Paper 2: Don't Lose the Marks Everyone is Getting!

Hi again! I’m sure many of you are currently in the thick of your revision for the upcoming examinations and I hope that it has been going well. Much as it may be taxing, press on!

In my most recent post, I talked about the importance of students self checking their work and demonstrated how that can be done for even Continuous Writing. Today, I’m going to talk about how to check for Paper 2. Given that there are many components in Paper 2, it is impossible to check each and every question once through with your remaining time. As such, I’m going to share with all of you on the things which you can zero in on to check if you only have five minutes of your time left.

Paper 2: Don't lose the marks everyone is getting!

1. Revisit or double check the questions which you are unsure of

What do you do when you are stumped by certain questions? I usually tell my students to skip the question and move on to the next one as this helps them to manage their time better. However, they are reminded to still return to the particular question(s) when they are done with the paper and attempt it

In order to remember which question(s) you need to revisit, you can mark out (with an asterisk or circle) these questions first. This will help you to identify them easily. This also applies to questions which you may have attempted but were not entirely confident of. In your last five minutes, revisit them to check and perhaps recall what you have learnt to help you tackle it.

2. Check for accuracy in Synthesis

Synthesis can be a real game changer for Paper 2- five questions worth 10 marks. The marking for this component can be quite strict and minor errors may result in a complete loss of marks for that particular question. Hence, it is important to be extremely meticulous when it comes to this component. I usually tell students to check their answers word for word by ticking the corresponding word in the question to ensure that they do not

  1. omit words unnecessarily

  2. misspell words

  3. change the tenses (unless it is direct / indirect speech questions)

However, if students merely tick the words for the sake of it, they will still find themselves prone to errors. Therefore, in your last five minutes, look at your synthesis again and pay attention to all words which were not ticked (unused).

For example:

Check for accuracy in Synthesis

In the example above, three words have been omitted in the answer. Ask yourself if these words can be left out in your answer.

“Teresa” —> ‘she’ is used instead. Is the meaning of the answer different without ‘Teresa’? YES! 

“also” —> not needed because of ‘In addition to’

“received” —> avoid repetition of “received” in the answer

Check for accuracy in Synthesis LBM example 2

Once you have ascertained that ALL your unticked words can be left out, just do a quick look over of the tenses and spelling of your answers too!

3. Check that your comprehension cloze answers are grammatically accurate

Many students have the mistaken impression that this section is only about vocabulary. They associate comprehension cloze with testing their ability to comprehend the passage and then utilising relevant words from their vocabulary to fill in the missing blanks. This could be because as teachers, we often tell students to pay attention to the passage’s context to help them derive their answers. Therefore, it is not wrong of students to associate comprehension cloze to vocabulary. However, the danger is that they end up failing to consider grammar such as subject-verb agreement and tenses of their answers. 

It is thus important that you recognise that in choosing certain words to answer, you are ultimately still filling in blanks within a sentence and therefore the words chosen will have to be checked for grammatical accuracy.

The example below shows you the grammatical clues that will point you to an answer that is accurate.

Check that your comprehension cloze answers are grammatically accurate

Remember that even if your vocabulary word is correct, you will still lose the entire mark if the grammar is inaccurate. Thus, when you are doing your final check through of the paper, refer back to the grammar clues you have identified and labelled to check against your own answer.

4. Grab the ‘low-hanging fruits’ in Comprehension

One thing I have noticed is that too often, students get too caught up with the open-ended questions. The sequencing and language questions are often overlooked as they know that these are the shorter, easier questions and will attempt them quickly as they are more eager to move on to the longer and possibly tougher open-ended questions. However, just because the sequencing and language questions are shorter and easier to answer will not mean that all students will consequently secure these marks. I have seen on many occasions that students lose marks due to their carelessness and inattention to such questions. 

Hence, my advice to you is to not neglect these ‘low-hanging fruits’. Do not forget that the sequencing and language questions can take up to an estimated 3-4 marks, out of the total 20 marks awarded for this section (varies from school to school). Although they are generally easier than open-ended questions, the marks are only yours if you work on them carefully.

Therefore, if you are really pressed for time during your last few minutes, zoom in on these questions first. Be sure to secure them before you move on to checking the rest. 


For sequencing, check that you have identified the events accurately and clearly in the passage. When you are arranging them in the correct sequence, do check that you are ascertaining when each event happened, and not when it has appeared in the passage. For instance, an event that appears in the last paragraph might actually be the first event in the sequence. Check that you did not overlook time markers that will affect the sequence (e.g. “William’s family lived on maize since he was born.)

Quote a sentence/phrase/word

For language questions, you are usually required to find a word, phrase or sentence that has similar or opposite meaning to what the question has given you.

Quote a sentence/phrase/word

Ensure that you have 

  1. spelt the words correctly,

  2. count the number of words in the phrase you have chosen to check that it is no more or less than what is asked of you

  3. if you have to find a sentence from the passage, check that your answer reflects a complete one, meaning that it begins with a capital letter and ends with a full stop.

That’s all I have for you! I hope these will come in handy as many of you sit for your upcoming Paper 2. Remember to utilise every minute of your time during the exam productively. In the event that you’re done early, do use the extra time you have left to check. It will no doubt help you to avoid making careless errors and gain the marks you deserve. More importantly, cultivating the good habit of checking will serve you well and help you go a long way. It trains you to be a conscientious worker which is definitely beneficial to whatever you do. So get busy!

Are you a Wooden, Bronze, Silver or Golden Skill-wer?

Try the Synthesis and Transformation Quiz consisting of 5 questions and determine your skill level.

Become a Golden Skill-wer today!

Synthesis Skill-wers Quiz

Synthesis and Comprehension Workshop

This course will be helpful if your child:

  1. wants to identify essential question types for synthesis and comprehension

  2. likes systematic learning of the different steps to answer different questions

  3. needs help in seeing the relationships in table-form comprehension questions to score

  4. would like to be equipped with techniques to better understand a reading passage

  5. wants to stop losing marks for careless errors

Practice makes perfect. Join us and pick up the techniques for these two components to make your practice count now!

Lil' but Mighty Specialist English Teacher Ms Siow

About the Author: Ms Delia Siow is a dedicated teacher who is committed to providing an environment where a child can grow and thrive. She enjoys developing strategies to help students learn in a fun and meaningful way. Through her lessons, she hopes to help students lay a sound foundation in grammar and gain independence in their work. She strongly believes that good grammar is essential in students to gain proficiency in the language and finds joy in watching the bricks of their strong grammar foundation take form.