I think some of my young readers are preparing for their O levels and some may even be struggling with their English paper. Although it may be a bit late to be giving advice, still I see no harm.
The secret to doing well in English or any other language is this: you must try to like it. Try not to adopt an exam-oriented approach like for the other subjects.
When I was in secondary 3 or 4, I used to listen to a radio programme called The Chief Examiner Explains. The Chief Examiner was usually an Englishman from Cambridge who gave tips on how to prepare for the Senior Cambridge exams (now called O levels). I remember one particular programme where the speaker explained about the subject, English Literature. The main aim, he explained, was to cultivate in us an interest in books. They tried to select a few good books and hoped that after studying these books, we would develop a life-long love for good books.
I must say, that they succeeded to do that for me. The book we studied was No Highway by Nevil Shute. After that, I went on to read almost all of his books. We also studied Terrence Rattigan's play about Alexander The Great. I can still recall this line ... The first conquest is yourself, only after that the world. We also studied narrative poems like Sorab and Rustom, and The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner.
I was fortunate to have a very good English teacher in Sec 4 by the name of Ernest Lau. He often boasted that his class produced the most number of A's for the English paper. I was one of those who frequently scored more than 7 upon 10 for his composition assignments which meant that I had a good chance of getting an A. But as it turned out, I fumbled during the exam and got only a credit. I remember that after our prelim exams, he even made us study poems and Shakespearean plays that were not in the exam syllabus just to reinforce the message that we should study English literature for enjoyment and not just to score in exams. In that regard, I think I got an A after all.
Unfortunately, nowadays I don't read as often as I would like to, owing to lack of time. But I still read my King James Bible regularly. Inside this magnificent book, you can find some of the most beautiful verses ever penned in English. As our English bible is translated from the original Hebrew and Greek, I often wondered how beautiful the original verses would have been.
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