GP Comprehension Paper – Science & Society

General Paper Comprehension Sample Question Paper & Answers (Paper 2)

GP Comprehension Question Paper – Science and Society


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

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 passage for your answer, you still must use your own words to express it. Little credit (out of the remaining 15 marks) can be given to answers, which only copy words or phrases from the passage.


1) The writer states that “Homo sapiens faces a dilemma of his own making (lines 1-2). Explain this dilemma IYOWAFAP. [2]

The dilemma is either man continues to maintain his progress or preserve the environment

As the dominant species currently on this limited biosphere, Homo sapiens faces a dilemma of his own making His very success as a species has led to his own crowded nest or preserve the environment being soiled by his own droppings (Lines 1-3)


2a) Explain clearly in your own words what the writer means by “We are burning the floorboards of our own house to keep warm.” (line 12) [2]

We are using all of the environmental resources to achieve/sustain continual development progress.

Student must give the contextual meaning. Just give literal meaning is zero marks.
Student needs to explain “Burning floorboards” and “keeping our house warm”.
Answer should be phrased as “Doing X to achieve Y”, i.e. must depict relationship.

But limitless growth in any system is ultimately untenable. We are running out of stuff to exploit. We are burning the floorboards of our own house to keep warm. (lines 10-12)


2b) What is his intention in using the above analogy? [1]

The writer wants to criticise / warn / intends to  show how foolish / illogical short sighted / myopic / unrealistic mankind is.
OR  The writer shows that mankind suicidal / self – destructive.

Our politicians are obsessed with this and regard it as a litmus paper test of the success or failure of political policy. But limitless growth sighted/unrealistic mankind is in any system is ultimately untenable. We are running out of stuff to exploit. We are burning the floorboards of our own house to keep warm. (lines 9-12)


3) Why does the writer use quotation marks for the word ‘advances’ (line 15)? (1]

The township/ writer does not agree that the arrival of shopping malls is a sign of progress and development.
(GP students should explain what “advances” mean.)

Local townships are like defenseless villages against companies wanting to impose ‘advances’ like big supermarkets at the expense of the local ambience or streams. (line 15-16)


4) Our hope is in science.” (line 21) Does the writer share this opinion? Explain your answer IYOWAFAP. [2]

-The writer does not share this opinion because the current scientific advancements  are devastating / catastrophic.

-Writer has the perception that the development in science will annihilate, cause disaster and exacerbates problems in society.

Our hope is in science… But we are told that we face the possible destruction of the planet by nuclear weapons, star-wars and biological and chemical arsenals. This adds to societal helplessness, anxiety and depression. (lines 21-24)



5) Explain the two distinct criticisms that the writer raised about the media in your own words. [2]

-media overwhelms/ swarms the public with too much news that is presented too rapidly.
Lifted from Passage: We are bombarded with news day and night, unusually in (line 28)


-media packages/presents news in a simplistic, superficial, simplified manner.
GP text: glib pre-digested packages measured in seconds. (lines 28-29)

-the media does not give us room to evaluate.

lest we think too much (line 29)

The media indoctrinates / brainwashes / skews (the way people think) /inveigles people.

OR The media provides a one-sided account only.
Lifted: or question the propaganda (line 29)


There is a lack of a variety of news sources
OR The information sources are becoming more homogeneous
OR The media offers fewer perspectives/ origins/ positions
Lifted: News sources are subject to less and less diversity (lines 29-30)


Standards of reporting are low
Lifted: The bottom line is the dollar, not high quality news gathering. (L. 30-31)


The media dulls the judgement of the people OR it is seen as a form of escapism / addiction.
Lifted: The media has replace religion as the opiate of the people (l.32)


6) Explain your own words the irony in Water all, the doctor is himself in the same boat”. [1]

We expect the doctor to be able to help the patient with their psychological problems but he himself is in need of help / he faces similar problems as the patients.

Lifted: Psychotherapy will not fix those issues whose roots are and spiritual Psychiatrist rarely delve into an a spiritual vacuum. After all the doctor is himself in the same boat. Hence the high rate of suicide in the medical profession (infer) (lines 33-35)



7) What does the writer suggest to be lacking in today’s leaders? Answer IYOW. [3]

-visionary leadership is lacking in foresight aspiration
-political integrity are not righteous honest / upright are dishonest
-do not dare to make unpopular  decisions / to stand firm in what they believe in

-visionary and courageous leadership has the capacity to uplift us. However visionary and political integrity is in short supply (lines 40-41)
-more men and women of vision as well as political parties who are not afraid to lead from in front rather than govern from behind by opinion poll lines 41-43)


H1 JC GP Passages – Article Sources for Science and Society:

