Friday, October 24, 2008

SPM 2008 English Tips (Essay)

Hi there! For those SPM students this year who have searched and arrived on my blog, welcome and I hope you have done sufficient revision by now.

For your information, the more favourable topics for Paper 1 Section A Guided Writing this year seems to be Formal letters and report. So do your homework on these but don't forget to learn the formats for others as well. As for Section B, the more favorable topics are with regards to bullying in school and education. As
For Paper 2, the popular poem seems to be Death in the Opposite House and Short story Necklace. Do prepare for others as well.

I have included below 12 sample essays based on trial SPM papers from different states.

My best wishes and Good Luck!

1. How to be a good friend.

Human beings are social creatures. We all need good friends for a healthy social support system. To have good friends, we must be good friends. Let’s examine what we can do and what others can do to be a good friend.
‘A friend in need is a friend indeed’, this saying really sums up what a good friend should be. There are friends of fair weather who are only there during in good times but disappear as soon as bad times hit you. A good friend is there to provide support when times are tough, or be someone to rely on to celebrate a special moment together. Even if you don't see each other every day or once a year, true friends always keep in touch via telephone or mail.
Good friendship is based on trust - if you break a friend's trust, the friendship may be very hard to salvage. A dishonest person has no chance of having true friends. You must keep your promises. Good friends will never hurt you by gossiping behind your back and lie about it.
Part of being a good friend is about being willing to listen rather than just talk. This takes time and effort but if you can make time just to listen to others and respect what they have to say, then it's a sign of a good friend. A good friend will never judge you but is willing to tell you when you are right or wrong. “The only time a good friend looks down on you, is when they bend down to pick you up after you fall.”
Friends might come and go in your life, they might make you laugh and cry, but most importantly of all good friends will love you for who you are. It doesn't matter what you look like, the colour of your skin or what kind of clothes you wear, but it's what's on the inside that counts. As the saying goes, “ A good friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future and accepts your present just the way you are.”

2. Holidays

People of all cultures have their holidays. Originally from the words, ‘holy’ and ‘day’, holiday is defined as a day free from work that one may spend at leisure to celebrate a particular event.
Today we have mainly public holidays, school holidays and religious holidays.
Public holidays are when the general public are given days off from work. During such a holiday, depending on how long the duration is, some people choose to visit family, friends and places or go shopping or just relaxing at home. It is a time to rest our body and mind after a period of hard work. People like to take trips to beautiful holiday spots or even overseas for a change of scene or just try something new or go on an adventure. Generally, it is said that people come back happier and fully refreshed after a holiday.
School holidays give students time to break off from strict school routines and have some fun. As the saying goes, ‘All work and no play make Jack a dull boy’. Students, especially children need to have such holidays to go out and play in the outdoors for healthy body and mind. Originally our school holidays were allocated so that during the hot months of summer, families will be able to go out and have fun in the sun. On the other end, December holidays are during winter when heavy snowfall made it difficult for children to get to school.
Religious holidays such as Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Deepavali and Christmas provide time for families from near and far to get together to celebrate the respective religious occasions together. It is a time to strengthen our faith in God by doing prayers together which is normally not possible in other days. Family bonds become closer as they spend time with each other, getting to know, catching up on the latest news and do fun things together. .
In conclusion, holidays are wonderful times to celebrate the good things in life and rejuvenate the mind and body that is vital for our overall well-being.

