You are on page 1of 16

Course Participant’s Module: Writing

MAJLIS PEPERIKSAAN MALAYSIA


(MALAYSIAN EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL)

MUET 800/4
PAGE 1
Course Participant’s Module: Writing
MAJLIS PEPERIKSAAN MALAYSIA
(MALAYSIAN EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL)

Writing 1:

DESCRIBING AND INTERPRETING INFORMATION FROM CHARTS AND GRAPHS

In Question 1, you must write a short essay, article or report of at least 150 words which describes
and interprets what you see in a graph, table, diagram or text.

Here is a simple four-step guide to do Question 1.

Steps Suggested Time Detail

Step 1 Understand the topic by reading the


Read and understand the task 3 minutes title, the horizontal axis and the
vertical axis or the table readings.
Read and understand the
accompanying text.
Understand the question.
Understand the requirements.

Step 2 Plan the introduction (summarise the


Plan what you are going to 7 minutes topic, introduce the graph/table).
write Plan the body (state the main point
and other important/interesting
points).
Plan the conclusion (restate the main
point).

Step 3 Summarise the topic and introduce


Write your answer 25 minutes the graph/table (the introduction).
State the main point and other
important/interesting points (the
body).
Re-state the main points/provide
other thoughts/opinions (the
conclusion).

Step 4 Check: 1. content


Edit writing 5 minutes 2. language
3. presentation

MUET 800/4
PAGE 2
Course Participant’s Module: Writing
MAJLIS PEPERIKSAAN MALAYSIA
(MALAYSIAN EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL)

Some useful teaching notes:

I. Describing trends

Trends are changes or movements. These changes are normally expressed in numeric terms, for
example, population, production volumes or unemployment. There are three basic trends:

II. Expressing movement: nouns and verbs

For each trend there are a number of verbs and nouns to express the movement. We can use a
verb of change, for example:
Unemployment levels fell.

Or we can use a related noun, for example:

There was a fall in unemployment levels.

Direction Verbs Nouns

Rose (to) A rise


Increased (to) An increase
Went up (to) A growth
Climbed (to) An upward trend
Boomed A boom (a dramatic rise)

Fell (to) A decrease


Declined (to) A decline
Decreased (to) A fall
Dipped (to) A drop
Dropped (to) A slump (a dramatic fall)
Went down (to) A reduction
Slumped (to)
Reduced (to)

MUET 800/4
PAGE 3
Course Participant’s Module: Writing
MAJLIS PEPERIKSAAN MALAYSIA
(MALAYSIAN EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL)

Levelled out (at) A levelling out


Did not change No change
Remained stable (at)
Remained steady (at)
Stayed constant (at)
Maintained the same level

Fluctuated (around) A fluctuation


Peaked (at) Reached a peak (of)
Plateaued (at) Reached a plateau (at)
Stood at (we use this phrase to
focus on a particular point,
before we mention the
movement, for example:
In the first year, unemployment
stood at …)

III. Describing the movement: adjectives and adverbs

Sometimes we need to give more information about a trend as follows:

There has been a slight increase in the value of the dollar


(degree of change)

Unemployment fell rapidly last year (the speed of change)

Remember that we modify a noun with an adjective (a slight increase)


and a verb with an adverb (increased slightly).

MUET 800/4
PAGE 4
Course Participant’s Module: Writing
MAJLIS PEPERIKSAAN MALAYSIA
(MALAYSIAN EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL)

IV. Describing the degree of change

Adjectives – Adverbs

Adjectives Adverbs
dramatic dramatically
sharp sharply
huge
enormous enormously
steep steeply
substantial substantially
considerable considerably
significant significantly
marked markedly
moderate moderately
slight slightly
small
minimal minimally

V. Describing the speed of change

Adjectives – Adverbs

Adjectives Adverbs
rapid rapidly
quick quickly
swift swiftly
sudden suddenly
steady steadily
gradual gradually
slow slowly

MUET 800/4
PAGE 5
Course Participant’s Module: Writing
MAJLIS PEPERIKSAAN MALAYSIA
(MALAYSIAN EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL)

It is often useful to include reference to tables and charts when you are writing.

