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GP Comprehension Paper – Economics & Man

General Paper Comprehension Sample Questions & Answers (Paper 2)

GP Comprehension Question Paper – Economics & Man

(Note that 15 marks out of 50 will be awarded for your language, namely, for the quality and accuracy of the use of your English)

Note: When a question asks for an answer IN YOUR OWN WORDS AS FAR AS POSSIBLE (IYOWAFAP) and you select the appropriate material from the GP passage(s), you still must use your own words to express it. Little credit (out of the remaining 15 marks) can be given to answers with little re-expressions or paraphrasing.



Passage A


1.(From paragraph 2) Identify and explain the nature of the paradox described in this paragraph. Use your own words as far as possible (2 marks)


Paradox: the level of happiness / satisfaction / contentment in well-off / developed nations / states has not risen in tandem / concurrently / together increase in wealth / affluence.

On the other hand most citizens in extremely poor nations come across as more cheerful joyful than those in wealthy countries.


GP Passage Text
-a paradox emerges that requires explanation countries have not got much happier as they have grown richer … figurres for well-being have barely budged. (l.9-11)


Conversely, is impossible not to notice that in some of the most indigent areas of the world, most people, most of the time, appear to be happier than their affluent counterparts (l.11-13)


Nature of the paradox: it contradicts the common assumption that money necessarily brings happiness.



2. (From paragraph 7) The writer refers to a “final irony” in this paragraph. Identify and explain the nature of this final irony. UYOWAFAP. [2]


Irony: The ferocious / cut-throat, incessant /  unabated competition / rivalry for social status / standing compels / drives others to try even harder to keep pace / match their rivals.

Nature of the irony: However, the actual result is contrary to expectations because after expending such effort, no one is better for it / the effort expended is actually futile as the sense of satisfaction / gratification that seems achievable / attainable / satisfaction still remains out of reach.


Herein lies the final irony – ruthless and relentless Jockeying for social position forces others in the rat race to run even faster to keep up. Once again, everyone on the treadmill loses and happiness remains as tantalisingly close but as maddeningly elusive as ever. (L.47-50)



3. Give one possible reason why the writer entitled this article “A Severe Case of Affluenza”. [1]


Identifies the title as an ingenious pun on the words “influenza” and “affluence”

OR Identifies the metaphor within the title that refers to affluence as a serious disease



GP Tutor’s note:
As usual, half a mark for identifying literary device and 1/2 mark for explaining it.

Students need to provide a good reason for the author’s choice to be awarded the full mark. Merely observing that the title is original / ingenious / clever / eye-catching without explaining why is insufficient.



Passage B

4. (From paragraphs 1 & 2) How did the ancient Greeks’ idea of happiness differ from that of America’s founding fathers? Use YOWAFAP. [2]


America’s Founding Fathers declared the means to achieving happiness as Man’s fundamental / most basic prerogative.

Happiness was not seen as a reward bestowed by heaven / the almighty but became a right that man claimed for himself, a goal that could be attained through self agency / was within his control on earth.

For the ancient Greeks, happiness was largely beyond one’s control, and dictated by fate and luck.

Living a morally upright life was crucial / paramount than looking for personal contentment / satisfaction / ways of making oneself happy.



Note by GP teacher: Students; answers must show how the notions of happiness were different – where focuses on the natural and self evident right to happiness, versus the very fortuitousness of happiness dictated by fate (happiness that cannot be taken away (aka inalienable), as opposed to happiness that can be taken away at whim by the Gods) or (looking for happiness actively versus being happy through living virtuously )


America’s Founding Fathers declared “The pursuit of happiness to be one of man’s “inalienable rights” (l.1-2)

No longer was happiness regarded as a God-given gift but as an earthly entitlement, to be pursued and obtained in the here and now. (l.3-4)

For the ancient Greeks, happiness was largely bound up with notions of destiny and fortune. (l.5-6)

The important thing, therefore, was not to seek happiness for its own sake but to live virtuously. Being good was more important than feeling good. (l.7-8)



5. (From paragraph 4) According to John Stuart Mill, how can people attain true happiness? Use your own words AFAP. [3]

Attaining true happiness involves moving happiness beyond oneself / moving away from a self-centered view of happiness.

enriching / improving the lives of those around us (altruism)

Working towards the betterment well-being of civilization / humanity

Following aesthetic goals or worthy causes not as a goal to achieving something else, but for their own sake



Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness (l.23-24)

On the well-being of our neighbours (l.24)

On the improvement of mankind (l.24)

even on some art or pursuit, followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end (l.24-25)


Q6(a) and Q(6b) – 2 marks each. Coming soon!


