Do’s and Don’ts For Application Question (AQ)

Do’s and Don’ts For Application Question (AQ)

JC General Paper

Are you interested to know what are the requirements of a good Application Question (AQ)?

Well according to the examiner’s report, the best AQ responses are/demonstrate:

“eloquent”, “mature”, “lively”, “well-informed personal voice”, “energetic”, “well-organized”, “fresh insights”, “evaluative”, ” written with clarity, confidence and conviction”

On the other hand, mediocre marks are awarded to individuals who:

“mere description”, “mechanical”, “mere reproduction of ideas from the texts with little or no discussion or expansion of them”, “lack of focus on own lives or wider social context”, “little more than a summary of author’s arguments”, “abrupt ending” and “haphazard or disjointed paragraphing”.

*note that reference to your ‘own lives’ does not mean that you blather on with lengthy and trivial details about your personal life. Taking into account that these are the requirements and pitfalls of AQ, I’m sure you would be able to make some adjustments in order to score on the marking band.

Responsibility of Protecting the Environment

Responsibility of Protecting the Environment

JC General Paper

Environment is a common and easy essay question that could potentially come out for the exams… Students should always analyze their essays from a stakeholder’s perspective to give a more holistic evaluation.

Developed countries

Governments in developed countries have the necessary skills, influence and resources to aid the protection of the environment. They would have the financial means to invest in necessary science and technology which could improve the environment. At the same time, they would also possess political clout to enact policies to force companies to comply with their environmental standards. Education and campaigning to change the mindset of the people towards the environment would be within their means as people are generally more educated and aware.

Businesses could practise corporate social responsibility, and stand to gain since green consumers are more likely to purchase their products. Consumers are more concerned with the origins of their products they buy today. As such, MNCs could influence these green consumers to raise awareness about environmental issues using their products.

Individuals could make a difference by starting with themselves first. A small step could go a long way such as supporting Earth Hour or even car pooling.

NGOs no doubt would have more political clout than individuals, and do not have the same restrictions that are placed upon government agencies. They do not have to balance certain commitments such as the living standards in the country. This would result in them having greater flexibility when it comes to their operations and should be able to achieve more. \

Developing countries

Governments have the sole responsibility for the enactment and enforcement of policies to protect the environment. Unfortunately, their main priority is to ensure economic growth rather than the protection of the environment. Developing countries are more likely to have unstable government and corruption is usually rampant making it difficult to care for the environment. E.g Shell engaged in dodgy/shady dealings with the government officials in Nigeria in order to gain a foothold in the country.

Businesses are usually in the primary and secondary sector which focus on the harvesting of raw materials and manufacturing. These are highly damaging to the environment as the mining process results in large amounts of pollutants and waste. Many of their factories are owned by MNCs, and they would have little say in the production methods used.

Individuals concern would be to earn sufficient money to stay alive, they would not mind harnessing the earth for the raw materials or resorting to more efficient methods of clearing the land if they could help to save some money for them.

Considering the situation in both developed and developing countries, who do you think should be responsible for the environment?

Singapore Budget 2017- What it means for Singaporeans?

Singapore Budget 2017- What it means for Singaporeans?

JC General Paper

Future Economy: What is in store for all of us?

Recently, news have been focusing on changes in technology that bring about new prospects for certain segments of the population but disenfranchises others. Some would call it the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”. This is a situation in which disruptive technologies streamline processes making work more efficient and productive, leading to increasing number of Singaporeans being structurally unemployed. One instance could be seen in the transportation industry with the entry of Grab and Uber, reducing the need for traditional taxi drivers who would not embrace technology. Of course, this situation would be made worst when Uber and Grab introduce driverless cars, eliminating drivers as a viable occupation for many people.  As such, the Singapore state appeals for Singapore citizens to embrace technological change. This point on embracing technological change is also highlighted on the Singapore Budget website.

