Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Teacher Talk (25): Of SPM, PMR and tense...

Here's an email I received recently from a teacher. Your views are much welcome so we can spread the culture of inquiry into our practice and grow as teachers!

To: "rahmahs@yahoo.com"
Sent: Saturday, January 21, 2012 8:34 PM
Subject: related to spm, pmr and tense

Salam Pn. Rahimah.  
Last year  I attended the English conference in Pangkor and  I attended your brief  presentation.  Although it was brief  I did learn something. I hope you don't mind answering few questions related to SPM paper and Pmr Paper.
1. For SPM , paper 1 , sec a   directed writing,  is it compulsory for the students  to use the exact given phrase.  For example, the given phrase in the question, learn responsibility.   Few students wrote as , when you're studying overseas, you will  learn to be responsible. Can I award 1 mark for Content?  or  to get 1 mark student must write  .... when you further your studies overseas, you will learn the value of responsibility.
2. For PMR 2012,  there will be new format  but what about essay? does it still carry 30 marks?
3. The usage of present perfect tense.  Television and radio has  intruded into our lives. The reason why the usage of singular is  both nouns refer to the same idea. Is that correct?

My Response

wassallam ***

thank you for coming to my session and thanks for your questions.

My response:

1.  When awarding content points for directed writing, it's not necessary to use the exact phrase. We teach this to poorer learners because we want them to be able to score some points :) the principle is  the content point must keep to the same meaning however you express it. Your student's answer is perfectly acceptable.

2. As far as i know, the weighting remains the same.

3. I think your question is on subject-verb agreement rather than the usage of the present perfect tense. I hope the following explanations will help:  

a. Some words are collocative pairs like 'bread and butter', 'ham and eggs', 'pen and ink', 'song and dance'

The basic rule to use them is the number depends on the idea and use of the collocative pairs.

When two uncountable nouns are joined with 'and', we use a plural verb

e.g. Water and coffee are two nutritious drinks.

But when two items always go together (like Siamese twins) you can use a singular verb:

e.g. Bread and butter is my favourite breakfast.

Here, bread and butter is singular as they are not taken separately. You spread butter on bread and eat it together. But when they are separate, you should use a plural verb:

E.g. Bread and butter are sold here

In this sentence, the meaning is bread and butter are sold separately.

Coming back to your question, the plural is more appropriate because:

i. The common collocation is 'radio and television' not 'television and radio' and this is followed by the plural verb as they refer to two things. We have to be aware of the more common collocations used (the Siamese twins).

ii. 'radio and television' is followed by a plural verb as in:

E.g Radio and television are popular means of entertainment.

I really hope this helps :)


The Thinking Teacher


  1. Salam Puan,

    Regarding the marks for paper 2 PMR (new format), you may refer to this link:

  2. thanks nuha. you're such a dear :)


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