What to expect for English in secondary school


What to expect for English in secondary school?

Time flew by and before you knew it, you are now in Secondary 1. A new school. New friends and teachers. A new environment. New expectations from parents.

Yes, the things you will encounter in secondary school will be vastly different from those in primary school. For one, the prices of food in the school canteen are now more than your usual allowance. However, what about the curriculum in school? Specifically, what are the differences between Primary English and Secondary English? Aren’t they the same? Well, yes and no. Read on to find out more.

The various differences between Primary English and Secondary English are encapsulated in the table below. They are listed according to the different components of the English Language examination paper. Do take a look at it before I expound on a few major details.


Paper 1: Section A – Editing (5m)

Primary EnglishSecondary English
Nil.This editing component comprises of a short passage where there are 10 errors (for NA students) or 8 errors and 2 correct answers (for EXP students). Students are expected to identify the errors and write the correct answers down.


Paper 1: Section B – Situational Writing (30m)

Primary English Secondary English
Comprising of 15 marks, students are expected to refer to a visual to write a situational letter, usually in the form of an email or text, to a specific audience. Tasks are specified.This 30-mark component requires students to refer to a visual to write a situational piece to a specific audience , which can be an email, a formal/informal letter, a magazine article, a feature article, a proposal, a speech, etc. Yes, there are so many! All of these different formats will be taught throughout the 4 years of secondary school. The visual text is also comparatively more comprehensive with detailed information that students would have to sieve through.




Paper 1: Section C – Free Writing (30m)

Primary English Secondary English
Students are expected to use given pictures to write a composition on a specific theme/topic. There are guiding points for the students to work on. There are no pictures here (What?!). Students are given 4 topics where they would have to choose 1 to write on. These topics can be anything from the genres of narrative, personal recounts, argumentative/discursive, personal reflective etc. This list is non-exhaustive.Again, students will be taught all genres throughout 4 years.




Paper 2: Section A – Visual Text Analysis (5m)

Primary English Secondary English
Students have grammar and vocabulary questions to work on. This requires them to read widely and practise in order to do well here.This component is only 5 marks out of a total of 50 marks for this section, but it is the hardest to score well in this section for many students. Students are required to analyse a visual text (advertisement, poster, webpage etc) and answer 3-4 questions based on the visual text. Questions require students to think critically and answer based on reasoning of the text.




Paper 2: Section B – Narrative Text (20m)

Primary English Secondary English
Students have to go through editing, cloze passages and synthesis of sentences here. This requires them to be aware of the various grammatical or spelling rules.
There is one comprehension passage where students have to answer based on the textual evidence or language features of the text.
There will be a narrative text which is comparatively longer. Students are required to answer questions that are based predominantly on the language features of the text. Students would have to be sensitive to the nuances of the text in order to do well here.




Paper 2: Section C – Non-narrative Text (25m)

Primary English Primary English
Nil.Yes, it’s not over! There is yet ANOTHER long passage to read. This time the passage is more factual and it requires students to read closely and sieve out relevant information to answer the questions. The most dreaded part of this section is undoubtedly the summary writing section. Comprising of 15 marks alone, students are required to summarise the passage based on the question given. They would have to use their own words as much as possible.



Phew! And these are only the differences in Papers 1 and 2! We shall save Papers 3 and 4 for another post, shan’t we?

Secondary school life is daunting enough even without all these curriculum challenges, but if we can’t avoid them, why not embrace them and work with your English Language teacher to achieve your targeted grade? Just don’t embrace your teacher, will you?

We at Thinking Factory will try our best to bring you more posts like this to help those of you who are on your Secondary School journey. We hope you find our posts useful and do let us know if you want us to write about any specific category!



About Teacher Joanna

Teacher Joanna has been teaching in secondary schools for 11 years. She has just left the service to spend more time with her family. Her teaching philosophy is that English Language is something that requires time and practice in order to do well in. It is difficult to expect desirable results if one does not put in effort.

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