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At this juncture, I believe Form 5 English Language teachers are still WORKING HARD to ensure their SPM 1119 candidates get the best result. Undoubtedly, there are numerous practices given by the Form 5 teachers for both Paper 1 and Paper 2. I believe one of the strategies that should be employed by Form 5 teachers is to focus on the mastery of past tense verbs. To me, implementing any FOCUSED strategies is an evidence of WORKING SMART. These are the reasons for focusing on the mastery of past tense verbs:

  1. Personally, I am positive many intermediate SPM 1119/1 candidates prefer to write a narrative, descriptive or narrative descriptive essay for Continuous Writing. Yet, most of them still have serious errors even if they construct sentences using very simple and common verbs. For examples, “She wakes up late this morning” and “Hasan played football for his school team and he runs fast.”

  2. Most of intermediate candidates have the ability to write Continuous Writing that is 100% comprehensible to the examiner or any reader. However, most of them commit numerous errors in their sentences especially when they use verbs.

I would propose ESL teachers to take these steps in attempting to reduce errors in their Continuous Essay:

  1. Highlight to the intermediate learners that they need to master common verbs as an effort to reduce language errors.

  2. Give Sample Essay 1 to exemplify common verbs that they could use when they write.

  3. Give Sample Essay 2 and Sample Essay 3 to them and ask them to highlight all the verbs in both essays.

  4. Ask each learner to draw 3 columns in their Composition book/ a piece of paper. Column 1 is for present tense verbs, Column 2 is for past tense verbs and Column 3 is for past participle verbs.

  5. Each intermediate learner must list down 20 common verbs (present, past and past participle verbs) individually.

  6. Learners are grouped (3-4 members in a group). They are supposed to exchange information on the verbs and add new common verbs in their list.

  7. Learners are grouped again (3-4 members in a group) and they must ensure their group members are new this time. Similarly, common verbs are exchanged and new common verbs are added to their list.

  8. Learners need to memorise the listed common verbs especially the past tense and past participle verbs.

  9. Learners are given simple practices to apply those memorised verbs such as through paragraph writing activities.


  1. Steps 1, 2 and 3 are to exemplify common verbs that they would use in their SPM Continuous Writing.

  2. Steps 4-7 are done to encourage independent learning in mastering common verbs. However, if time is very limited, Steps 4-7 may be skipped and they are provided with a handout containing common verbs (in present, past and past participle forms).

Sample Essay 1:

SPM 2018: Describe a problem you once had while you were travelling. Explain what you did to solve the problem and what you have learnt from the experience.

Last week, I TRAVELLED to Kuala Lumpur from Bertam. I WENT by bus. It WAS a big and comfortable bus. My seat number WAS 15A. I SAT next to a Malay man. He INTRODUCED himself as Pak Samad. He WAS going to Kuala Lumpur to visit his grandchildren. Pak Samad WAS very affable and he LIKED to tell about his family. One of his sons WAS a professor at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. He TALKED a lot about his three grandchildren too. He WAS a live wire.

Our express bus STOPPED at Tapah Rest Area. I WENT DOWN because I NEEDED to go to the restroom. Pak Samad WENT DOWN too but I DID NOT WAIT for him because he WALKED very slowly. Then, we MET again at the fruit stall. I BOUGHT some mangoes. I LOVED to eat delectable mangoes. Pak Samad BOUGHT ice-cream. He really LOVED to eat mouth-watering chocolate ice-cream. After that, I WENT to buy drinks and some snacks.

Fifteen minutes later, I RETURNED to the bus. Pak Samad WAS TALKING to the driver outside the bus. He WAS so amicable. I GOT ONTO the bus and TOOK OUT my wallet before I SAT down. I WAS taken aback to find out my wallet WAS not in my pocket! I SEARCHED all my pockets. I TRIED to find my wallet in my small bag too but it WAS not there! I quickly INFORMED Pak Samad about my missing wallet. I WAS at sixes and sevens. I WAS about to cry when the driver SAID, “Relax, do not worry. We will help you.”

Pak Samad ASKED me to recall where I WENT before getting onto the bus. I REMEMBERED I WENT to toilet, fruit stall, drinks stall and lastly to Stall Number 17 where I BOUGHT Mister Potato. I BEGGED the benevolent bus driver to give me ten minutes. I TOOK his contact number too just to make sure he DID NOT LEAVE me. At breakneck speed, I RUSHED to Stall Number 17. My heart WAS BEATING so fast. I PRAYED that I COULD FIND my wallet there. I really HOPED I accidentally LEFT it there and the stall owner WOULD KEEP it for me.

I REACHED the stall in less than two minutes. I WAS GASPING for more oxygen. Before I COULD ASK the stall owner about my wallet, he TOOK it out from a drawer and PASSED it to me. “Please be more careful next time. Your wallet is so important when you travel,” REMINDED the benign stall owner. I almost CRIED. I WAS so happy to see my wallet. All my money WAS there. I THANKED the owner and I HUGGED him. I PROMISED him I WOULD BE more careful in future.

I have really learnt very important lessons from what HAD HAPPENED that day. I learn it is important to be alert all the time. Moreover, I learn I must always check my important items all the time. The incident has also taught me that there are still kind and honest people in this world.

Total: 511 words

Sample Essay 2:

Task: Read this essay and underline all the past tense verbs and circle all the other verbs.

SPM 2017: Describe the first time you went on a camping trip. You should write about the activities at the camp and explain how you felt about the experience.

