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Writing a Report

PAPER 1 of the SPM English 1119 is of great concern to most students and their teachers. This concern is understandable as it not only carries a significant portion of the marks for the whole paper but also tests the more difficult skill of writing. This paper comprises two questions: directed writing and continuous writing. Lets start with directed writing. A total of 35 marks are allocated for this question 15 for content and 20 for language. The marks for content include marks for format. The total for the latter varies, depending on the text type. Only one question is given and students do not have the luxury of choice, which they are given in the continuous writing section. Most students find this question manageable. Even weak students can cope with it, for several reasons. Firstly, students do not have to worry about content as points are provided. In fact, students can actually score full marks for content, and even format, if they have been taught the format for different text types. Secondly, this question does not make excessive linguistic demands, unlike the continuous writing question. Thirdly, the question usually revolves round the experiences of students. Teachers and students are usually able to predict the type of question that might appear by analysing questions asked in previous years, some of which are shown below: Year 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 Text type Letter (informal) Article Speech Letter (formal) Report Letter (informal) Letter (informal) Speech Purpose To inform mother of choice of present for your brother and persuade her to lend you some money. To inform students about ways of coping with stress. To highlight road safety, including causes of road accidents, and suggestions to reduce them. To inform the class teacher about the choice of class trip. To inform the school principal about the condition of the school canteen. To inform a friend about a holiday camp. To convince a friend to run for the post of head prefect. To tell students about a science reference book.

General guidelines for directed writing


Always read the question carefully and highlight what you are required to do. Use the 45 minutes allocated for this question wisely. Plan your essay and organise your thoughts (including what to write and how to elaborate points). Always read through what you have written and make amendments where necessary. Rectify grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors.

Use all the points given. It is advisable to cross out the points you have used to be sure none is left out. Include points of your own only if you are asked to. Otherwise, do not waste precious time doing so because you will not get extra marks. Elaborate on the points given. Remember, a crucial aspect of this paper is language and your ability to write can only be tested if you provide sufficient language for the examiner to gauge your linguistic ability. Use a variety of sentence structures so that your essay is not dull and monotonous. Include an introduction and conclusion and make sure your paragraphs are well organised.

Common pitfalls
Poor time management. Some students spend more than the allocated 45 minutes on this question. As a result, they have little time left for the second question, which carries a substantial 50 marks. Lengthy essays. Some students write too much. Remember, writing more does not mean your essay is better. The points have been provided. All you have to do is to use them and provide a sentence or two (maybe three) to elaborate on them. I always advise students not to write more than one-and-a-half to two pages. After all, the more you write, the more mistakes you might make. Some students write one paragraph for each point. If you do this, your essay is going to be very lengthy. Save your time and energy for continuous writing. Usage of informal language. This paper tests your written English. Do not use slang, contractions, and informal idiomatic expressions or informal phrasal verbs.

Let us now look at report writing. Read the sample question below: Many of the students in your school have voiced their dissatisfaction with the facilities in the school library. As the head librarian, write a report to your school principal. In your report, include the following complaints and suggestions: Complaints - torn books - outdated books - books with missing pages - limited reference books - not enough tables and chairs - limited computers - poor Internet access Suggestions - buy new books - buy more reference books - subscribe to magazines - buy new furniture - buy new computers.

When writing your report, you should remember to: address it to the principal of your school include all the points given set it in the correct format

Before you start writing, ask yourself these questions:

What am I required to do? What is my role? Who is my audience? How many points have been provided? Do I need to include other points?

This task requires you to write a report in your capacity as the head librarian. The report is to be addressed to the principal, which means he/she is your audience. As such, make sure your tone is formal, yet polite. A total of 12 points have been provided, which leaves three marks for content. The marks for format can vary but in this instance, they are allocated as follows: one mark for addressing the report to the principal, one mark for the subject matter/title of your report and one mark for the name and designation of the writer. The format of a report can take several styles. Two are given below. Style 1

To : The Principal, SMK Titi Jaya, Seremban. From : The Head Librarian Subject : Dissatisfaction with facilities provided in the school library . . Prepared by,

Nur Anis Dalilah Marzuki


(Nur Anis Dalilah Marzuki) Head Librarian SMK Titi Jaya

Style 2

The Principal, SMK Titi Jaya, Seremban. Subject : Dissatisfaction with facilities provided in the school library . . Prepared by,

Nur Anis Dalilah Marzuki


(Nur Anis Dalilah Marzuki) Head Librarian SMK Titi Jaya

A sample of a good answer for linguistically competent students is given in Sample Answer 1.

