Help – I did badly in my mocks!

English as an examination subject is hugely taken for granted. Just because we speak the language, doesn’t mean that we know how to pass exams in it, especially as the skills tested are ones that we are not necessarily familiar with.

Students happily plough through hours of tuition and past paper banks for maths and science, but somehow feel that English will work itself out. They overlook that english language and literature account for two IGCSEs, just like co-ordinated science.

Twelve years of very intense teaching of hundreds of students has taught me many things – but mostly that NO SUBJECT can be mastered without an adequate input of time and effort.

Regarding English in particular, I have a few more pointers to add:

  • Students may speak english, but how much actual experience have you had writing essays and letters, and the most challenging – analysing literature. There is not enough time at school to fit in the practice needed.
  • There is a key syllabus change for English Language this year, leaving limited resources and teaching experience available out there to support you.
  • If any “writing” has been done, it is mostly in the form of typing. Sadly, English exams are still hand-written – so not much practice there either.
  • Students are not used to planning or physical writing, so time pressured exams, particularly English literature with 45 minutes per essay, are even more challenging.
  • In addition, as students these days gain most of their insight from Netflix, they are not used to reading at all; it is no wonder that Carol Anne Duffy’s poems or Romeo and Juliet provide little to interest or hold their attention


…beginning to sound challenging now, right? It;’s understandable why the mocks may not have gone as well as hoped. It’s not entirely your fault .. you just didn’t know then what you know now and will know in the future.

Mock exams are aimed to give students a practice run of the real thing, and more importantly to shake students out of their reverie.

English is probably one of the most challenging exams, because of all the above AND the fact that marking is mostly subjective. Mock exams are marked diligently , but do not comfort yourself in believing that they are marked more strictly than the real exams.The final exam marking in past years has not been generous either.

How can we fix this?

  • Accept mocks as the reality check you need
  • Seek help to understand how to make literature notes that actually serve to answer exam questions
  • Work backwards -Seek help to understand mark schemes and the strategies to score
  • Practice exams questions under  exam conditions; ensure these are marked with detailed feedback. You cannot self mark like you can for other subjects as marking is subjective
  • Make tables of all feedback and APPLY the feedback to improve with every practice
  • English is a time consuming subject as practice takes time. You will not receive the instant gratification that you get with Maths.


At Young Scholarz, we have taken many students from a D in the mocks to a final A* grade. With 12 years of teaching experience in Singapore, tried and tested methodology, teaching plans to ensure full coverage of course content, we can support you through regular weekly classes supplemented with specific literature workshops during the holidays.

We can definitely help you to improve your grades if you are willing to match our effort with yours.

Welcome to Grade 11 IB English – What to Expect and How Young Scholarz can help you

Grade 11 and 12 IB is an exciting time as you delve deeper into the subjects you are passionate about (despite the couple of SL’s you are not so keen on!) and move closer towards your journey to university. However, the transition from IGCSE is a daunting one, not only because of the sheer volume of course content but for english in particular, the in-year assessments amounting to 50-55% of the final grade can be very stressful. 

At Young Scholarz, our aim is to guide you through the IB english courses smoothly, as we have done for the last 12 years. Shared below are responses to frequently asked questions with some pointers on how to succeed and an idea of my approach to teaching IB English.

Will I benefit from IB English tuition and what will I be taught?

  • Yes – you will definitely benefit. May 2019 results were excellent with 99% of our students scoring grade 6 and above
  • We have consistently improved predicted grade by as many as 2 points
  • You will learn strategies and techniques for effective reading and writing 
  • You will learn how to approach the assessments and score well, assuring yourself of a higher end grade 
  • You will be taught exam strategy and given timed exam practice 
  • You will receive detailed feedback on essays
  • You will learn how to effectively make literature notes from the start of the course , which will save last minute panic for exams 


The final exams are in May 2022, do I need to start studying now?

  • Yes – In order to minimise last minute panic and regret, students need to strike a good balance between post- IGCSE cruising and committed hard work to achieve the desired grades. 
  • Students taking english at SL in particular tend to cruise through the first part of grade 11 and score poorly in the first set of exams and assessments 
  • APRIL 2020 exams are VERY IMPORTANT as they form part of your predicted grades for university
  • Many students underperform for these exams as they have taken the course too lightly 
  • Assessments for english form a minimum of 50% of your final grade – you need to ensure you score highly throughout the course. Aiming for high grades only at the end of grade 12 is stressful and also not always achievable as assessments already form a base level grade 


Do I need to come for class every week?