H1 JC GP Passages – Article Sources for Economics & Man

JC H1 GP Tuition (Syllabus Code: 8807)
Source of GP Passages:
A severe case of Affluenza by The Economist, Dec 2006
In search of happiness by The Economist, Jan 2006



Q7. Vocabulary Question (5 marks)

Explain them in the meaning of the following words or phrases as they are used in Passages 1 and 2.
You may write your answer in one word or a short phrase of not more than SEVEN words. [5]


Word 1 Mark  1/2 Mark
copious (1.6) Voluminous, plentiful, abundant ample plenteous, extensive A large amount of



rampant (1.43) Uncontrollable, unbridled, unchecked


Hard to stop, difficult to control, unstoppable


play down (2.11) Diminish, undercut, undermine, lessen the importance of, de-emphasise



plummets (2.40) Decreases drastically. plunges, to decline / fall steeply and sharply



Drops, falls, decreases
insuperable (2.46) Insurmountable, impossible to overcome, unconquerable




overwhelming,very difficult to overcome


Reminder: Do not try to give a list (string of answers). Credit is most often be awarded to the first word, and the rest are disregarded. A phrase must not have more than 7 words!



Q8. Summary Question (SMQ) (8 marks)

Using material from Passage 1, lines 18-40, summarise what the author has to say about how the greater level of affluence causes unhappiness.
Write your summary in no more than 130 words. UYOWAFAP. [8]


Lifted from the GP Text
It seems seems that the more wealth we possess, the more isolated we become (l.19)

Or the rich lock themselves in and lock everyone else out (l.20-21)

We must defend it, and ourselves, against the intrusion of other people. (l.19-20)

For both the secluded and the excluded, the fruits of economic growth become a substitute for human interaction. (l.21-22)


As people attain higher levels of affluence, there is a tendency to be alienated I estranged I disconnected from others

In order to protect / safeguard themselves and their riches from being encroached I infringed upon by others

So material possessions replace the need to socialise / the need for social contact.


Another obstacle to increased happiness is that while capitalism is adept at bringing to the masses what the elites have always enjoyed, erstwhile luxuries soon become regarded as necessities of negligible worth (l.23-25)

and consumers come to take for granted things they once coveted from afar. (l.25) Or

People are stuck on a hedonistic treadmill as they achieve a better standard of living, they become inured to its pleasures. (l.25-26)

Moreover capitalism’s ability to take things downmarket also has its limits. (l.27)

As capitalism makes available to all what was exclusive to the privileged few things previously seen as extravagant items enjoyed by the rich are now considered as mundane “essentials’ of inconsequential / insignificant value.

People no longer appreciate what they used to desire / yearn for / hanker after.

Or As material well-being improves people grow desensitized comforts of life. I complacent about the niceties / comforts of life.

Not everything becomes available because of wealth.


These “positional goods”, as they are called, are in fixed supply: you can enjoy them only if others do not. (l.29-30)

The amount of money and effort required to grab them depends on how much your rivals are putting in .. (l.30-31)

which only forces everyone on the treadmill to run faster, incurring more stress for no greater rewards. (l.31-32)

People desire products and services which, by the very nature, will only ever be available to a few limited / exclusive individuals.

So one would need to outstrip one’s competitors  / contenders to acquire such products / services.

resulting in more work and higher levels of anxiety for no comparable benefits / gains.


Even if tangible benefits are accrued, the fruits of labour sour quickly – most people discover hat the things they thought would make them happy and have worked so hard to afford only bring greater discontent (l. 33-35)

due to a phenomenon that sociologists call reference anxiety According to this concept, most people judge their possessions in comparison with others. (l.35-36)

Ironically, is the very increase in money – which creates the wealth so visible in today’s society – that triggers dissatisfaction. (l. 36-37)

As men and women move up the economic ladder, most of them almost immediately stop feeling grateful for their elevated circumstances and focus on what they still do not have. (l.37-39)

When people achieve / attain what they assumed would improve their happiness / well being, they soon become even more dissatisfied / unhappy / disaffected / disgruntled

because they tend to measure / appraise their wealth / property by weighing / examining it against their rivals (ie, everything is relative)

Hence it is our actual and obvious /palpable rise in affluence which causes unhappiness /

The richer we get, the more we concentrate on direct our attention to what we lack / do not possess.



Reminder: it is a good practice to write down the number of words used.



Q9. Application Question

Both passages suggest that increased prosperity can actually cause people to become less, not more happy. To what extent has this been the case in your country? Refer to relevant material from both passages as well as your own experience and opinions. UYOWAFAP. [8]

Points from Passage(s) & Explanation Application to your country (S’pore)

It seems that the more wealth we possess, the more isolated we become. We must defend it, and ourselves, against the intrusion of other people.

