Best of luck for Paper 1 tomorrow!


Good luck to all of you out there who are taking your 0500 paper 1 tomorrow!

I trust it’s going to be an interesting experience, and as you go into the exam, go in the knowledge that you have already prepared your very best, but do remember some of the following small things.

Remember to read your questions.

When you are navigating, you need an address. If you don’t have the address, it doesn’t matter where you go, what you do, at the end of the day, you still won’t get to where it is that you want to go.

So, learn what you’re supposed to do, read the questions carefully, and then go in that direction.

Don’t just throw yourself along a path while hoping that you’ll get somewhere, because you definitely won’t.

Next tip, make sure to plan out your answers.

I know it’s very easy to just think that you should go in guns blazing, writing as fast as you possibly can, but really, planning out something can be helpful in a whole bunch of different ways.

I can’t remember who it was, but someone, perhaps it was Lincoln, said that if you were given 6 hours to chop down a tree, he would spend the first 4 sharpening the axe.

Obviously, you don’t have 4 hours during the course of your IGCSE exam, and if you try that, then you’ll be off and with no grade. So please don’t follow that advice literally; on the metaphorical front, do take some time to think about what you’re going to say, because that is going to pay dividends down the line when you structure, have a clear idea, and then finish in time.

Next tip, make sure to think about time.

Generally, each of the sections that you complete can be thought of as a 40-minute section, a 40-minute section, and a 40-minute section, respectively for your reading comprehension and then summary, then your reading comprehension, and then explanation and writer’s effect, and then finally, the extended response to reading.

Budget your time well, and make sure that you are going ahead and just ensuring that you have ample time to respond.

Next tip, when you are reading, make sure not to deceive yourself.

Remember that you are reading a text. This is not a time for you to impose your own opinions.

It is a time for you to understand, to retrieve, and from there to synthesize. It’s not time to start campaigning.

None of you are going to become Greta Thunbergs and simultaneously obtain an A-star if the cause that you are going for is environmental science when in fact the paper was actually about running a marathon. It doesn’t work that way.

My last tip, just go in with a sense that you are going to learn something along the way and that you’ve already done your best.

So treat it as a good time to go in, enjoy some interesting text, write a response, and know that you’ve already done your best by that point because it is going to be the best that you’ve done by that point.

You can’t really change anything.

I have no idea if any of you are going to retake things but that’s a separate question. Go in with a feeling that this exam will not determine your life because certainly it won’t. It may decide the kind of grade that you eventually get but that at the end of the day isn’t really going to be consequential relative to the other things that could ostensibly affect your life.

So just go in with the knowledge that it’s going to be an interesting time and that there is going to be something cool to gain right here and enjoy yourself.

That’s all there is.

Alright, good luck everyone, have a great time and I look forward to seeing you on the other side!

It’s never too late. 


The scene is familiar. You wake up one morning and the page of the calendar turns. 

Yet again.

Imperceptibly, you’ve crept one day closer towards that test, that exam. 

Maybe time passed and you didn’t realize it. 

Maybe it wasn’t all that important to you. 

Maybe the only reason that you realized that time had passed was because somebody from up above was nagging you, day after day, telling you… 

“Wake up!”, they say.

“You need to study! Don’t you care about your future? What will you do if you rank number 5 again, but from the bottom of the class?”

It’s not a great feeling, is it? 

You stare at the calendar from where you are, and then you look at the books that you have to read, then you stare at the calendar again.

Before long, you sigh, you sit down, and you begin scrolling TikTok.

I know that feeling all too well.

The sense that time is running out.

The feeling that a large, unstoppable force is coming to you.

The feeling that no matter what, you must run away – all too familiar, yet so common to each one of us, a feeling that we should almost always rather avoid, by human nature or instinct.

The teacher, the parent, the educational consultant would tell you, if only you had planned, you would have averted this situation:

The ocean, they would say, is something that cannot be boiled.

The task is something that must be broken down into meaningful and manageable chunks.

Yet at the end of the day, human beings are human beings, subjected to human constraints, inclinations, and also patterns of thought.

It is almost inevitable that somewhere along the way, our foot may slip.

The divine plan that we thought we would execute, we sway away from, forgetting what we intended to do, we find ourselves running away as our hands move from the book to the phone, from English into videos of restaurant workers dancing.

And before we know it, there we are, in the thrall of sweet escape.

