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Tips for MUET Writing exam

Hi all.. I'm back to help you with this year's 2014 MUET exam. I'm sure everyone's knees are
turning to jelly now because the countdown is ticking faster than you expected and your heart is
racing like a speeding bullet. No fear, I am here.. haha.
Ok.. let's talk about why it is so hard to score in the writing component. Let's focus on the
academic essay as I have blogged a lot about report writing in the past (check my archives for
samples and discussions.)
Unbeknownst to most, there is usually TWO sections the essay question. I shall name it Part A &
Part B.
This is the trial exam question I used in my school:
"Young people are becoming more materialistic because they want a better quality of life. How
far do you agree with this statement? Give your opinion. You should write at least 350 words."
Can you spot the Part A & the Part B?
Part A = more materialistic
Part B = better quality of life
Hence, if the student just focuses on the factors or effects of materialism, they have not
answered the question because they have failed to link to the concept of 'better quality of life'.
Same goes for this actual MUET exam question some years ago which reads:
"In an arranged marriage, the choice of the husband or wife is made by parents or elders. What
do you think of this practice in today's society? Discuss. You should write at least 350 words."
Has your ability to spot Part A & Part B improved?
Part A = choice made by parents or elders
Part B = appropriate practice in today's society?
Thus, to answer the question well, you would need to not simply focus on 3 reasons to agree or
disagree with the practice but LINK CLEARLY to how important is this practice in TODAY'S
society. The line of logic should be clear.
Here are 3 sample points for 100% disagree.

Pt. 1: Education - in the past women stayed at home and did not have access to a good
education, therefore they did not work. These days women have more opportunities to
contribute to society and meet different people. In the old days the elders were a more reliable
source to determine who should be married because women had a lesser role in society due to
poor education.
Pt. 2: Technology - in the past women had almost no social interaction because they mostly
stayed at home. With modern technology like handphones, emails and various social
networking, youths today have a larger network and are able to communicate with their peers
and choose their own spouse which is more compatible than a spouse chosen by elders.
Pt. 3 Love vs. Stability - Society today places more emphasis on the concept of love and loving a
person before getting married. In the past, elders assured that love would come later and what
was more important was to find a spouse that could offer stability in marriage. There have been
many cases where arranged marriages ends up in unhappy unions and even divorce so it is
better to make a love match these days to avoid these negative outcomes.
Can you see the LINK between Part A & Part B?
If the student just talked about 3 points but did not compare past and present practices, then it
would be hard to give Band 5 or 6 for task fulfillment, therefore pulling down the overall marks.
Right, my last tip is to show you my ex Form 5 student's (Nazri, tq for your permission to blog
your essay) valiant effort to keep writing essays and coming to visit me in school to get my
opinion. Here is a sample of his writing and later I will show you how to add info & modify
sentences to create a LINK to parts A & B of the question so you may score higher in the writing
component.
"People commit crimes for selfish reasons. Discuss. You should write at least 350 words."
FYI, Nazri was trying to use my suggested template of I+A1+D1+A2+D2+C
(Intro + Agree 1 vs Disagree 1 + Agree 2 vs Disagree 2 + Conclusion = 6 paragraph format)
Nazri's Intro:
In this globalization era, murder and kidnap are one of the heavy crimes people most
commit. In addition, according to the articles I have read, these rate of crimes are increasing
drastically all over the world. Women and children are the most common victim of the heartless

