Four Tips for Scoring High in Your SSCE English

By Hassan Abdulbaqi


As you must have known, you shall be required to sit for three different papers in English Language (Multiple Choice, Essay and Test of Orals). The essay part of the exam takes the highest of all the marks in your exam (Download the English WASSCE syllabus here) but the irony? It is the aspect that most students do not strive hard to prepare for. This happens because everyone thinks it is easy. What is there in mentioning the reasons why your father should not change your school? Why won’t I be able to debate on the dangers on abortion? Yes, of course, it is! But there are certain things you need to know prior to the exam that make students fall prey to failure and wallow in self-pity or resort to claiming “the examiner must have had issues with his wife when he was marking my scripts”, like they say. This is because they taught they did well, just like a spider thinks he has built a house, until the same house is breezed away. The handy tips that will help students write essays that attract high marks and sidestep suffering the fate of the spider are mentioned above:


  1. Frequent practice: Like they say, “practice makes perfect”. You should strive to write essays and horn your writing skills by reading well written sample essays regularly before the examination commences. This is best done by keeping a separate notebook for that purpose and submitting each essay to your experienced and competent teacher/tutor for correction and guidance. The correction should be comprehensively written at the end of each essay so that the student can read them regularly and take note of them. Each corrections would make you grow and increase your creativity. This will also give you the ability to learn what is required in each essay so that you won’t fall into the mistake of interchanging “Yours faithfully” for “Yours sincerely” and vice versa. (Read more: What Type of Essay to Choose in English WASSCE). The features of each essay shall also be ingrained in your heart for you have would have worked with the available types of essays and get the knowledge of each of them works! Why not get your notebook right now and start writing?

2. Understanding The Question: Before you attempt the essay, understand every part of the question, each word in the sentence. You must know beyond the obvious requirements of the essay question, for it must be shown in the essay that you know what every word in the question means. This may seem to be obvious and you are likely to question why anyone will want to attempt a question they do not know in the first place. This is why I shall give a practical illustration from one of the WAEC past questions as shown above:

Your school was tipped to win the final match of the inter-school football competition for secondary schools in your state, but unfortunately, you lost to the underdog. Write an article for publication in your school magazine on that match, explaining why your school lost and the lessons to be learnt.” (JUNE 1992)


The obvious requirements in this question is to write about the football match in the school magazine and explain why your school lost and the learnt lessons. But these are not the only requirements! A word like ‘tipped’, as in the question, means that everyone already thought you shall win and another word like ‘underdog’ here means the school your team lost to is weaker in terms of football and everyone had thought the team would lost you. All these must be showed in the basic requirement! To lose is normal, but why you lost to the underdog after people had high hopes on you and the lessons to be learnt from such a belittling loss. Most students will only focus on the reasons why they lost ordinarily to a team instead of a weaker team and mention reasons like, “One of the reasons we lost is the obvious strength and daunting soccer skills the players of the opponent team has.” and end up mentioning “the school should invite the best players in the team during the holiday to coach our school team.” as a workable solution. The poor understanding of these requirements will cost you low or no mark under Content and Organisation.



3.  Studying Some Basic Rules: You need to always remember that your essay is not the same as other subjects where the examiners may only be keen on your answers and not correct spellings of words or grammar. This is different in the whole English theory paper for your marking scheme prescribes that the examiner looks beyond your answers and want to see how you present such answers. For most of the questions, as students who have studied their past questions must have seen, the essay questions are always easy. I can give at least three reasons why I and my friend should be on talking terms, discuss the dangers of keeping bad company schools, write to an authority on the need for some basic amenities in my community. Yeah, so simple! So, the marking scheme ensures that the examiner marks the ways you have presented your answers and the presentation in question has to do with the study of some basic rules.

Most students ignore these important rules while writing their essays and spend much time on the answers than their presentation. As a result, they score low or no marks in Mechanical Accuracy and Expression



4. The Marking Scheme: The marking scheme is your examiner’s guide which gives instruction to him on how and where to allot or deduct marks. Try to consult your English teacher or tutor for a copy of the English marking scheme and see the instructions that shall be given to your examiners so as to get the true picture of what to do and what not to do. This will not only help you to learn the rules, but also helps you to avoid careless mistakes.


These four tips shall help you score high marks in your English essays. For a detailed discussion on the four categories under which your essays shall be marked, try reading our post THE BIG FOUR IN SSCE ENGLISH ESSAYSIf this helped you, kindly share with fellow students and keep updated for more articles.



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