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You have that one shot at making sure you score your absolute best in your Secondary English writing Paper, the compulsory subject.

You have to make sure you leave nothing to doubt. And the best way to do that is to avoid those common mistakes which students have made time and again in Secondary English writing.

secondary english writing

Secondary English Writing Mistake #1

Misread the composition question

Not spending enough time to read the Secondary English writing question properly sounds like a silly thing to do but this is where many students have fallen victim to this poor judgment.

Why does this happen?

The most obvious reason is that students get excited when they read a familiar essay question and rush headlong into writing it without looking at the finer points of the question.

The worst possible thing to do is to rush into the question even when it is one you have done before. Why?

That’s because the question may have been worded slightly differently but you failed to notice it in your excitement in doing it.

Here is an example of a Secondary English writing question that was commonly misinterpreted.


Write about the things which occupy your time during your leisure hours.

This is a Hybrid essay with both descriptive and narrative styles needed to write this.

Some of my students were so excited over the comparative accessibility of this question as it looked really easy to do. All you had to do was to write about your hobbies or your recreational activity and how it gave you some meaning in life. It wasn’t that hard to do. 

So one of my students wrote with all his heart and gave it his best. He used all the words I used to teach for vocabulary and garnished the essay with rich idioms and phrases. It was well-organized and he wrote the required length. He even had time to check it back. So, it was perfect wasn’t it?


It was only upon discussing the essay with his friends after the exam that he realised his major mistake. The essay question read “Write about the THINGS…..”

My student had misread it and wrote about only one thing which he did during his leisure time. The Secondary English writing question had asked him to write about more than one thing. It was plural. Naturally, he got a borderline pass. C6.

This was a terrible blow to him and he felt so shattered that he wondered if he should continue with his studies at all. I counselled him and gave him a lot of encouragement to proceed with his studies and he did, eventually.

Let us recap and try to understand exactly how my student made that mistake.

He knew the question as if it was the back of his hand. However, he had not taken the TIME to read it slowly back and forth. If he had only given the question another minute or two to read,, this terrible error could have been avoided.

Secondary English Writing Mistake #2

Start writing an introduction that takes too long

This is actually one of the most common mistakes in Secondary English writing and it is due to a lack of practice and organisation.

Most students do not get into the essay quickly enough. 

They tend to ramble on about the prelude to the topic and only to arrive at the main point of the question which starts at the end of the second or third paragraph. 

All this could have been avoided by redrawing the Timeline for the essay.


“Write about how someone helped you through a difficult time.”

This requires a plot.

Most of my students will begin like this.

Hook – It was one of the most difficult times of my life and I still feel agony when I recall my first internship.

My heart still flips a beat when I think of how I almost faced the greatest disaster of my life and I only managed to get through it with the help of a dear friend who had shown me the greatest kindness.

I had just completed my polytechnic diploma in Marketing and Finance. I was sure that my future would shine brightly and had already received several internship offers. 

My father worked at an international finance company and he offered me a post I could not refuse. I started work the following Monday and I was so excited that I nearly forgot the advice my friends had given me. They had told me to be wary of working in an office as people were generally less trustworthy.

Second Paragraph

I did not bother about their advice and decided to concentrate on the work of gathering data for my boardroom meetings and presentation. I had to face the staff and my department boss during the boardroom meeting. 

My boss would assess my presentation and the rest of the staff would have to use my results for their work. I felt very thrilled that I had a chance to use the skills which I had learnt during my polytechnic diploma course.


I) It is not only too long but it is slightly irrelevant.

II) It has run into the second paragraph and the ‘difficulty’ which you are supposed to face is nowhere in sight.

III) The word count is nearly 230. This means that you have already written nearly half the essay and it is not addressing the question so far.

IV) This is a major red flag in Secondary English writing.

If you write like this and take a long time to get to the Point, you should be worried.

You WILL NOT HAVE ENOUGH TIME to COMPLETE THE ESSAY. By the time you finish, half the essay will be out of point and the second half will be rushed through as you will be forced to stop by the examiner.

The Result? Borderline marks in Secondary English writing if you are lucky.

This is how the Introduction should be like.


Hook – (A general truth) It is almost impossible to get by sometimes without a helping hand.

Back story – I learnt the truth of this during the summer of 2016 when I was working in the International Realtor Company where I was hired for their annual summit meeting.

Elaborate on the topic – I had been incredibly lucky in procuring the job as my father was the regional manager for the company and he practically ran it. My job was to collect data and present it at the weekly meetings to my department boss at the board meetings. With my recent diploma in marketing, I thought the job would be a breeze. I could not have been more wrong.

Start Paragraph 2 with the main difficulty.

This is how you should Plan your Introduction.

It should be sharp and TO THE POINT. Never lose your Focus. And keep going back to the start of the difficulty. Don’t beat around the bush. Just go straight to the point.