criminals because they are weak or they look fragile. Do people commit crimes for selfish
reasons? I agree to a certain extent that people commit crimes for fun and greedy, however,
crimes may be committed because of financial problems and lack of parents' love.
Edited version:
In this globaliSation era, murderS and kidnapPING are SOME of the heavy crimes people
MAY commit. In addition, according the articles I have read, the rate of crimes are increasing
drastically all over the world. Women and children are the most common victimS of the
heartless criminals because they are weak or look fragile. Do people commit crimes for selfish
reasons? WE HAVE CERTAINLY READ CASES OF HUSBANDS KILLING THEIR WIVES TO
CLAIM THE INSURANCE MONEY AND VICE VERSA BUT THERE ARE ALSO INCIDENCES
OF CRIMES THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH SELFISHNESS SUCH AS MURDER
COMMITTED IN A RAGE OF JEALOUSY. IN MY HUMBLE OPINION, I ONLY agree to a
certain extent that people commit crimes FOR SELFISH REASONS BECAUSE IN SOME CASES
SELFISHNESS IS NOT THE MAIN CONTRIBUTING FACTOR WHY CRIMES HAPPEN.
Editor's notes:
You will lose your ground as a Band 5/6 student if your grammar is inconsistent. Nazri's first
sentence itself is controversial because he uses the word 'most'. Along with 'all', 'never', 'always'
and 'everyone', these words must be avoided at all costs as it draws generalisations and sweeping
statements that make the reader feel that the writer lacks critical thinking and maturity. Instead,
use 'some', 'often', 'may', 'might', 'usually' etc.. He could also have improved the introduction by
outlining some crimes that are driven by selfish reasons and some that are not as seen in the
edited version. Finally, the thesis statement must clearly outline that you are going to discuss
both sides of the coin.
Nazri's 1st Point:
First and foremost, people commit crimes just for fun that may drag them to a world without
humanity. Why do I say so? One of the reasons is they love to see when people are suffering.
They steal something that is valuable in someone's life to entertain themselves or to get a
revenge. For instance, these heartless criminals especially men like to take women's pride by
raping them and ignoring their tears and some of the unfortunate victims may get killed when
they try to escape. Thus, people who commit crimes are selfish because someone's suffering is

the happiness for them.


Edited version:
First and foremost, SOME people MAY commit crimes just for fun SIMPLY BECAUSE
THEY ENJOY OTHER PEOPLE'S SUFFERING that may drag them to a world without
humanity. Why do I say so? One of the reasons is they love MAY HAVE SELFISH REASONS TO
MAKE people suffer. They MAY steal something that is valuable in someone's life to JUST TO
entertain themselves or to get revenge. For instance, THERE ARE CASES OF heartless criminals
especially men like WHO HAVE BEEN ARRESTED FOR TAKING women's pride by raping
them and ignoring their tears and some of the unfortunate victims may HAVE EVEN BEEN
killed when they try to escape. Thus, people who commit crimes are selfish because someone's
suffering is the happiness for them.
Editor's notes:
Here you need to be really careful when making sweeping statements so I have modified the
sentences using words that can temper the effect. Using informal sentences are also not
advisable such as 'just for fun' especially when you cannot prove specifically that men rape
others 'just for fun' because they 'enjoy' it. At all costs too, avoid sentences that declare 'people
love to ...' or 'people like to ...' as these statements are not well quantified and examiners will
usually have a huge frown because you did not provide concrete proof highlighting your own
opinions just doesn't cut it. Try to back up your points with some evidence of reading such as
'there have been cases that../a local newspaper recently reported that../from a study done on...',
all of which will make your essay more credible rather than picking out lines from thin air.
Nazri's 2nd point:
On the other hand, crimes may be committed because of financial problems. The high cost of
living makes them desperate to look for money or to feed their family. They do not have enough
money to buy some food or their needs as the prices are increasing. So, they tend to do crimes
such as snatch or robber to earn some money by selling the stolen items back at a higher price.
For example, a rich person's house will be the target of the criminals to break into and steal
expensive items such as jewelleries and handphones. Therefore, poverty or desperation in life
can lead people to commit crimes.