JC H1 GP Tuition (Syllabus Code: 8807)
Source of GP Texts:
Depression, Pessimism and Modern Life by Roger Allen, The Brisbane Institute, May 2004
From a scientist’s point of view, life is getting better by Colin Blakemore, Medical Research Council, The Independent 2007



Q9. Vocabulary Question (5 marks)

Word1 Mark 1/2 Mark
lamentable (1.4) [adj]
Pitiable pitiful, deplorable; pathetic, inspiring pity or regret, in a sorry or sad shape/state,
No mark: Pity, regret, Sad, Unfortunate, Mournful, Sadden
frustrating (2.4) [v]
Obstructing, hindering, thwarting: preventing the realisation / achievement / success of impending
foil, preventing, interrupting, slowing down, inhibiting

No mark: defeating, disappoint, stalling, halting, restricting, delaying
entrenched (2.34) [adj]
Deep-rooted: deep-seated
firmly held: long established:
Established, held, firm, Long-standing, Difficult to change, Rooted
No mark: Accepted, confirmed; accustomed, agreed; settled:
Embedded; unchanging; stuck; imprinted; instilled; cemented
swing (2.38) [n]
Changing from one extreme to another drastic / radical change.
huge change, total / complete change
(degree and NOT speed)
Change, shift, switch
No mark: Move, movement sway, fast reversal , undulate (movement)
undeniably (2.41) [adverb]
Without / beyond doubt question, incontestably, incontrovertibly, indubitably, unquestionably, indisputably unmistakably with absolute certainty
Clearly, truly, really
No mark: apparently, markedly, noticeably, factually, absolutely
cannot be ignored /  dismissed, Unavoidably, inevitably


Reminder: Do not try to give a string of answers. Use a short if you have to. Credit is most often be awarded to the first word, and the rest are disregarded.


Q8. Summary Question (SMQ) (8 marks)

Summarise the obstacles frustrating progress in the area of environmental and scientific progress and the writer’s reasons for feeling optimistic that these obstacles will be overcome. Write your answer in not more than 120 of your own words, not counting the opening words which are printed below. Use material from paragraphs 2 to 5.

“The first obstacle is…”


Lifted from the GP Text
AIYOW / Paraphrase

-For climate change, the obstacles are short-sighted commercial and political interests (line 5)

-Many businessmen still judge that their own fortunes… (lines 5-6)

-best served by ignoring the doom-mongers, (lines 6-7)

-pumping out the carbon dioxide to make money. (l.7)

-A few politicians still think that their reputations and their places in history are favoured by denying the
growingly obvious (lines 6-9)

-But (reasons for optimism)
4a But the consequences of climate change are accelerating. (line 9)

4b. A point must come (lines 9-10)

4c when both business and politics will be better served by response than denial. (lines 10-11)

5a. Political sceptics will become passionate converts (lines 11-12)

5b, eager to claim credit for recognising the inevitable .The burners will become preservers (line 12)

-Problems: The Environment
1 Politicians and businessmen are myopic lack / of foresight.2a. in their pursuit of wealth/  own agenda / please their shareholders (accept: economic growth)2b. not take heed of warnings / deny the environmental problems


2c and continue to pollute the environment

But (reasons for optimism)
4a repercussions will become so great that (inferred) there will be increased pressure by environmentalists which will cause politicians and businessmen to face the impact of their actions.

4b There will be a time 4c and they see more benefits in doing so / benefits outweigh the costs.

4d (inferred from 4c.) There will be a shift of mindset/heart/ outlook of the politicians and businessmen (“change in attitude lifted)

5a. They will become actively involved in saving the environment champions of the environment

5b so that they improve their reputation/ raise their status / will be commended praised / gain fame.


6 For stem cells to be more specific, human embryonic stem cells the barriers to progress are not economic but moral. (lines 18-19)


 Problems: Scientific progress stem cell

6. (Moral) Ethical objections to stem cell research. People think that stem cell research is immoral / unethical / sacrificing one life for another is wrong


Although the argument seems different from that for climate change, the crux of the problem is again the power of intuition and assertion over the rationality of science. (lines 24-25)8. I have heard a “pro-life” lobbyist describe the collecting of stem cells from 10-day- old embryos, surplus to the requirements of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), as “the evisceration of little babies”. Life, it is argued, begins at the moment of conception. Most scientists would surely argue that an embryo, never to be implanted in the uterus, smaller than the point of a needle, without a single nerve cell, let alone any viscera, cannot possibly be considered a person – it simply defies reason (lines 25-30)9 Furthermore, defining the starting point of life is not a matter of dogma but of social consensus (lines 31-32)


7 People refuse to listen to logic/ or look at evidence but value strongly their emotions and feelings when making claims.

