English‎ > ‎

Composition writing

Some tips!

Tips for composition
  • Keep to the time schedule of 1 hr 5 min to complete the whole essay. 
  • Read the question you have chosen and highlight or list down the keywords to avoid "mental block" of ideas in the later stages of your writing.
  • Analyse the way the question is phrased, paying attention to the directives/style.
  • Begin with a strong thesis statement that introduces the main idea of your essay and state key points
  • Develop each key point in a complete paragraph, giving your supporing details.
  • Use transitions to connect your points.
  • Avoid using very definite statements when in doubt. Eg, can state "It took place in the 1980s" instead of stating "It took place in 1989" if you are not sure.
  • End your essay with a summary of the main points. You can restate the central idea and indicate why it is important. However, do not use the same words, paraphrase instead.
  • Generally, my advise is that you should try to spend about 5 to 10 minutes planning your composition before starting to write. If you do not plan, you may find yourself stuck at some point in your story wondering how to continue or trying to cover a loophole you had overlooked. 
  • Try to finish about 5 to 10 minutes before time to check through your writing and correct any grammar mistakes. Check for:
    • tenses (past, present, future etc)
    • subject-verb agreement (singular, plural)
    • punctuation (esp. for dialogues)
    • verb forms
    • etc
  • Remember, keep practicing and you will improve! 
  • Try to write one composition each week. 
  • At the same time, read many books to improve your vocabulary and grammar! This will also help give you ideas for more exciting and interesting stories. 
  • Throw in as many descriptive words and expressions as possible (but not excessively, of course). 
  • Use your imagination to play out the story in your mind, and put these into words. You are the director of your story. Make the reader feel the emotions and visualize the scenes that you have in your mind. 
  • Also remember to write neatly and make sure your paragraphing is clear. 
  • Leave lines to make your writing more legible.

Main steps in writine a composition
  • Choose a suitable topic - Consider the following factors
    • Do you have many things to write about for this topic? Do you know enough about this topic? Do you have good examples to substantiate your points?
    • Do you understand the topic? If a topic seems ambiguous or unclear, avoid it.
    • For narratives: do you have a good story idea in mind already? Is your writing skills and vocab strong enough to tackle narratives?
    • Take note of how many part each topic contains. Consider avoiding questions with several parts because you may forget to answer one of the parts in the question. It may also be difficult to allocate the time between 2-3 parts.
  • Use the right format
  • Find a clear theme
    • A theme should consist of one or two sentences which summarise a composition and which will be used to form a plan. (ie a "thesis statement"). 
    • For one-word topics, the theme may not be clear. You may use the following methods to develop your theme for such topics:
      • Part in the life of man: Describe the part and perhaps importance which the topic has in the life of man (Eg Food, Water, Discipline)
      • Chronological order: Give a chronological or historical account of the development of the topic (Eg Women's rights, Pollution, Computers)
      • Factual: Give a factual account of the topic (and perhaps its uses or causes) (Eg Electricity, Flying, Water)
      • Advantages and Disadvantages: Describe the advantages and disadvantages (or good and weak points) of the topic (Eg Newspapers, Gambling, Fashion)
      • Different attitudes: Describe different types of something or different attitudes toward it (Eg Keeping fit, Dreams, Heroes)
  • Collect your points
    • Consider when, where, why, how, what happened as a result
  • Arrange your points in a suitable order
    • chronological/historical order
    • in order of importance
    • advantages, and then disadvantages
    • different points of view
    • according to different places/countries
    • according to different methods/attitudes/types/reasons
    • discuss problems and solutions to them
    • describe the causes of an event, the action itself, and the results
    • describe aims/hypothess, methods and conclusions
    • etc
  • Start
    • Start with a statement of your theme
    • Use dialogue (direct speech)
    • Describe an action which is relevant to your theme
    • Use a proverb or quotation.
  • Develop your theme
  • Finish
    • by giving a summary of your main points
    • by restating your theme as a reminder and summary of the whole composition
    • by looking into the future, speculating briefly about what may happen in future
    • by giving a happy or surprise ending to a story
  • Check for mistakes
    • check that your composition is long enough
    • punctuation
    • grammar
    • spelling

