General Paper (GP) Syllabus 2024

The Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board has just released the new General Paper (GP) syllabus.
gp syllabus 2024

The new syllabus will apply to those taking the exam from 2024 onwards

 

While the overall mark allocations and durations of the papers remain the same, the formats of both Paper 1 and Paper 2 have been revised

 

Here is what you need to know:

 

Paper 1:

 

TDLR: The number of essay questions has been cut from 12 to 8, while the topic areas have been reorganised into 6 themes. 

 

The most striking change for Paper 1 is undoubtedly the reduction in the number of essay questions. The new syllabus cuts the number of essay questions from 12 to 8. Students will still only need to attempt 1 of the 8 questions. 

 

At the same time, the topics tested have also been simplified. On paper, the themes have been watered down to:

1. Society and Culture
2. Economic
3. Politics
4. Arts and Humanities
5. Science and Technology
6. The Environment

 

For students, this could mean two things. On the one hand, fewer essay questions might mean less content is covered overall, which might make preparing for GP a more manageable task. On the other hand, fewer questions also means fewer choices to select from, which might imply that students are now expected to be familiar with all 6 topic areas.

 

Of course, the new syllabus says nothing about the difficulty of the questions themselves. And in any case, there is not much difference in terms of coverage of content. In fact, the 2024 syllabus appears to only have rearranged the previous topic areas into broader themes. In the old syllabus, the topic areas were:

 

  • Historical, social, cultural, economic, political and philosophical topics 
  • Science including its history, philosophy, general principles, current developments and applications
  • Mathematical and geographical topics 
  • Literature and language 
  • Arts and crafts 
  • Topics of local interest and global concern. 

 

In brief, we expect that the content that students should study for GP will not change much

Paper 2: 

 

TLDR: Paper 2 will now have 3 passages. The distribution of marks will also change, with fewer marks allocated to SAQs and more to AQ.

 

Compared to Paper 1, the changes in Paper 2 are rather more dramatic. In the old syllabus, Paper 2 could contain either 1 or 2 passages, but under the new syllabus, Paper 2 will always contain 3 passages. While the total number of words to read remains the same at about 1200 words, the addition of the third passage will certainly make the paper more challenging, as it implies that students will have to compare 3 different perspectives. (The syllabus does not mention whether the 3 passages will be equal in length, which seems to leave some flexibility for the setters.)

 

The distribution of marks in the new Paper 2 will also change. Previously, the mark allocation for Paper 2 was 35 marks for content and 15 marks for language. The content marks were further broken down into 17 marks for Short Answer Questions, 8 marks for the Summary Question and finally 10 marks for the Application Question. The language mark was called “Use of English” and was described as a “separate but holistic score based on the entire script”. 

 

Old SyllabusMarksNew Syllabus (2024)MarksQuestions Cover
Short Answer Questions 17Short Answer Questions9-11• literal comprehension, inference, analysis, evaluation and synthesis of ideas based on Passage 1
Summary Question 8Summary Question 8• summary based on Passage 2
--“Connection” Questions4-6• connections of ideas across two passages: Passages 1 and 3, and Passages 2 and 3
Application Question10Application Question12• application based on a theme related to the reading passages
Use of English

“A separate but holistic score based on the entire script”

15Language

“based on the responses to the summary and application questions”

15

 

The table above compares the mark allocations for the old and new syllabuses. Notice that while the overall mark allocation of 35 content marks and 15 language marks remains the same, the details of their distribution and how they will be awarded have become rather more complicated.  

 

The key things to note are as follows:

    • The Short Answer Question (Comprehension) component has been downsized from the current 17 marks to a maximum of 11 marks. Furthermore, although there are 3 passages, all the SAQs will be based on a single passage, namely Passage 1. 
    • The Summary Question remains unchanged at 8 marks but will be based on a different passage from the SAQs, specifically Passage 2
    • There is a new category of questions that requires “connections of ideas”, worth 4 to 6 marks. The “connections” are to be drawn across two specific pairs of passages: Passage 1 versus Passage 3 and Passage 2 vs Passage 3. (The last possible combination of Passage 1 versus Passage 2 is not used.)
    • The AQ has been further upsized to 12 marks. 
  • The language mark will no longer take into account the SAQs. It will be based only on the summary and the application questions, of which the latter includes the “connection” questions. 

 

Finally, students should also note that it is specified that there will only be a total of 8 or 9 questions in the new Paper 2. Subtracting away 1 Summary Question, 1 Application Question and probably 2 “Connection” Questions (as there are 2 pairs of passages to compare) leaves just 4 or 5 Short-Answer Questions for 9 to 11 marks

 

Overall, the focus for Paper 2 has been shifted away from traditional Short-Answer (Comprehension) questions in favour of more open-ended questions such as the Application Question. This places an emphasis on continuous writing under time pressure.  

 

In addition, the internal structure of the paper has also become considerably more complex, with different questions being specifically based on different passages. This not only demands more of teachers when setting papers but also more of students’ exam skills.

 

Next Steps


The changes to the General Paper syllabus are not unanticipated. For some time, teachers and tutors (especially us at illum.e) have been expecting a shift in the General Paper syllabus to rely less on rote learning and memorisation of factual content.

 

For students familiar with the illum.e method, our teachers prefer the inculcation of critical thinking strategies and writing techniques such as dissecting essay questions, scrutinising undercurrents of various themes and topics, and employing good language to elevate answers. The new syllabus appears to value these pedagogies in order to prepare students to think insightfully. 

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