Singapore plans to cope with the Fourth Industrial Revolution by becoming a Smart Nation. The Smart Nation initiative aims to rally the collective efforts of people, businesses and government to work together to support better living, create more opportunities, and support stronger communities by harnessing info-comm technologies, networks and big data… As such, this year’s budget emphasizes a lot on helping SMEs expand overseas especially into regional markets through the help of government funding, and of course to embrace technology.

What exactly is the main message of the budget? I think it serves one aim, to inform Singaporeans that their jobs are no longer secure in this uncertain and volatile economy, and that they would need to take action right now if they would like to income-proof their earnings. This would be in terms of being more open to technological changes in the workplace. Of course, the budget sends a strong message that the Singapore government is aware of these structurally changes and challenges in the economy, and that they would support Singaporeans as much as possible.

If you are interested in more budget discussion, you could keep up with the discussions about Budget 2017 on;;

PS: This article is not meant to be an analysis of the budget 2017, as I’m not tutoring economics. It is meant as a context for students to understand the Singapore’s economy and to think of the various social issues, and how policies affect various stakeholders in society.

In times of economic hardship, should a country still be expected to provide financial or material aid to others?

In times of economic hardship, should a country still be expected to provide financial or material aid to others?

JC General Paper

Students are expected to address the criteria of this question throughout the essay; it being in times of economic hardship. For a quality essay, the terms “should” and “expected” should be addressed as well. For instance, a country should still give aid, but perhaps not be expected at a time when its survival is in question, and it does not have a healthy budget balance.

Financial aid- capital/loans/money

Material aid- manpower/distribution of basic goods and necessities

  • Provision of aid during economic hard times could be a political statement and commitment to the recipient country, helping to foster greater political relations in the long term. Giving of aid should be expected especially if the recipient country needs it more than the donor country. Such circumstances could be when the recipient country is facing civil war and there is urgent need of aid to cease the fighting etc. Another possible instance could be during times of natural disasters/emergencies. Also, for most of the donor country, aid takes up a small portion of their budget, hence it should not affect the current economy severely even if the country continues to give out aid during hard times. Aid accounts for 0.5% of the US budget yearly.
  • Governments should be responsible and accountable to their citizens first especially during hard times, hence aid should be allocated domestically rather than elsewhere. The dollar votes of the citizens and their voices are important, and it is only right that countries should be concerned with their own self-preservation before others. After all, an economically prosperous country will then be able to contribute more to the international community, rather than a slow and stagnate economy that is facing difficult times.
  • Perhaps a country should look at other means of support, rather than the provision of aid during bad times. It is presumptuous to assume that aid helps to alleviate the problems faced by the recipient countries. Often, aid may actually harm local industries and foster this sense of self-entitlement and dependency on the donor nations.
  • Legal obligations under international law could possibly bind countries to continue giving aid to another country. A short term economic difficulty does not suffice to repudiate this commitment, especially when contracts have been signed beforehand, and the donor country may risk ruining their legitimacy and international standing.

In dire situations, countries should still continue to give aid to one another. However, expectations to scale down in terms of aid is definitely reasonable and justifiable.

Singapore Inclusive Policies- A reflection

Singapore Inclusive Policies- A reflection

JC General Paper

“An Inclusive Society, A Stronger Singapore” Budget Plan 2012-2016: fulfilled promises, financial burden and new directions

In 2012, the Singapore government introduced a 5-year budget plan aiming to make Singapore a fair, stronger and inclusive society. The main features of this ambitious project were:

  1. Restructuring to sustain growth
  • Less dependency on foreign labour
  • More grants and support for SMEs
  1. Building a fair and inclusive society
  • Improving the social mobility of lower income families through improved financial and educational subsidy and/or grant schemes
  • Helping seniors live long and well by offering housing purchase schemes, credit incentives for hiring aged workers, increased retirement savings and more affordable healthcare
  • Supporting those with disabilities and special needs through subsidies for employing caretakers, providing educational and skills support facilities and building elder-friendly infrastructure
  • Sharing the fruits of Singapore’s economic growth by giving out GST vouchers in cash, Medisave and U-save

(taken from

It is not difficult to understand why the government initiated such a plan. In the words of PM Lee “We all have something to contribute,” (, 31 Oct 2015) hence maximising the potential of our human resource: young, old, poor, rich, abled and disabled, and keeping them healthy and happy is a strategic move to support Singapore’s future economic growth.