An increase in one’s wealth becomes a means of suspicion against others whom we perceive as coveting what we have acquired. In protecting our wealth from others, we isolate ourselves so that we can protect what we own.

A culture of over protectionism and suspicion has pervaded society, where people no longer talk to each other because they are concerned or want to know others better Rather people talk because they want to show their wealth.



Ironically, in “defending” our wealth against the “intrusion” of others, we too see the need to demonstrate wealth that has been acquired.

The notion of competition in Singapore – competing for jobs, places in schools – leads to a mentality of scarcity and a need to hoard for fear of losing out to others.

91 7% of home ownership among resident households (Source General Household Survey. 2005) with 74.2% living in 4-room HDB and larger or private housing.


Luxuries soon become negligible worth and consumers come to take for granted things they once coveted from afar People are stuck on a hedonistic treadmill: as they achieve a better standard of living, they regarded as necessities of become inured to its pleasures.

The acquisition of wealth or goods is a never-ending cycle, as what is acquired loses it novelty, or the initial happiness it brings. As these goods lose their value to bring happiness, the need to fill that gap creates other material wants, ad infinitum.


This cycle of acquiring goods or improving one’s life is seen in how people  see the need to change handphones or cars even while they are still functional.

Surrounding oneself with trophies of material wealth (cars, technological gadgets, sophisticated household appliances), keeping to oneself, highly urbanised lifestyle.

980 mobile phone subscribers per 1,000 of the population (Source: General Household Survey, 2005)

An elite schooling, for example ceases to be so if it is provided to everyone. These “positional goods as they are called, are in fixed supply you can enjoy then only if others do not.

(EX) Material goods only bring happiness if one can see that someone else has not obtained them The fact that others covet what one has brings “happiness” as long as it is exclusive.

(EV) The prestige of attaining the 5 Cs in Singapore no longer holds the same appeal for people, rather the need to attain the 5 Cs which are at the top of the hierarchy of a list of prestigious wants is the top priority.

It is not about the good you have, but whether the good you have acquired is coveted by others that matters ultimately

Singaporeans are badge-conscious, brand-conscious – judging the worth of things by their brand name, be it real estate, cars, schools, careers, retail items, choice of entertainment, luxury items.

Parents jostling to get their children into prestigious schools.


When people already possess all the goods and services they need, growth can be stimulated only be conjuring new ‘needs Advertising deliberately creates gaps in our lives in order to fill them up.

(EX) Consumerist culture is perpetuated by creating new desires and thus showing how old or previous wants are now obsolete. Just as people become “inured to the pleasures of attaining what they coveted before, so too do they buy into the false wants which are created by advertisers.

(EV) Advertising gimmicks often focus on the happiness one can get out of a particular product, and not what the product can do for you. Services such as slimming studios create false needs to adhere to societal perceptions of beauty calling upon the consumer to buy into the gratification it can offer you when you see a “new, slimmer you in the mirror.”

Singapore is a young nation built on by driving forces of commercial trade (bustling port, import and export, financial hub).

Per capita GDP (output per person measured at current market rate) has jumped from $ 219001990 to $ 447702005

People find gratification by indulging in their purchasing and possessing wealth and properties acquisitive nature.

Singaporeans are consumers by choice who exercise their purchasing power and disposable incomes.


People in affluent societies also become obsessed with status – they aspire to a higher place in society’s pecking order Herein lies the final irony – ruthless and relentless jockeying for social position forces others in the rat race to run even faster to keep up.

(EX) Just like the race to acquire wealth, the need to gain status in society is also a never-ending cycle On reaching a step higher, you find that there is always someone above you whom you feel you need to surpass in order to attain a higher position in society’s ladder.

This point can be linked to the first point about how we need to defend ourselves against others)

Just like the race to acquire wealth, the need to gain status in society is also a never-ending cycle On reaching a step higher, you find that there is always someone above you whom you feel you need to surpass in order to attain a higher position in society’s ladder

[This point can be linked to the first point about how we need to defend ourselves against others)


(EV) The corporate rat race in Singapore has led to a never-ending race to move up higher Markers of status symbols are often moved, and acquiring them becomes measure of the social hierarchy one stands on in Singapore.

Certain jobs are more esteemed than others (doctor, lawyer etc).

The new doctrine of happiness tended to raise unrealistic expectations

(EX) The belief that happiness lay within one’s control has led to people setting unrealistic goals which they feel will make them happy.