3. Write a story beginning with :
“ I tried again and again…”

I tried again and again to fight its pull but I just couldn’t. I climbed in and buckled myself. As I sat there, hunched in it, I felt excitement in my stomach. My head throbbed, my limbs tensed and my fingers shook. My body was in a flight mode. I slid the gear into drive and pressed on the gas pedal.. my hands gripped the steering wheel tightly. It gained speed.. first gradually and then I was off.. in full speed and high gear. Nothing else mattered to me now.
My eyes were only on the road in front of me. The sides became a blur of images. It was just me and the race against time. Suddenly out of nowhere, a dog ran out of the left side of the road in front of me. I hit the brakes. My hands swiveled the wheels sharply to the right.. I managed to avoid it just in time.
I took deep breath and held it. I had to be more alert now. You never know what might happen next. No soon I thought this, suddenly a sharp bend appeared in front of me. I was going too fast! My breath got caught in my throat as I turned the wheels sharply.. and I heard a terrible screech as I hit the road bend.. tiny rocks flying .. and then off I went, launched off into the air.. . For a few horrible seconds.. I could hear my heart beat.. I was going to fall .. I dare not look. I closed my eyes and prayed. Then ‘wham’.. I hit the ground! I was flipped over and over a few times. I felt as though my body was a ragged doll… tossed about here and there! And then it was all over. Silence. Was I still alive? I waited.. afraid to move. Then I heard voices around me.. slowly at first then they grew in concern. I tried to feel my body. I could move my hands, my legs and my head. I opened my eyes just when the operator reached out to tap me on my shoulders.
“Are you all right?” he asked. Then I realized again where I was. In a games arcade, seated in one of those virtual game machines. ‘Game over’ flashed on the screen in front of me. I smiled to myself. I have to do it again.

4. The best place I have visited

While some people may love visiting a new country or great holiday resorts, the best place I have visited is my grandparent’s home in Pengkalan Hulu, Perak. The town itself is 300m over sea level. It is a small town near the Malaysia-Thailand border with no shopping mall or even a cinema but there are no traffic jams, the air is cool and fresh. The people are humble and very friendly. Most of the grandparents knew each other from childhood, it is normal to see them daily in the coffee shops having a drink together. It is a lovely place to be, very quiet and peaceful.
My grandparents’ house itself is on an orchard. During the fruit season, there is an abundance of fruits such as durians, rambutans, mangosteens and langsats. What better way to eat durians than to sit under the tree and eat those that just fell from the trees a few seconds ago. We would then go plucking ripe, bright red rambutans from tree and suck on those sweet succulent flesh.
The mornings are especially beautiful and misty. I would wake up to the calls of roosters that are never heard of in a city. After a hearty breakfast, we would set out to explore the nearby woods and discover many delightful surprises. My grandfather would point out wild plants and edible fruits. Sometimes we wouldl make our own fishing rods and go fishing in the serene lake in the middle of the town. The lake was once made by hundreds of elephants belonging to a Siamese king.
There are also waterfalls, mysterious caves and natural hot water spring in this little town. The waterfall and caves in Tasek offer great adventures for us. We would spend a whole day bathing, exploring and simply having fun. The hot-spring is a great place to soak and relax. The bubbling sulphuric water is known to be good to relax the muscles and cure some diseases.
With Thailand just 7kms away, we can get plenty of cheap food. I have eaten the best Siamese curry me, nasi lemak and ais kacang there. Besides that, shopping for clothings and other goods are also much cheaper and value for money.
I love this place so much that I look forward to visit it again and again.

5. The major problems faced by students.

The major problems faced by students are teenage problems. They include peer pressure, exam stress and many growing up problems.
Peer pressure is one thing that all teens have in common. You can't escape it. It is everywhere. Whether it is pressure to conform to a group norm or pressure to act, peer pressure is something everybody has to deal with at some time. Students spend more time with their friends and less time with their family. This makes them more susceptible to the influences of their peers. The need for acceptance, approval, and belonging is vital during the teen years. Teens who feel isolated or rejected by their peers or in their family are more likely to engage in risky behaviors in order to fit in with a group. In such situations, peer pressure can impair good judgment and fuel risk-taking behavior, drawing a teen away from the family and positive influences and luring into dangerous activities.
Our school system based on reward and punishment can induce a lot of fear for failure in students in the long run. Often, if we were to do badly in school, it may affect the quality of our future. Based on this fear, the pressure to do well in exams is highly intensified by parents and teachers. School basically takes up a major part of a student’s life and it is not easy to handle all the workload effectively. Some students just give up while some pressure themselves to do better and better. In the end, this creates anxieties, which can affect students’ well being if they are not strong enough to deal with them.
Even in stable, solid family units, teenagers will face confusion and uncertainty with themselves and life. Natural hormonal changes, emotions and a growing urgency to be an adult is just some of the challenges we have to deal with. Some students have to deal with mood swings. Then there are students who are falling in love and facing the disapproval of parents and teachers. It is a deeply emotional challenge to handle these problems.
Proper guidance and love can help a lot to help these students handle such problems.