Example

Look at the following example:

Figure 1 shows sales of mobile phones per


month. As can be seen, it covers the years
1998 to 2001 and shows that the sales of
mobile phones declined steadily in 1998, then
remained steady from May until the end of the
year. The sales rose, more and more steeply,
throughout 1999, with a steep increase at the
end of the year, and reached a peak of 6,200 in
February 2000. A sharp fall followed but sales
levelled off at about 5,300 per month in April,
fluctuated slightly through the year, and are
now increasing again.

MUET 800/4
PAGE 6
Course Participant’s Module: Writing
MAJLIS PEPERIKSAAN MALAYSIA
(MALAYSIAN EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL)

VI. Language

The following are some sentence structures that may be used to describe trends or patterns in
graphs, tables or charts.

Referring to a diagram, chart etc.

As can be seen chart, ...


diagram,
from table,
It can be seen the
in graph, that ...
We can see figures,
statistics,

As can be seen Table 1,


from
It can be seen Figure 2, …
in
We can see Graph 3,

Table 1 seen
Figure 2 concluded
can
shown
From figures it be that ...
estimated
the chart may
calculated
diagram inferred

The graph
shows that ...
Figure 1

MUET 800/4
PAGE 7
Course Participant’s Module: Writing
MAJLIS PEPERIKSAAN MALAYSIA
(MALAYSIAN EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL)

VII. Describing change

The following are some sentence structures that may be used to describe trends or patterns in
graphs, tables or charts.

barely noticeable rise.


slight increase.
slow upward tend.
gradual
fluctuation.
steady
There was a(n) (very) marked downward trend.
dramatic decrease.
steep decline.
sharp reduction.
rapid fall.
sudden drop.

rise
increase
decrease
There was a(n) decline of ...
reduction
fall
drop

MUET 800/4
PAGE 8
Course Participant’s Module: Writing
MAJLIS PEPERIKSAAN MALAYSIA
(MALAYSIAN EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL)

increased
shot up
grew
rose
X declined by ...
reduced
decreased
dropped
fell

increased slightly
shot up slowly
grew gradually
rose steadily
markedly
X declined
dramatically
reduced steeply
decreased sharply
dropped rapidly
fell suddenly

reached a peak.
X
levelled off

WRITING 2: ACADEMIC WRITING

MUET 800/4
PAGE 9
Course Participant’s Module: Writing
MAJLIS PEPERIKSAAN MALAYSIA
(MALAYSIAN EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL)

In Question 2, the candidate is expected to write an essay in which a point of view or opinion is
presented. In this type of writing, express your opinions and give reasons to support them.
Here is a simple four-step guide to do Question 2.

Suggested Time
Steps Detail

Step 1 Understand the topic. Understand the


Read and understand the task 5 minutes question.
Understand the requirements.

Step 2 Plan the introduction (state your


Plan what you are going to 5 minutes view)
write Plan the body (state the main point
and other important/interesting points
to support your view).
Plan the conclusion (restate the main
point).

Step 3 State your view (the introduction).


Write your answer 35 minutes Support your view with reasons,
arguments and examples (the body of
the essay).
Restate your view or present a fresh
insight.

Step 4 Check: 1. content


Check your writing 5 minutes 2. language
3. presentation

What do students need to do to answer Question 2?


They need to write an academic piece of writing of at least 250 words.

How long does it take?


Students are asked to spend no more than 50 minutes on this task.

How do students know what to write about?


The instructions for the task give information about a point of view, argument or problem and tell
students how to discuss this.

MUET 800/4
PAGE
10
Course Participant’s Module: Writing
MAJLIS PEPERIKSAAN MALAYSIA
(MALAYSIAN EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL)

What does the discussion involve?

