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Primary to Secondary English: What’s New & 3 Ways to Get Ready

Updated: Feb 21, 2023

English Tuition Secondary.jpg

What makes Secondary English different? In short, where primary school helps your child to build their foundations in the language, learning English at a secondary level aims to help your child become an effective communicator. Namely, they’ll be challenged to read for content, write to be understood, develop their ideas and get them across.

In this AGrader blog post, we present an outline of the Secondary English language exam and break down the new skills your child will need to develop for each exam component. In addition, we’ve included three actionable steps to help you guide your child as they prepare for the next phase of their academic lives.

Primary to Secondary English: What’s New

While the structure for English exams in primary and secondary school is similar, the exams assess very different skills. We’ve highlighted the key skills your child will be building, as well as new components to the exam in the table below.

Paper 1: Writing



Skills From Primary School

For Secondary English, Your Child Will Need To...






[NEW] Editing


Situational writing


Continuous writing

Corrected highlighted errors for spelling, tense, etc. in exercises (previously not examinable).


Rephrased text to suit Purpose, Audience, and Context.


Created a narrative based on one of three pictures provided.

​Identify grammar mistakes in the text. As such, your child would need a strong understanding of grammar concepts.


Amplify information in the text provided by using their own words to illustrate their points with examples.


Write for a wider range of styles including expository, descriptive, reflective, and more.

​Paper 2: Comprehension








​​Visual text comprehension


Comprehension based on narrative or a recount


Comprehension based on non-narrative text


[NEW] Summary writing

​Demonstrated ability to use English correctly through answering a mix of MCQ and open-ended questions.



​​Examine texts critically by inferring and showing that they understand the nuances of language used through answering only open-ended questions.


Identify relevant points from the text, and rephrase key ideas concisely within the 80-word limit.

​Paper 3: Listening




​​Variety of listening tasks, where audio recording is played twice.


Note-taking exercise, where audio recording is played once.

​​Listened for key facts to answer only MCQs.

​​Process a variety of questions in addition to MCQs, and listen for key facts and ideas on audio recordings.

​Paper 4: Oral




​​Reading aloud


Engage in a stimulus-based conversation based on a video

​​Used static visual prompts to express their personal views.

​​Analyse details from a video prompt to discuss topics and their impact both on a personal and global level. For this, your child would need a deeper knowledge of world events.

How should your child start to prepare? Building their listening and speaking, as well as reading and writing skills is an ongoing habit you can start to develop, even before they step into secondary school. Here are three steps you can take:

1. Reinforcing Foundations

English tuition secondary

Aspects of English like grammar, sentence construction, and more, make the foundations of the language. In Secondary English, students are no longer tested specifically on certain aspects but are required to utilize the fundamental skills they learned in primary school to express their ideas effectively. This emphasizes the importance of English tuition for secondary students to hone these essential skills. With a strong base, your child can then demonstrate what they understand from a Comprehension passage or illustrate key points in their writing.

If your child has encountered difficulties in specific areas of English, it is essential to reinforce their foundational knowledge. By enrolling them in primary English tuition in Singapore, they can revise these basics with the guidance of experienced tutors. Our teachers can help them understand the root of their issues and provide them with targeted instruction to address their weaknesses. With this approach, your child can build a strong foundation in English and achieve greater success in their academic pursuits.

Alternatively, help to bridge the gaps in their foundation at home, starting with their interests. For instance, if they watch YouTube videos or web series frequently, encourage them to rewrite video descriptions, and proofread their written works out loud for you to hear, as a start. For recurring errors, help them to understand why they’re wrong. With more practice, they can proofread and continue to read aloud their written works to themselves. Reading aloud gives them a better chance of catching their mistakes so that they can then edit and rewrite them.

2. Expanding Vocabulary

Secondary English Vocabulary

For Secondary English, being able to choose the right words can help your child to make a stronger impact as they express their points. They can persuade their readers why their perspectives matter when drafting argumentative writing or as they engage in conversation.

So guide your child to build their library of words. Create a list that your child can add new words to. The list could be a note on their phone, a notebook, or a post-it – anything goes, as long as it’s easily accessible. When your child encounters words they don’t understand – whether it’s something their favourite character said in a film, or from a book they read – they can then add it to the list. At some point each week, they could then look up what each word means and practise using them in time to come.

3. Building Reading Habits

Secondary English Reading Habit

At Secondary-level, your child is encouraged to share and explain their point of view. If they rely solely on textbooks or notes from good English tuition classes for Secondary students, the opinions they develop are likely to be limited. Reading widely exposes them to (1) a variety of writing styles and (2) a range of ideas and perspectives. Their broadened worldviews can then inform their personal views as they make a stand in answering questions for the exam.

If your child is not a big reader, start small: one article a week from a newspaper or magazine, such as National Geographic or Time. It doesn’t seem like much, but if they keep this up for a year, they would have read 52 additional articles. All from setting aside 15 to 20 minutes a week. As they read, encourage them to notice how the writer goes beyond merely presenting facts. As they build the habit, encourage them to give you one sentence summaries or to share whose work they enjoyed reading (or not), and why.

If your child already enjoys reading, explore ways to make the most of it. For example, they could write reviews privately or share them on platforms such as Goodreads or school publications. This helps them to practise writing summaries, collating ideas, and get more confident in voicing and justifying their opinions.

In addition, they could also create mind maps of major concepts from the articles or books they’ve read. Through different branches on the diagram, they’d learn to connect ideas and are also more likely to retain the information they’ve read. In time, their compounded knowledge could drive deeper conversations for oral examinations and interesting views in their written works.

English Tuition Secondary

At AGrader, in addition to frameworks and exam strategies, we believe that English lessons should support students in building general knowledge and understanding different perspectives. As such, in addition to materials aligned with the MOE syllabus to help your child get exam-ready, our tuition for Secondary English includes discussions of recent news articles as part of the curriculum. Learn more about our unique step-by-step approach to English tuition for secondary school students here.


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