6. A small family is better than a big family.

This is a matter of individual preference. For an only child like me, I have grown up longing to have many brothers and sisters to play with. I envy those big families who get together for loud but happy family functions, sharing wonderful cherished moments. But at the same time, a friend of mine who grew up with 10 siblings remembers the difficult times when she had to share a packet of food with her many siblings and wear old hand-me-downs.
Therefore is it arguable. A big family may have more mouths to feed. Busy parents who are working hard to sustain a big family may also neglect the children. It may not be easy to be fair to every child in terms of schoolings and their other needs. In some cases, children from big families often drift away as they grow up, as there is not much close bonding with each other. Personality clashes and personal grievances are just some of the many problems affect such families. But many big Asian families are deeply ingrained with family values such unity and harmony, thus have managed successfully to cross this barrier. Eventually, as the children get married and have families of their own, it becomes even a bigger extended family. New cousins get to know each other, share many aspects of their lives together. It is wonderful to see such families. Support system is greater and family reunions become merrier, as the saying, ‘the more the merrier’.
On the other hand, a small family may get more individual attention from parents. Parents may be in a better place to nurture and educate their children. Children may get bonded closer. It is easier to pack and go off on a holiday trip together. There may not too many household chores to be done such as loads of laundry, cooking and cleaning that is present in big families. But then, there may not be big family occasions either. It may get a bit quiet and lonely sometimes when everyone grows up.
In conclusion, it all depends on the families and their circumstances. Personally I would prefer a bigger family anytime.

7. Sending students for overseas education is a waste of money

In considering this point, firstly we need to look at why many parents have forked out a lot of money to send their children for overseas education. The general notion that overseas education is of better quality cannot be rebutted. For example science courses like computer studies and engineering are based on the latest findings in some countries like the US and UK and may take time to reach our shores. Therefore overseas students have better advantage of learning the latest in theory and practices compared to those available locally. Therefore they are more hands-on and well informed making them highly valued when they enter the employment market. So most parents don’t mind having to pay more for their children to get greater value for their money and to secure a better future.
Secondly the education system overseas places greater value of an overall development of students as individuals rather than just passing exams. Students and professors interact in a more flexible and approachable system. Overseas students learn to get along with their new environment and people from many walks of life. Not only their English improves, they also learn good communication and problem solving skills. In turn they become more confident of themselves and their capabilities. Upon their return, they are able to secure better jobs by most companies that prefer to employ overseas graduates for such added skills.
However, if students are able to obtain locally an education in a particular field that is in par with these international standards, then definitely it will be a waste of money to opt for an overseas education. Recently many higher education institutions have been set up including medical colleges that offer courses of international standard and recognition. Therefore, students should consider these options before deciding for overseas education that may cost double or more the amount of money required locally. Moreover, it will also save them unnecessary costs incurred in flight tickets, boarding and other hidden costs of an overseas education. Besides that, staying close to the family will help students to concentrate better in their studies and deter them from getting involved in the negative aspects of a foreign culture.

