The General Paper – An Overview

What is General Paper (GP)?

In essence, GP is academic writing and analyses on anything and everything, hence the term ‘general’. Topics covered in GP include:

  • History
  • Economics
  • Law and Politics
  • Education
  • Sports and leisure
  • Culture and Society
  • Philosophy
  • Science and Technology
  • Environmental issues
  • Music and the Arts
  • Language and Literature

In the A Levels, the GP paper consists of an essay part and a comprehension passage part. For the essay part, students are required to write between 500-800 words on a chosen question. For the comprehension passage part, students will need to attempt all comprehension questions, write a summary and do an application question (AQ). The AQ is a mini-essay where one is required to discuss the ideas presented in the comprehension passage and apply it to other contexts, usually local i.e. Singapore.

Why do we need to take GP?

This was a question even I asked myself when I was in junior college (JC). If you are currently in JC, you might not appreciate GP now but trust me –coming from a person who loathes GP— it does prepare you for university because GP trains you to:

  • understand and think critically about a piece of information or data
  • apply the knowledge learnt to other contexts
  • form and communicate ideas or opinions in a coherent manner

Such skills are necessary in university, no matter what field you are in. Sadly, not every student will develop the level of mature thinking needed for GP at 17 or 18 years old *cough* me *cough* and hence end up struggling with the subject.

Do I need to be good at English to score in GP?

Honestly, no. However to get into JC your English should already be of a certain standard. GP is marked based on two components: language and content. Your mastery of the English language merely counts towards how well you are able to comprehend the reading passages and express your ideas or opinions in your essay and AQ. That is just half of the battle won. You still have to deal with content, which I feel is more important because if you think you can bullsh*t all the way using your flowery language — which I did, many times— without any substance, you are dead wrong. With little or no content, your GP might as well GG (good game).

So how do I score in GP?

One word: Read. Read, read, read. Read widely and read voraciously. I know some GP topics just put you to sleep faster than anaesthesia but it is the hard truth. You HAVE TO read for content knowledge. However there is no need to torture yourself with topics you have no interest in, read more of those you DO have interest in and less of the former. It is also good to develop a reading habit early in JC1. Pick up the newspaper at least once a week, watch the news or documentaries, read articles online, even those found on one’s Facebook news feed might prove useful.

Needless to say, scoring in GP takes effort. It takes two hands to clap so likewise, both a sound command of the English language and solid content knowledge are needed to get a good GP grade.



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