Sec 3 Composition titles

1. The funniest thing that ever happened to me
2. Cruel humour
3. The street kids
4. Frustration
5. The changes I see in myself
6. Teenagers are a misunderstood lot
7. The importance of forgiveness
8. Write a story beginning with "I'm thankful I have a friend like..."
9. My special friend
10. Teenage friendships
11. Describe a few incidents of bullying in your school
12. How I choose my friends
13. How I managed to leave a gang
14. Gangs pose a threat to society and should be severely dealt with. Do you agree?
15. My favourite comedians
16. The curse of the stolen diamond
17. My grandmother's superstitions
18. Being superstitious can be dangerous. Do you agree?
19. Black cats on a dark night
20. Communications of the future
21. How I overcame my fear of learning to use a new communication tool
22. The day when Sam got caught in his computer
23. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of advanced technology in our household
24. A day in the life of an astronaut
25. Life on Mars
26. A brave new world
27. On the trail of the criminal
28. How the case of the bloodstained glove was solved
29. What can be done to fight crime?
30. A world without crime is a perfect world. Discuss
31. An Eskimo boy's first hunting trip
32. Surviving the cold
33. Is it important to keep traditional skills in a modern world? Discuss
34. Lost in a blizzard
35. An account of oppression in my country's history
36. Can we do without freedom of speech? Discuss
37. The time I stood up for what I believed
38. A political figure I admire
39. Singapore - a multicultural success story
40. The importance of living harmoniously in multicultural Singapore
41. The multicultural aspects of Singapore that would interest tourists
42. Why I am proud to be a Singaporean
43. The struggle of my ancestors
44. Singapore - the future of its people
45. Singapore's success is dependent on regional peace and internal cohesion
46. Singapore - the land of opportunity for all
47. The time I played with fire
48. Escape from the burning flames
49. A day in the life of a performing dolphin
50. What can be done to save and protect the dolphins?

O Level Composition Questions (from past year papers)

  1. "It is beter never to borrow or lend money." What are your views on this advice?
  2. Write about an amusing incident on a day out with your family, which still makes you laugh whenever you remember it.
  3. Should girls and boys be given exactly the same type of education?
  4. Describe how a religious or national event is celebrated in your country.
  5. Freedom
  6. What important lessons in life are learned away from school?
  7. Write about an occasion when it was necessary to tell the truth whatever the consequences.
  8. Some people say that the internet does more harm than good. What is your view?
  9. Describe the location and main features of your ideal home and explain why you think it would be the ideal place to live.
  10. Leadership
  11. In the 21st century, how important is it to be able to read, write and speak English in Singapore?
  12. 'I'm bored!' is so often the cry of teenagers today. What could be done about this?
  13. Write about an occasion when an attempt to help led to unexpected consequences for the helper.
  14. Power
  15. Write about some of your worries and hopes for the future.
  16. The delights and frustrations of being a teenager.
  17. Greed
  18. Write about an occasion when you just could not stop laughing at an inappropriate moment.
  19. Television, newspapers and the internet - which of these do young people prefer as a source of information and why?
  20. In your opinion, what kind of voluntary work is worth doing, and why?
  21. If you were drawing up a set of school rules for a new school, what would they be? Explain which of these you think are important.
  22. Nowadays, people live longer than ever before. What problems does this present and how can these problems be dealt with?
  23. Write about someone who failed to live up to his or her reputation.
  24. Write about some of the things in your country you value most and would miss greatly, if you had to live in another country.
  25. Heroes
  26. Write about a time when your late arrival for a particular meeting or event led to serious trouble.
  27. Dreams
  28. What do you think secondary schools can do to ensure the health, well-being and safety of their students?
  29. Given the limited land available in Singapore, is it wise to set aside some areas as nature reserves?
  30. Do you feel that you need the long school vacation? How do you occupy your time during the December break, when schools are closed?
  31. 'Parents and teachers are partners in the education of children.' In what ways can parents and teachers contribute to the education of children?
  32. Write about how a serious accident led to an area being made safer for those who work or live there.
  33. It is not only shopping that brings visitors to Singapore. Describe some other tourist attractions and say why you think visitors enjoy them.
  34. Choosing a career is one of the most important decisions to be made in life. What factors will affect your choice?
  35. Marriage
  36. Is it said that school uniform gives pupils a sense of identity and encourages good discipline. Do you agree?
  37. Write about an occasion when a furious argument took place, based on a case of mistaken identity.
  38. Should both parents go out to work when their children are very young? What are your views?
  39. Flight
  40. Describe one of the large shopping malls in Singapore. Why does it attract so many customers?
  41. Write about a teacher who made an unfortunate mistake which caused a student to suffer as a result.
  42. 'There is no point in preserving the past. We should be looking to the future.' What is your opinion?
  43. Imagine a reunion with three friends from your school days in 10 years' time. How will your lives have changed?
  44. Write a story about what happened when, on the morning of your journey to spend a year studying overseas, you were unable to find your passport.
  45. 'What a wonderful sound!' Write about some of the sounds you like best and why they mean so much to you.

