SmileTutor Blog Students Exam Tips 6 Mistakes to Avoid in Writing Your A Level GP Essay

6 Mistakes to Avoid in Writing Your A Level GP Essay

General papers are a challenge to write for some students because they are uncertain how to write it efficiently.

Some may write beyond what is requested in the topic and go off-track with their essay. Others might write a few details which is not enough to explain the idea they are trying to convey to their readers. A few may be able to ace it but there are some parts that don’t make much sense.

To help you to score in your GP paper, you need to understand your GP syllabus and avoid 6 major mistakes when you write your GP.

Forgetting Contexts and Conditions

Some questions can lull students into failing to provide the right answer. Whether it is exam stress or carelessness that cause them to miss a certain keyword that would change the entire question completely.

These modifiers are there to see how well the student understood a topic, and if they are able to see this trick term in the question. Sadly, students tend to look past these modifiers or think that they already answered it because of their rush to finish their work and move on to the next task.

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You should watch out for the usual modifiers used in questions and how to work in addressing them in your answers. You should also plan your answers accordingly because it will allow you to explore how you can answer the question efficiently with the right points and explanations.

A good example is taken from 2019 A levels GP essay papers “Science is the only answer to global hunger’. Discuss.’

While a quick glance at the question, many students will attempt to draw on how science can be the answer to global hunger but the modifier here is the keyword “only”. With the word “only” in the question, the answer should be focus on how and why science is THE ONLY ANSWER to global hunger compared to other alternative solutions like government funding or humanitarian aid. Without arguing using comparison, your answer will only be half right because it doesn’t show how science tops every other solutions to end global hunger.

Not answering the questions directly

Whenever students write, they often zone out on the question and forget about it as they write.

As a result, they only point out some key points but not fully expound on it as to why it is the answer for the question. In some cases, the answer is too vague to the point it is not really the answer to the question.

To get past this problem, you need to analyse the question first before trying to answer it. A good GP tutor can teach you how to analyse exam questions quickly using keyword identifier.

After which, you will need to elaborate on the points you identified and explain why it is your answer. Ask the question to yourself to see how you can form the answer in your head and use it as a basis to write the paper.

Describing rather than explaining the significance of the example provided

Another common mistake some students make in their GP papers is by making it a descriptive paper rather than an argumentative paper. Some students tend to go to this route because they feel it would be prudent to show more examples than adding to the argument.

As a result, they don’t know when to stop adding examples to try answering the question.

It is important for you to know when you need to stop providing examples and start learning how to explain in order to relate them to the given question. You must also learn to argue rather than describing something, then present the impacts of these arguments.

As an example using the global hunger question above, it is easy for students to deviate from listing the alternatives to global hunger as a comparison argumentative point but instead, went on in-depth description of each alternative solution which does not reply to the question at all.

Using a narrow scope topic

It is very easy to tell if a GP paper is going to pass based on the topic that it has. A strong essay with a very specific scope can definitely offer a great discussion. However, an essay with a weak topic can definitely give you a low grade for their GP paper.

When you are conceptualising your GP topic, think about the arguments you want to discuss or what points you want to work on and if you have covered all the areas you want. Map out your points using concept mapping. 

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For example, if you want to discuss something related to science, what area of science do you want to focus on and how will you go about in your arguments.

Arguments lack any elaboration and depth

If you want to get an A in your GP paper, you must be able to provide reasonable and in-depth arguments aside from providing them with just the points when answering the question provided. Some students tend to “elaborate” by providing examples but not connecting them to the arguments they listed.

While analysing the problem and listing down the points they can argue, connect your examples to the points you want to address. This will help the readers to understand their argument and where they are supporting.

The flow of argument should be easy for a reader to follow and not having points jumping all over the essay. It is similar to writing a good A level literature review.

A good example taken from 2019 A levels GP essay papers “Should both parents take equal responsibility for raising their children?”

Students may argue the pros and cons of having both parents taking equal responsibility for raising their children and missed out the opportunity of having an in-depth discussion on how it will impact on the children if it is one-sided parenting.

Rushing through the ending

Finally, it is important to tell students to avoid rushing their answers so they could get to concluding the entire essay.

This is a common problem for students who are uncertain about their answers or think their answers are already too long and they should have concluded the essay.

Some may even have conclusions which may leave the reader hanging because  it sounds like the essay isn’t finished yet or it is talking about something else entirely.

To avoid this, you need to allocate enough time to reread what you have wrote and then ask yourself to sum up the entire essay in less than three sentences.


Exposing yourself to global issues like using Ted Talks is a good starting point in understanding the arguments on both sides. Look at how each topic is carefully dissect and how each example is described and linked to the main question.You may not get it immediately but keep in mind of the 6 mistakes and take care to avoid them. The key to a perfect argumentative essay is to practice, practice and practice. Or, get help.

Need more insider tips on scoring your General Paper? Here are some articles to help you:

How To Apply Statistics Effectively In Your A-Level GP
Golden Tips To Score In AQ Section For A-Level GP Paper 2

Rum Tan

Rum Tan is the founder of SmileTutor and he believes that every child deserves a smile. Motivated by this belief and passion, he works hard day & night with his team to maintain the most trustworthy source of home tutors in Singapore. In his free time, he writes articles hoping to educate, enlighten, and empower parents, students, and tutors. You may try out his free home tutoring services via or by calling 6266 4475 directly today.