English Paper 1 Composition: Six Must-Know Steps for Success

The exams are coming and English Paper 1 Continuous Writing composition is something that usually parents and students give up on. You’ve searched from many sources and tried many things, but your child’s composition just doesn’t seem good enough.

I have spent the last five years developing this writing guide and I’m sharing the basic tips that every student must follow in order to score between 30-36 marks for their composition.

So how to create an impressive composition that is different from others? Follow these advice:

#1 Plan The Moral Of The Story

When parents and teachers read their child’s or student’s story, most of the time, I am told that their story is not complete or does not make sense. When I read the written story, it does not seem to have any ending. The story goes on and on, and ends suddenly.

So what students should do before they even start planning their story is to plan the Moral of the Story. Students should ask themselves the following questions:

  1. What is the lesson that I want this story to share?
  2. What lesson will the character learn from his mistakes?compass-159202_1280.png

The Moral of the Story is the guiding compass of the story. Without a compass, a student would not know where to go, or even if he or she has arrived at the destination!

Some examples of a Moral of the Story are:

  • We should not cheat in an examination because it is not fair to other students who have studied hard.
  • We should not lie to our parents because they have sacrificed a lot of us.
  • We must quickly report a suspicious activity otherwise it will be too late.

Remember that the Moral of the Story must be in the form of an advice.

#2 Brainstorm Three Phrases For Each Picture

Many of my students tend to feel nervous when using the pictures because they feel that their writing is not good enough to include all three pictures. All three pictures should be able to be used in a story and should not represent the same idea.

To help students include the three pictures in their composition, students should quickly brainstorm three phrases or even words for each picture. Many of the work that they have done in school provide helping words. Brainstorming helping words for themselves creates a familiar writing atmosphere for them. This will also reduce anxiety and stress which will help them focus more in their writing.

For example, if one of the pictures were a clock, students can brainstorm these following phrases:

  • The time ticked passed slowly
  • The minutes and hours passed by
  • I looked at the clock and time moved so slowly by


Students do not have to think of difficult phrases at first. They only need to get the idea in their head so that their brain can start processing all three pictures and phrases together.

#3 Plan Effectively with a Plot Summary

A plot summary is a list of the main events in a story. The main events only talk about the important things that happened in the story. Many composition planners out there use story planners that are not very suitable for primary school students. This is why I have adapted the idea of a Story Glove into a Plot Summary. The five parts to a Plot Summary are Capture, Cause, React, Solve, and Reflect. (Edit: These five parts come one after another and should not be seen as five paragraphs.)

Story Glove Picture.jpg


Capture is where the student should plan last. It is where the student should think about something that is interesting and engaging to capture the interest of the reader. (Edit: The Capture phase comes first in a story, but is planned last. I hope that clarifies any confusion.)

Cause is where the character is involved in the cause of the problem in the story. Important note: the Cause of the story will be the problem that will teach the character the Moral of the Story. So when planning the cause, remember to look at the Moral of the Story.

React is where the story describes the emotional and mental reaction of the characters. Students should used words and phrases like worried incessantly, shocked with fright, and fuming with frustration.

Solve is where the characters solve the problem of the story. Sometimes this can be written together with the last part, Reflect.

The last part, Reflect, is where the main character reflects upon his actions and realizes the mistakes that he has done. Important Note: this is where your Moral of the Story comes in handy! This is where the character learns the Moral of the Story.

Here’s a sample of how the Plot Summary, Moral Of The Story (MOTS), and 3 Picture Phrases look like together:

Sample MOTS and 3 Picture Phrases.png

Sample Plot Summary.png

I would advise students to use only 2-3 sentences when planning. They should practice their planning and attempt to finish in ten minutes.

#4 Pay Attention To Sentence Types

While most students are taught to use more impressive vocabulary and memorize phrases, I teach my students to do something that many students can do: imagine. Students should imagine two important things that every day people go through. These two things are Feelings and Thoughts.

