By Singapore Teaching Centre, British Council

04 July 2022 - 09:00

English O-level Preparation courses to pass with confidence

By the end of Secondary education, Singaporean students should be able to communicate effectively in English. Mastery of four key areas – writing, comprehension, listening, and oral communication – will enable your child to pass their GCE ‘O’ Level English with confidence, and improve performance in other subjects, too. 

Preparing for O-level English takes time, and consistent practice. During this critical period of your child’s school journey they are not only learning how to secure good grades, but building the skills they need to thrive in further education and in their chosen careers. Let’s take a look at the exam structure and how the British Council’s O-level Preparation Course can help your child to excel.

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The GCE O-level English exam

The General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level English exam (known more commonly as GCE O-level English) is held annually in Singapore and is closely aligned to the syllabus set by the MOE. It has four components: Writing (Paper 1), Comprehension (Paper 2), Listening (Paper 3) and Oral Communication (Paper 4).

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The Writing paper consists of three sections. Section A will ask students to edit a short written text for grammatical errors, Section B requires 250-350 words of situational writing in response to a given situation and visual text (such as a poster or website) The written response may be an email or letter. For Section C, students will write 350-500 words of continuous prose on one of four topics. The topics set may cover different text types, including narrative and exposition.

Our strategy

Composition is a key focus area for the British Council’s Secondary students. Young learners will gain practice producing a variety of text types and using literary techniques to enhance written work. Students learn to edit diligently, including identifying common Singlish errors, and will improve their grammar awareness and accuracy. With the guidance of our passionate and expert teachers, they also develop ways to memorise and record new vocabulary so they can actually use it effectively, and adjust register according to the audience. 


Comprehension comprises three sections. For Section A, students will respond to questions based on Text 1, a visual text. For Section B, students must respond to a variety of questions based on Text 2, which is a narrative or a recount. For Section C, the questions will be based on Text 3, a non-narrative text. In the last question of this section, students will also be required to write an 80-word response to a summary writing task.

Our strategy

Strong comprehension skills will help your child stay academically competitive in all areas. We provide targeted practice in analysing questions and visual texts, equipping students with techniques to paraphrase and write effective summaries. Students will gain confidence in making inferences, understanding common literary tools, and identifying main ideas with supporting evidence.

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There are two Listening sections. Section A, where more marks are available, asks students to respond to a variety of listening tasks based on audio recordings, such as narrative, recount and exposition. Section B is a simple note-taking exercise in response to an informational audio text. Students will hear Section A twice whereas they only hear Section B once.

Our strategy

Listening is the lowest-weighted component of the exam but it is also an area where valuable marks can be lost due to insufficient practice. To prepare students, we listen to audio texts to answer a range of exam-style questions, such as multiple choice and fill-in-the-blanks. Students will become adept at identifying and responding to opinions, as well as completing graphical organisers, learning advanced note taking skills, and recognising features of English pronunciation.

Oral Communication

The final paper contains two parts and they are thematically linked. The first requires students to read aloud a short text. The second is a spoken interaction task, where students will engage in a discussion with the examiners on a topic based on a visual stimulus in the form of a video clip.

Our strategy

Many students have the language skills to succeed—the challenge is presenting their ideas with confidence. We support young learners to interact with others engagingly on diverse topics, using body language and eye contact. Our positive, student-centred environment will help to minimise nerves so that students can express their opinions on topical issues with ease, and read aloud with appropriate tone and pacing.

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More about the British Council’s O-level Preparation Course

As your child approaches the final stages of their Secondary education, the focus is on exam success. We help students to gain an edge academically by learning English for the real world, placing a strong emphasis on building a global mindset through critical thinking, resilience and close reading. 

Over four terms, we cover planning and preparation for O-level English, improvement of skills and strategy building, concluding with time for review and reinforcement of learning. Our comprehensive course offers students time-saving techniques and targeted exam practice to ensure they are ready to achieve their potential.

Find out more about our O-level Preparation course and register for a trial.