GP Comprehension Exam Tips

General Paper Comprehension (Paper 2)

GP Comprehension Question Paper – Exam Tips

In order to excel in Paper 2 of the Cambridge – UCLES  – SEAB General Paper, it is necessary to have a handful of strategies before the GP student enter the exam hall. Let’s use a model sample question to see what actually is required, and what examination tips can work for you.



Read Passage A and the answer the questions below.

From Paragraph 1,
1a) Explain the nature of the puzzling contradiction the Allies discovered when they liberated the concentration camps at the end of World War 2. Use your own words as far as possible (UYOWAFAP). [1]

1b) How does the writer use this information to further his argument? Answer in YOWAFAP. [1]


From Paragraph 1,
2) “Many people with high EQs have never had a formal education, let alone a literary one…” (ll. 14-15). Explain what the author is saying here. Answer IYOWAFAP. [1]


From Paragraph 2,
3) How does the writer counter the claim that familiarity with the language of literature “tends to improve one’s communication skills”? (ll. 19-20) UYOWAFAP. [2]


From Paragraph 3,
4) “Vicarious experience can never be a substitute for real life,,,” (ll. 37-38). Explain what the writer means here. UYOWAFAP. [1]


From Paragraph 4,
5) Why does the author claim that television soap operas have more to offer the student than works of great writers like William Shakespeare? UYOWAFAP. [3]



Passage B
From Paragraph 1,
6) Explain why the writer thinks that the need to defend literature indicates Singapore’s cultural deprivation. UYOWAFAP. [3]


From Paragraph 4,
7) The writer sees literature as “collateral damage” in the battle to produce more scientists, lawyers and engineers (ll. 40-41). Explain fully in your own words, the metaphor used here. [2]


From Paragraph 5,
8) Why does the writer describe attempts to justify the merits of teaching as a “laundry list” (l. 43)? Explain in YOWAFAP. [1]


From Paragraph 5,
9) “…we have become a people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing” (ll. 49-50). How does this quotation serve to illustrate the writer’s point  about the way in which literature is regarded in Singapore? Use YOWAFAP. [1]


From Passages A and B,
10.  Give the meaning of the following words as they are used in the two passages. You may write the answer in a word or a short phrase. [5]

a. contention (A, line 31)
b. heretical (A, line 45)
c. sporadic (B, line 2)
d. tangible (B, line 11)
e. imbue (B, line 46)


From Passages B,
11. According to the writer, what is the value of literature?
From paragraphs 2 and 3 ONLY, summarise her arguments in no more than 100 words. Write in your own words as far as possible. [8]


12. The writers of both passages offer opposing views on whether literature should be taught as a compulsory subject in Singapore secondary schools. What is your view? Refer to the arguments in Passage A and B as well as supplying your own ideas and reasons. [8]




General Paper – Paper 2 (Comprehension) Exam Tips & Strategies


Tip 1: Number of Questions
First of all, you notice that there are 12 compulsory question in this paper. usually the number of questions range from 9 to 13. the total marks set aside is 35 only. So where do the remaining 15 marks come from? Answer: from the use of your language in this Paper 2.  hence, anytime you see this phrase: “use your own words as far as possible, or shortened to UYOWAFAP”, it is an opportunity to grab that language mark(s)!


Tip 2: Pay Special Attention to “The Big 3”
The “Big 3” refers to the combination of the Vocabulary Question (VQ), Summary Question (SQ) and Application Question (AQ). These 3 alone constitute at least 21 marks out of the overall 50 marks, when you factor in the need to use your own words as much as possible. So in order to excel in this paper, mastery of these 3 questions is a must!



If we refer to the given passage above on: Literature,

Q10: This is the Vocabulary Question, 5 questions worth a mark each, total 5 marks.
First, quickly decide if each given word or phrase is a verb, noun, adjective, adverb, etc.
If you cannot do that, then find out from the sentence that the word is used. the context can give you an idea.

If that also does not help, read the sentence before, the one in focus,  as well as the sentence after. The meaning of the word should become even clearer. Finally, in order not to lose any marks, make sure that the meaning of the word must be given in the same part of the speech. that is, keep the same word form, same tense, same singular of plural form, etc)

An example: the word “imbue” is a verb in present tense, so its meaning must be explained also in present tense, like, “inspire”.

Note that you do not fall into the desperate attempt to give a string of answers. After all, this is NOT a multiple choice question (MCQ)! Credit will only be given to the first word, and the rest will be ignored and disregarded.


Q11. This is the Summary Question, of about 7 to 10 marks, mostly 8.


In general, each point identified and paraphrased will be award half a mark, when they are 16 or more points. If there are many more points than 16, then you do not need all the relevant points to score full marks.

When they are less than 16 points, do not panic as well. This simply means some given points in the GP passage is worth1 full mark.

What happens if some of the points overlap here? Don’t worry! As long as you use different paraphrase(s) / re-wordings / re-expressions / which sufficiently distinguishes the nuances / connotations of the individual descriptions/ ideas / the GP tutors and markers will recognise your efforts for the use of English and award you separate marks of the overlap point(s). believe me, the examiners are pretty generous and flexible in their marking, especially the Cambridge ones!


Q12. This is the Application Question, of about 8 to 12 marks, again mostly 8.


More on: General Paper Compre Question Types


Tip 3: Pre-empt Common Questions
Yes, some questions are a sure thing in the Paper. In particular, anticipate the following questions of testing your knowledge of a metaphor, irony, similie, analogy, oxymoron, etc. 1 to 2 questions are most likely on these types of Compre questions.

Some of the most common ones are metaphor, irony, pun, analogy, similie, idiosyncrasy, etc.


a) Metaphor: definition and Examples:
A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances.”
William Shakespeare


“All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree.”
Albert Einstein


“Conscience is a man’s compass.”
Vincent Van Gogh




b) Irony: definition and Examples:

Irony is a literary technique in which what is written or stated is different from or the opposite of what is expected. It occurs when an expected outcome does not happen, or its opposite happens instead. Such type of irony is known as situational irony (aka an irony of events). It’s simply an appreciation of the unexpected, Or, an extreme incongruity in a situation where the opposite might have been expected.


“The teacher fails the test.”
Explanation: Teachers are usually the ones giving tests rather than taking them, so most people assume they would be expert at passing tests.


“The policeman got robbed.”


“The breakdown truck broke down.”


“A post on Facebook complaining how useless Facebook is.” (Our current favourite at!)
This is ironic because one would expect someone who dislikes Facebook to stay away from it instead of using it to make their point.\


Tip 4: Mark Allocation

The total number of questions, usually about 9 to 12, constitute a subtotal of 35 marks. An additional 15 marks out of a total 50 will be awarded for your use of the English language throughout the paper. When a question asks for an answer IN YOUR OWN WORDS AS FAR AS POSSIBLE (aka IYOWAFAP) and you select the appropriate material from the passage for your answer, you still must use your own words to express it. Little credit can be given to answers, with no effort to use re-expressions, or at least some paraphrasing.



Tip 5: Time Allocation
With only 90minutes to work with, time is really tight. So by common sense, you need set aside more time for SQ and AQ.


Here is a simple breakdown of time that will work:

Reading of Passage(s): 10-12
Short-Answer Questions, including Vocabulary Questions (VQ): 28-30

Summary Qn: 25 minutes
Application Question (AQ): 25 minutes





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