In my five year experience of teaching writing, I realize that many students would use mainly two types of sentences: Background Information and Action. A simple method to measure the quality of your child’s writing is to write the letters BI, F, T and A on one side of a paragraph or a few lines.

Then, you can go through with your child the types of sentences they are using by underlining or highlighting sentences with colours representing the different types of sentences. The following is an example of what you will end up with:

Sample BIFTA.png

As you can see, these few lines have become more interesting only because there are words and phrases that describe the Feelings and Thoughts of the characters.

Let’s see what it looks like without Feelings and Thoughts:

Sample Without BIFTA.png

As you can see, the lines become less colourful and not as interesting to read as the previous one. This is the power of knowing BIFTA, the 4 Sentence Types.

You can constantly ask your child to think about how people would feel in different situations. For example, if they are watching a television show or after they had watched a movie, have a conversation with your child. Talk about how they felt about the movie and which parts made them sad, happy, and angry. Then you could even do a family activity together where everyone makes a review of the movie and shares it with the family.

#5 Physically Describe Feelings and Thoughts

One of the most common advice given to students is that they should Show, Not Tell. But not many teachers are effective at teaching this concept to students. The idea behind Show, Not Tell is to encourage students to use descriptive words describe Feelings and Thoughts so that it becomes more interesting. It is actually not very difficult to do. Additionally, having a wide vocabulary can definitely help, but it is not a must.

For more advanced learners, this part refers to the use of figurative language and literary devices.

The idea is not to use phrases or sentences like:

  • I felt so angry…
  • I was so sad…
  • My mother was worried…

Instead, try to physically describing the Feelings and Thoughts:

  • Anger
    • I could feel the fire inside me slowly becoming bigger and bigger as I clenched my fists. (Use of metaphor)
    • My breathing became faster and faster like an injured bull waiting to charge. (Use of simile)
  • Sadness/Heartbroken
    • As he walked away, I could the weight of my body sink even deeper into the chair as my arms lifelessly slumped to my sides. (Use of figurative language)
    • His words were like lightning striking my heart into shattered pieces. (Use of simile)
  • Worry/Uncertainty
    • My mother told me that as she waited for me, thousands of different thoughts swam in her mind as if several great armies battled each other. (Use of metaphor)
    • I waited at the bus stop, but I was not alone. Anxiety accompanied me, forcing my heart to play a strange beat that was not familiar to me. (Use of personification and pun (in the use of ‘beat’))

#6 How To Really Finish A Story

If you are a parent or an educator, I am very sure that one of the major concerns you have for your child or student is their ability to finish their story. Many students end their story abruptly and, worse, unnaturally. As adults, we naturally know this is not how a story should end but we are not sure how to help.

This following paragraph will be a template for how a story can end:

After they had brought Mary to the hospital, Peter decided to walk away from the crowd. He did not want to be seen.

With a heavy load on his chest, Peter sat down, holding back tears of guilt. His hands covered his face as the events of that day flashed back in his mind. He slowly realized that Mary’s injuries were his own doing.

“She’s your best friend. Why did you have to do such a terrible prank on her?” Peter scolded himself, with a voice that only he could hear in his head. He knew that this time, he went too far.

Breathing in deep, Peter wiped off his tears and stood up. He saw his friends coming his way with their concerned faces. As Peter walked towards them, he promised himself that he would stop being the infamous mischievous boy.

If you thought that this was impressive, this is a simple template that you can guide your child to follow. Take note that each number corresponds to each paragraph:

  1. After the problem has been solved, allow the character to be alone by themselves.
  2. By physically describing their Feelings and Thoughts, describe how the character feels guilty about what had happened.
  3. Students can also include a dialogue where the character speaks to himself or herself.
  4. Lastly, students can describe how the character promises to themselves to change into a better person or stop being a mischievous person.

If you have found these tips useful,

please share this article with others so that it can help our students become better writers! All the best for your examinations!


1 thought on “English Paper 1 Composition: Six Must-Know Steps for Success

  1. ourfirstbornnat October 9, 2017 — 3:31 pm



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