  • No – IB is a very intense course with many associated activities and commitments. Attending any class for weekly tuition is probably not required and unsustainable 
  • IB classes for english language and literature will be conducted as 4 week blocks, which will ensure that you have the appropriate skill set to tackle assessments
  • Workshops will be spread throughout grade 11 and 12, bearing in mind that grade 12 is particularly demanding with EE’s, TOK, final Internal Assessments (IA’s), SAT/ ACT/ LNAT. UKCAT, university applications and of course final exams 


Should I focus on my Higher Level subjects and come back to english before the exams?

  • No – Keep working at english (and other languages) steadily as these are difficult to revise close to exams 
  • Practicing languages through essay writing is time consuming and difficult to achieve near exams when you are under pressure 
  •  It’s important to receive on-going feedback to improve with each assessment


Will IB english classes help to improve my SAT/ ACT score?

  • Yes – Reading and analysing well will help to understand passages quickly
  • Brainstorming and essay planning skills will help you to write well if you choose that option 
  • However, to score well in SAT/ACT exams, effective strategy and techniques are essential 
  •  You will need to attend 4-6 specific strategy classes to see a marked improvement in english reading and writing scores 


I am doing english as a Standard Level subject- is the SL english grade important if I don’t plan to study english at university?

  • Yes-Being articulate in your writing will help you to write better university essays and personal statements that will support university applications
  • All IB grades contribute to your final score, which is important for entry to UK universities; you should aim to achieve well in all subjects to maximise your score 
  • Writing well will contribute to your Theory of Knowledge (TOK) and Extended Essay (EE) grades and hence your overall grade 


Are classes solo or Group?

  • Language and literature strategy and exam practice classes for IB are held in small groups 
  • Specific literature texts are studied solo or in small groups, depending on the range of texts being studied


When should I start attending classes ?

  • Blocks of 4 week classes for IB english will start mid October 2019
  • SAT/ACT classes have already started for the October and December sittings


Please do contact me for any further information.

[email protected]

+65 8228 1164


IGCSE Language paper 3 : Descriptive writing

Descriptive Writing


There is a definite strategy to writing descriptive prose.

  • Starting with brainstorming and evoking sensorial (perhaps experience based) images in your mind.
  • Followed by planning, structuring and writing three distinct mood based paragraphs
  • building in literary tools such as sensorial imagery, onomatopoeia, effective diction, sentence structure, personification and  figurative language to name but a few.

In my experience, being technical however is not adequate to score an A* worthy piece of writing and students need to have have read and appreciated beautiful description in order to create their own masterpieces.


Listed below are a few excerpts and short stories that may should help inspire sensitive prose.


I have to start with  a work of pure art- A God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy with credit to, sheer perfection!

Paradise Pickles & Preserves

May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month. The days are long and humid. The river shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still, dustgreen trees. Red bananas ripen. Jackfruits burst. Dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously in the fruity air. Then they stun themselves against clear windowpanes and die, fatly baffled in the sun. 

The nights are clear, but suffused with sloth and sullen expectation. 


Link to excerpt from The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy 

Raising the bar for descriptive writing even higher , with evocative ,poetic prose:

An exclusive extract fromThe Ministry
of Utmost Happiness
By Arundhati Roy- 

Link to Guardian exclusive excerpt from The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

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IB Exam timetable April /May 2018

With the mock exams almost over, we begin the 13 week countdown to the April/ May IB examinations. Click the link below for  the 2018 IB exam timetable  so that and plan your revision accordingly.


  • Regular IB classes are held on Sundays 11.30am-1.30pm
  • Consistent practice of exam papers with the detailed feedback that I provide for each essay, will improve your grade and also reduce the pressure for the final exams

IB Exam Timetable April/ May 2018


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IB English Literature Classes re-starting 1st Oct 2017

How I can help you achieve an excellent grade for IB English Literature

The skill of understanding literature adds to our appreciation of a precious craft where masters have shared their insights into life with us.

Having a personal passion for this subject, I teach it to ensure that you will learn to love it as much as I do.

