Frequently Asked Questions

Lessons consist of a combination of short lectures, in-class discussions, and interactive exercises. We place heavy emphasis on student engagement and interaction because the studies have shown that students learn best when they are deeply invested in what they are learning. Students are also much more likely to develop an interest in the subject if they are active participants in their own learning rather than mere absorbers of information.

To facilitate student engagement and interaction, all online classes are conducted live in small groups of four to ten students. After classes, students are encouraged to clarify doubts and keep in close contact with Mr Liau.

We often see students struggle with essay writing but simply cannot figure out why. In most cases, the answer is quite simple: they have nothing meaningful to say. The first thing we like to tell students is to figure out what they want to say, then say it as simply as possible. Students are discouraged from blindly emulating the flowery prose of their more proficient peers. Instead, they should seek to develop an in-depth understanding of the topic and express their own views clearly and concisely. Our in-class discussions and essay planning exercises play a vital role here. Students will also receive extensive reading materials and comprehensive notes.

This is not to say that our focus is purely on content knowledge. If a student has good ideas but cannot articulate them, those ideas will be for naught. Every week, we encourage students to complete at least two paragraphs (or a full essay if possible). Mr Liau personally marks and provides feedback on all work that are submitted as part of the regular classes. Every month, we also devote some time to covering common writing errors.

Every lesson, we share deep insights on two or three major developments in the world to help students understand what they are reading in the news. We also discuss how students can use these insights in their essays. Ultimately, the goal of these discussions is to expose students to different viewpoints, provide them with mental tools to analyse the news, and encourage them to take an interest in current affairs.

Contrary to popular belief, GP is not just an English subject for JC students.

Content matters.

Cambridge examiners have made this abundantly clear. They award low grades to students who exhibit a poor understanding of the subject and fail to substantiate their arguments with robust evidence.

Those who cannot address differing viewpoints fare even worse. They receive failing grades because they are “unable to meet the basic requirement of this paper”. (Examiner Report, 2013)

It’s therefore no surprise that students score poorly when their scripts are filled with comments like: “lacks balance”, “weak argument” and “poor evidence”.

No matter how effusive a student’s language may be, he will not get a good grade. Cambridge has made that abundantly clear.

Memorising facts and statistics without understanding their context or knowing how to use them is actually worse than useless. It can be harmful because it instils a false sense of confidence. A student may think he is impressing the examiner when in fact he is merely frustrating him.

It’s therefore important to build a solid conceptual framework first before students jump into the examples. To accomplish that, we often start with in in-depth discussions of pertinent case studies. Through these discussions, students may ask questions, clarify doubts and attempt to articulate their own understanding of the subject. Class sizes are kept small to ensure that every student has a chance to be heard.

In addition to the class discussions, we provide content packages and comprehensive notes that are designed to expose students to popular arguments and examples. Through these content packages, students will also see how the evidence can be marshalled to support their arguments.

Arguments are central to all components of the GP paper. Paper 1 requires students to write an argumentative essay within 90 minutes. Paper 2 requires students to answer short questions about an argumentative essay (the passage), summarise the author’s arguments, and respond to them through the application question. Ultimately, GP is all about arguments.

In 2013, Cambridge examiners explicitly pointed out that GP is not a test of general knowledge. Students who receive poor grades despite their extensive use of examples should note that no amount of facts and statistics can make up for a poorly-developed argument.

The General Paper subject is primarily about the arguments. Cambridge examiners have made that abundantly clear. Students must argue, reason and persuade, not flood the examiner with details and lengthy descriptions.

This is the trickiest part about GP. Memorising model essays will not work. Neither will copying and pasting canned arguments. Because every question is different, every response must be unique. Within those 90 minutes, students must formulate and express their own arguments.

It is therefore important for students to learn how to use examples to support their points. This is why we teach students to focus on convincing the examiner with persuasive arguments, substantiated with strong examples, rather than on impressing readers with their depth of knowledge.

Let’s be real. If there were truly some secret formula to instant success, schools would have taught it by now and you should have already heard about it.

Instead, the key to our success lies in our use of the age-old Socratic method. Through the painstaking process of asking and answering questions, we push our students to think for themselves and justify their ideas.

The studies support this. Our experience supports this. And our students’ results speak for themselves.