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February 25, 2024

A GP Teacher’s Perspective of the 2023 A Level Paper 1

By Mr Ten Ting Kai, Indigo Subject Head of GP

Another year seen through, another batch seen off… and another twelve questions to write model essays for.

But before we start the cycle afresh, I thought it might be fun to share a GP teacher’s perspective on this year’s A Level paper 1. Maybe this post will make it onto r/SGExams. Maybe it’ll boost someone’s morale, or maybe it’ll break someone’s heart (hopefully not!). 

I found this year’s paper to be… fine. It posed questions that an 18-year-old can reasonably be expected to have opinions on, and it provided some variety in the way of topics and types.

Easiest to score well

Question 4: Consider the argument that there should be no censorship of the arts in modern society.

If this category were “most boring question”, my pick would be the same. This question invokes the classic tension between control and freedom, or more specifically that between censorship of the arts and artistic freedom. The tensions between abstract concerns and material ones, individual concerns and societal ones, are relevant here as well. We have arguments about democracy, inclusiveness, progress, etc. on one side and harmony, legitimacy, stability, etc. on the other – arguments that our students should have no trouble coming up with.

Even the tricky parts to this question, if we can call them that, probably won’t manage to trip anybody up. There’s the “in modern society” stipulation, which is impossible to miss. And it’s not difficult to explain how living in the polarised, post-materialist, pragmatic, etc. context of today impinges on the arguments for and against censorship.

There’s also the “no” in “no censorship” that adds a certain absolutism to one side of the essay, but again it’s not difficult to address it. For example, any invocation of civil freedoms, liberties, and rights as exceptionless, inviolable, and universal will get across the idea that there should be absolutely no censorship in the arts.

Ultimately, all of our students should do well in this question, not just those who attended The 1975’s concert in Malaysia or who have illegally torrented To Singapore, With Love.

Easiest to screw up

Question 12: ‘Young people want to change the world because they do not know it is impossible.’ How far do you agree?

This is an evil question. I’m imagining students going through the 12 questions, one by one, desperation mounting with each question they cross out. “Nope, can’t do this… can’t do that… can’t do that either…” Then, they arrive at the final question, the final chance to find a question they’re able and willing to do – and it’s this.

The first reason it’s evil is how it forces you to accept that it is impossible to change the world. Whether the essay you write agrees or disagrees with the quote, it’s a given that there is no way to change the world. Just a friendly reminder that everything you do is meaningless to start the day!

The second reason is how tough it is to figure out what the question is really about. All students will know what it means to agree with the statement: young people want to change the world because they (wrongly) believe it’s possible. But what does it mean to disagree? Do we argue that, no, young people don’t want to change the world, despite (wrongly) believing it is possible? Or do we argue that, no, young people want to change the world, despite knowing it is impossible?

Learn more about the other types of questions and how to approach them at the specialist of JC tuition, Indigo Education Group.

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