A look at directed writing

  • Education
  • Sunday, 24 Aug 2003

SPM English with Audrey Lim

FIRST, let’s check the answers to our two quick quizzes. I have only corrected where necessary, putting the corrections in bold. 

Quick Quiz 1 (Answers to Quiz 1 published on August 20) 

Subject-verb or noun-pronoun agreement 

1. Sonia wishes to pursue a career in 


3. They always want the best things for  

their children. 

4. The president and his secretary were 

busy at a meeting. 

6. The information has already been 


(Remember all uncountable nouns like 

information, sugar, advice, homework 

and tuition take the same verb form as 

singular nouns.) 

7. All the students passed up their books. 

8. 20 miles is too far to go out for dinner. 

(This sentence is correct! This is 

because a plural noun which shows a 

fixed amount is considered as one unit,  

so it takes a singular verb, e.g.: 

$48,000 is a lot of money to pay for a 


Three years overseas is a long time to 

be away from home.) 

Quick Quiz 2 (Answers to Quick Quiz 2 published on August 20)  

The use of past participles and gerunds 


1. “It’s supposed to be a good exhibition,” 

Siti informed me. 

3. The eggs of the turtle were removed

6. She was praised by everyone for her 

wonderful recital. 

7. Are you used to being on your own?  

9. After gaining experience and learning 

office management, he opened his own 


10. If you need to contact Mrs Ho, she can 

be reached at home right now. 

Now, let’s look at Section C, which is worth 20 marks.  


Read this passage and then answer the questions that follow. 


1. Moonlight twinkled off the Indian Ocean as Chandrasiri Abrew walked along Kosgoda Beach. Earlier that day he had seen several giant sea turtles off the coast of Sri Lanka. He knew the females would be coming ashore, and just before midnight three fishermen came to his hut to say one turtle had crossed the beach. 


2. The four men were now following the trail left by the turtle as it made its way across the beach. At the end of the trail, the men heard some sounds coming from a cluster of palm trees. “Don’t make any noise,” Chandrasiri whispered. “If she gets scared, she’ll go back into the water.” 


3. The men cautiously approached from behind and waited as the 350-pound green turtle dug a hole in the sand with its hind flippers. One by one, then in twos and threes, eggs the size of golf balls dropped into the hole. 


4. Chandrasiri and the fishermen carefully reached into the hole to remove the mucus-covered eggs. Finally, an hour later, the job was done. “One hundred and thirty-two eggs,” Chandrasiri said as he handed each of the men a five-dollar note. 


5. Unaware that her eggs had been removed, the turtle returned to the shore and disappeared under a wave. Chandrasiri buried the eggs in a sandy enclosure where they would incubate. This provided a sanctuary where turtle eggs would be protected from such natural predators as birds, crabs, dogs – and man. It was well past 3am before he went to sleep. 


6. The greatest appreciation should go to men like Chandrasiri Abrew for the survival of these endangered turtles in Sri Lanka. For almost twenty years. Chandrasiri, like his father, has nurtured and released into the sea more than 1.5 million baby turtles. Meanwhile, he has taught the local people a way to save the turtles that have nested on this island since the days of the dinosaurs. Unlike many government programmes to protect endangered species, Chandrasiri’s protection of the species is practised by using quiet persuasion and with financial support from the private sector. 


7. The Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery was built by Dr de Zylva, using a $30,000 grant from a European industrialist. He received the help of Similius Abrew, a village headman who had a special love for turtles. They also decided to pay the poachers and fishermen more than what the restaurants and markets would pay for the eggs. Sea turtles have become an endangered species; they are a delicacy and a commodity in Sri Lanka. Not only are turtle meat and eggs eaten in some parts of the country, their shells and flippers are transformed into jewellery and handbags. Although a law banning the killing of turtles has been in existence for years, it is not well enforced. 


8. “The turtles are not coming in the numbers they once did.” Similius told the villagers of Kosgoda. “By helping to protect the eggs and releasing the baby turtles, we can ensure that the turtles will return to our beach.” The villagers had no experience in setting up a hatchery but they did have respect for Similius. Furthermore, there was also the money they received. 


9. Similius was grateful when his neighbours supported the project. He was even more delighted when the youngest of his seven children, Chandrasiri, joined him in his work. And as the years passed, the young man came to love the turtles too. When his father died in 1990, Chandrasiri had no doubts about taking over.  


10. At first, the only visitors to the hatchery were local school children. But as tourists began to flock to Sri Lanka’s unspoiled beaches in recent years, Chandrasiri saw an opportunity to reduce the hatchery’s dependence on funding from Dr de Zylva. He decided to charge a small fee and sell souvenirs. 