To engage in the discussion, students may need to do one of the following:

• provide general factual information


• outline and/or present a solution
• justify an opinion
• evaluate evidence and ideas.

What other skills must students have to complete this task?

They must be able to


• analyse questions carefully.
• follow instructions.
• follow English discursive writing conventions, i.e. what order to put information in, how
to start and finish academic writing and how to paragraph.
• organise and link information coherently and cohesively.
• use language accurately and appropriately.

Possible aspects to look into when assessing a student’s written work/essay:

• Task Response (i.e. how fully and appropriately the student has answered all parts of the
task; the extent to which the student’s ideas are relevant, developed and supported; the extent
to which the student’s position is clear and effective)
• Coherence and Cohesion (i.e. how well the information and ideas are organised and
presented i.e. paragraphing; how well the information is linked)
• Lexical Resource (i.e. the range of vocabulary used, how accurately it is used and how
appropriate it is for the task)
• Grammatical Range and Accuracy (i.e. the range of structures used, how accurately they
are used and how appropriate they are for the task)

MUET 800/4
PAGE
11
Course Participant’s Module: Writing
MAJLIS PEPERIKSAAN MALAYSIA
(MALAYSIAN EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL)

Understanding the Task

Writing Task 2 takes the form of a statement or statements on a specific theme. Students must be
sure to read the question carefully and respond appropriately to the task. They should organise
their ideas well and make sure to support their argument with relevant examples or evidence. For
this task, students need to be able to communicate more abstract and complex ideas and use a
range of vocabulary and grammatical structures. They must be sure to draw upon their own
personal experience and should NOT attempt to produce a learnt response.

Introduction to Teaching Writing Skills

GENERAL

• Make sure that your students are at the right level before they attempt the Academic Writing
Tasks. Lower level students will not be able to complete these writing tasks and you should
always make sure that the writing tasks you give are at the right level for your students.
• Make sure that you focus on the writing process as well as on the testing process. You can do
this by giving students essays to write in their own time at home as well as timed essays in
class under exam conditions. It is important to develop their writing skills as well to give
them exam practice.
• Try to provide a balance of activities so that you do not always focus on grammatical
accuracy. While accuracy is important, it is equally important to develop planning skills,
organisational skills, fluency and coherence in writing. This will also ensure that your
lessons are more balanced.
• Encourage students to adopt new language learning strategies. For example, you can
encourage them to take an active approach to learning vocabulary by recording new words
and ensuring that they attempt to actively use them as often as possible.
• Increase your students’ motivation to write by making their writing more important. You can
do this by ‘publishing’ their work around the classroom or in a class journal. You can also
vary the readers of their work by swapping essays with a different class or with their
classmates or showing them to a different teacher.
• To do well in an exam situation, students need to perform independently, without
assistance or intervention from their teacher. If your classes are usually teacher-centred then
you may need to train your students by organising more student-centred activities. Make sure
that you encourage your students to actively participate in their own learning process.

• Timed writing practice is essential for your students to be able to do their best in the exam.
They need to develop a feel for how to plan, write and check their answers within the time
allowed. Timed writing practice can be done in class and also for homework so that your
students become less dependant on you telling them to stop one task and begin the next.

MUET 800/4
PAGE
12
Course Participant’s Module: Writing
MAJLIS PEPERIKSAAN MALAYSIA
(MALAYSIAN EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL)

Increasing Motivation

Clearly, getting your students to write is the best way for them to practise this skill. However,
motivation is often a problem as, while some might enjoy the writing process, many find it a
laborious task even in their own language. Below are some ways to increase student motivation
to engage in more writing practice.

• Make it clear from the start of your course how many pieces of writing you expect your
students to produce. Tell them when they will be due. If you set this into their weekly
timetable, they will develop an expectation to be engaged in writing at a particular time.
You can also get each student to commit to this at the start of the course.
• Explain exactly what will happen to the writing they produce. Will they be given feedback
1 or 2 days later or will this take longer? Will they be expected to re-write their essays?
Decide where, when and how you will handle marking, correction and feedback and let
your students know what to expect.
• Encourage your students to build up a portfolio of their writing and to look back at their
progress from time to time.