Editor's version:
On the other hand, NOT ALL CRIMES ARE COMMITTED SIMPLY BECAUSE PEOPLE
ENJOY THE SUFFERING OF OTHERS BUT because of other issues such as financial problems.
The high cost of living makes them desperate to look for money to feed their family SO
INSTEAD OF BEING SELFISH, THEY ARE ACTUALLY COMMITTING CRIME FOR
SELFLESS REASONS WHICH IS TO SUPPORT THEIR FAMILY. They MAY not have enough
money to buy some food or their DAILY needs as the prices are increasing. So, they tend to do
crimes such as snatch THEFT or ROBBERIES to earn MAKE some money by selling the stolen
items at a higher price. For example, SOME PEOPLE ARE DRIVEN TO DO CRIMES LIKE
STEALING FOOD AND EVEN MILK POWDER FROM SUPERMARKETS BECAUSE THEY
CANNOT BEAR TO SEE THEIR FAMILY STARVE. Therefore, poverty and desperation in life
AND SELFLESSNESS TO SACRIFICE THEMSELVES TO SAVE THE PEOPLE THEY LOVE,
can lead people to commit crimes WHICH IS THE OPPOSITE OF COMMITTING CRIMES FOR
SELFISH REASONS.
Editor's notes:
His 2nd point seems inconsequential because there is no clear LINK why he is introducing
his opposition point. Basically, to make this clear, you need to write a topic sentence that clearly
links to the first point introduced earlier. This shows the contrast with the opposition point so
you may argue contrary to the first idea introduced. When contrasting ideas, the right
vocabulary works best whereby SELFISHNESS is contrasted to SELFLESSNESS, which makes it
clear to the reader that you are still on track discussing the LINK BETWEEN PART A & PART B.
Furthermore, I had to modify the example to show a high degree of selflessness and sacrifice
because the example of a rich man's house being burgled does not highlight the concept of
selflessness. Lastly, the summation sentence needs to really LINK back to the concept of selfish
or unselfish reasons in order to make the argument crystal.
Nazri's 3rd Point:
Apart from that, I do agree that people get involved in crimes because of selfish reasons such
as greed especially. They want to get rich in the easiest way instead of work hard to accomplish
their mission. People receive money as bribe, are hired to do a dirty job. Moreover, this whitecolor crime is committed in the whole world. Money is powerful enough to make people lose
their sense of humanity as they can kill a person if they are asked to do so as long as the reward

is money.
Editor's version.
Apart from that, I STILL DO agree that people get involved in crimes because of selfish
reasons RELATED TO greed. THEY ARE SELFISH BECAUSE THEY GREEDILY want to get
rich in the easiest way instead of WORKING hard to accomplish their mission. SOME people
receive money as bribeS OR are hired to do dirty jobS BECAUSE THEY SELFISHLY WANT TO
MAKE A PROFIT FROM COMMITTING CRIMES. Moreover, THESE white-color WHITE
COLLAR crimeS ARE committed ALL OVER THE WORLD AS WE SPEAK BECAUSE
SELFISHNESS TO MAKE money is powerful enough to make SOME people lose their sense of
humanity as they can EVEN kill a person as long as the reward is money. THEREFORE, SOME
PEOPLE DO INDEED HAVE VERY SELFISH REASONS TO COMMIT CRIMES ESPECIALLY
IF THEY CAN MAKE A HUGE PROFIT FROM IT.
Editor's notes:
When introducing the 2nd point to agree with the statement, you should outline it clearly in
the topic sentence which is the very first sentence in each paragraph. Greed is a factor on its own
so the LINK to selfishness must be made very clear, otherwise you may veer out of topic. The
terms used also should be accurate as seen in white color vs white collar crimes. He also forgot
to close the paragraph with a summation where in the edited version, rounds off the argument
clearly that crime is indeed linked to selfish reasons including greed for profit.
Nazri's 4th Point:
Nevertheless, people also commit crimes because of lack of parents' love and guidance. When
the children is not the priority of parents, moral values will be hardly instilled in their children
themselves. They fail to differentiate what is good and bad for them. As a consequence, they may
get involved in social problems and crimes because of lack of parental guidance.
Editor's version:
Nevertheless, people also commit crimes because of OTHER FACTORS SUCH AS lack of
PARENTAL love and guidance SO IT IS CLEAR THAT WE CANNOT SIMPLY BLAME
SELFISHNESS AND GREED FOR CRIMES COMMITTED. When children ARE not the priority
of parents, moral values will hardly be instilled in their children. THESE CHILDREN MAY

