Secondary English – 5 Huge Differences From Primary English

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Have you noticed the jump from Primary School and Secondary School learning? It really looks like it is light years away, does it not?

And it is not just English but Math and Science. And let us not forget those other subjects such as Literature, Home Economics, History, Geography, and Social Studies.

It is a whole new world of studies, approaches to learning, and above all, gaining the sophistication that is needed in all advanced syllabuses.

If you have wondered what the difference is between Primary and Secondary English, here are 5 tips that will ‘paint the big picture’ for you:

#1 – Template For Writing Composition

Yes, Secondary English compositions may still include narrative topics but they are open-ended questions and not in picture form as in Primary English.

You may have dealt with the 3-picture composition paper and weaved a story about it with the 5 Ws and the 1 How.

It is no longer that straightforward in Secondary English compositions.


For a start, you are required to have a more comprehensive and mature view of the topic. Any topic, that is. 

You cannot simply invoke the 5Ws and 1 How, hoping that it will create some sort of miracle that will bestow your coveted grades.

You have to bring it one notch higher because in Secondary English, you are expected to have a macro view of events.

secondary english

First of all, there are a few genres in the narrative category. You have the narrative, personal recount, and reflective essays.

They are each in themselves slightly different. The narrative is an outright portrayal of a fictional story with some personal elaborations. A personal recount is more of a moralistic story where you go through that experience. 

And lastly, reflective essays expound a truth or morals but it could be about someone else, a situation, or even yourself.

In each case, you need to plot out a story tracing the events till they reach a revelatory point and go through the gradations of shocking discovery that tail off into a satisfying or self-exploratory end.

To do this really well, you need to grasp the fundamentals of story writing. You need to work on the plot and create an unpredictable story that meets the criteria of the question.

By the time you are done, the story should have ended in a ‘truth’ or ‘parable-like’ ending where the reader nods sagely and mutters, ‘I see.’

Well, not really like that but I think you get the picture. Your powers of persuasion should leave the story with an impactful end. 

That is your job. And you need to get it right.

#2 – New Inclusion Of ‘Summary’

Ok. This is the new feature in Secondary English. Older English syllabuses referred to it as ‘precis’ writing. It is the same thing.

A summary is about condensing the main points and rewriting them in your words. You will be graded for the number of relevant points written and you will need to do this coherently in a continuous flow of points.

In case you are thinking, that is such a piece of cake, think again.

The stumbling blocks for summary are – one is that you have never tried this before and two, is that collating the number of points in your own words should not exceed the word count of 80. 

And oh, the number of points is usually about 8-10. This is the criteria and most students tend to under or overwrite.

With practice, it should be easy to handle.

#3 – Comprehension Texts Are Longer

Did you notice that Secondary English comprehension texts are longer and have more content?

The content is less about narrative experiences and more about lifestyle topics or it projects a theme with serious implications.

Comprehension topics are narrative but the questions vary from literary to analytical and inferential ones. 

You will need to know what literary devices are and answer without lifting from the passage.

Yes, lifting is not allowed unless it is asking you to explicitly state a piece of evidence where you will have to lift.

Otherwise, you are expected to display a sound vocabulary base and reveal a mature understanding of the author’s point of view.

#4 – Situation Writing

This section of Paper 1 is about applying yourself to events and issues ranging from writing a letter to a principle or authority to making a decision about handling a food fair or sale. 

Illustrations play a large part in this section and you are expected to use that as a base while adding your own supply of information to write this part.

You will need to be observant, clear, and detailed when you write this as there are strict instructions pertaining to how the answer should be written including the tone.

There are formal and informal questions in Secondary English and you will need to alter your writing accordingly.

#5 – Weightage For Style And Vocabulary

Your style and vocabulary are assessed in your writing. You will need to write in a mature and sophisticated style using vocabulary words that reflect your knowledge of not just the question but of society and lifestyle matters.

Primary school writing tends to be direct and relies on the application of the answer to the question. 

In Secondary English papers, there is a need to reveal wisdom and opinions. You may need to elaborate whenever necessary to answer reflective or even descriptive questions.

Lastly, I would like to leave you with this thought. Always read and expand your knowledge. You will never know when that piece of reading will be useful to your answer. 

Be prepared by expanding your Secondary English vocabulary and exposing yourself to current affairs. You will soon get used to the difference and be able to handle Secondary English papers with finesse.

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