11. At first Dr de Zylva was upset: the project was intended to save the turtles, not to promote tourism and gain income from it. However, he saw that Chandrasiri’s idea was a brilliant one and he had a change of heart. He agreed with Chandrasiri that “No conservation project can survive on its own unless the people of the area got involved in the project and gained income from it.” It is an insight that is beginning to spread among other conservationists as well. 


       (Adapted from To Save the Turtles

Reader’s Digest, May 1999)  


Questions 33 – 47 


Answer all the questions. You are recommended to answer them in the order set.  


33. Why did the fishermen come to see 



34. Why did Chandrasiri insist that the men be 

quiet when approaching the turtle? 

35. Who does “she” in paragraph 2 refer to? 


36. How do we know that the newly-laid eggs 

are not dry to the touch? 


37. Why did Chandrasiri incubate the eggs in an 



38. Which word in paragraph 5 means “safe 



39. Which word in paragraph 6 gives you the 

idea that the turtles are cared for? 


40. Give two examples of how Chandrasiri ma 

ages his turtle conservation. 


41. Give two reasons why the turtles have 

become an endangered species. 


42. What can the villagers do to attract the  

turtles to the beach? 


43. Give two reasons why the villagers  

supported the setting up of a hatchery. 


44. Give one example of how Chandrasiri 

financed his project. 


45. What is the meaning of the phrase “had a 

change of heart” in line 52? 


46. Dr de Zylva finally realised that the success 

of the conservation project depended on 




47. “When his father died in 1990, Chandrasiri 

had no doubts about taking over.”  

In your own words, explain why he felt so. 


These questions are not objective so you must be careful of your grammar. Section C is aimed at assessing your reading and comprehension skills, and your ability to choose the relevant information to answer the questions set. Also, because some questions ask you to explain something in your own words, your vocabulary must be good enough to answer competently. 

Those of you who have been following my articles since I started writing for The Star know that a favourite hobby-horse of mine is vocabulary, and that I stress regular reading and referring to the dictionary often as effective means of improving one’s store of words. 

So do be conscientious in this respect. Read as much for pleasure as you can – academic stuff doesn’t count, as I see reading guidebooks and textbooks as “pressure” reading – and use the dictionary religiously.  

How about starting right now by finding the meaning of all the words I have put in bold? If you know them already, good for you, but if not, it’s time you did! Also, jot down all new words and phrases that you come across in your reading in a notebook. 

Okay, enough advice about enriching your vocabulary. Now for the answers:  


Q33: To tell him that one turtle had crossed the beach. (You need not answer in complete sentences, but if you prefer it, write: They wanted to tell him that one turtle had crossed the beach.


Q34: They might scare the turtle away if they made a noise. (Remember to use the tense of the question, i.e. the past tense.) 


Q35: The green turtle 


Q36: We are told that they are mucus-covered. (If you didn’t know the meaning of “mucus”, you would not be able to answer this. See, it is advantageous having a good vocabulary!)  


Q37 asks: “Why did Chandrasiri incubate the eggs in an enclosure?” Some students wrote “Chandrasiri incubate the eggs in an enclosure because .....”, thinking they were following the structure given, but the use of the auxiliary “did” actually shows the past tense. 

A grammatically correct answer is “He incubated the eggs to .....”, or, more succinctly, “He did this to protect them from natural predators like birds, crabs, dogs and man.” 


Q38: sanctuary  


Q39: nurtured  


Q40: a) He uses quiet persuasion.               

b) He gets financial support from the  

private sector.         

(Note correct subject-verb agreement.) 


Q41: I am giving all the reasons but you must not give more than two, as you are specifically asked for two reasons only. 


Turtle eggs are eaten. 

Their shells and flippers are made into 

jewellery and handbags. 

The law banning the killing of turtles is not 

well enforced. 

There are too many poachers. 


(Remember from the first lesson: you need to use past participles with the appropriate verb “to be” for passives, as is the case above.) 


Q42: They can protect their eggs and release the hatchlings. (What do you think this word means? If you’re not sure, use the dictionary and look it up!) 


Q43: a) They respected Similius. 

b) They also got money. 


Q44: He sold souvenirs. / He charged a small fee. (Give only one example as asked.) 


Q45: changed his opinion / felt differently about 


Q46: The success of the conservation project depended on 

a) the local people getting involved. 

b) getting money from it. 


(Do you remember what was said in the last lesson about using a gerund – it’s a verbal noun made up of verb + ing – to follow a preposition?) 


Let’s now move to Section A, the Directed Writing part of Paper 2.  

Take a look at last year’s question: 


Road accidents have been on the increase with more and more young people becoming victims. Your school has decided to launch a “Road Safety Week” to raise awareness among students of the need to be more responsible on the road. As chairperson of the school’s organising committee, you have been asked to give a talk to other students on road safety. 