EVENTUALLY fail to differentiate what is good and bad for them. As a consequence, they may
get involved in social problems and crimes SUCH AS DRUG ABUSE, THEFT, ABORTION,
BABY DUMPING AND SO ON. HENCE, IN THESE CASES, CRIMES ARE COMMITTED NOT
FOR SELFISH REASONS BUT because of lack of parental guidance, THE NEED TO GET
PARENTS' ATTENTION OR OTHER EXTERNAL FACTORS.
Editor's notes:
Again, the topic sentence needs to clearly state that there are other factors that lead to crimes
being committed other than for selfish reasons, especially greed (as stated in the previous
paragraph - it is important to LINK the previous idea to a contrasting new idea so that the flow
of logic is not impeded). Notice the use of the word 'MAY' to indicate probability and avoid
generalisations. Adding 'social problems' is not a good idea because the focus is on crimes, but
do add examples of crimes that happen due to other factors such as lack of parental guidance
etc. Also, the final sentence should conclude the point eloquently.
Nazri's Conclusion:
In conclusion, people commit crimes are not only for selfish reasons but also because of other
motivation such as environmental factors. Most of them commit crimes because of narrow
minded and do not have enough money to bear the cost of living. Therefore, our government
with the help of relevant authorities should increase the safety at a place where crimes often
occur and help poor family. Besides that, parents should spend more time for their growing
children.
Edited version:
In conclusion, IT IS CRYSTAL CLEAR THAT THERE ARE TWO FACES TO A COIN
WHEREBY people commit crimes not only for selfish reasons but also because of other
FACTORS such as their ENVIRONMENT AND UPBRINGING. Most SOME of them commit
crimes because of NARROW-MINDEDNESS OR THEY do not have enough money to bear the
cost of living, AMONG OTHER ISSUES. I STILL ABSOLUTELY BELIEVE THAT SELFISH
REASONS ARE NOT THE MAIN CONTRIBUTING FACTOR AND THAT THERE ARE MANY
OTHER REASONS FOR CRIME TO BE CONSIDERED. OUR government HAS A ROLE TO
PLAY IN ENSURING the relevant authorities increase the PUBLIC'S safety at placeS where
crimes often occur. THE SOCIAL WELFARE DEPARTMENT MAY ALSO LOOK INTO

STRATEGIES TO help poor FAMILIES SO CRIME CAN BE AVOIDED FROM THE


GRASSROOTS. Besides that, NATIONAL CAMPAIGNS SHOULD ALSO BE CARRIED OUT TO
EDUCATE parents ON SPENDING QUALITY TIME WITH THEIR CHILDREN AND
ENSURING A SOUND MORAL UPBRINGING. THEREFORE, WE WILL BE ABLE TO
PRODUCE A FUTURE GENERATION THAT STEERS CLEAR AWAY FROM CRIMES OF ALL
KINDS AND INSTEAD CREATING YOUTHS THAT CAN CONTRIBUTE PRODUCTIVELY TO
OUR NATION'S PROSPERITY.
Editor's notes:
A good conclusion should have 3 parts, ie repeat the points in a more creative way, repeat your
stand from the introduction and outline some recommendations for this issue. It is also wise to
end on a high note because the conclusion gives the reader and examiner a lasting impression so
you might as well end with a bang!

Phew... so much typing and editing... I do hope you appreciate my effort in providing you with
some samples. I think it is crucial to write essays and as a teacher, add spice to enhance the
students' compositions so that you can help upgrade their writing style starting at their level.
One mistake teachers often make (and I have made myself) is to use essays from reference books
wholesale. This means that you copy and paste the texts and expect the students to magically be
able to write like the authors of textbooks. This is not only wrong, it is cruel and demoralising.
Therefore, I would strongly suggest that you pick one essay at a time (doing too may will
demoralise you instead), fix it up prettily by adding all the yummy spices, and re-serve the essay
to the student and share with the class. It is not enough to correct errors at MUET level, but to
demonstrate step by step how the student MAY improve his Highter Order Thinking Skills
(HOTS is a hot topic these days) and Creative Thinking Skills.
Anyway, a final say from me is, keep ploughing. If you don't get down to writing and the
business of editing, no one can benefit. Keep ploughing, slowly and steadily, and you WILL
create a field of wonder in the end. Teachers, make a difference in your students' lives. Students,
strive to make a difference in your own life so you may change the destiny of your family for the
better. Today's keyword: LINK. Link Part A & Part B, and the story of life will all make sense in
the end... and you may reap the seeds you have sown.