More O Level Composition Questions 

  1. Describe any procession you have seen or taken part in. Explain why the procession was held.
  2. Explain how you learnt to play an indoor or outdoor game or sport. Give an account of any special skills which are necessary.
  3. Shopping
  4. Explain how you help in your family at the time of any important festival.
  5. Discuss the ways in which the location of Singapore affects its economy.
  6. Describe a time when you spent a holiday away from your own home.
  7. Give an account of an occasion when a relative or friend asked you for advice in dealing with a difficult situation.
  8. Wild animals
  9. To what extent has your district changed in the past 20-30 years? Have the changes been beneficial or not as far as you can judge?
  10. Trying to improve the environment.
  11. The Ministry of Education has invited students to write a report of up to 500 words on the topic "How can we improve primary and/or secondary education?" All reports will be sent to the Ministry for study by officials. Write your report on one or several aspects of education.
  12. What is global warming? Should we be concerned about it?
  13. What part does discipline play in society?
  14. Write about a time when you forgot to do something and this led to serious trouble.
  15. Television programmes.
  16. Give an account of a visit (by yourself or another person) to a doctor or dentist. 
  17. Boys or girls I like and those I dislike.
  18. Discuss the role of religion in the community.
  19. Write about a Sports Meeting from the point of view of a competitor or spectator.
  20. Hobbies
  21. Describe what happened on your last birthday or on a recent birthday of a friend or a family member.
  22. Write a review (for publication in a newspaper or magazine) of any book you have read recently. Do Not tell the story except when introducing the book and whenever it is necessary to illustrate a point you are making in your review.
  23. Consider the good and harmful aspects of the use of computers in the home. Consider global users generally and not just those of your own community.
  24. Music I enjoy.
  25. Cooking
  26. Describe a time when you did something which you later regretted. If you could go back to the same situation again, how would you act now?
  27. The joys and problems of keeping a pet.
  28. Write about any national or international person (dead or alive) whose character and achievements you admire.
  29. Do you feel that the influences of other countries on the way of life of people in your own country are good or bad? Give examples when possible.
  30. Celebrating National Day
  31. The problems that a teenage male or female meets as he or she grows older (you can write generally or from personal experience)
  32. Describe any outdoor game which you enjoy playing and outline some of the skills needed to be a successful player.
  33. Give an account of what you have done in the past few months as a member of any organisation at school or outside school.
  34. Some people believe that before students are admitted to a university they should have worked for at least a year. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of this proposal.
  35. Attitudes to clothes.
  36. Describe a time when your family moved to a new home.
  37. Give an account of ways in which an individual can contribute to the community.
  38. Write an article on either 'Singapore Food' or 'Singapore Clothes' for a western magazine for teenagers.
  39. What are your favourite television or radio programmes? Why do you like them? Could they be improved in any way?
  40. Prefects

Story Outlines

Title: Haunted house

Your writing


He thought he heard something in the house. It sounded like

What was the disturbing sound he heard? 

He took an apprehensive step forward, and he heard the floorboard creaking underneath his feet. He glanced at his surroundings. The house was

Describe the setting

He thought to himself,”

What was the character thinking?  Write down a question that goes through his mind.

He then noticed the faint smell of

What does the character smell that was out of the ordinary?

It reminded him of

What memory does this smell remind him of? 

Tears rolled down his cheeks as the past memories flashed in his mind. He closed his eyes, suddenly remembering how he had chanced upon this house. It must be fated. Earlier on, he had been

Connect that memory to the present moment.

How did he end up in the house?

Suddenly, he noticed something about the house.

Have the character notice something different in the house, something out of the ordinary.

He thought,”

Raise another question in the character's mind.


All he wanted to do right now was to

What does this character really want to do right now?  Maybe he is afraid to do it…

Taking a deep breath, he

Have the character do something, take action.

All of a sudden,

Put an obstacle in his path; make him stop for breath, fall, or pause for some reason.

However, he told himself he would not back down. He just could not push the memories out of his mind, and these memories were beckoning him to

Create a memory for the character that forces him to go on.

He muttered a prayer and

Let the character move closer to the disturbing scent/sound/sight.

What he saw shocked him to the core. It was a

What goes through the character's mind right before he discovers what's going on?

He stood rooted to the ground, unsure what to do next. As he slowly regained his senses, he

Let the character discover what/who is in the house.  Is it nothing to be afraid of, or just the opposite…?