Sunday, October 25, 2009

Substantial Section C


Today we will take a look at Section C of the SPM 1119 paper. This section, which carries a substantial 25 marks, is divided into two parts, reading comprehension and summary writing. 10 marks are allocated for reading comprehension and 15 marks for summary writing.

Guidelines for reading comprehension

1. Read the whole passage through once to get a general idea of what the passage is about. Do not worry if you come across unfamiliar words. Sometimes, it is not necessary to understand every word you read.

2. Do read the passage a second time, if necessary. The second reading helps you take in the details and improve your understanding.

3. Read the questions carefully. Use cue words in the questions to help you answer the questions. These can be the “wh” words (what, when, where, why, who, whose, how) and action verbs (identify, find, list).

4. Questions sometimes contain words found in the passage. Use these words to help you identify the part of the passage where the answer can be found.

5. You do not have to answer questions in complete sentences (look at the sample answers given).

6. You can lift words, clauses or sentences from the passage to answer questions. You do not have to use your own words unless you are told to do so. Moreover, there is a danger in paraphrasing – you might alter/distort the meaning expressed in the passage and hence lose precious marks.

7. For questions on vocabulary, if you are asked for a word, then give only ONE word and nothing else. Make sure you spell the word correctly. If you are asked for a phrase, then give the relevant phrase. If you copy the sentence where the word or phrase are found, you must indicate the chosen word or phrase by underlining it or putting it within quotation marks.

8. Some questions require you to use your own words and you must do so.

9. Do pay attention to the tense (and sometimes pronoun) used in the questions when formulating your answers.

Pitfalls to avoid

1. Do not give more than the required information. Sometimes, students copy chunks from a passage, giving two or more sentences. This only highlights their weakness – failure to understand the question and/or text.

2. Do not give two or more answers to a question. Some students write down all the possible answers to a question just to be on the safe side.

3. Do not waste time paraphrasing answers unless you are asked to do so.

Summary writing

The question on summary writing is based on the same text used for reading comprehension. This should be a boon as you would be familiar with the text after several readings. Despite this, many students are not comfortable dealing with summary writing.Their fears stem from their inability to identify informtation relevant to the answer. Some are also worried that they may not be able to put the information together into a coherent paragraph. Weak students have an additional problem to grapple with – language. While these concerns are genuine, there is no reason to fret as these problems can be easily overcome with proper guidance and help from teachers.

Remember that summary writing in the context of this paper is largely a reading skill (as you are required to select relevant information in the text) with a bit of writing thrown in (as you have to string the points together into a unified text). The task is made easier for you as you do not need to summarise the whole text, only certain aspects (maybe one or two). Therefore, it is crucial that you read the question carefully and consider what information is relevant.

The allocation of marks for summary writing is as follows: 10 for content and 5 for language. Usually, there are more than 10 content points but you should be able to identify at least 10. I always advise students not to worry too much about paraphrasing. You should focus on getting marks for content, not language.

Guidelines for summary writing:

1. Read the question carefully. Ask yourself: “What am I required to summarise?”

2. Mark the first and last lines of the passage you are asked to refer to.

3. Then select information that is relevant to your answer. To do this, underline the relevant lines or ideas as you read the text. Always ask yourself: “Is this...” (For the summary below, you would ask: “Is this a reason tigers have become extinct? or Is this a measure that should be implemented?”

4. Look through the lines/ideas you have underlined. Sometimes an idea is repeated in another line by way of paraphrasing. Ask yourself, is this a repetition?

5. Summarise these ideas. You can combine ideas by combining phrases or sentences, or you may want to paraphrase ideas/sentences. However, make sure your sentences are complete sentences and not fractured bits and pieces.

6. If you cannot paraphrase ideas, see if there are words in the text that you can replace without affecting meaning. For example, you can use a pronoun to replace a noun.

7. If you are a weak student, do copy the complete sentence. This way, you will not lose marks for content or language.

8. Begin the summary with the 10 words given and remember that the three dots after the tenth word mean you have to complete the sentence with some relevant information from the text.

9. Organise the ideas/points in the manner in which they are found in the text. Do not waste time trying to rearrange ideas.

10. Adhere to the word limit. Writing more than the required number of words will not get you any marks. Anything far too short of the word limit means you lack content.

11. Pay attention to the tense (and sometimes pronoun) used in the given 10 words.

12. Write the summary in one paragraph. Some students are in the habit of drawing columns to facilitate counting of words. This is perfectly fine but do write your final draft in one paragraph.

Pitfalls to avoid

1. Do not include information not found in the text.

2. Do not include your own ideas or opinions.

3. Do not spend too much time paraphrasing as you might end up losing marks for content unless you can do so without altering/distorting meaning.

4. Do not repeat ideas. Sometimes, an idea is repeated in the text and you may not notice it as it may have been paraphrased.

5. Do not include material from other lines in the text.

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