I want you to confront that feeling of hopelessness and remember, for a quick moment, that the time has not run out.

You may have that oppressive feeling as if a sword of Damocles hangs over you and before long, perhaps, the usual suspects shall appear. Doubt, guilt, self-hatred – the sensation that “no matter what I do, it will change nothing.”

“Whatever I read at this point, they will just be words.”

There they are, the self-defeating thoughts come one after another, building from a trickle into a flow and eventually into a deluge that comes to define every single day, before which the pages of the calendar themselves are washed away in words that you told yourself, messaging that eventually led the days to come and pass, eventually leading you to the day of the trial, on which you decided that nothing would have changed anyway, and you call the outcome fate.

I want to remind you that it is not too late. You may think that you are unable to do anything. But that is not the reality.

True, you may be one step closer towards a challenge that you find difficult to overcome.

True, you may not be able to accumulate the skill, the perspicacity, the knowledge, ability, that you hoped for or that would bring you beyond the boundary line.

All true.

No problem whatsoever.

But have you ever thought to ask yourself, can it really be that your efforts will mean nothing?

Can it truly be that even if you step forward at this point in time, you will not move further?

What you do in this single moment, you think is but a simple drop in the bucket.

A step that once taken is the end of it.

But I believe something different.

Because I believe that how you made that decision, feeling as if nothing would change, will repeat itself.

If nothing matters in the future, then surely nothing matters now.

Because what is the future but something that is forever becoming the present?

And what is the present, but something that is continually evolving into the past?

When you speak of future outcomes, of which there is uncertain and contingent nature, remember that they are not as far away as you think. Because eventually, they will come.

You say you’ve abandoned the journey because you cannot get the grade that you want.

The A*, the scholarship, anything else at the end of the day.

But right now, I want you to wake up.

Wake up, child.

Did you think this was just about the grade?

Did you forget why you came to this website in the first place?

You didn’t come to just find a random strategy in order to excel.

Well, that was certainly part of it. But if that was all you thought, then you had missed the entire point. Because the point here was that you would learn to appreciate language, its gift, and everything that it would bring along with it.

This was something that had always existed in a plane apart from just your worldly or material achievements. And you are saying now that it is meaningless simply because you only have a month and some change in front of you to make the difference that you thought in the moment of weakness that you should be able to make?

Well, since you are here right now, instead of browsing another 15 TikTok videos that will eventually fade into nothingness but a memory of a dancing girl with no particular talent, you may as well recall for a moment that everything in life builds upon everything else. Because everything is holistic, whether you think so or you don’t.

Every single one of your efforts, in a way that may be unknown to you at this point or at this stage of your life, will somehow count, if not necessarily enough in such a way that it will transform your grade, then definitely still in terms of transforming your mindset towards approaching this world.

Because you are here, you know that there is a chance.

Because you are here, you know that you have the power to change something. Yet you are spending your time avoiding the problem, transforming even this resource into material for procrastination rather than using it in its best form.

Leave that shattered thought behind.

You do not need it and it does not serve you.

Why should you allow an occupier to stand in the fertile territory of your mind when it does not help you?

You don’t believe me?

You want to give up?

Go ahead, drop your First Language English. Maybe you can pick up Cantonese or something like that, although for some reason I don’t think that an IGCSE for that exists. 

Or you could do better.

You could read a single sample essay. You could then write a single essay. You could compare it on that particular day, thinking about the marking criteria, which in your head seem to make sense, yet somehow they differ from what you see on the site.

You could read a single article, thinking about the language it uses, how it affects you, what it impacts, the small little things that I ask you to focus upon, but that often you may ignore. You can ask a friend to read your work, sign up for a last-minute workshop, take a brief moment to reflect on what you are doing, why you want this grade, whatever grade it is, as you realign yourself to the future.

Remember, everything counts.

Even if you feel that you’ve not been running fast enough, don’t look away. The finish line is still ahead. The race didn’t end. And what you need to do right now is move ahead. It doesn’t matter what placing you get, because at the end of the day, you’re all going to the same destination – The destination – not of a grade, not of a specific checkpoint – certainly that of becoming better than you were, even if just by a little bit, as you move forward into a future rife and full of possibilities.

Understanding Different Text Types: A Guide for IGCSE 0500 First Language English students


In the vast landscape of English writing, various text types serve distinct purposes, each with its unique characteristics and structure.

