Most students have been taught by their teachers to include a problem or conflict in the plot of their stories. While that may not be strictly necessary, difficult, or even inadvisable for certain composition titles, the idea of introducing an obstacle that the protagonist has to surmount seems inevitable when crafting a story based on the 2021 PSLE English Composition topic, a promise.
Let’s look at the details of the question!
PSLE 2021
English Language
Paper 1 (Writing)
Part 2: Continuous Writing (40 marks)
Write a composition of at least 150 words about a promise.
The pictures are provided to help you think about this topic.
2021 PSLE Compo
Your composition should be based on one or more of these pictures.
Consider the following points when you plan your composition:
  • What was the promise?
  • Was the promise kept?
You may use the points in any order and include other relevant points as well.
Trying to write a coherent and engaging story within the time limit of an examination is no easy task!
In this article, we help students organise their thinking process by breaking down the task into simple-to-follow steps.
Step One: Understand the topic
What does the word promise mean?
Definition: a declaration or assurance that one will do something or that a particular thing will happen
For this composition, it is more prudent to write a story about “keeping a promise” instead of “breaking a promise”.
Step Two: Choose your picture(s)
Before choosing which picture(s) to base your story on, make sure to study each one in detail. Let’s think about what each picture is about and examine how easy or difficult it is to relate it to the topic. We do this by asking ourselves pertinent questions about how each picture might fit in a story.
Girl writing
2021 PLSE girl
  • What is the girl writing?
  • Is what she is writing related to her keeping a promise?
  • Where/when is this taking place?
2021 PLSE watch
  • Whose watch is this?
  • Is the time shown on the watch significant to the plot?
2021 PLSE burger
  • How is the hamburger relevant to the keeping of a promise?
  • What happened to the hamburger in the end?
Step Three: Plan your composition
Using more than one picture does not guarantee a higher mark, so the easiest option is to simply pick one picture and focus on building a story around that picture. For the sake of flexing your creative muscles, let’s brainstorm possible plots using the four-part story structure (INTRODUCTION-RISING ACTION-CLIMAX-CONCLUSION) based on various picture combos.
Tip: For the story to be engaging, the protagonist should have to overcome at least one obstacle in order to fulfil his or her promise.
Possible plots
Chosen picture: Hamburger
2021 compo
Chosen picture: Girl writing + Hamburger
2021 compo
Chosen picture: Girl writing + Watch
2021 compo
It is worth noting that the watch and hamburger are used in different ways in the different examples.
The hamburger in the first example is the obstacle to the protagonist fulfilling his/her promise, whereas in the second example, the hamburger is the protagonist’s reward for fulfilling his/her promise.
The watch in the second example is reference to the time/deadline by which the protagonist should fulfil his/her promise, whereas in the third example, the watch is the protagonist’s reward for fulfilling his/her promise.
The hamburger and watch are both rewards for fulfilling a promise in the second and third examples respectively. However, as a watch tends to cost more than a hamburger, it stands to reason that the task to be fulfilled is more challenging in the third example than in the second example.
Step Four: Write your composition
While we should be as descriptive in our writing as we can throughout our composition, we need to pay particular attention to
(a) making sure that the keywords used in the question are repeated in one form or another in the composition. Typically, it makes the most sense to do this at the introduction and/or conclusion of the story.
(b) describing the chosen picture(s) in sufficient detail. As a rule of thumb, dedicate at least three sentences in your story to describe the picture in order to show the role it plays in the plot of your story.
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