Lessons from the 2019 A-Levels


We’ve been on quite the hiatus, haven’t we! It’s been two intense years with my first cohort of Lit students and with both papers over, there’s now time to gather our thoughts, sleep a little and think about next steps. Without Google Classroom, I’ll settle for the equivalent of ranting at a white wall. You, future JC2 Lit student or future me might find this and the next Paper 3-focused post useful in the lead-up to the 2020 or even 2021 A-Levels, so here’s hoping this is useful.

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Bring on the Promos



3 hours, 3 questions. Each section in the paper carries equal marks. We generally recommend you scan through all three sections once you are permitted to do so and start with the unseen. If you are flummoxed by the unseen, move onto the set texts and you can return to the unseen in a calmer state of mind. ūüėČ

  • Section A – Paper 3 Unseen, choose either (a) drama excerpt or (b) poem.
  • Section B –¬†Paper 3¬†Woman in Mind, choose one essay question from two.
  • Section C – Paper 1¬†Measure for Measure, choose either (a) essay or (b) passage-based question.

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Bleeding Lit

Or how to study for Literature (2018 edition)

In this pre-June break, long overdue post, we outline some of the study strategies beyond the standard mantras of ‘I will read my text over the holidays’ and ‘I will commit the notes to memory’ that you can¬†and should¬†commit to in the weeks to come. Some of these suggestions will apply directly to questions from the 2018 JC1 H2 Mid-Year Examination, with the reference to the compulsory passage-based question on¬†Measure for Measure and the single-text essay question options on¬†Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,¬†while most are generic enough for all revision from this point forward. If you would like to clarify the suggestions, or want tailored feedback on your notes, drop me an email at my school-based address!

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Questions on the Unseen

Post-Mid Year Section A Review

You were invited to ask me questions about either poem, analysis / response skills or how to go about dealing with specific evidence on Mentimeter. As Prince Charming observes, better to be a toad than a t*rd! Find my responses below. Also remember to head over to the Essays section to read a selection of ‘good’ responses from the Mid Year Exam – the same password applies.

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Revising for the Mid-Year Exam

Exam Meme

Hola all! It’s the fourth day of Pre-U Sem and Student Leaders Training, so more than a few of us should be beginning our revision for the Mid-Year Examination soon. You’ve probably heard your teachers repeat this ad nauseum already but it’s worth reiterating: the A-levels are not the same as the O-levels or your IP exams. Some of your old habits, whether in Literature or your other subjects, may already have haunted you in your various CAs. Whatever the case, let’s all start on a clean slate as we gear up for your first internal JC exam, and the A-level exam you will eventually take in November 2018!

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The JC1 Mid-Year Exam



3 hours

  • We strongly recommend you spend¬†1 hr per section, using about 15 min for reading / planning and the remaining 45 to write the essay.
  • Going overboard (e.g. using¬†1 hr 30 min) will¬†not be worth the extra marks you¬†earn
  • Brief¬†answers tend to be awarded very low marks (e.g. less than 6 marks); incomplete answers tend not to be in the top two bands (18 – 25 marks).

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The Critical Move – A History

What is a Critical Move? 

The critical move is a specific step¬†you can take to make headway in your written assignment, be it in analysis or response. The critical move is¬†scripted by your teacher, based on one of the “cool spots” in your work, and may take the form of the following:

  • Write or rewrite your introduction / conclusion
  • Analyse a new method or new evidence you didn’t previously consider
  • Analyse with a focus on the¬†effects¬†(you probably tried to describe or explain the text)
  • Add on or review the¬†purpose¬†or your discussion of concerns (you may have ended abruptly, or not linked your analysis to your ideas)

You should generally complete your critical move within 7 days of receiving your work back. Remember to write down the instruction given to you so that your tutor can understand¬†the “destination” you are supposed to get to (see the next section).


What’s the background of this nifty idea?

Unfortunately, it isn’t mine. I adapted it from a book called¬†Switch¬†which is essentially a management book that is, despite the raised eyebrows that management books incur, useful and practical. The concept of the critical move could not do without the premise that¬†we all want to become better at what we do, and we sometimes don’t know how.

The critical move is decidedly¬†NOT a big picture statement like “Become a better writer!”,¬†“Lose weight”!”, “Get smart!” or any other¬†vague call to action. It is an attempt to¬†shrink the change¬†to something you can manage in less time. For some, it’s about changing what you eat for lunch every Monday, or adding 10 min of reading time to your schedule tomorrow. For us, it’s about reviewing a specific line or paragraph, or adding a few lines of analysis. It is also an attempt to¬†point you to the destination. You may not have really covered the concerns, so your critical move guarantees that you’ll move¬†one band up¬†in the ‘Response’ column.


Wait, hang on a second, are you sure it’s that easy?

Well, of course not.¬†The Heath brothers, the writers of¬†Switch, tell us that it is important to motivate the “elephant”, that residual big beast of instinct in all of us. We all need to find the emotion to get started, to get better, to stare at our own work; that’s why we are dangling the carrot of additional marks to each of your CAs.

The critical move per se seeks to direct the rider – to tell the rational side of you where to go (i.e. you are definitely going to score 25/25 for all six of your answers), and to get us started on these “critical moves” so that you have a habit of relooking your work. ūüôā Enjoy the process!

Continual Assessment for Term 1

Hey Eunoians!

Please find the briefing on Continual Assessment by clicking on the link (wait, you just missed it).

Most classes will be given time in class this week to complete¬†CA1 – an essay outline task for one¬†Paper 3 poem related to ‘The Mind and Self in Literature’ – ‘Mr Bleaney’ by Philip Larkin, on p70 of Multiverse. You are expected to complete the¬†essay outline by the end of your 3rd tutorial in Term 1 Week 10. Nonetheless, we will preserve an even deadline for CA1 –¬†Fri, 10 Mar 2017.

You will be tasked to complete CA2 Рa full essay on one Paper 1 poem from two options, both of which will cover familiar themes and concerns. You can download the assignment here: 2017 JC1 CA2 P1 Unseen Poetry (Revised).

Mr. Lim’s students may choose to submit their work via email. Read these guidelines first, and send them over to marc[dot]kenji[dot]lim¬†[at]¬†ejc[dot]edu[dot]sg. Mr. Lim’s students may also sign up for consultations over the holidays at tinyurl.com/consultmkl.

Writing a WHY Paragraph

Hey Eunoians!

We have assigned you, our first ever Literature cohort, a short paragraph-writing exercise on ‘Strange Fruit’ (Multiverse¬†p31). You can use one of the guiding questions on the page, or just select (What) an idea from the poem, (How) analyse a method and an accompanying set of images / metaphors, and their effects, and (Why) comment on the purpose of these images – what the poem essentially ‘says’ or ‘does’ in the light of lynching, racial terror, social injustice and concerns you can decide for yourself ūüėČ

The slides for our first tutorial can be accessed here if you want them –¬†U-T01 Imagery (Slides).

You can download and print the¬†Multiverse Essay Planners¬†(see p132 and onwards) if you need help, or if you need to refer to the W-H-Y structure for paragraphs. The “WHY Framework” on¬†Multiverse¬†p12 and the various writing samples in the pack provide you further help.

This is, alas, a¬†handwritten assignment. You can label your points “What”, “How” and “Why” in whichever fashion you prefer. Labelling is optional and is meant to guide your writing, if you need that guidance.

For those of you who prefer electronic submissions, hang on! Mr. Lim (c’est moi) will be setting for his students (third-person is awkward) a set of guidelines (yes) for that in time to come, which you can use for subsequent full¬†essays / assignments.