OPINION : Misread SPM English Essay Question Should Be Penalized! - The Coverage

OPINION : Misread SPM English Essay Question Should Be Penalized!

For students taking their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), every single one of them would have sat for the English paper last Tuesday. One part of the English Paper 1 questions has managed to trigger a debate on social media after a concerned adult wrote in to English news daily The Star.

The writer who signed off the letter ‘Worried Malaysian’ said that one of questions in the continuous writing section, which is worth 50 points, was simply not properly worded and reproduced the question below:

“The first option reads: “If you had the opportunity to move to another part of Malaysia, where would you choose to live? Explain your choice.”

How would you have answered?

According to the letter writer, many students did not realise they were confined to writing about Malaysia.

“Some wrote about living in Korea, Britain, Bali, Switzerland, Mecca, Madina, and etc.

“For excellent kids who wrote about living outside of Malaysia, they have made a mistake in one of the most important examinations in their lives.

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“These kids have been in turmoil since they realised this horrendous mistake. Those who were aiming for an A+ in English are in extreme shock about this,” the writer explained.

Misread SPM English Essay Question Should Be Penalized!

Understand that the devastation students go through when they realized they have answered an essay question wrongly after the exam is the worst feeling ever.

It is helplessness, it is regret.

But that does not mean the whole nation should grieve on it and dramatize the issue as a mean to plead Malaysian Examination Syndicate (MES)’s mercy.

That is disgusting. That is unforgivable.

How does that do justice to the other students who answered it correctly?

Or the other students who chose not to answer the question because they understood the question precisely and decided to skip it because it was not a topic he was confident to write on? And if they understood it the way the misread students did, they would have taken the question no doubt.

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Or the students in the previous years who were penalized completely because, that year, no one dramatized their mistake?

It is unjust. It is unfair.

Mistake made must face its consequences.

Our world is consequential.

You said a wrong thing in an interview, you lost your chances.

You made a bad investment, you lost your wealth.

But if you were late for a date, your partner would only be angry at you.

MES is not your romantic partner. MES is part of the world. MES is probably the first institution for most students to give consequential results (figuratively and literally) and affecting their life events to come.

You, as the parent, are trying to be the ‘romantic’ person in this context: try to romanticize the issue; fish for sympathy.

You are like my parents. You told me I am special. You told me it is okay, you reward me even when I fail because you can’t bear to see me break.

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Thank you but you are not helping. 

I am not special. My employer does not think so. I can be replaced the next day at a cheaper price.

It is not okay. Your safety net stitched from your 30 years of saving is still not enough to keep me financially stable.

Stop sugarcoating my failure. Stop spoonfeeding me when I am struggling.

Parents like you is the reason why millennials think they are entitled.

‘Oh, look at us, we are the unicorn in the office.’

I am disgusted by myself because of you. Or because of my lack of self-reflexivity to realize you are the problem to my problems.

So stop. The students who misread SPM English Paper 1 Continuous Writing section Question 1 should face the appropriate penalty.

It is not the end of the world.

In fact, it does more good than harm. If I, as a 24-year-old, can realize this, you should know better.




  1. Ken Seow

    November 13, 2017 at 18:38

    The question is very clear and straight forward. It’s not even a trick question. If the student cannot understand such a clearly worded question, they don’t deserve to get an A or to even pass the English paper. Educate students to read the question properly instead of jumping to conclusions. This should serve as a good lesson for their future. As these students become adults they will sooner or later be required to sign some sort of contract or agreement. What if they sign without reading carefully and understanding what they are agreeing to? Can they penalize the agreement then?

  2. Evelyn Yee

    November 17, 2017 at 14:24

    Huh?? The question is very clearly written with appropriate PUNCTUATION MARKS, that does not give 2 different meanings. Those who misread or did not understand the question simply meant that their English needed to be improved further. It would not be fair and just to allow a re-sit because a precedence must not be set!

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