The bus was ready in front of the school at 7.00 a.m. I was among the first to reach school last Saturday. I was so delirious with joy to go camping. It was my first experience. The bus only left school one hour later and reached Ulu Rembau Forest Reserve at 10.00 a.m. The forest reserve was so serene. I could only hear nature and smell fresh air.

We hiked a small hill for ten minutes. All forty students and ten teachers found it was an easy hike. Then, we reached our campsite. It was an open space and it was surrounded by virgin forest. There was a rocky cliff and a pristine river flowing in the middle of the camp. I was all agog to see two big pools in the river. I could not wait to jump into the river and have fun with my friends. I took a lot of photos.

Our first activity was setting up our tent. I was in group seven together with my classmates Shaun, Halim, Gopal, Budriz and Jason. They were able to set up our tent in less than twenty minutes. I was flabbergasted to see how fast they worked. Jason and Budriz really had a flair to do the task. I wanted to help but I did not know what to do. I observed what they did and learned slowly how to set up a tent. I felt bad for not helping them much but they said it was alright.

Then, we had lunch. After the scrumptious lunch we had a break. I went to the river bank and I had to hold my breath to see a group of fish swimming freely in the river. At 2.30 p.m. we went jungle trekking in the forest. Mr. Khan, our History teacher was with us. We walked for about one hour and I was elated to see some wild animals such as monkeys and colourful birds on the trees. I was so radiant and could not believe my eyes when I saw a very beautiful and majestic waterfall in front of me. I took so many photos along the way. Before it got dark, we walked back to the campsite. It was really a great jungle trekking.

After dinner, our teachers told us to sit in our group and discuss our plan for our performance. My group members agreed to sing an English song, Perfect by Ed Sheeran. All of knew the song very well. We practiced until 10.00 p.m. We were poised we could sing well but had to stop as we were so deadbeat. I could hardly open my eyes but I was super thrilled for the next day. I knew there would be other challenging yet exhilarating activities for me to experience. [464 words]

Sample Essay 3:

Task: Underline all the past tense verbs in the essay.

SPM 2015 - Describe what makes you happy and explain why

I am a 20-year-old girl. My name is Lofa. I am cute. I am still single. I have many idols. One of my idols is Fatah Amin. Fatah Amin is a Malay heart throb in the industry. He is a very handsome actor. Some of my friends say Shuib Sepah is more handsome than Fatah Amin. I disagree with them. I watch all his dramas and movies. Fatah Amin is my hero. He is my prince. Last weekend, I went to Bintang Mall for shopping. I went there alone. I went to my favourite boutique, Kaseh Atikah Boutique. I wanted to buy a blouse. It was the most enjoyable weekend.

It was the best weekend in my life because I met Fatah Amin at the boutique! Fatah Amin was alone. He was easy on the eye (attractive). He wanted to buy a dress for his sister. He came to me and said, “Excuse me, can you help me? Can you help me choose a dress for my sister?” I was too shocked to see my idol in front of me. He was so handsome. He was more handsome than all his photos that I kept in my album! I was in seventh heaven (extremely happy). I quickly said, “Yes!” I helped my hero to choose a pink dress for his sister. I walked close to him. I could smell his perfume. I was so happy!

I told Fatah Amin I was his great fan. I told him I watched all his dramas. I told him he was my greatest idol. He smiled. He thanked me. Then, Fatah Amin asked me to choose a blouse. He said he wanted to buy the blouse for me because I was his great fan. I screamed happily. I did not know which blouse to choose. I was at sixes and sevens (confused). I wanted to cry. I felt like I wanted to hug him but I knew I should not do that. I took his photos a lot. He was so sporting. I could take many photos with him. I was delirious with joy.

Then, he asked me to have lunch with him. “OMG…. OMG…. OMG!!!” His invitation sent cold shivers down my back (to feel very nervous). I was very contented. We walked to Mekar Cinta Café near the boutique. We walked together. I could still smell his perfume. It was really the best weekend in my life! I held my breath (to be very excited) as I walked close to him. I wanted to hold his hand but I was afraid people would gossip us. Many people were looking at us. I did not know what was in their mind. Maybe some of them were thinking that I was his girlfriend. I would be happy to be his real girlfriend!

I ordered chicken chop and apple juice. He also ordered the same thing. He said he wanted to eat what I ordered. Wow! He was so romantic! I felt like I wanted to jump out of my skin (to react strongly to a shock). Suddenly, his mobile phone rang. He said he had an emergency. He had to leave. He quickly ate his food and then he left. He gave me his contact number. I continued eating alone but I was the happiest and luckiest girl that weekend!

[511 words]


Our intermediate learners must be made aware that whatever sentences they construct, there is at least a verb in each sentence. As teachers, we must also highlight to them that most of time, they have language accuracy problems in using verbs. Therefore, in an attempt to reduce errors for their better Continuous Writing mark, one of the crucial emphases to be given is to improve the mastery of common verbs.

Improving grammar normally takes a long time, however, to master COMMON VERBS, I believe progress and improvements can be achieved within 1-2 weeks. It is because intermediate learners are already familiar with verbs like introduce, go, invite and plan. All they need is to have intensive practices to use those common verbs accurately when they write a descriptive or narrative essay.

Our SPM intermediate learners deserve their “final” chance to reduce errors when they use verbs. Hopefully, ESL teachers teaching form 5 would seriously offer some opportunities for their intermediate learners to have better language accuracy in using verbs! Let's work hard and let's work smart too!

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