It is now 2017 and the government has indeed delivered most of what was promised in the budget plan. To highlight a few of these achievements, our neighbourhoods and transport systems are now more elder-friendly, we receive our GST cash vouchers as promised, we have two spanking-new hospitals in the West and are currently in the midst of integrating our healthcare groups to streamline operations and make healthcare more affordable, we built a $25million Enabling Village to help those with disabilities and special needs and we have decreased the local to foreign worker dependency ratio. However no success story is without sacrifice and just who or what were the sacrificial lambs in this budget plan? Moreover, which areas should the government focus on in the next one?

Tax payers are once again not spared from funding Singapore’s progressive aspirations and why should they? The money is redistributed and re-invested to make Singapore a fairer and stronger society. However tax rates have gone up again for YA2017 for the rich and upper middle classes, from a range of 17-20% to a range of 18-22% and with the addition of two new income tiers ( The question is, is this really fair? I heard that little “Yes!” go up in your head. Truth be told, it depends on how the rich make their money. For those who own successful local businesses, the new tax hikes are going to hurt and might even discourage further business growth or expansion. For those who make their riches through stocks and shares, guess what? These are not declared when filing income tax! Perhaps we should work towards minimising the number of those who profit from loopholes in the system if we truly wish to build a fairer – also towards the rich— and more inclusive society.

Finally, what new directions might we find in the AY2017 budget? The Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) of Singapore recently released a report highlighting key growth sectors and proposed seven strategies to sustain Singapore’s economy in the coming years.

Key growth sectors: finance, hub services, logistics, urban solutions, healthcare, the digital economy and advanced manufacturing

Seven strategies:

  • Deepen and diversify international connections
  • Acquire and utilise deep skills
  • Strengthen enterprise capabilities to innovate and scale up
  • Build strong digital capabilities
  • Develop a vibrant and connected city of opportunity
  • Develop and implement Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs)
  • Partner each other to enable innovation and growth

(taken from

One can therefore expect more money in the AY2017 budget to be channelled into re-skilling the workforce, encouraging innovation and improving digital infrastructure and technology i.e. building a Smart Nation. Support for the elderly, disabled and those with special needs might take on a minor role in the budget this year because it was the focus of AY2012-16’s budget plan.

Nonetheless, there is so only so much money can do in helping a country to survive. As pointed out by PM Lee, Singaporeans need to practice active citizenship. This means making the effort to keep oneself fit and healthy, using the incentives and support systems in place to reskill or retrain oneself to meet with changing labour demands, revising educational content to ensure our students are prepared for the future by the time they graduate and managing ones expectations and demands in times of economic difficulty. Policies, systems and budget plans will change but the brunt of it can be softened by adopting the right attitude and mentality. Thus when the AY2017 budget comes out, hold your tongue for a moment, understand the changes and safety nets in place and learn to embrace them. If not, a corner of Hong Lim Park beckons you.

Commentary for 2016 A level paper

Commentary for 2016 A level paper

JC General Paper

1. ‘Any adaptation of a novel for a film, television or the theatre is never as effective as the original.’ Discuss. (Media)

2. Assess the view that traditional buildings have no future in your society. (Arts and SG Society)

3. ‘Longer life expectancy creates more problems than benefits.’ Discuss. (S&T)

4. Considering the money involved, should developing countries be allowed to host major sporting events? (Sports)

5. ‘Human need, rather than profit, should always be the main concern of scientific research.’ Discuss.  (S&T)

6. ‘Countries experiencing conflict should be left to sort out their own problems.’ How far do you agree? (International politics) 