(EV) The idea that happiness lies within one’s control is shown in how many parents’ happiness are tied to their child’s future. This creates many unrealistic expectations of their children, sending them to the best school, enrichment classes, etc…

Proliferation of self-improvement books appearing on The Straits Times & Borders best-sellers list happiness via achievements.


Getting more pleasure out of life, becoming more engaged in what you do, and finding ways of making your life feel more meaningful

Performing acts of altruism

(EX) Can be tied in with Mill’s point about finding happiness only if we move away from a self centered view of happiness.

(EV) Volunteerism may not be the answer here, although the culture in Singapore has seen an enforced form of volunteerism, especially amongst students. The need to fulfill community hours takes away the satisfaction / happiness founded in helping others, even though one is doing something meaningful.

Level of volunteerism among Singapore is low. Based on statistics by the Ministry Community Development, Youth and Sport, the national volunteerism rate stands at 28% for youths aged between 15 – 24 while the national volunteerism rate for the total population is 15.5% (source: Survey on Individual Giving, 2006).

The level of philanthropy is also low.

SM Goh recently urged high-income earners to be more involved in philanthropic work by donating to worthy causes and contributing to the development of society. In 2005, $644 million were received in donation to Institutions of Public Character (recognised charities) (Source: Social Statistics 2006, MCDYS)



Comments from Tutor for General Paper :

-Students are to specify the extent the issue (increased prosperity can actually cause people to become less, not more happy) applies to their country

-Students have to select points from both passages which deal with how increased prosperity has brought about less happiness for people.

-Answers have to make a concrete and critical application of these points to their own country showing in what respects increased prosperity has

i) made people in the country more unhappy or
ii) made people in the country happier.


A critical answer in this case would be one that recognises that a perception of happiness may not necessarily be the version of happiness that both authors espouse. Answers may also argue that the process of acquiring wealth may make one happy but that this happiness is transient or short-lived.



Students are to demonstrate a sound appreciation of both passages.


-GP pupils are to analyse and appraise the relevance of the points by justifying how selected ideas apply to their own country as well as providing counter-arguments where relevant

-Apt examples and references to their Singapore are also to be included


Better answers would demonstrate a nuanced approach in the student’s appreciation of the arguments in the passages.

For instance
The affluence paradox operates on the assumption that material wealth or comfort brings happiness.However one’s definition or perception of happiness is subject to one’s personal values and beliefs, world view, religion as well as cultural context and circumstances. [Especially true in SG]

The survey data presented in Passage A could be flawed due to its “simple and folksy question” as one’s state of happiness is relative to one’s previous experiences, pleasant or otherwise.

Thus the conclusion drawn from the data (that people in poorer nations are happier than those in richer countries) is flawed as it assumes a definite, simplistic, causal relationship between material wealth and well-being. (poor Ethiopians appear happier and smile more than rich Americans, so the rich are unhappy)

Instead, the cultural context and circumstances could be taken into consideration as one’s level of happiness is also relative to one’s expectations (eg the ability to survive and triumph over physical hardship and adversity is cause for celebration in situations where life is fragile and easily lost due to poverty, civil strife or war.)


Paragraphing and the use of connectors are critical to signal the direction of the student’s argument as well as transitions between points


Additional Comments:
The General Paper tuition teacher pointed out the following as well:

a. There are many obvious and predictable points to be made here, so GP tutors will look for a certain level of sophistication in both analysis and language to differentiate the average from the excellent.

b. Excellent students might ‘problematise’ the actual question, as well as question the validity of the ‘upstart science’ of happiness (which is a strange and suspect mixture of economics and psychology) together with the dubious relativity and relative dubiousness of the ‘data’ it collects.

c. Stronger students might also contrast S’pore’s current situation with that of the U.S. particularly in terms of Singapore’s more recently and rapidly attained affluence. Do many Singaporeans still remember (and aren’t they still constantly reminded of) their past poverty / hardships? Are they therefore more appreciative of  / less inured to the affluence they enjoy today?

d. Also, what about Asian / national values advocating frugality / thrift, as well as ‘community before self etc. ? Do these make a difference?

e. Having said this, many students might also comment that, although many Singaporeans are more grateful for their current levels of comfort (especially given the indigence of some neighbouring countries), the younger generation in particular is rapidly becoming more demanding and less appreciative.

f. This brings us to a final point a good student will use qualifiers such as the ‘vast majority of Singaporeans’ / ‘a considerable number of Singaporeans’, as well as differentiate between social groups in terms of age and perhaps also status, (eg whilst elderly Singaporeans remember the hardships they endured as children, most young people…) to provide a more nuanced response.

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