What are the changes to ‘O’ Level Syllabus for 2023?


Syllabus changes are part and parcel of an evolving education system. Adapting to them and adopting strategies to tackle those changes help to mould students. Since Secondary English paper has many components like O-level English comprehension and more, it is vital to understand how the syllabus changes affect every section. 

Components of Secondary School English paper 

PAPER 1 (35%)    

  • Editing(10 marks)
  • Situational Writing (30 marks)

PAPER 2 (35%)

  • Section A
  • Visual Text (5 marks)
  • Section B
  • Narrative Comprehension(20 marks)
  • Section C
  • Non-narrative Comprehension(10 marks)
  • Summary Writing(15 marks)

PAPER 3 (10%)

  • Listening Comprehension

PAPER 4 (20%)

  • Oral Communications

Key changes have been made to two sections in the English paper. These take effect from 2023 O Level onwards, affecting 2022 Secondary 3 students.  These changes are as given below:

  • Visual text comprehension  

Old syllabus:

  • Questions are based on only one visual text
  • Lengthy 1-page Visual Text (posters, websites, advertisements, etc.)
  • 5 marks are awarded in total 

New syllabus:

  • Questions are based on two visual texts
  • Visual Texts are linked, shorter and includes current popular mediums (social media posts, excerpts etc.)
  • 5 marks in total
  • New comparative question 

The purpose of this change is to get students to do a level of synthesising and inferencing, referencing two texts in one question. So, how does this new format of questioning influence students’ thinking skills? Synthesising requires students to use multiple skills and strategies together. They often need to stop, pause, evaluate and reflect on what they are reading so that they make new deeper connections. The end-result is, whatever prior information the students have had, it is now redeveloped into new knowledge, argument or perspective on the topic. Inferencing, on the other hand, requires students to discover clues in the text and then use their personal experience or past knowledge to get a grasp of the implicit details buried under the text. 

 Both synthesising and inferencing are Higher-order method of questioning, so they may challenge students to step out of their comfort zone and apply their minds.

  • Oral communication

Old syllabus:

  • Part 1: Reading aloud
  • Part 2:Spoken interaction

New syllabus:

  • Reading aloud section is removed
  • Part 1: Planned response – Students plan a response to a question that appears on a computer screen after watching a 5-minute video on the screen. After planning the response, students must deliver their response. The purpose of including this particular segment is to gear up students to form opinions about topics under discussion. Presenting this response with confidence is the key here. 
  • Part 2: Spoken interaction – In this, teachers ask questions to students on a topic based on the same video. Herein, students think on their feet to be able to hold a discussion with the teacher based on those questions.

The new change in the secondary school English syllabus is directed at helping students to rewire their thinking process. Not only are they encouraged to develop convictions about diverse topics, but they also learn to voice them confidently. This is a skill that bodes well for their future. However, many students may require Secondary English Tuition assistance as not all of them can moukld themselves to the new changes in the syllabus. 

Write Edge, offering secondary school English tuition to students in Singapore, has updated its lessons to keep up with the new changes. There is ample practice for students to read new visual text types and assimilate information from them.  Several comparative questions have been included to get students to do active reading – a key skill to hone for efficient comprehension and analysis of the texts. Write Edge prepares students to be ready for tomorrow, today.


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