7. How far has modern technology made it unnecessary for individuals to possess mathematical skills? (S&T + Maths)

8. ‘People who do the most worthwhile jobs rarely receive the best financial rewards.’ To what extent is this true of your society? (General)

9. Evaluate the claim that equality of opportunity for females is a desirable, but unrealistic, goal. (Gender)

10. Assess the view that most natural disasters are the result of human activity. (Environment)

11. Is competition always desirable? (General)

12. ‘Everyone has an opinion, but not everyone’s opinion is of equal value.’ What is your view? (General)

Based on the above questions, it appears that this year’s paper is relatively easy to prepare for and address. Common topics that come out yearly include science and technology and arts and culture. This year’s paper has a high percentage of science and technology question (Q3, Q5 and Q7), 2 being comparison in nature and 1 being a general question. Topics of focus are narrow and specific. Hence, for students preparing for questions on science and technology, they should be well versed in the different sectors and to be prepared for a specific question type. General and opinionated questions form the other bulk of this year’s paper (Q8, Q11 and Q12). It would be harder to predict and prepare for these questions, but they tend to appeal to students who either have a flair for smoking or did not prepare for the other content-based topics.

Moving forward, students should know what type of questions they are strong in, whether they should do a specific question type or a more open-ended/general question. Second, students should also know the question requirements in order to tackle the essay effectively. Absolute terms, matrix questions and even criteria questions have been evident for this year’s paper.

Are you prepared enough at this stage if you are taking A levels in 2017?

Singapore’s Characteristics for Application Question (AQ)

Singapore’s Characteristics for Application Question (AQ)

JC General Paper

It is common for AQ to ask you to contextualize the issues to Singapore’s society. As such, there is a need for you to be familiar with certain features in Singapore. Listed below are just some features for you to brainstorm. They are not exhaustive.

Singaporean’s behaviour (positive): Hardworking, ambitious, have high expectations, obedient, law-abiding, willing to upgrade skills and take pay cut, non-violent.

Singaporean’s behaviour (negative): Kiasu, elitist, materialistic, overly pragmatic, non-gracious, self-centered/selfish, overly competitive, not innovative, conservative and afraid of changes.

*Behaviour generally tends to be tolerant of new trends rather than accepting (esp LGBT).

Political culture: Conservative, but generally opening up to more opposition voices and increased numbers of opposition in parliament. Dual-party system in the near future? A more educated populace that is more vocal and critical towards the ruling party PAP. Party whip to organize and keep the party in check. Party likes to use carrot and stick approach to control the populace, but this approach could be increasingly irrelevant as the population becomes richer and more critical to be swayed so easily. Common issues at present: rising housing prices, increasing foreigners, transport and lack of places in university for the locals.

Education culture: Kiasu; a highly vibrant tuition industry (seen to be a necessity to supplement skills and teaching rather than for weaker students only); heavy emphasis of academic results. Society is moving towards a more broad-based education through SOTA, Sports school etc. Government’s emphasis on the multiple paths to success, and increasing emphasis on liberal arts education as seen in Yale-NUS. Education system still largely driven by exams/assessment, but measures have been put in place to reduce this exam stress. Primary 1 and 2 students no longer have examinations.

Media/Arts culture: High censorship. Presence of the OB markers. Diminishing traditional arts and local culture. Increasing home grown arts culture as seen through movies and theatre plays. Most of the art influence is largely global currently. Singapore aims to be part of the Renaissance City. Freedom of speech on the media is one of the lowest in the world. Media is a vehicle of the PAP, could be used as a propaganda vehicle for them.

Science and Technology: Research in S&T and focus on biotechnology is the key pillar of the Singapore’s economy. Strong emphasis on the info-communication research here, IDA. Aims to be a smart nation. Presence of ethical regulatory bodies in research such as the Bioethics Advisory Committee.

