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Writing a factual, reflective or an argumentative or expository essay has never been easy to many ESL learners. It is indeed more challenging when the essay is written in an examination and the candidates have no ideas what kind of issue or topic they have to write about. There are so many topics under the sun; anything can be tested. These are some examples of the factual or argumentative essays which were tested in SPM:

  1. SPM 2018: Some people complain that they have no free time. Discuss the reasons why they might say this and suggest how they could use their time better.

  2. SPM 2018: Young people should be trusted to make their own decisions. How far do you agree with this opinion? Explain why.

  3. SPM 2017: The Malaysian tradition of having open houses is important and should be practised more. Do you agree? Give reasons to support your view.

  4. SPM 2016: Some people believe that all students in Malaysia should learn at least three languages. What do you think?

  5. SPM 2015: Social networking has caused a lot of problems. How far do you agree?

  6. SPM 2015: Why is having good neighbours important?

  7. SPM 2014: There is a lack of freedom given to teenagers today. Do you agree?

  8. SPM 2014: Why are animals important to human beings?

  9. SPM 2013: ‘True Malaysian.’ Describe what this means to you.

  10. SPM 2013: Is tuition necessary? Discuss

Obviously, those who prefer to write a factual or an argumentative essay have to be more prepared in terms of content as well as language accuracy. Since not much can be done to help learners in term of the essay content, ESL teachers should try to assist them in term of improving their language quality, specifically the adjectives used in their essays. Personally, I have analysed the past factual, expository and argumentative essay questions and then developed “6:11”. This simple innovation exposes learners to 11 categories of sentence structures and each category offers at least 6 sophisticated adjectives which learners can apply in their essay writing. I believe SPM candidates normally are required to fulfil these language functions when they write those essays:

  1. Describing positive qualities

  2. Describing negative qualities

  3. Describing feelings

  4. Describing values

  5. Describing social issues

  6. Describing challenges

  7. Describing favourable outcomes

  8. Describing unfavourable effects

  9. Describing urgency / seriousness / importance

  10. Describing advantages

  11. Making a stand

The following are examples of sentences to further illustrate those eleven language functions mentioned above. Those sentences use sophisticated adjectives which should increase their number of merits:

I would strongly recommend ESL teachers to expose their SPM candidates to those focused sentence structures. Different activities can be designed to familiarise learners with those sentence structures. Later, certain activities can be implemented to further enhance their mastery of the memorised structures or words. Allow them some time to memorise those structures and apply the sophisticated adjectives when they write their factual, expository or argumentative essay. Hopefully, these shared tips and inputs will benefit all learners out there, in shaa Allah.

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