Situational writing is a test of applied or practical writing skills. For example, students may be asked to write an e-mail, letter, or a postcard to a particular person. This counts for 15 marks. Out of these, 6 marks are allocated for Task Fulfilment, and 9 for Language and Organisation.
To get a top band score for Task Fulfilment (5-6 marks) you must show a very good understanding and clear awareness of the PAC (Purpose, Audience and Context). It is NOT enough to be able to answer all 6 content points to score 6 marks, your awareness of the PAC will also add or subtract marks to the final score.
To get a top band score for Language and Organisation, your language must be accurate, with few (or no) errors in grammar, expression, spelling, and punctuation. Your ideas and facts must also be well-linked and sequenced, such that the information presented is very clear.
Situational Writing is paired with Continuous Writing (3 Pictures, 1 Theme) for the writing section of the PSLE paper.
1. Always Start With a Purpose Statement
Always begin by telling the reader (in this case the marker) what the letter is about. So if you are writing a letter about a visit to Disneyland, the opening statement might read something like:
I am writing to tell you about my trip to Disneyland last week…”
2. Arrange the Six Content Points into Three Paragraphs
The question paper will present six points of information, which must be covered in the letter. You should merge some of the points, in such a way that you do not exceed three paragraphs. For example, say two of the points are:
• I went on the Matterhorn rollercoaster at Disneyland
• Queues for the rides were very long
You can merge these into a single paragraph. You could write:
“The queues were very long, and it took hours to get on a single ride. I only managed to get on three rides in the end, one of which was the Matterhorn rollercoaster. It was scary and I…”
3. Number Your Answers to the Questions
Number your answers to Situational Writing questions, from points 1 to 6 (just as I’ve done for this article).
This numbering will alert you if you miss any points. Beware of questions with double points. Most of the time, there will be only five questions, but there will STILL be SIX content points. For example, some questions may ask you WHERE and WHEN an incident occurred. That counts as TWO questions. Sometimes there will be questions asking you to LIST TWO THINGS (items, incidents, emotions… It can be anything)
4. Highlight or Underline Answers to the Questions
Again, this is for your own benefit. You are more likely to notice mistakes and missed answers if the sentences “sink” into the body of the text. It also helps the marker, who has to mark hundreds of scripts, identify the answer easily. Markers will be grateful for this and perhaps overlook some minor mistakes that you have made. It also helps in the overall organisation of your situational writing, making it look much neater and tidier. This is a bonus for organisation, and it will also give the marker a better impression of you.
5. Keep It Short and Simple (K.I.S.S.)
Stick to the information provided by the exam paper. Do not get too creative, and start inventing extra details. There is only one exception to this.
Sometimes, the paper will ask something that requires an opinion, or a feeling. For example:
“Tell Charles what you think about the long waits at Disneyland.”
In this case, you might have to add a few reasonable conclusions. You might add that though you found the queues frustrating, you didn’t mind because you were excited.
6. Use the Right Tone for Formal or Informal Writing
The difference between formal and informal writing would have been covered in class, long before the exams. If you are still uncertain, start looking in your exercise books or textbooks. This is VERY important as it contributes to your PAC marks.
Do not “forget yourself” and switch tones in the middle of the letter. If you are using a formal tone, make sure you don’t lapse into abbreviations (e.g. could’ve, won’t, she’ll). If you are using an informal tone, don’t start referring to your 12-year-old friend as “Mr. Goh”.
In the event that the tone allows for abbreviations, ensure that your abbreviations can be found in a dictionary (some abbreviations, such as “ain’t”, are not recognised). For more on elements of formal and informal writing, follow us on Facebook or check our website at www.mutb.com.sg
7. Remember to Sign Off Correctly
In your rush to get things done, don’t forget to check for a graceful sign-off. No point doing all that hard work, and then losing marks on this little detail at the end. For informal text, you can sign off with “Love”, or “Your Friend/Pal”. For formal letters, sign off with “Yours sincerely”.
There you go! All the best!
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