English paper one’s compositions (or essays) can be quite difficult for students to practice for. Not only is it difficult for them to self-mark and assess their progress, but there are also many topics for them to write about.
This is why they rely on us to assign them composition homework. But we too face the issue of not knowing what compo topics to give our students.
Fortunately, I’ve analysed all of the past compo questions in O levels and have compiled seven compo topics to give your students for homework, with sample questions!
Narrative essays are all about narrating a story. This is the essay type most common in primary school and creative writing classes. It strictly follows a plotline with a rising plot (climax) with a resolution and tends to include fictional elements.
Narrative essays are meant to be engaging and entertaining for you to read, so give your student topics that would excite them. Here are some sample questions:
1. Write about your experience of courage
2. Write about a time when you confronted someone
3. A story about losing a friend
4. Write about the time when you saved someone
5. ‘It was my proudest moment.’ Write a story based on this.
Similar to narrative essays, personal recounts feature a retelling of an event. However, they do not include fictional elements and often relate to an event or experience which is meaningful or memorable.
With personal recount compo questions, you need to make sure that they allow your student to reflect on their experiences. The compositions should also focus on the impact and significance of an event or occasion.
Here are some questions you can give your students for homework:
1. Write about a task which turned out to be more difficult than you initially thought.
2. Write about a time when you caused great disappointment to a person. What did you do about the situation?
3. Write about a mistake you regret making.
4. Write about how you conquered one of your fears.
Descriptive essays are all about describing physical attributes, as well as feelings, thoughts, or a situation. It also involves reflecting on why something or someone is special or important. It should be written so readers can conjure vivid mental images while reading.
This compo topic requires students to write about objects, people, places, events or experiences in detail. Here are some sample questions:
1. Describe the possession that matters most to you and explain why you would never be prepared to part with it
2. Describe an event that you looked forward to which turned out to be disappointing. Explain why you were excited about it and why it didn’t live up to your expectations
3. Describe a friend you could never afford to lose
4. Describe a place that makes you feel safe
True to its name, reflective essays require students to reflect on themselves, like their personality or character. Usually, reflective compo questions include a telling of students’ personal changes or preferences and values.
Here are some sample questions:
1. What would you consider to be your best and worst qualities?
2. Some people like to stand out from the crowd; others just want to be part of it. Which do you prefer and why?
3. Write about some of the things you value most in life.
4. What are the type of books you enjoy reading?
There are two types of expository essays in O levels: discursive and argumentative.
In argumentative essays, students are given an issue where they have to take a clear stand and present their arguments. The aim is to persuade the reader with strong points that the stand taken is right.
Usually, many of the issues presented are based on current world issues, so you might want to use examples from the news to form up your questions. For example:
1. ‘Social media has destroyed communication.’ What is your opinion?
2. It is often said that people are too concerned with getting things and spending money. What is your opinion?
3. ‘People can only be happy if they feel they are treated fairly.’ Do you agree?
Discursive essays are similar to argumentative essays as both focus on discussing a particular subject or topic. But unlike argumentative essays, discursive essays don’t require students to take a stand. Instead, they are encouraged to explore multiple pathways and options.
Here are some sample questions:
1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of social media?
2. Discuss the implications of permanently implementing home-based learning into Singapore’s school curriculum.
3. Most young people today are obsessed with fame and imitating celebrities. What are your views?
Two-part essays, or hybrid essays, comprise features of two different types of compositions. You’ll often see that in such questions, there are two separate parts of the question that students need to address.
In O levels, such questions tend to include reflective essays with descriptive essays or personal recounts. Here are some examples:
1. Write about a mistake you regret making. What lessons did you learn from it?
2. Describe ways to relax after you have been busy. Explain why it is enjoyable for you.
3. Write about a time you were misunderstood by others. How did you feel?
4. Describe an event that you looked forward to which turned out to be disappointing. Explain why you were excited about it and why it didn’t live up to your expectations
Assigning compo topics to our students for homework is a great way to let them practise their composition writing. But it is important to ensure that the topics we give them are relevant and similar to the O level syllabus.
This better prepares them for their exams and helps them be more comfortable with writing these compos.