8. People could not agree on the definition of life is problematic when life begins / When life begins is subjective. (inferred)

BUT (Reasons for optimism)
9 (In time to come) there will be a general mass agreement on the definition of life.


-because morality is, for all but the the most stubbornly impervious to practical evidence, a matter of utilitarian dialectic…. (l.35-36)

-Yesterday’s moral outrage has a way of becoming today’s… (l.36-37)

-…necessary evil and tomorrow’s common good. (line 37)

-what will cause a swing of attitude is in this case the shifting ratio of perceived benefit to theoretical cost. (lines 38-39)

-What we had first assumed to be beneficial will give way to the practical and actual consequences of our actions instead. (lines 39-40)

-And soon, I predict that the immorality of not helping the undeniably living sick will soon outweigh the good of protecting the never to be born (lines 40.42)

-What is right or wrong is based on what is most useful / beneficial for society.
OR greater good for the
OR majority will decide what is beneficial


-As history has shown  / Just as in the past / There have been precedence of / sooner or later / just a matter of time! eventually /

-people have changed their definition of night and wrong / ethical standards / moral
values / morality.

-there will be a change in mindset / values (inferred) based on people seeing more
advantages greater good being pragmatic / realistic

-The objections to stem cell research will be removed.

11. People will think that is more unethical / wrong not to aid the indisputably ailing patients.


Note: Time management is important for success in the summary question!
Reminder: it is a good practice to write down at the of your summary answer, the number of words used. Obviously, do NOT exceed the allowable word count!!



Q10 Application Question

In the context of modern society Allen argues that the future is bleak in passage 1, while Blackmore believes that there are reasons to be optimistic about life in passage 2. Which author’s views are more convincing? Justify your answer, illustrating your arguments by referring both to what you have read and to your own experiences. [9]

Sample answer to this AQ of the GP Comprehension Paper:


Recommended AQ response where the student selects views of both authors that lend
themselves to direct comparison.




AllenBlakemoreComparison (EX & EV) – Environment
“… crowded nest soiled by his own
droppings… ” But limitless growth in any
system is ultimately untenable. We
are running out of stuff to exploit. We are burning the floorboards of our own house to

keep warm.” 


Our politicians are obsessed with this and
regard it as .. test of the success or failure
of political policy… The outcome is

“Australians take it as a God given right to fish our rivers, estuaries and seas as if of
Infinite abundance for
man to take.”





Allen more convincing
Increase in human population, increasing affluence of fast-rising developing countries (i.e. China and India) focus on economic growth and capitalism is leading to increased consumerism, depletion of resources and
climate change, pollution


Despite increased publicity (Live Earth concert publicity, Al Gore’s campaign and An Inconvenient Truth, Anya Hindmarch Eco bag – Bring Your Own Bag in Singapore, people especially those in affluent and developed societies, have not felt the full impact of environmental issues and thus do not take these movements seriously (EV).

They see it more as a fashionable campaign than a life-and-death issue. Well-intentioned campaigns have ironically fuelled consumerism and generated more problem (EV)

e.g. lots of rubbish leftover after LiveEarth concert, Hindmarch bag becomes a fashion fad with high price tag rather than educate people about consuming less, ignorance about environmental problem

Though there is sudden increased awareness of environmental problems in 2007 (“tipping point”), not enough is being done by governments (quibbling over terms of cart reduction, US and Australia still not ratified Kyoto Protocol). Governments still focused on growth govt in the world has prioritized saving the over economic growth. (as Lee Kuan Yew recently mentioned in a dialogue session)

Given such low priority / importance the ENV has on the political leaders’ agenda, it is reasonable to say that the future (with respect to ENV preservation) is bleak (EV)


 A point must come when both business and politics will be better served by response than denial. I predict that the tipping point will come
in 2007. Political sceptics will become
passionate converter, eager to claim credit
for recognising the inevitable. The burners will become preservers…
Blakemore more convincing
Many governments have, as predicted by Blakemore, shown a lot of interest and concern over env issues and problems and started advocating environmentally friendly policies.


Some even changed their stance and started to acknowledge that remedial action needs to
be taken eg John Howard, Australia PM acknowledging reality of global warming – doesn’t mean that Australia and the USA are not doing anything about env problems even if
they don’t ratify the Kyoto Protocol. (EV)

There are more apparent signs of env degradation and global warming all over the world (floods in China, England and SEA, stronger hurricanes in Japan, heatwaves in Europe) – have made people take env issues more seriously – “Political sceptics will become passionate converts”.




I’m optimistic about the change of attitude, not, alas, about the probability of rapid success in the
monstrous task of reversing the effects of a century of profligacy”.

There is now increased awareness of environmental issues among ordinary citizens
(e.g Live Earth concert publicity. Al Gore’s campaign and An Inconvenient Truth, Anya
Hindmarch Eco bag, Bring Your Own Bag Day in S’pore. The response have been good and supportive.