• Vary the tools your students use to write or the class organisation. They may write
individually, in pairs or as a group. You may choose to produce one whole essay as a class
written onto transparencies. You could ask them to write ideas onto large sheets of paper, in
a poster format to put around the classroom, or they could write onto transparencies so that
they may be discussed as a class. Any means you can use to get your students to writing
will help.

MUET 800/4
PAGE
13
Course Participant’s Module: Writing
MAJLIS PEPERIKSAAN MALAYSIA
(MALAYSIAN EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL)

Structure of an Academic Essay

The following guidelines may help in the writing of an academic essay.

1. Create an Essay with Three Main Parts. Help your readers by first (1) telling them what
you are going to tell them, (2) tell them, and then (3) tell them what you told them. Readers
appreciate having this guidance; teachers reward it with points.

Introduction Introduce your topic and then state your thesis.


Present 2, 3, 4 or more supporting points, organized so that they flow logically from
Body
point to point.
Conclude by restating your thesis statement and presenting a final insight. Do not add
Conclusion
new points that need proof.

2. State Your Main Point in the First Paragraph. Some styles of writing encourage writers to
unfold their main point slowly in order to give the reader a lot of work. However, most
teachers prefer that their students disclose their main point in the first paragraph. This helps
the reader's comprehension. The reader can then focus on finding adequate support and
explanation for that main point.

3. Divide Your Point into Logical Sub-sections. Students are often tempted to pick three
random points for supporting an essay topic. Strong writers look for the natural divisions in a
topic and then find a rational way to organize those points.

4. Organize the Sub-sections to Highlight Their Relationship to Each Other. Students


should find a relationship among the sub-sections and organize them accordingly, then write
transitions between paragraphs. Creating an organization with purpose, aids the reader's
comprehension.

5. Create an Inviting Introduction and an Insightful Conclusion. In most cases, students


need to develop a context for their thesis before stating it. This helps prepare the reader for
the main point. The introduction can also help attract the reader's interest as well.
Conclusions should be more than a restatement of the thesis. The reader needs to feel a sense
of closure that a well-earned insight provides. Be careful not to add any extra information in
your conclusion; but save your most poignant thought for the end.

MUET 800/4
PAGE
14
Course Participant’s Module: Writing
MAJLIS PEPERIKSAAN MALAYSIA
(MALAYSIAN EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL)

Example Outline 1

Here is a sample outline in response to this essay question:


Explain who serves the best pizza locally and what criteria you used for selecting your choice.

Anecdote about driving around town with friends on a Friday night, arguing about
where to eat pizza. Thesis statement that Diamond Pizza was our best choice
Introduction
according to our criteria of convenience, atmosphere, service, ingredients and
price.

[Note how the points are organized chronologically, in the order that the student
experiences them.]

Point 1: Conveniently close to the movie theater.


Body
Point 2: Entertaining atmosphere with movie posters, movie memorabilia and
monitors showing blockbuster films.
Point 3: Staff is friendly, accurate and speedy.
Point 4: Varied and fresh crust, sauce and toppings.
Point 5: Price is reasonable, given the quality.

Return to anecdote of friends walking to the movie theater, wondering why they
Conclusion ever discuss where they will go for pizza since they always choose Diamond Pizza
at the end of their discussion.

Essay Structure

MUET 800/4
PAGE
15
Course Participant’s Module: Writing
MAJLIS PEPERIKSAAN MALAYSIA
(MALAYSIAN EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL)

(Adapted from electronic page:


http://www.jcu.edu.au/studying/services/studyskills/essay/structure.html)

Reference
1. M.K. Tickoo, English Language Learning and Teaching.
2.Materials adapted from www.ielts.org.uk.

MUET 800/4
PAGE
16