To start off, I would say getting an A for English is not unheard of, and is actually quite achievable. Somehow, especially with changes in the examination structure, you may often wonder about how exactly you can write in a manner which works.
In the English Paper, the section that contains Shorter Writing and Reflective Commentary is one which largely contributes to that sort of confusion. However, the key to answering these questions lie in the way you plan it.
To hone your writing skills in a language, you need to practice writing succinctly - this is what Cambridge and other International Boards are looking for. In short, it means you need to make each sentence count.
So how can you go about writing succinctly for the Shorter Writing task?
The Shorter Writing question looks short and simple. It gives you a situational task and a text type to write it in. The text type can range from descriptive writing, or narrative, or it can be a transactional text, for eg. a letter, a magazine article, a news story, etc.
The text type is important in Shorter Writing, and a lot of students are often unprepared for writing in the format required in the question. Since Shorter Writing has only one question, it is compulsory and it requires you to already have your knowledge and understanding of the formats down to pat.
Note: For your main examinations, there are 18 text types you need knowledge and understanding on. This means you need to know their respective formats, and you will need to have an understanding on how to write them. So go through your notes, and if you require a bit of guidance, you need only a few short sessions to set you up straight to approach these questions with clarity. Get in touch with us here, and also, keep reading.
With knowledge and understanding out of the way, the best method to adopt for writing a good answer is to make sure that you are completely clear about the requirements of the question. If you understand the question, you are more likely to answer it efficiently.
Understanding the Shorter Writing Question
Let's take a look at one of these questions:
You have recently left home and are spending three months living and studying in another country. You have decided to write a blog about the experience.
Write the text for your first blog entry, using no more than 400 words. In your writing, create a sense of excitement and anticipation.
Take a moment and ask yourself, what is this question requiring from your response?
1) A particular format or type of text
As mentioned, this is actually a very big part of this question. In this case, the format/text type is a blog post. So, make a note of how it needs to be written from your point of view, since you are documenting your personal experience of living and studying abroad, and since it is a form of personal writing.
You will also need to include the events that have happened to you since your arrival in the new country. The recounting of events is an important factor in blog posts - you can include the events that occured in the first day of your leaving, and perhaps recount the events leading up to it as well.
2) Whole text or part of it?
Secondly, is the question requiring the entire experience or just a small part of it? Here, the text is asking you for your first blog entry. If you are to document the whole experience, you will likely be dividing your blog entries just a few days apart, at most.
So, the question is requiring only the recounting of the events that happened in the first few days of you leaving your home and reaching the other country. You can even probably cut the duration down to your very first day, and collect everything you need to say as one end-of-day recount.
3) The key focus or content
Thirdly, while writing this text, your key focus must be on reflecting on the previously unknown territory, which was living and studying abroad. And yet, it is also clear that, perhaps you may never have lived or studied abroad - this is why this question still qualifies as imaginative writing.
Your focus should be to think of/ imagine a country which you would like to visit for such a study exchange, as well as use everything you know about that country to formulate accurate descriptions of it. In this case, you will need to describe what the country looks like, describe the people you met, the events that occurred, as well as how you felt in those first few days.
4) The desired effect
For the desired effect in a blog post, the most important desired effect for the audience as they are reading it, is an understanding of the writer's outlook or mood. The blog post can ideally contain an overall mood, for eg. excitement, or perhaps anticipation for the next few days.
On top of this, since it is personal writing, you must include your feelings, and convey whether they are good, bad or even indifferent towards the events that have occurred. Are you, the student who is now writing a blog post on living and studying abroad, speaking of a positive or negative experience?
Am I ready?
These are the 4 things you need to keep in mind before you start writing the Shorter Writing task. Now that you know what core elements you need to address, you can easily decode the question.
However, writing it in a succinct manner does require practice. Most students struggle to get above an 11 for their Shorter Writing task, and yet, getting an A is just a small reach away for any student who desires it. If you will like guidance in approaching the Shorter Writing task, or would like to sharpen your writing for the examination, get in touch with us here, and enhance your linguistic and writing skills.
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