equally as important. In order for you to do well in your A Level General Paper examinations, make sure that your paragraphs are well organised and succinct. We have devised a foolproof format, or rather, ‘TEEL’ format, for our students to follow!
In your topic sentence, state your stand (agree/do not agree) and explain it clearly. Give the examiner a one-liner that effectively summarises the scope you wish to cover in that specific paragraph, making sure you directly address the debatable issue as well. This is key to showing your examiner that you are answering the question! We will be using the same question (as per Fig 2) throughout this article.
Example: ‘Due to the widespread reach and coverage of news by the media, dangerous ideas can be ignited amongst the people, and the media has a part to play in the actions of the people.’
Do not just paraphrase your topic sentence, but show your examiner exactly how your stand is valid. Go into detail and justify how exactly your point is supposed to make sense. In this case, we have mentioned how the media has widespread coverage, so you would need to tell the examiner in what ways, or how the media has such coverage. Then you would also need to tell the examiner what these ideas are, e.g. ideas of an uprising or a revolution, and how watching the news can lead to these certain ideas being birthed, or even worse, being spread to the majority. The key idea is to link content on the media to the actions of the people. .being created. Ensure that every portion of your topic sentence has been justified.
Example: It is no secret that the media has an extensive reach. Nowadays, with the rapid growth of technology, most people have smart devices on which they can access many different news avenues, social media platforms, and a myriad of websites. Whilst many of these websites can be your everyday blogs, some can contain violent and gory content or ideologies that are highly questionable. With such a wide plethora of platforms, internet users can access all this information, good or bad, with ease. As spiderman once said, ‘with great power comes great responsibility. With so much information at the tip of their fingers, it may be hard for these users to discern right from wrong. Users may be wrongly ‘inspired’ to carry out acts akin to those seen online, regardless of how twisted they may be.’
In order to make sure your point is a solid one, you must back it up with supporting evidence that is a clear reflection of your explanation. However, take extra care to ensure that your paragraph is not evidence-led, meaning that the main focus of the paragraph should be on your explanation and not your evidence.
Example: ‘A clear example would be the self-radicalised 15-year-old boy who attempted a terrorist attack on two mosques in Singapore. He was the first detainee to be influenced by far-right extremist ideology, and was heavily inspired by the Christchurch mosque attacks in 2019, which received heavy coverage by the media.’
At the end of the paragraph, always remember to address the question and state your stand again.
Example: ‘Hence, because the media confers normal civilians the ability to access a diverse amount of information across a spectrum of platforms, potentially opening up chances where they’ll be influenced by the content they see online. The media has the power to influence the actions of the public.
Part 3: Key Ideas on media
In order to be familiar with ideas surrounding the media, you’d need to read and keep up with current affairs. However, if you absolutely abhor keeping up with the news and you just cannot be bothered to trawl through various news sources to compile examples for yourself, our Top General Paper Tuition Programme is just the solution for you! Our reliable General Paper tutors are always up to date with global affairs, and you can trust them to provide you with not only highly relevant examples but also with the appropriate application skills. Our highly-esteemed track record of a 70% distinction rate across subjects is a testament to our highly effective team of tutors at Zenith.
By definition, the media is a means for mass communication. There are various types of media that individuals often access news and information for. This includes social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook, while also encompassing traditional news sites like BBC, CNA, the Straits Times, and more! When writing on the theme of media, you can consider the above-listed sites above and include them in your evidence or explanation. When talking about the theme of media, some key points you should note are:
- The widespread reach of the media. Newspapers remain an important contributor to political awareness in a changing media landscape, even for those with limited political interest. The media has the power to surface and push for ideologies that are implicitly or explicitly embedded into various media forms, be it news articles, social media posts, or even videos. This power is not one to take lightly, and numerous studies have assessed the powerful effects of the media on the public.
- When talking about reach, include statistics like this. Statistics are an excellent way to support your arguments.
- The media provides a platform for like-minded people to gather and share common views on certain topics.
- Positive: An example would be how protesters gathered online to collectively express their anger at the injustice George Floyd faced. This led to the Black Lives Matter movement and ultimately resulted in charges being pressed against the police officers who killed Floyd.
- Negative: An example would be when people gathered online to shame local influencer Dee Kosh. This included those who were unaware of the full story and had just happened to chance across related posts or join in the commotion. Many of the comments included insults, slurs, and vulgarities that were highly inappropriate.
- In some societies, Draconian/Autocratic governments place tight control on the media in order to prevent any uprisings.
- North Korea has an autocratic government where its people struggle with freedom of speech on all media platforms. In fact, many of the common platforms we use today are banned in North Korea. Citizens can only use media platforms that are closely monitored by the government.
- While less strict, the Chinese government is also extremely tight on controlling their social media platforms like Baidu.
- The media can be dangerous because prolonged exposure to content can result in the indoctrination of certain notions or ideologies that might have harmful effects on the individual or on society as a whole.
- Self-radicalisation depicts how the media can drastically influence one’s way of thinking, along with their morals and values.
We have shared the basics of what you need to know when tackling media-themed questions. If you want to delve deeper into how you can excel in this subject, make sure to give our General Paper Tuition Programme a chance today! We offer free trials too. We know that General paper can be a difficult subject to conquer, especially with its high content requirements and the needed flair for writing. This is why our friendly tutor is always ready to answer your questions, rain or shine! We’ve also customized our hyper-effective program to be beginner-friendly, and for all levels of language mastery. At Zenith, we care deeply about your wellbeing, which is why we have designated study areas and a brimming snack bar just for you (Fig 4). We also have comfortable sofas in our centres for you to take power naps after you’ve earned it by studying so hard (Fig 5). We’ve got it all… so what are you waiting for? Join Zenith today!
Fig 4. The snack bar at our Potong Pasir Branch
Fig 5. Comfortable rest areas