If you are a weak student, remember there is no harm in using simple English. I would suggest you adhere to the KISS principle keep it simple and short (refer to Sample Answer 2).

General guidelines to remember when writing a report


Address it to the person concerned. Use the points given in a systematic manner use transition markers to enable your audience to follow the flow of your thoughts. Elaborate on your points with examples or illustrations. Conclude your report in an appropriate manner. Maintain a formal yet pleasant/polite tone.

SAMPLE ANSWER 1 To: From Subject : The Principal, SMK Titi Jaya, Seremban. : The Head Librarian : Dissatisfaction with facilities provided in the school library

I am writing this report after receiving numerous complaints from the students regarding the poor facilities provided in the school library. First and foremost, most of the books in the library are torn and tattered. This is not surprising as most of them were purchased more than 20 years ago. Besides, these books are old and outdated. Books by writers like Enid Blyton and Alfred Hitchcock might have appealed to students of yesteryears but they do not interest teenagers of today. Many would rather read books by current authors. Girls, for instance, prefer books like Gossip Girl Series by Cecily Von Ziegesar while boys prefer books by authors such as Stephenie Meyer and Jeffrey Archer. Worse still, many of the books in the library have missing pages. This definitely takes the joy out of reading. Another complaint is about the shortage of reference books. Some of our students often borrow books fropm the red spot section. However, as there are limited copies, many often return home disappointed. This is especially disheartening for students who are sitting for major public exams like the PMR, SPM and STPM. Our students have also voiced out their displeasure over the lack of tables and chairs. Many are forced to sit on the floor in the aisles between bookshelves to do some reading in the library. This not only inconveniences them but also other users who find it difficult to locate books while trying to cross over the many legs that get in their way. Many of our students, especially those who do not have computers at home, often visit the library after school to do their assignments. However, the limited number of computers is a common complaint. Initially, we had 20 computers for student use but only 10 are in good working condition. Another complaint is poor Internet access. Our computers are five years old, and the connectivity is very slow. It is time we obtained new computers so that access is immediate. I would like to put forward some suggestions to solve the above problems. Firstly, we need to buy new books and dispose of the old ones especially those which are beyond repair including those with missing pages. Secondly, we should buy more reference books to meet the needs of our students. Thirdly, we need to subscribe to magazines that appeal to teenagers. We should stock the library with a variety of educational and entertainment magazines. Fourthly, we need to buy new furniture. This library needs more tables and chairs to accommodate the growing number of students. Lastly, we need to buy new computers and upgrade existing ones so that our students will want for nothing. We hope the school authorities will look into the complaints and suggestions and take immediate action. We look forward to seeing some encouraging changes in the near future.

Reported by:

Nur Alis Dalili Marzuki


(Nur Alis Dalili Marzuki) Head Librarian SMK Titi Jaya

SAMPLE ANSWER 2 To: From Subject : The Principal, SMK Sri Siantan, Taiping. : The Head Librarian : Dissatisfaction with facilities provided in the school library

Many of the students in our school have voiced their dissatisfaction with the facilities and services provided in the school library. Firstly, most of the books in the library are torn. This is because these books were bought many years ago. Besides, these books are outdated. Many students do not want to borrow these books because they are not interesting. Many of the books in the library have missing pages. Students do not want to borrow them. It is no fun reading books with missing pages. Students also complain that there are not enough reference books. This problem occurs before and during exam. Students also complain that there are not enough tables and chairs in the library. They find it difficult to do their work in the library. Many of our students like to use the computers in the library. However, the limited number of computers is a serious problem. They have to wait a long time to use the computers. They also complain about poor Internet access. This is because our computers are old. I would like to make some suggestions to overcome the above problems. Firstly, we need to buy new books. Secondly, we must buy more reference books since the exams are near. Thirdly, we must subscribe to magazines. Some students prefer magazines to books. Fourthly, we need to buy new furniture. We must buy more tables and chairs so that the students can do their work comfortably in the library. Lastly, we need to buy new computers. We hope you will look into our complaints and suggestions. Reported by:

Nur Anis Dalilah Marzuki


(Nur Alis Dalili Marzuki) Head Librarian SMK Sri Siantan