As many students prepare for their P5 Paper 1 components, here are 3 important reminders.

1. Theme

What is the theme of your story?

  • Study the theme carefully before planning.
  • Ensure that you understand the theme fully before planning out your plot
  • Example: The theme is on A Good Deed.

Returning a wallet is not a good deed. It is being honest

How can I use the theme?

  • Through dialogue
  • Through the protagonist’s personal thoughts
  • Through description
  • Through reflection at the end of the story

2. Don’t flip the theme


Being Honest, Being Responsible, Being Patient, Being Considerate

For themes like the ones above, it is easier for students to write the opposite of what is being asked. Do not write about being dishonest or being impatient or being irresponsible. While it is more difficult to write about being ‘good’ than being ‘bad’, students may lose marks if they do not follow the theme.

While the protagonist may have some personal thoughts about being dishonest, impatient or inconsiderate, it should just be a short part of your composition. The main story should be about being honest, patient or considerate.

3. Characterisation


When it comes to characters in your story, the rule is the fewer the better! The best would be just the protagonist and one more character. There is no reason to add in 3-4 characters, all with different names.

Students have around 50 minutes to actually write out the composition. Having two strong characters in your composition is enough. In the model below, the student wrote about the protagonist and his mother, even though he mentions other members of his family.

Write a few descriptive lines about each character. It can be their :

External descriptions – Hawker Tan looked old and frail today. Her usual bright smile on her face was replaced with overwhelming fatigue.

Internal descriptions – Lazy. That used to be me. I would rather spend my time being a couch potato than do an ounce of homework

Students often ask me how they can score above 35 for their Paper 1 component. Try to assimilate those 3 points above and remember to check on your grammar and spelling. Below is an example of a preliminary composition done by one of my P6 students. He scored an impressive 39/40 for his preliminary composition. He has always been a good writer but over time and practice, he eliminated grammatical errors and made sure to develop whatever theme was given to him. His prelim composition was on the theme of An Opportunity.

I hope that those 3 reminders will come in handy for your English paper 1. I wish everyone all the best for the SA2 Paper 1! 🙂

P5 Prelim composition model on the theme of An Opportunity

“Reach out for the stars! With dreams, we will soar up high!” I jubilantly sang to the rhythm of the National Day theme song blaring from my radio at maximum volume while dancing to the beat. I was a massive fan of the National Day theme songs. So much so, that I even chanted them while showering, but stopped after my sister recorded an embarrassing video of me singing. Do not be fooled, for even though I had memorised all the National Day theme songs by heart, I was held back by my coarse and shrill voice. My family once told me that whenever I sang, I sounded like a choking parrot. A fitting description, I suppose and that day was no exception.

“Marissa! Are you singing again?” my mother shouted at me as she slowly made her climb up the stairs. Her thunderous footsteps reverberated in my ears with each step. Ever since we started getting complaints from the neighbours about the music or my singing is too loud, my mother forbade me from singing. As she had gone out that morning, I decided to grasp the opportunity to stretch my vocal cords. Unexpectedly, my mother had come back earlier. As her footsteps drew closer, I panicked. In a flurry, I got off my bed, which was my ‘stage’, and threw my hair comb back on the table, which I had been using as my makeshift microphone. Just in the nick of time, I managed to sit down and pull out an assessment book. My mother burst through the door and demanded if I had been singing again.

I looked over nervously and said,” No Mother, I was just listening to the songs on the radio.”

My mother stared at me with her beady eyes as if she could see through my anxious lie like glass. Eventually, she shrugged and warned,” Turn down the volume,”

I cranked the volume a few decibels lower. Before she left, my mother said, ”You had better not take my time away from home as an opportunity to sing. I have eyes everywhere!”

