Paper 1 predictions:

1. Some students will misinterpret the question. Very sad, but not the end of the world. Just Paper 1. (There’s no such thing as an automatic fail at the A-Level so you can still score a decent grade even if you misinterpret the question but write a fantastic essay.)

2. Some students will be too hasty in eliminating questions that appear unrelated to anything they have studied. If they had examined some of these questions more closely, they would have found that a lot of what they had studied for could actually have been used.

3. Some students will get too caught up with arbitrary rules that they learnt from unknown sources and start worrying about things like whether a question is an “absolute” question or whether it is a “double-barrel” question. When in doubt, list out all possible positions that one can reasonably take in response to a certain statement. That should tell you all you need to know.

4. Some students will spend too much time trying to write a perfect introduction. If you can’t think of a nice opening, forget it, and just go with one of the standard introductions we discussed in class.

5. Some students will find that they do not have enough examples because they cannot recall any statistics for a particular point. Statistics are not the only example (actually one might say that statistics are the most boring kind of example). Instead of using statistics, you can think about using case studies. You can try to recall case studies by brainstorming across geographies (Singapore, the United States, China, the United Kingdom, Australia, Sweden, France, etc.) and across topics (politics, education, inequality, gender, environment, etc.)

6. Due to some or a combination of the above, some students will need tissue paper during the exam, some after. That is okay. Just don’t smudge the ink.

Paper 2 predictions:

1. Due to one or more of the above, some students will be very sad. This sadness has a negative impact on performance for some students. For others, this sadness enhances their exam performance. While it is preferable not to be sad, it is also preferable that sadness enhance your performance for Paper 2.

2. After reading the passage, some students will start wondering if Cambridge thinks this is a joke. Yet another esoteric passage! Why is the passage talking about the ethics of owning pets? You can rest assured; it is not a joke. The question of whether it is immoral to own pets is a serious one. If animals have rights and are not merely the property of human beings, they should not be kept as pets. That amounts to slavery. Would you keep a human as a pet?

3. After reading some of the short-answer questions, some students will start panicking because they are unable to classify the question. Is this a literal paraphrase question? An inference question? A language use question? Or some hybrid monstrosity? Honestly, question types are just there to guide you. If you can’t identify it, just answer the question as it is written and move on.

4. The application question might turn out to be a surprise again this year. Or it might not. Just be sure to answer the application question as it is written. If the question limits the scope of the discussion, you have no choice but to stay within that scope. That said, the scope will never be so limited that nobody can write more than one paragraph. If you dig a little deeper, you might find that the application question is simply asking about whether you agree or disagree with the overarching argument of the passage. In that case, you can examine each of the passage’s supporting arguments in turn.