Read further for detailed teaching strategy, course content and how regular learning can ease final exam pressure, particularly as 55% of the grade can be achieved in year.

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IB English Literature: Works In Translation Essay

The Works In Translation (WIT) Essay is 1200-1500 word essay, which is marked externally and represents 25% of the final SL and HL English Literature grade.

The essay reflects the value of understanding global perspectives to the IB syllabus. By studying works in translation, students should aim:

• to understand that culture and context are linked to the main ideas explored by an author


• to understand how cultural identity is shaped through literature


• to understand that there are different perspectives which may be shaped through culture and context.


The link below is a valuable resource in helping you to plan and structure your essay

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Disappointed with your IGCSE Results? Definitely not the end of the world

The pressure on students these days means that anything less than an A* or A may leave them feeling hugely disappointed but should not leave them despondent!


Most students will be heading to the US or UK for university and unless you are aiming for top tier establishments, strong and appropriate IB scores coupled with sincere, well written, personal statements will often supersede your IGCSE grades.


With 10 years of teaching IGCSE in Singapore, I have seen many students with B’s and C’s going on to highly respected universities such as UCL, Imperial College, Warwick University, to name just a few.


However there are other options available and things to consider.

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The Amazing Bubble Man


I understand the allure of the Amazing Bubble Man.

Life is a bubble.
On its gossamer veil thin, the myriad of colour. Dancing, swaying inviting us into its magic.
Every colour of the rainbow.
Sparkling jewels, undulating rivers, waves of hopes and dreams.

The Bubble Man believes he is God; he feels he can create and manipulate destinies. A Power we all wish we had.

He makes bubbles out of bubbles.. Can we make life out of life?
He pulls and stretches and frees at his will.
Can we live life at our own will?

The Amazing Bubble Man.. We all think that is who we are.
Until we touch the bubble.
And no matter how much we love or how gently we will burst and disappear as if it never existed.

Life is a delicate bubble.
I understand the allure of the Amazing Bubble Man… But he doesn’t.
It is all an illusion.

Teaching English is about more than IGCSE’s and IB exams

One of my key objectives when teaching, is to inspire students to explore ideologies, culture and history through literature.

Reading is often seen as an academic chore, but I want my students to see it more as a pair of binoculars which allows them to closely observe aspects of life that they may not have experienced or even be aware of.

In this week’s grade 8/9 English Literature class, we started to read/study/analyse ‘MASTER HAROLD AND THE BOYS’, a play by Athol Fugard.

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101 Great Books To Read for College Bound Readers

Students who take tuition and classes to boost their SAT score often find improving in the English section to be the most challenging.

Prevention is better than cure and it is more beneficial to work on building comprehension and analytical skills in advance through regular, quality reading .

The College Board sets the SAT papers and recommends 101 “Great Books” to read.

I suggest that the best time to start reading  is grade 8/9, before the pressure of external examinations intensifies.

Read deeply paying attention to the following ideas rather than just plot:

  • themes
  • character development
  • authorial purpose
  • how effects have been created
  • setting
  • context

Click on the link below for a downloadable list of books. I’m sure you will find one of the great masters of literature appealing.

101 Great Books To Read for College Bound Readers

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Literary analysis of Trump’s inaugural speech

An application of IGCSE/IB English Language skills.

Does Trump Really Have the Best Words?

A statistical analysis of Trump’s inaugural address
by Justin Rice, published on 01/20/2017

On January 20th, Donald Trump delivered the 58th presidential inaugural address. Trump is a singular figure in US history and hordes of pundits will spend countless hours dissecting the content of his speech.

Rather than doing the same, Analitics have analyzed what Trump says, using data analysis to explore how he says it, and comparing his words with those of the 57 previous inaugurals to see what we learn.

click the link below to read the analysis.

Does Trump Really Have the Best Words? A statistical analysis of Trump’s inaugural address by Justin Rice, published on 01/20/2017

Books + Data by LitCharts

US Colleges that do not require SAT or ACT scores

For those of you understandably sweating over the upcoming SAT exam on 21st January 2017, do not lose hope. If after numerous tuition sessions, timed practice papers, meticulous revision of grammar and mathematics rules you still do not quite achieve the score of your (or anyone elses!) dreams, all is not lost.