Below are some notes you have made on the reasons why road accidents occur and suggestions to reduce the number of accidents: 



l speed 

·reckless driving 



·poor maintenance of vehicles  

·road conditions 



l strict enforcement of traffic rules 

·increase fines 

·roadworthy vehicles  

·awareness campaigns 

·increase age limit for new drivers 

·suspend driving licence 


Write out the talk that you would give. When writing out what you plan to say, you should remember to: 

– address the audience 

– introduce the topic of the talk 

– use all the notes above 

– end the talk appropriately 


The question tests your ability to carry out the instructions given with regard to the content, as well as your ability to write in clear and accurate English. 

This means using the correct format, and adopting a style and tone appropriate to the task.  

The question carries a total of 30 marks, of which 10 marks are usually given for format and content, 5 marks for elaboration and 15 marks for language. 

In Directed Writing, the points and notes for the writing task are given to you. Now, if a candidate expanded these notes in a “bare-bones” fashion, as one student did for the first part of his answer, he would pass but it wouldn’t earn him any high marks for language or style. 


Good morning, principal, teachers and students, 

I am the chairperson of the school’s organising committee for Road Safety Week, and I’d like to talk to you about road safety. 

Why do road accidents occur? There are many reasons, such as speed and reckless driving. Some drivers might also suffer from tiredness after a long hard day’s work. 

Also, some young drivers tend to race, thus increasing the likelihood of accidents on the road. Poor maintenance of vehicles and poor road conditions contribute to the increase of road accidents. 


The candidate’s answer is grammatical, but it is “flat”, with too many simple sentences and hardly any elaboration of points while his use of transitional markers is limited. As such, his answer is monotonous and reads jerkily. 

You can write more smoothly and produce a more effective answer by varying your sentence length, using transitional markers or linkers, and elaborating with a few more ideas of your own. 

Look at the model and note the use of transitional markers (As you may know; Moreover; In addition; Last but not least etc), personalised details (our beloved principal, Mr Raju; That’s all the time I have for this short talk) and precise vocabulary (drag strip; high incidence of; the tires might be bald etc): 


A very good morning to our beloved principal, Mr Raju, teachers and friends. 

As you may know, road accidents are on the increase with more young people like yourselves becoming victims. As such, our school, SM Sri Famosa, is organising a Road Safety Week and launching a campaign aimed at teaching you students, our future drivers, to be more responsible on the road. As the chairperson of the organising committee, it gives me great pleasure to talk to you on road safety. 

First, we need to know why these accidents occur. A major cause is speeding beyond the prescribed limits. Also, some drivers drive recklessly in town, breaking traffic rules and beating the traffic lights whenever they can. Other drivers may be tired after a long day at the office or factory, or after coming back from work in another town, so they are not as alert as they should be. 

Moreover, some youngsters regard roads as their private drag strip and irresponsibly race around town, endangering the lives of others. No wonder the likelihood of accidents increases with reckless drivers like these. 

In addition, road accidents are caused by drivers who do not keep their cars in roadworthy condition: the brakes might be faulty or the tires might be bald. 

Last but not least, poor road conditions may also cause accidents. Potholes, poor lighting and roadworks all contribute to the high incidence of accidents on our roads. 

However, we can reduce the number of accidents if these steps are taken: First of all, traffic rules should be strictly enforced, so that anyone caught committing a traffic offence will be charged. Also, fines should be increased to prevent drivers from ignoring traffic regulations and speeding because they can afford the present minimal fines. 

Furthermore, drivers must have roadworthy vehicles. Anyone who fails to maintain his or her vehicle in good condition should not be permitted to drive. 

Another effective way of reducing road accidents is to have regular road safety campaigns, especially among school leavers. New drivers should be taught to be responsible and considerate on the road. 

After all, many accidents on the road are caused by young drivers who tend to speed. Perhaps the government should increase the age limit for new drivers, so that only mature drivers are allowed to drive. 

Yet another preventive measure is to suspend the driving licence of any driver who has caused an accident through drunkenness, reckless driving or speeding. 

That’s all the time I have for this short talk but I hope it has given you some ideas about road safety. Thank you for your attention. 


Of course different questions in the Directed Writing section require different formats and styles, so be prepared for any writing task.  

Be familiar with all types of formats: letters, both formal or informal; letters to the newspapers; school reports (e.g. of an accident in the science lab); dialogues; descriptions of processes; giving directions etc. 

Now, I’m aware that most of you feel more confident about writing when notes are given to you than doing a free essay.  

Some of you might even be diligently preparing for your English papers by reading guidebooks with plenty of model essays but don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Reading is NOT writing. 

Remember you have to write three pieces of continuous prose in just over two hours, and the sooner you get used to writing a guided piece within 30 minutes, a summary within 45 minutes and a long essay within 60 minutes, the better.  

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