Teaching to the Test – Part 1

Much as we would like to aspire to a greater good, there comes a time for all of us to “teach to the test”. Especially those of us who are teaching ‘critical levels’ such as Form 3 (PMR) and Form 5 (SPM). Please remember that there is NOTHING WRONG with teaching to the test. After all, it is our duty as teachers to cater to students’ needs and what they need is to pass the test.

This post is basically a breakdown of the SPM English examination for those who are unfamiliar with the format. I will include some tips and pointers where available but I will most probably write a separate post for the actual guidelines later on. This is just a brief look at the examination as a whole.

SPM English is divided into 2 papers – Paper 1 and Paper 2. Paper 1 is the essay paper while Paper 2 covers everything else.

Paper 1

Section A – Directed Writing

In this section, there is only one question provided; students do not have a choice. The main contents of the essay are provided. Students must use ALL of the points given and they must use the points in a way that shows they understand the points. For example, each point is given a relevant supporting detail. Students who merely string the points together to form a sentence without any additional explanation will not receive content marks for the points used.

The types of essay that could be tested in this section are letters (formal & informal), reports, speeches/talks and articles. Each of these essays comes with its own “format” and these are given marks as well.

*** Length – 250 words / Time – 45 minutes

Section B – Continuous Writing

In this section, students are given a choice of 5 different questions; they only have to answer one.

There are 5 types of essays in this section.

1) Descriptive – describe an event/incident or a person

2) Reflective – essentially more or less the same as a descriptive essay

3) Argumentative – usually comes with “Do you agree?” or “Discuss.”

4) Narrative – usually comes with a short sentence that has to be placed either at the beginning or at the end of the story

5) “One-word” essay – basically an open-ended title

*** Length – 350 words / Time : 1 hour

Paper 2 will be discussed in “Teaching to the Test – Part 2” next week. Have a nice day! (:


3 thoughts on “Teaching to the Test – Part 1

  1. […] week I wrote about Paper 1 for SPM English. This week I will talk about Paper […]

  2. nur says:

    Hi, I’m just wondering. If my students write shorter than they should for both essays, how much can they get?

    • even if your language is very good, if the essay is too short, you will not get a good mark. firstly because you did not follow the instructions and secondly, your essay most probably lacks content. if your students are good in english, you should encourage them to write longer.

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