How to choose and approach your A Level GP Essay
Updated: Feb 21
A Level General Paper is a subject that confronts, confounds, and confuses. Specifically, its essay component, which frustrates even the most talented of writers. Is there truly a formula for churning out perfect essay after perfect essay? Is there a magic criterion by which teachers take into account during their grading process? Is writing a good GP essay not a wholly subjective pursuit, bereft of a concrete structure, given to the whims of the marker that had happened to chance upon it that particular day? Well, the answer to the above is a resounding yes and no. A Level GP is not a subject that has a specific method set in stone. Rather, it is subjective in nature, because a good GP essay comes in many shapes and forms. However, it is still possible to systematically prepare for it, as the top GP tuition center in Singapore details in the following guide!
Zenith’s breakdown of the A Level GP syllabus reveals that Paper 1, the essay portion, accrues to a significant 50% of the entire A Level GP grade. The word count requirement lies at a reasonable 500-800, but our JC General Paper tuition programme encourages you to write more so you can illustrate your points succinctly and accurately. Of the 50 marks on offer, 20 (40%) of it is set aside for the candidates' “Use of English”. This means that your use of paragraphing, sentence structures, grammar, and fluidity of ideas are all taken into account. Students should look to detail their ideas in a coherent, passionate, and grammatically sound manner. In this portion, do make an effort to vary the instruments of your essay; for example, using a mix of simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentence structures. Also, you can try to incorporate semicolons, colons, and hyphens whenever appropriate. The other 30, or 60% of the A Level GP essay grade goes to the use of “Content”. This means that you should have a thorough understanding of the relevant topic areas, and be able to analyze and evaluate issues across different disciplines. In particular, this ensures that you do not have just a superficial understanding of any theme in concern, but a well-rounded and critically-informed point of view.
Ways to bolster your knowledge include keeping up with reputable news outlets such as The Economist and New York Times, and supplementing that with educational, non-fiction books on any theme you happen to be interested in. As always, the library can also come in very handy here! You may also check out Libby, NLB’S online counterpart, for e-books if that is more to your liking.
Choosing an essay
The A Level GP essay spread consists of the following 7 themes:
For theme 7, its enclosed topics are usually more general and niche, but not broad enough to come under a specific theme on their own (Fig 1.).
Fig 1. Examples of A Level GP essay questions under the “General” umbrella
At Zenith, we encourage you to choose a theme that you are interested in and passionate about. With that, half of the battle is already won. Without genuine interest, there can be no room for independent and sustained learning. With passion comes the thirst for deep knowledge, refined argumentation, and a strong personal voice over complex global issues. For example, you could have a keen interest in political theory and international relations, which admittedly is not a popular area for many A Level GP students. However, do take note of the structure of the question. It could, for instance, begin with a ‘do you agree’, a ‘to what extent’, or even a ‘should’. Accordingly, you should shape your essay’s approach so as to accurately answer the question’s demands. With that in mind, leverage your interest and stand out from the crowd with an essay that is not only of high quality but also filled with novelty and a fresh perspective.
As the most comprehensive GP tuition in Singapore, Zenith also advocates an attitude of practicality when choosing your desired essay questions. Sometimes, the essay themes that deeply interest you may not appear during the A Level GP examinations, or may consist of an entirely foreign structure that stumps you. In such scenarios, it is imperative that you have not placed all your eggs into one basket. Instead, you should have also researched, prepared, and practiced for thematic questions that have been frequently tested. For instance, the theme on Media has been very popular in recent years, with the rise and prominence of social media. Questions on online vigilantism, digital activism, and freedom of the press, just to name a few, have popped up recently. At the top GP tuition center in Singapore, we encourage you to be sufficiently prepared for both popular topic areas that have been increasingly tested and topics you are passionate about.
Approaching your essay
1. Keyword Analysis
Upon selecting an essay of your choice, the next step will be to develop a suitable essay plan. This entails understanding the requirements of the keywords in your essay question. Often, it may concern organizations (individuals, a societal group, nations) and also descriptions, outlines, or characteristics of modes of action. Take a look at question 1:
To what extent do charities benefit the disadvantaged?
Where we can see that charities, an organizational body of society, and the disadvantaged, a specific subgroup of the population, happen to be the two keywords in contention here! Similarly, with reference to question 2:
‘The powerful always get away with crime’. Discuss.
The powerful, a societal class, is defined as the first keyword, while “get away with crime” is identified as the second one. This is a mode of action, which describes what your subclass is defined to be doing based on the requirements of the essay.
Zenith’s JC General Paper tuition programme sees keywords as absolutely essential to the structure of your essay. Keywords define the relevant parameters of what can be written. Keywords also act as pillars with which your thoughts and knowledge have to be built around. Misinterpreting a single keyword in your A Level GP essay question can change the focus of your essay completely, as well as the arguments being used!
2. Don’t regurgitate essay plans
Another key mistake you might make is trying to fit memorized essay plans word for word into entirely different A Level GP essay questions. Just because you saw a familiar “trigger” word, it doesn't mean you should immediately start forcing points from a plan that you’ve studied before! At the top GP tuition in Singapore, we are able to provide you with comprehensive and detailed notes on a wide range of topics, but that still requires you to adapt the information from those notes in a flexible manner to accurately answer the question in front of you. Blindly trying to paste points, paragraphs, and ideas wholesale is not advisable for a subject that highly rewards critical application of thought.
After outlining the keywords needed, begin with splitting your essay into contrasting parts. Often, the first half will detail your support for one side of the issue in contention, while the other half seeks to refute or limit that very content.
3. Make your essay stand out
Complement your essay plan with an eye-catching introduction, flowery topic sentences, relevant examples, and explanations. All of these work hand in hand toward forming a stable essay skeleton. For example, an introduction can consist of a rhetorical question or even a sensational example that fires up the marker’s attention. This enables you to differentiate yourself from your ordinary peers! Incorporating a good mix of the aforementioned components ensures that your essay is comprehensively planned out before you set your pen to paper. With these, you will be able to customize the foundations of your chosen A Level GP essay, and not simply duplicate plans of previously learned essays. At the best GP tuition in Singapore, we do just that, equipping you with a variety of tools to sketch out a well-balanced essay plan. By regurgitating, you merely set yourself up to fail. Also, if you’re struggling with writer’s block, you can check out this article that documents the ways to get out of that dilemma!
Keep the above tips in mind, and your A Level GP essay will be a breeze. Click here, if you’re keen on joining the best JC GP tuition programme in Singapore! You may also visit our testimonials page to find out more or jump straight to contacting us for a free trial today!