Society: Pragmatic and highly focused on the Singapore’s Dream. Focus on the ‘5Cs’. Multi-racial; multi-lingual; multi-religious society. Tension between an economically progressive society vs an all inclusive society. Increasing income inequality in Singapore, though there are “social safety nets” to ensure that no one is being left behind. Materialistic culture has bred a generation of politically apathetic youths, but there is increasing number of youths who are socially aware and responsible, seen in community outreach programs. Young society that is still grappling how to define her identity.

Economics: Focus on FDI in the past, now trying to focus on growing the local industry. Focus on entrepreneurship, especially since now the economy is getting more and more volatile and complex. There is a need to learn soft skills, cater to the economy and create a job for yourself. Very open market that is highly reliant on trade and economic fluctuations overseas. Seen to be an economic miracle with no natural resources yet being able to transform itself into a first world economy.

These are just some main characteristics of Singapore. You would need to know how to apply them in your AQ. Knowing them is not enough. Please also apply the modern day characteristics to your AQ.



Should business be ethical at the expense of company profits and staff welfare?

Should business be ethical at the expense of company profits and staff welfare?

JC General Paper

Question analysis:

At the expense: at the cost of something, the opportunity cost. Please note that you have to address this criteria throughout the whole essay.

Ethical: Relating to moral principles. Pls note that ethics are subjective and every individual has different moral codes. What is considered ethical to an individual may not be to another.

Yes business should be ethical: 

Businesses especially large multi-national corporations (MNCs) today are the bedrock of many capitalistic societies, hence they should be ethical in their practices in order to set the moral tone of how business is done in the corporate world, and to a larger extent, the societal values. Businesses will suffer from a lack of trust and reputation especially if they have flouted some ethical considerations. E.g. H&M have been facing lawsuits in Europe for their sweatshops conditions and exploitation of child labour to manufacture their cheap and affordable clothing. It is highly likely that businesses will suffer from fines and increased regulations if they are seen to be unethical in their business practices. This could affect the company profits drastically and potential sales, which will impact on the eventual staff welfare and salaries that they draw. A case in point would be Volkswagen which was found to have cheated on their diesel emission, and being fined $14.7 billion for it.

It is unlikely for an unethical business to be a champion of staff welfare. Ethics is what make up an organization and if the corporate culture is one that is unethical, it is highly unlikely that bosses will appreciate and care for the staff that makes the business possible in the first way. It is possibly very results-orientated and a cut throat corporate culture where competition is valued first. During difficult times, companies are likely to fire and retrench staff, withhold their benefits without any consideration to protect these staff’s families. After all, the company and the need to stay afloat comes first. E.g. SPH recently pledges to retrench 10% of their staff in order to keep company profits afloat, rather than thinking of how to generate more revenue through other arms of operations and keeping these staff.

Business should be unethical: 

There is a need to find the most cost efficient method of production in order to stay afloat in this cut throat business world. Businesses in this case, are not unethical by choice, rather it is by the push of society and the consumers to be unethical, especially when consumers refuse to pay more for the products. Fast fashion industry is very competitive and companies have to resort to overseas factories and even child labour to manufacture clothes as cheaply as possible to cater to a larger group of consumers. It is not practical for all businesses to venture into serving the luxury group, since there is only that many number of consumers who can afford to pay. Sometimes being unethical comes at the expense of the company’s ability to protect their own staff who have slogged hard for them and to return their loyalty. Employees’ livelihood should be considered before ethics and perhaps ethics should be decided and regulated more often by the authorities on what constitutes proper business practices.

Finally, ethical standards differ throughout the world. Every individual has different expectations with regards to their working hours, treatment and pay scheme. What is deemed unethical to a person in a developed place (e.g. working for less than $5/hr here could be seen as a blessing to someone in the developing countries). Resorting to unethical means is only a short term measure for businesses, as once reputation is tarnished, it takes forever to build it back up again.

P.s Pls note that this is just a sample outline for a business and money essay question. Further points will be elaborated in our lessons.

How to study for Gp?

How to study for Gp?