In the IGCSE 0500 First Language English exams, you need to demonstrate that you can produce (as in, write!) these different text types in the last section of Paper 1, as well as in the Directed Writing question, which is the first question in P2.

You’ll need to demonstrate that you understand six fundamental text types: letter, report, journal, speech, interview, and article.

Ready? Let’s dive right in!

1. Letter

A letter is a written form of communication that can be either formal or informal. It is usually addressed to a specific person or group.

  • Formal Letters are structured with a clear greeting, introduction, body, conclusion, and sign-off. They are used for professional or official communication, such as job applications, business inquiries, or formal requests.
  • Informal Letters are more personal and relaxed in tone, often used to communicate with friends or family. They may not strictly follow the formal structure and allow for a more expressive style.

Note for students:

In the FLE exam, you typically won’t need to pay too much attention to the format as you should pay attention to the linguistic style or nuance of your piece.

What this means is that you don’t have to fret about putting in the address of the recipient and your own address as well as the title – it certainly won’t harm you and I would recommend it if you feel that it’s helpful for getting your head into the game, but it’s not a dealbreaker for your grade if you don’t write it down.

Here’s what’s actually important:

The tone and the appropriacy of your language, because that demonstrates how and whether you understand how to use language in these different contexts, which is the main focus.

If you’re writing an informal letter to a friend, you don’t want to write as if you’re addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations, and if you actually are addressing the General Assembly, you probably wouldn’t open your remarks with a “Yo, yo, what’s up?”

2. Report

Reports are structured and detailed documents that present information clearly and analytically. They are often used in academic, business, and technical contexts to convey research findings, project updates, or analysis.

  • Characteristics: Includes a title, overview, findings (preferably with subheadings that structure and organize the report). Typically written in third person and with a formal and objective voice and style.
  • Purpose: To provide a thorough analysis or account of a particular issue or situation, often followed by recommendations.

Note to students: Writing a report is as much about reading comprehension as it is about maintaining a formal and objective style. You will need to be able to read texts carefully and distinguish skillfully between facts and opinions. Make sure that everything that you write down in your report is supported by evidence that you can take from the text, preferably with a clear understanding of where the evidence occurs within the text and which lines support the It may seem challenging at the outset, but practice makes perfect. If you’d like more guidance along the way, and lots of example sample reports, make sure to join our Premium Membership Program, so you can discover tons of different samples and prepare for your journey with the best possible support that you can have.

3. Journal

Journals are personal records where individuals document their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. While traditionally kept as private diaries, journals can also be academic or professional.

  • Personal Journals are intimate spaces for self-expression and reflection.
  • Academic Journals involve critical analysis and reflection on academic work or experiences.
  • Characteristics: Regular entries, personal tone, and a focus on reflection over structure.

Note to students:

If you are asked to write a journal entry, this means you are being asked to show that you can reflect upon the contents of a text and also imagine that you had the experience which was described or otherwise understand the context of what was presented to you well enough that you can take a different perspective from your own and perform reflections on the basis of events presented to you or hypothetical in nature.

This skill is vital in many different areas of life, but as with report writing, it’s not always natural or intuitive. Reading journal entries can be valuable, but don’t go out there and steal your family members’ diaries. Also, if you haven’t tried it just yet, journaling is often a relaxing and meaningful activity that can help you personally gain clarity and a deeper mastery over your experiences. If you haven’t tried it before, I highly recommend it as a path towards self-knowledge.

4. Speech

A speech is a formal address delivered orally to an audience. It aims to inform, persuade, or entertain listeners through effective verbal communication.

  • Structure: Includes an introduction (to establish the speech’s purpose and engage the audience), body (main points and supporting details), and conclusion (summarizing the key messages and providing a strong closing).
  • Styles: Can vary from persuasive and motivational to informational or ceremonial, depending on the context and objective.

Note to students:

Speeches are the most natural and intuitive way of remembering that whatever form of communication that we perform, whether written or spoken, ultimately is communicative in nature.

As you read the prompt, think about the people who would be on the other end if you were to really write out a speech. Who are these people? What do they actually care about? Having a formal process to think about who the audience is and what they care about as a guide for you to decide your tone, style, content, and even language grading can be quite useful.

For example, if a question asks you to write a speech to a group of children, you’d obviously want to think about what children would care about as you write. Additionally, you’d also want to make sure that the contents of what you’re saying can be easily understood, which means that you’ll want to show rather than tell and also use vocabulary that is sufficiently simple that it can be understood by all. At the same time, knowing the attention span of kids, you may also want to pay attention to ways in which you can increase engagement in the audience along the way!