8. Ways to reduce bullying in school

Bullying is actual hurtful behavior directed by more powerful individuals or groups against those who are less powerful. It is not the same thing as fighting or quarreling between people of about the same strength. It is typically repeated, often enjoyed by the bully or bullies, never justified. It is experienced as oppression. Bullying can dramatically affect students' academic and social progress. A safe and fear-free school environment calls for a comprehensive bullying intervention plan that involves all students, teachers, parents and public at large.
Firstly, an anonymous questionnaire can be distributed to students and parents to gather information on many aspects of bullying. The questionnaires can give us information about where bullying is taking place and how students are reacting to it. We may note how interested students are in participating in meetings to help reduce bullying. We are also able to see how the students and parents view bullying. From this information, we can decide on preventive measures that will be supported by students and parents.
Secondly, an awareness campaign for students, parents and the general public will encourage cooperation of everyone involved and form a strong support system to protect students from being victims of bullying. Such programs can also show students how they can assist victims and how everyone can work together to create a safer school environment.
Thirdly, an Anti-Bullying Policy must be drafted out for the school and delegated to a school committee represented by students, teachers and parents. This policy may contain:-
· the school’s standing against bullying,
· illustrations of bullying,
· a declaration of everyone’s rights to be free from bullying,
· a statement of responsibility for everyone to stop bullying when they see it and,
· a general description of the actions that will be taken against bullies.
For example, initially a counselor or teacher may advise a bully to act in a responsible and constructive way to remedy the situation. Research shows that many bullies were victims of bullying themselves and sometimes respond to this gentle, understanding approach. However, if this approach is not successful, then stricter actions must be taken. Bullying must never be tolerated.

9. Write a story beginning with :
“I wish he would give me a second chance..”

I wish he would give me a second chance but I could see in his eyes that he was not going to. He was just too angry to see reason at all.
It all started this morning when I asked him to teach me to drive. It was a beautiful Sunday morning and surprisingly he had agreed. All this while he had refused to teach me to drive as he said I was too young. So I couldn’t be happier today. I was already imagining myself buying my own car to take Sarah, my sweetheart on long romantic drives.
So, dad got into the co-driver’s seat while I got into the driver’s seat of his brand new Toyota Vios. He went over all the buttons, levers and pedals with me carefully. Of course I did not tell him that I had already learnt to drive my friend Tom’s old manual car for a few months now. However, I was unable to get my license, as I had not reached the age limit yet. But next month, I shall celebrate my 18th birthday and I needed to convince dad that I was ready to drive.
As I pushed the auto gear into drive position, dad cautioned me to step on the gas pedal gently. I thought to myself, that was peanuts! I was very confident that he was going to be impressed with my driving skills. But I was unused to an auto car and stepped on the gas too hard.
What happened next just happened too fast. The car lurched out of the garage, straight into mom’s flowerpots. Unfortunately, my feet got confused between three-pedaled manual car and two-pedaled auto car. Instead of stepping on the brake, I just kept stepping on the gas. As the car flew out of the driveway, I heard dad shouting like a madman beside me. Suddenly he pulled the handbrakes and the car did a 360-degree stunt turn and stopped just inches from my neighbour’s gate. Luckily we were not hurt. I nervously peeped at my dad sideways. He sat very still, his face livid. I knew I blew it!

10. Describe an interesting character

He is 80. A retired police (forestry) officer. He was a sergeant major in PPH. He came to this town a few decades ago and settled here. He never got married and he lives all alone in his humble hut. He eats only strict vegetarian diet, mainly juices. He cooks his own food. He also meditates and prays. He says he is from a Brahmin family. In his younger days, he taught devotional songs and prayers to neighbourhood children including my aunts. After his retirement, he did little odd jobs e.g. grass-cutting even at midnight. On these grass cutting nights, he would cover his body and face with a few layers of old clothing, fix a head-torch on his head and go about his business.
He used to cycle 20 miles daily to and fro to Baling to buy fresh milk and supply to the locals. This is not an easy task even for a professional cyclist as the journey is downhill and uphill with lonely stretches of road. After many years, he became too frail to cycle. So now, he drags this little ice-box with him 6.30am to the local bus station and catches the first bus to a town half an hour away. From the main road, he walks 3 miles in to a Pejabat Pertanian to buy the milk. Then he walks another 3 miles back to the main road and waits at the bus stop to catch the bus back home. If he misses the bus, he has to wait another 2 hours. Back home, he loads the ice box on his old bicycle and pushes the bicycle around town to distribute to his loyal, old time customers. Hot sun or rain doesn't stop him. By the time he is finished, it is around 10pm. Nearly fifteen hours of work, all for a mere $15 profit a day. This may seem senseless to some people but for him, it is like a service to the community while keeping himself fit. It definitely takes a lot of discipline, passion and determination to do this. This makes him an inspiration to the local town folks who fondly call him Uncle Karuna.

