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Improve Grades Using These Powerful Writing Skills To Answer Difficult & Tricky Exam Questions

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Joyce Tham

Former HOD, Chemistry – school in the Bukit Timah area
MEd, Psychology and Education, University of Cambridge


Award-winning former teacher – school in the Tampines area

Sandra Chan

Former level-head, English – school in Central Singapore

Ong Siu Jun

Former level-head, Math – school in the Bukit Timah area

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The most important skill that students need to cultivate is: Knowing what to write impactfully

You have good grammar, you spell well and you have your own blog.

But the teachers for almost all the subjects that you are taking tell you that most of the time, what is write is off-point, and the content is weak.

The only way to improve grades is to have effective writing skills. You can start with these fundamental writing skills that will definitely help you whether you are now in primary school, secondary school, junior college, polytechnic or university.

Bryan Garner, author of The Harvard Business Review Guide to Better Business Writing, says that writing is not a gift that we are born with. It is a skill that we cultivate.


If they give you 10 seconds to verbally tell them the answers to their questions, what would you say? Analyze your audience carefully, because you have to tailor your response according to who your audience is, and what they expect from you

Identify your main theme

The answer that you give in those 10 seconds is likely to be the main theme of your essay/answer

Create an outline

This might be one of the most important aspects of effective writing skills – because when we are able to plan well, the essay will turn out to be awesome.

We cannot just start writing and expect to go somewhere, just like we cannot go for a walk and not know what the route and destination is.

Whether the length of your formal answer is comprehension-length or essay-length, you should first outline your answers before you write the entire script out. 

If comprehension-length, you should write your answers in point form.

If essay-length, you can write either in point form or in short sentences.

Outlines are essential because they help you identify if any of your answers are useful, in which order they should appear in your answer and –importantly – help you organize your thoughts/argument

First sentence 

The first sentence is equivalent to the heading of your essay/comprehension-length text. Use it to attract the reader’s attention, and to impress him/her

Last paragraph

When you proof-read/check your document, you should start from the last paragraph. This greatly helps you to spot errors because your mind will be more alert to any mistakes that are not flowing in the order that it is used to

Be direct 

State your point at the beginning. Many students hide their main message in the middle of the passage or essay. Before they get there, they have so many other thoughts and distracting statements that the reader will not know what the student is trying to put across. State upfront, then build your case throughout that passage. If your opening statement is weak, the rest of your text will be weak – or worse, weaker

Practice daily 

Spend 10 to 20 minutes every day on writing. It doesn’t have to be for school work. It can be for fun. Watched a nice Korean drama? Spend 10 minutes writing what you liked or didn’t like about it. Or you can write about food, the bus trip home, why you like that green pair of shoes

Write for yourself, not for others to read. But maintain standards high enough that your school teacher will smile at. The more you practice, the more you challenge yourself with different forms of writing – the much, much better you will get at writing

Avoid sounding officious 

The moment the reader starts to feel that the writing is verbose, they will mentally tune out. Instead of writing “Please revert to me”, write “Please reply”. Using big words is not the same as showing maturity of thought, or that you are well-read

Quick results 

If you use at least one of these methods every day in your writing, you will see a difference in the quality of your writing – and an improvement in your grades – within 2 semesters. Hundreds of our students use these tips every year and it has worked for them. We want them to work for you too!

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