As you practice, consider writing the way you speak. If that sounds simpler than it actually is, that’s because it is. You’ll probably want to practice by reading out what you’ve written on a page and asking yourself whether what you’ve said would actually be something that someone would say in a speech.

Here, in all likelihood, you can trust your intuition. If you need further guidance, consider also asking a friend or a relative to listen to what you’re saying and asking them if it sounds like it would captivate their attention or if it sounds like what someone would say during the course of a speech. Refine, reiterate, and practice again and again. This will give you a clearer idea of how to create an effective speech, which is not only going to be beneficial for you during the exam but also in other areas in life.

5. Interview

An interview is a conversation where questions are asked to elicit information from a participant. It can be conducted for various purposes, including journalistic, research, or employment.

  • Types: Can range from structured (with a set list of questions) to semi-structured or unstructured (more open-ended and flexible).
  • Characteristics: Involves an interviewer and an interviewee, with the goal of obtaining detailed information, insights, or personal stories.

Note to students:

Interviews typically take the form of a question-and-answer format, and in the IGCSE, it’s usually pretty clear what the context is, and you’ll have to demonstrate not only that you understand the question-and-answer format, but also that you understand how to take in the written content, and then convert that into those questions and answers which you will eventually create.

This is as much as a form of writing as an act of meeting comprehension that takes in all of your skills.

As it is with every single one of the text types here, getting exposure to actual examples is going to be extremely helpful. Lots of sources out there will provide you with interesting interviews. With people across the world, and a potential lifetime of stories to go through. So read widely, and familiarize yourself. For many interview samples, consider signing up for a premium membership of the site. To gain access to this wonderful knowledge.

It can help to watch interviews with actual news anchors. Or to read interviews.

PS: A small plug – If you want to watch a collection of interviews done by me, consider watching my YouTube series, Pathways to Excellence, in which I interview some of the very best students from Malaysia, as well as leaders across the nation, which will give you an idea of what that question-and-answer format might actually be like. Subscriptions are most appreciated!

6. Article

Articles are written works published in newspapers, magazines, journals, or online platforms. They are intended to inform, discuss, or argue on a specific topic.

  • News Articles provide factual information about current events in a straightforward, objective manner.
  • Feature Articles explore topics in depth, offering background, analysis, and personal opinions.
  • Structure: Generally includes a headline, introduction, body (with supporting details and evidence), and conclusion.

Note to students:

As with pretty much any form of communication, context matters in article writing, and as with pretty much any form of communication you’re asked to produce in the exam, the prompt is your Bible, your guide, your true north. If nothing else, ensure that you follow the prompt. Understand it, comprehend it, drill it into your mind as you read during these few crucial moments. Once you get past that though, you will start realizing that there is a higher plane and there is more that you can do along the way.

Yes, it’s true that you can indeed write an article about your experiences in going for an extreme endurance event.

But ask yourself, what more can you do? Do you simply leave a factual record? Or do you include humorous and interesting anecdotes that you manage to understand from the context?

In a directed writing or ERTR piece, demonstrating that type of comprehension is tremendously important, and being able to play with that comprehension in order to create something that blends it together with your unique and distinct style is the mark of mastery.


Understanding the distinct characteristics of these text types is fundamental for English students to navigate various writing and reading contexts effectively.

Whether it’s crafting a compelling speech, documenting personal experiences in a journal, or writing a report, recognizing the purpose and structure of these text types enhances both writing skills and comprehension.

However, reading all of this will only give you a small portion of what you need to succeed. In reality, understanding how these texts are structured is only the beginning – One that will help you understand the characteristics of everything that you read at a later point, but only that.

To obtain a true mastery, you will have to find good examples of actual texts to reference, comprehend, and understand.

As you do that, try creating some of these texts for yourself.

Your first attempts aren’t likely to be well-organized or beautiful, but what matters is that you begin, and even if you are terrible, you can improve along the way – Something that certainly will never happen if you never even start in the first place.

In the Premium section, you’ll find examples of each of these text types, carefully curated for your reading purposes. There, you’ll also receive access to a variety of helpful formats and structures that you can use to create these texts.

So do stay tuned, look forward to more posts ahead, and thank you for reading!