11. A camping experience

I couldn’t sleep the night before. I was just too excited. This was my first time on a camping trip. I had packed my backpack 3 days ago. There was a list of things that were required from everyone such as sleeping bags, torchlight, matches, Mars Energy Bars and not forgetting mosquito repellants.
Around 8am the following day, we arrived in our school bus at the foothills of Gunung Ledang which is famous for its many myths and also beautiful camping spots. There were 20 of us. We were all in our school scouts team accompanied by two teachers and our guide, an Orang Asli man called Adun. First we went to register ourselves at the rangers office before starting our hike.
It was a wonderful, cool morning. Adun pointed out to us various types of edible wild plants and told us to 'respect the jungle' by not littering or thinking bad thoughts. 2 hours later we reached a waterfall. It was a perfect spot to set up our tents. By the time we finished setting up the tents, it was lunch time. Adun showed us how to gather firewood and lit up a fire. He made a makeshift stand over the fire and hung a pot of icy water from the waterfall to boil. While waiting to cook rice, our teachers said we could all go for a quick swim in the waterfall. We had so much fun together! After a simple of rice and sardines, we rested for a while. In the evening, our teachers took us exploring around the area and gather more firewood before nightfall. At night, after dinner, we lit a big fire and sat around it. Our teachers talked about jungle survival tips and later we played games. Then Adun told us a few mystical stories about Gunung Ledang. Some were scary and a few of us kept looking behind our backs at the dark jungle. By 10pm our teachers asked us to go to sleep. Some of us couldn’t sleep so ended up chatting quietly in our tents till wee hours of the morning. We went home the next morning, tired but happy.

12. Every cloud has a silver lining

This idiom means that you should never lose hope when faced with a particularly difficult period in your life because it will soon pass and good days will come. Difficult times are like dark clouds that pass overhead and block the sun. When we look more closely at the edges of every cloud we can see the sun shining there like a silver lining. It also means that a negative situation can produce something that is very positive. For instance a person who had gone through a personal tragedy comes out a stronger person and is able to help others face such situations.
There was once a man who rose to the pinnacle of success and became a millionaire. He had everything he could hope for. He had successful businesses, properties and a lovely family.
Suddenly one day due to some misfortune, he lost everything he had worked hard for. He had nothing left to start over. First he became depressed and wanted to give up on life. He wanted to jump out of his room window. With tears in his eyes, he looked up at the sky. There were dark rain clouds in the sky. As he kept looking at them, the clouds drifted by and a ray of sunshine shone on his face.
The next morning he got up and asked his wife to prepare a tray full of sandwiches. He strapped the tray around his neck with a rope and walked to the office area nearby. He started selling the sandwiches to passersby. Surprisingly many people bought them. From that day onwards, every day during lunchtime he would carry a tray full of sandwiches to the office area. He would walk from door to door to sell his sandwiches. In a few months he was able to expand his business and employ a few staff to help him distribute the sandwiches for him. He eventually opened a chain of outlets selling his now very popular sandwiches. One day the Business Times interviewed him and he was asked how he managed to rebuild his business. He smiled and said he didn’t gave up because “Every cloud has a silver lining”.

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