(EV and Requirement) If such efforts continual such efforts are gaining increasing
support due to the change in attitude, it is not unreasonable to believe that things would be
better in the future.

Note: can only use terms like “reasonable to believe that…” if evidence and examples are given
earlier. If not, this is just making assertions / claims without justification.



AllenBlakemoreComparison (EX & EV) – Stem Cell Research (Religion vs Science)
Scientific knowledge of the universe has
destroyed simple notions of God and faith. The once indisputable role of the Church
has vanished…


Concepts of salvation are less fashionable.



*Our hope is in science. But we are told that we face the possible destruction of the
planet by nuclear weapons, star wars and
biological and chemical arsenals. This adds to societal helplessness, anxiety and

 Allen more convincing
Decreasing religiosity in today’s world – people do not always follow religious teachings and
bend the rules to justify their lifestyle choices, which leads to decreasing morality in the world
today i.e. abortion, substance abuse, pre marital sex etc.


Science – with more knowledge man has sought to “play God” and use science as the answer for problems rather than following ethical guidelines- man going down slippery slope of experimenting with everything, even life.

If we do what Blakemore advocates, people become focused on the pragmatic (“utilitarian
dialectic”) and losing respect for the sanctity of life. Rather than learn to be philosophical and
reflective about life, man only thinks that prolonging life span is the most important thing. Thinks all problems can be solved by science – faith in science may be misplaced as science can create more problems not matter how well intentioned it starts out e.g. sale of human organs a precursor of sale of embryonic material and stem cells.

“Concepts of salvation are less fashionable people – seeking temporal fulfillment over spiritual gains, which can result in more social problems, stress and discontentment – materialism, hedonistic pursuits.

“… even though there are breakthroughs in the area of medicine (as mentioned by Blakemore), there are also developments in the area of weapons that would annihilate the earth (e.g. Russia’s “Father of all bombs” – This is a conventional weapon. Even more dangerous than nuclear weapons because there are no treaties that limit the development
of conventional weapons (EV of example)

Cooling of ties between powerful countries eg USA and Russia  / China may lead to the possibility of another Cold War.

Science does not offer much hope because of limitations.

Eg cannot deal with the problem of terrorism despite the stepping up of surveillance and
counter terrorism measures. Even though we may be foil terrorist attacks now, we cannot be sure that we will be equally successful in the future, (DIY terrorists, self-radicalised terrorists, easy for them to amass chemicals to make bombs

eg Improvements in medical science cannot sleep pace with viruses evolving eg dengue, bird
Ebola, foot and mouth etc.

 -why should I be optimistic about a change in attitude to stem cell research in 2007? Because
morality is, for all but the most stubbornly
impervious to practical evidence, a matter of
utilitarian dialectic.


Yesterday’s moral outrage has a way of
becoming today’s necessary evil and
tomorrow’s common good.

…offers hope for man…

Blakemore more convincing
Yesterday’s moral outrage has a way of being today’s necessary evil and tomorrow’s common good  – irrelevant and outdated dogma and concepts can be updated with people being more and there being more debate about these issues. Sanctity of life is not lost: saving lives is a
way of respecting that.

Allen see religion (morality) and science in opposition. It does not have to be so. A happy
balance may even be struck between the two with more discussion, debate, and
continued experimentation and improvement of scientific processes.

Eg: SG MUIS encouraging Muslims to donate organs – show how with more discussion,
religious requirements can be clarified to show no contradiction between teachings and practical scientific practices.

ST 4 Aug 2007 “Virgin birth twist to stem cell fraud – S Korean scientists discovered how to
replicate parthenogenesis (an egg divides on its own without being fertilised by sperm) – further
research and advancements in SCI can lead to breakthroughs which would not compromise
ethical standards. (EV of example)

Because cells created through parthenogenesis can be created from unfertilised eggs, they do not destroy viable embryos and might therefore allay some of the concerns of people, including US President Bush, who opponent stem-cell research for ethical reasons.



Our GP Tutorial teachers will share the actual Exam Marking Criteria for Paper 2’s AQ, during the lessons.

General Marking Descriptors for Grade ‘A’
Evaluation (EV)
– well supported and developed to its logical conclusion (convincing). Able to make judgements and decisions.

Requirements – fulfill requirements of the question

Explanation (EX) – includes elaboration and reference / support to personal insight and interpretation (shows a very good understanding of terms, issues and apt illustration)

Coherence – shows a high degree of coherence and organisation. ; observe appropriate paragraphing and the use of logical connectors.

Comments from Tutor for General Paper :
-If examples from own country is not given, only a maximum of 5 marks.

-remember to include reference to your own country (state your country) in your application responses.



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