JC General Paper, Studying Tips

Now that the A levels GP paper is drawing nearer and nearer, many students have asked about their revision strategies…

Given the limited time left, I would advise students to :

  1. Consolidate their niche chosen topics for the exam- in terms of the arguments, content, evaluation and examples.
  2. Make a list of the past mistakes that you have committed in your GP exams- it could range from very simple problems of hijacking the question, to overgeneralization. Commit it to memory and not repeat it again. Revise and take note of your weaknesses.
  3. Take note of some of the exemplar essays that your school or tutor has given you. What are the features of these exemplar essays? Remember to include them in your essay.
  4. The rest would lie on you and your question choice on that day of the exams. I have always told my students that the question choice is the most important, followed by the topics that they have prepared. There is no point doing a question even if u know the content but do not know how to tweak it to the question requirement. You will never see a quality grade.

That’s all for now, and good luck everyone!

‘The young lack drive.’ Do you agree?

‘The young lack drive.’ Do you agree?

JC General Paper

Question Type: Simple Polarity (no conditional words present in the question)
Key Words: The young; drive
Minimum Requirements: Students will need to unpack the key words and explore the reasons why one can argue that the young lack drive. Similarly, they must be able to also highlight why some may disagree with this claim. Better scripts will look to evaluate the arguments based on the changes that have occurred in today’s world and provide a broad and varied range of examples, not just limited to Singapore.

P: The young of today are soft, pampered and dependent because comfortable lives they enjoy today do not provide any impetus to strive.
E: The young live in a world have enjoyed the peace, prosperity, affluence, tranquillity and comfort brought by the 80s and the 90s. With greater affluence and smaller families, they are unlike earlier generations who are forced by dire circumstances to work very hard to feed their families or for survival. This lack of urgency or hunger driven by need allows them to take things easy.
Eg: In many societies worldwide, across both western and eastern cultures, in both First World countries like the USA, the EU and Japan as well as the newly developed economies of Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, young people normally come from one-child or two-child families where the young is being molly-coddled and spoiled. Over-indulgent parents pamper these children so much that they have no initiative and cannot do simple things like washing their own cups after drinking or carrying their own schoolbag while in Primary School.L: These young people will necessarily grow up to have no initiative and sense of urgency as everything has been done for them. With their parents carrying the full financial burden of the family, they see no need to be very independent and give up easily when things go wrong.

P: With greater affluence and family support, young people can afford to pursue their passions and try new things
E: Coming from smaller and more affluent families, young people are no longer pressed by necessity to submit to mundane jobs right after graduation and have the option to pursue their passions. While some may be hindered by fear of failure, there is now a choice to pursue something driven by desire rather than necessity for others.E: This is evident in young people who give up stable jobs to pursue their dreams such as setting up their own businesses.

P: They are risk-averse and are not willing to step out of their comfort zones.
E: In today’s competitive world, failure is a very expensive proposition. As such, in many societies, there is a fear of risk-taking and failing. Unsurprisingly, this has also affected the young who grow up in an education system that is consistently ranking and assessing them against benchmarks and model answers. Therefore, they lack the drive to venture out of their comfort zones and try new things in life, preferring to ‘play it safe’. As a result, many find themselves lacking the energy to get out of mundane jobs, leading routine lives.
Eg: For example, one common trait in Singapore is the lack of young Singaporeans who are willing to become entrepreneurs. Many are content to get themselves an education and work for others.

P: They look for instant rewards and are not willing to work hard long term to achieve their hopes and aspirations.
E: They are impatient because they never had to wait for anything as everything was instantly given, especially in the fast-pace society today where businesses compete with each other to offer the most immediate and convenient solutions to their consumers. With ‘same-day deliveries’ and ‘express results’, young people are used to instant gratification and lack the determination to persevere if things do not yield instant results.E: Young people have a tendency to quit their jobs very quickly because they do not feel fulfilled in them, choosing to find an easier or better option rather than staying and making what they have work.

p.s: this essay is contributed with most of the points from an ex student. Points are taken from his school magazine. This essay serves as a reference point only.