Take a look at this list of schools listed in The Washington Post that do not require SAT or ACT scores and focus your attention on

  • original and authentic university essays,
  • IB scores
  • endeavours that show a genuine commitment and passion for your chosen field of study.

A list of 180+ ranked schools that don’t require ACT or SAT scores for admissions

IGCSE Timetable: Edexcel and CIE Board June 2017

As you learn from the mistakes made in the mocks and start to prepare for the June 2017 IGCSE exams, click on the links below for the Edexcel and CIE exam timetables to help plan revision. Scroll further down for key dates for English, French and Economics papers. As schools opt for a mixture of examination board and paper combinations, be careful to note the corect dates and also to practice the right past exam papers.


June 2017 Edexcel IGCSE Timetable

June 2017 CIE, Cambridge Board,IGCSE Timetable (zone 5)


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IGCSE English Language: Narrative Writing

excite caps hat final 50 matching colourThe narrative writing task, a 1 hour component of the English Language Paper 3, is particularly  challenging as it requires multiple layers of depth.

Alongside careful planning, and timed practice of compositions, reading short stories is an invaluable way of improving writing style. For high-schoolers with limited time and attention span for reading long texts, follow the links below and read short stories.

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IB Economics: Monopolies and Abnormal Profits

excite caps hat final 50 matching colourAmerica, considered a land of opportunity based on the principles of capitalism and a free market economy has seen huge and persistent profits which are largely sustainable because of a lack of healthy competition. Many firms are acting as monopolies or oligopolies with a tenth of the economy controlled by a handful of firms from dog food and batteries to airlines, credit cards and telecoms.

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IB ECONOMICS (HL): Paper 3 (Quantitative), Tips to score better

excite caps hat final 50 matching colour

This is my list of tips that should definitely help maximise your marks.

They look so obvious that you would be wondering why I took the trouble to post this ..yet it is amazing that so many of you keep on repeating the same mistakes again and again.

Paper 3, with its calculations and formulae (that you just need to memorise) is an excellent paper to score well on. Please take heed.

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IB ECONOMICS, International Trade: The real danger of Brexit

THe economist 50

Despite feeling limited by rules that bind the EU, leaving Europe in an attempt to reclaim its sovereignty weakens Britain’s trade relationships impacting its current account deficit as the EU takes almost half of Britain’s exports. Leaving Europe could have both short and long term implications on the British economy with financial markets recognising the dangers and the UK pound falling to its lowest value against the dollar  since 2009. 

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IB ENGLISH: Maus, By Art Spiegelman

Maus 50

The story follows the birth of his elder brother Richieu, who was poisoned by an aunt rather than face capture; how his parents were hidden by generous

poles and then betrayed to the SS as they paid to be smuggled to a safer Hungary.

listen to Art talks about the powerful sub-plot which shows the difficult relationship between father and son , and what it could be like for the child of Holocaust survivors.


Link to Radio 4 Bookclub Podcast: Maus , Art Spiegelman

IB ECONOMICS: A simple explanation of falling oil prices

oil-explainer-feb-master1050The oil industry, with its history of booms and busts, is in its deepest downturn since the 1990s, if not earlier.

Earnings are down for companies that made record profits in recent years, leading them to decommission more than two-thirds of their rigs and sharply cut investment in exploration and production. Scores of companies have gone bankrupt and an estimated 250,000 oil workers have lost their jobs.

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IB ECONOMICS: Stimulating the world economy

World economy: Out of ammo

excite caps hat final 50 matching colour

There is a fear that a recession is coming and that central banks do not have the weapons to resist it. If governments and central bankers work together they will not be short of ammunition. The question is whether politicians have the stomach to use it.


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A Streetcar Named Desire- Tennessee Williams

A Streetcar Named Desire- Tennessee Williams

For students, watching a theatrical version of a play may often be more valuable than watching a film.
Plays can be a closer representation of the text and allow a student to clearly see how stage directions have been actioned.
Do watch this version of A Streetcar Named Desire. How does the adaptation compare to the film linked in an earlier post?

IB ECONOMICS: Supply and Demand -Oil Prices

For those studying IB ECONOMICS
Fluctuating oil and commodity prices are a common feature in paper 2 exam questions. This article helps reinforce how understanding fundamental concepts such as supply and demand can help demystify current economic issues.