I wanted to roll my eyes but instead, I nodded and she whipped her head around before stomping down the stairs. I sighed. No one in my family understood my passion for singing. I took out my laptop to begin my online music homework when an advertisement popped up at the corner of my screen. I squinted my eyes as the font was quite illegible. It read ‘Have a passion for singing cannot find the opportunity to let it out? Join the free Singapore Singing Contest today and sing a National Day theme song from any year! Stand a chance to win attractive prizes as well.’ I was shocked. The advertisement had perfectly described my predicament. Not only that, the singing contest would be at the Community Club directly adjacent to my house. This was a golden opportunity for me. However, the light in my eyes dimmed when I saw that it was the exact same date as our family dinner.

I was in a dilemma. I carefully contemplated my choices, knowing that I would only be able to attend one event. I also had to consider the fact that it would be near impossible to escape my family on that day. I would have to do the unthinkable. Both choices were good but only one was an opportunity, only one could let me express myself and be truly happy. So, I signed up for the competition and came up with a plan.

On the fateful day of the competition, I packed my lyric sheet and a microphone that I had gotten for my birthday into a bag. As we were about to leave, I began my plan. “Cough..cough..Urgh” I threw up a mashed-up vegetable mix that I had prepared earlier.

“What’s wrong?” my parents said, rushing to my aid.

“I don’t feel good,” I muttered.

I knew that my plan would work. My parents were thrifty people but they decided to splurge on an expensive restaurant. Even canceling the dinner reservation would cost them money. As expected, after they brought me up to my room to rest, they gave me a set of instructions.

“My dear, we know that you are unwell but we really cannot cancel this reservation. There is dinner in the fridge. Eat it later and rest. We will take you to the doctor when we return from dinner. Call us if you are really not feeling well,” my mother said.

“There is no need for that,” I replied weakly.

My mother nodded. As they left the room, I smirked, proud that I had deceived them. I watched as they drove off in the distance and put the rest of my plan into action.

I grabbed my bag with the items that I needed before dashing to the Community Club, which was a stone’s throw away. I registered my name, Marissa Woo, before heading into the performers’ waiting area. I saw a large number of performers and a plethora of lyric sheets, each with a different National Day theme song. I waited behind the curtains for the walk-in audience to finish arriving. Then the competition began. The first singer sang a beautiful version of the iconic ‘Count on me to Singapore’. I could tell that the people I was competing against were professionals. I watched as every other singer came up to sing. Soon, it was my turn to sing. Slowly, I walked on stage, perspiring nervously. However, I took a deep breath and calmed myself down. I set my lyrics onto the stand and began singing.

“Reach out for the stars! With dreams, we will soar up high.” I was performing my favourite National Day theme song, for the lyrics mean that we should grasp arising opportunities for our dreams. I sang with my heart and soul until finally, I sang the last line. There was a deadly silence before everyone clapped and cheered for me. I was on cloud nine and felt an indescribable euphoria. I thanked everyone and made my descent off the stage. Little did I know that there would be people waiting for me.

“Dad! Mum!” I said.

I saw my parents standing amongst the people on the sidelines. I enveloped them in a bear hug. It turned out that due to traffic congestion, they were stuck in traffic. They then saw me running to the Community Club so they decided to park their car and follow me out of fear and confusion. Surprisingly, they were not angry but instead, proud of me.

“We did not know that you could sing so well. Most of the time you deafen us with your shrill voice. Marissa, I am glad that you grasped this opportunity to sing. However, next time, do not deceive us okay?” my mother said.

I promised my mother that I would not do that ever again.

As I stood at the sidelines with my parents, waiting for the results, I reflected on the day. I was glad that I grasped the opportunity to sing.

Suddenly, the judge announced, “The most passionate performer award goes to Marissa Woo!”

My parents clapped and cheered jubilantly. As I walked up on stage, I was glad that I took that opportunity and gave it my all.

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2023 P5 English tuition timetable

BranchDayStart timeEnd time
Bukit TimahWED5 pm7 pm
Bukit TimahTHU3 pm5 pm
Bukit TimahSUN12 pm2 pm
Hougang PelikatWED5 pm7 pm
Hougang PelikatSAT1.30 pm3.30 pm
Hougang PelikatSAT3.30 pm5.30 pm