Secondary English Writing Mistake #3 

Lack of planning before the start of the essay can result in marks being lost


You will not be looking at the Big Picture but will spend time on the micro details which will not contribute to Secondary English writing marks that much.

Most students like to go straight into the writing of the essay even though I have mentioned that Planning is a quintessential part of writing repeatedly.

Maybe they are afraid that they will lose out on time if they were to write a Plan.

There is nothing to worry about actually as writing a Plan can take only 2 minutes if you do it like this.


Describe how you found a solution to a challenge that you faced.

How To PLAN Your Secondary English Writing Essay

Step 1 – Your situation Eg. Being involved in an energy-draining CCA for the Points.

Step 2 – The challenge Eg. There was a tournament and the teacher put you through a gruelling pace.

Step 3 – Overcoming and satisfaction

You still need to pad up the areas around 1,2 and 3.

Eg. What kind of solution to the challenge?

First, build up your situation in Secondary English writing. Find ways to fill up your life. Where, when, and what should be answered carefully. This should be done in 2 paragraphs.

Next, present the challenge as being something which is insurmountable. As in our story about someone who has no referees and stutters, it seems that he/ she will never get a job. This is a good story so keep emphasising this. Write more about this and put this in a paragraph or two.

Lastly, find out what the solution may be in Secondary English writing. You may have 2 options. Choose carefully. Write one paragraph for the solution and the last paragraph, the conclusion to show how you have learnt something.

Steps 1 to  3 can be done in one to two minutes. The ‘padding up’ can be done later when you write or you may choose to write a bare outline before you start your essay.

Doing Steps 1 to 3 is Crucial.


I) You will be able to tackle the main part of the question and give it enough time to materialise.

II) You will be able to resolve it and write about the Solution with enough time as well.

III) You would have answered the Secondary English writing question fully without being constrained by time.

And of course, you will be set to gain a high score for your composition.

Secondary English Writing Mistake #4

It is not grammatically wrong to use repetitive phrases but it can be Annoying

The last thing you want to do is to annoy the marker in Secondary English writing so let us start on the right track!

Some common repetitive words/phrases:

I) Maybe

II) Perhaps

III) And (using too many ands in a sentence)

IV) Probably

V) I tried and tried (No need to mention ‘tried’ twice. It sounds immature)

VI) I decided to go,  I decided to call, I decided that it was up to me…..

(Too many sentences starting with ‘I’.)

VII) It made me happy. It made me excited. (try to use more sophisticated words such as “I felt overjoyed” or “I was transported with delight.”)

Using repetitive words signals one clear fact to the marker. That is, you’re lacking in vocabulary words.

Repetitive words also do not explain the content well. Your story becomes flat and unconvincing.

Secondary English Writing Mistake #5 

Rushing through the Conclusion

Most students think that once the story or the main content is done in Secondary English writing, the last bit does not really matter.

It does. And this is why.

The conclusion is the last thing the examiner reads before grading your Secondary English writing essay.

You may have done an outstanding introduction and created great PEELs throughout the essay with evidence supporting your points. Or you may have had an original plot.

This is the common mistake students make.


Describe how you found a solution to a challenge that you faced.

Conclusion Mistake 1

I was finally glad I had found a solution to the challenge and proceeded with my life.

Conclusion Mistake 2

Finding a solution was not easy but I was glad I found it. I had my friend to thank for and I never forgot the help he gave me.

Conclusion Mistake 3

It had been one of the most challenging periods of my life and I felt deeply grateful that my ordeal was over at last. I knew my life would never be the same again.

How can these Mistakes affect your Secondary English writing?

I) The first is too short and hardly does credit to the entire essay.

II) This is also too short but the conclusion does not mention your own personal struggle or morale.

III) This is one of the most common conclusions. Why do you say it was the most challenging? How will it not be the same? 

Never assume the examiner is supposed to know. Also, this is rather boring. Almost all students end like this. Try something more impactful and philosophical.

Weak CONCLUSIONS with just one or two sentences, drain away the impact of your entire essay. It is like wearing a beautifully tailored branded suit and dress with Bata school shoes on your feet. Got the point?

An impactful Conclusion should have a summation of the main points in your essay. 

You should juggle with the main intention in your essay/ story and give a practical summary delivery at the end. Inject it with your own thoughts, a prosaic and insightful grasp of the whole topic and infer something about it at the end. 

Something which will grip the reader when he/ she reads it. The conclusion should give the examiner something to mull over at the end. It should signal that this is not over. The story continues. The point is still relevant. It is not dead, there is something of great significance here.

Once you have done that, your job is done.

IF you avoid these 5 Fatal Mistakes in Secondary English writing, your marks will be in the upper range of As and you will never have to worry about borderline grades again.

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