IB ENGLISH: MAYA ANGELOU- BBC World Club Book 2002 (Podcast)

Listening to this very personal interview today, I was inspired in many ways and at first wondered whether we have to have had a significant past in order to write well.

What struck and pained me the most, was Maya Angelou reading her very powerful and hard hitting poem “BORN THAT WAY”. Raped at the age of 7 by her mother’s boyfriend, she recounted a story of observing a father’s inappropriate behaviour towards his 8 year old daughter; the mother wearing blinkers and ignoring what she could see…


Maya Angelou explained that she simply writes about what she can see and it is her courage to speak up that makes her the great writer that she is.

I think that we all do have stories that we need to tell.. speaking out is maybe the only way we can really influence change.

Do listen to this podcast …

Fear brings us down before we have even started

life-of-pi-300x225Something I read this morning .. an excerpt from LIFE OF PI, by Yann Martell.
I thought that the way he puts fear into words, might help us deal with it better
“I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always … So you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don’t, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.”
― Yann Martel, Life of Pi

Why do I do what I do..

We all have a story to tell.. but we never choose to tell it? We all have a book to write ..but how many of us will ever write one?

My being alive, is my personal inspiration; the awareness that I am mortal and that I have much to share and much to leave behind for those who follow, is what drives me to want to write.

I see myself as a link between the past and the future, a part of the chain that connects what was and what will be. My belief is that we all have a part to play as the drama unfolds; the role is only a walk on part but the impact is eternal.

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Asian Festival for Children’s Content 2011

Sunita Sharma facilitating workshops at AFCC 2011

Asian Festival of Childrens’ Content 2011

Sunita sharma facilitating a workshop with Dianne Wolfer from Australia “Turning Life Experiences into Fiction.” Dianne is author of 15 books for teenagers and younger readers. I am excited to read and review her Lighthouse Girl which won the children’s choice West Australian Young Readers’ Book Award and shortlisted for the Crichton Award and voted a CBCA Notable Book.

Trikon – The War Within – a play written by me considering the Mahabharata from the women’s perspective- for a change




I recently wrote  a play called “Trikon- the War Within”, based on the Mahabharata, which was very successfully staged in Singapore at the famous Raffles Hotel, Jubilee Hall , for 2 nights in January 2011. Following its immense success, the play is now playing in Bangalore at the Chowdiah Memorial Hall on 8th July and as a Bangalorean myself, I am extremely proud of this achievement.The play includes very talented Bharatnatyam dancers from the Mudrika Foundation in Bangalore and actors from Singapore.


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Graphic Novels- Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

for those who have not ventured into the world of comics since childhood, a very interesting article on Persepolis- An autobiographical, graphic novel, by Marjane Satrapi, set against the backdrop of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. An interesting genre of writing as well as an alternative cultural and political perspective…a recommended read

PERSEPOLIS- by Marjane Satrapi

A Streetcar Named Desire- Tennessee Williams


For students, watching a theatrical version of a play may often be more valuable than watching a film.
Plays can be a closer representation of the text and allow a student to clearly see how stage directions have been actioned.
Do watch this version of A Streetcar Named Desire. How does the adaptation compare to the film linked in an earlier post?

Graphic Novels- The Watchmen

Graphic texts are often underrated and labelled as bumper sized comics.
Grade 12′ ers may be overwhelmed current pressure, but there is consolation in the fact that IB English language and literature courses cover an inspiring range of literature which opens valuable avenues of thought and appreciation.

Through the use of effective visual, stylistic features, Graphic novels are able to subtly convey serious messages relating to personal trauma and global struggle without the use of narrative.

Maus by Art Spiegelman addresses the long term effect of the Holocaust and Watchmen deals with similar tragedy in considering the fear and effects of the atomic bomb.If you are studying this text, do take the time to read this very informative paper.

Life of Pi and Fear

“I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always … so you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don’t, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.”
― Yann Martel, Life of Pi

Peter Brooks Battlefield

For Peter Brook’s fans..

For Peter Brook’s fans..

Legendary theatre titan Peter Brook, known for his famous 9-hour Mahabharata, has chosen to take the epic battle at the end of this revered piece of literature and make it a stand-alone play. In 2013, SRT in collaboration with Esplanade, brought…