How to Craft Your Answer to the Application Question (AQ) ?

Many General Paper (GP) students face difficulties when trying to answer the Application Question (AQ) of the paper. In the blog post below, written by our resident GP expert, Mr Chong, he shares some of the key elements to watch out for while crafting your answer.


Application Question or AQ is a long-answer question in the General Paper comprehension paper that demands higher order thinking skills namely inferential understanding, comparative analysis, critical evaluation and synthesis of information.

It is worth 10 marks (out of 35 marks of content). One should spend about 25 to 30 minutes answering it.

The examiners assess the AQ answer using 4 criteria, namely: Requirements, Explanation, Evaluation and Coherence.


Band 1: Systematic reference to the requirements of the question with evidence of balanced treatment.

1. Analyse the question

  • Always read the whole question carefully, every word, every phrase. Identify and underline the question requirements.

  • Make sure you understand the central issues in the question, so that you can choose arguments from the passage(s) and discuss them in light of the central issues

2. Identify and select the author's arguments

  • Having formed a good understanding of the question requirements and central issues, identify the author’s arguments.

  • Select at least 3 of the author’s points you understand thoroughly.

  • Always keep the question in mind. Put it in front of you at all times while you select arguments to check for relevance.

  • How to select the right arguments?

  • Locate the key arguments in the passage

  • Look for topic sentences in the passage

  • Look for controversial arguments

  • Passages are designed to invite evaluation. They are deliberately selected to include controversial ideas and opinions within the arguments presented. One way will be to select arguments that include absolute words or superlatives such as ONLY, EVER, BEST etc.

  • From the summary: use points you understood earlier. Make sure you check the summary question is similar to one of the central issues in the AQ.

  • Distinguish fact from opinion

3. Respond to the author's arguments

  • Brainstorm for your possible responses, and for relevant examples of your own.

  • Decide how much you want to agree/disagree with each argument from the author

  • If required, decide your overall stand towards the AQ. This must be based on holistically, how much you agree/disagree with all the arguments from the passages

  • Make references to your society/your generation/yourself or any other variations as stated in the question.

B) Explanation

Band 1: Shows a good or very good understanding of terms and issues.

  • Explain the selected (author’s) argument in the context of the central issue of the passage by paraphrasing the argument. You may quote the argument directly if it’s self-explanatory.

  • Explain the situation in your society/generation etc. that supports your evaluation

  • Make sure arguments are not misinterpreted. If unsure of even just ONE word/phrase, never choose it.


Band 1: Makes very convincing evaluation by making judgements and decisions and by developing arguments to logical conclusions, and includes elaboration and support through personal insight and apt illustration.

1. What do you need to do?

  • State your level of agreement on the identified argument

  • Evaluate the situation in your society/generation/etc that supports your position, through giving good reasons (i.e. Why do you agree/disagree?)

  • Provide good evidence to support your reasons

2. How do you evaluate?

  • Identify the claims and beliefs of the writer(s) about the issue.

  • Identify the reasons and evidence given in support of the claims.

  • How convincing are the claims/beliefs/reasons/ evidence? What do you think?

  • In comparing the arguments raised by both writers,

  • are there significant similarities and differences between the arguments?

  • is one more persuasive than the other? Why?

3. Assess the validity of arguments

  • Are the writers’ views one-sided / biased? Can you provide a fairer one?

  • Is the issue in the argument oversimplified? Are there other causes/reasons the writer missed out (which are as, if not more, important)?

  • Is the evidence presented by the writer relevant and credible? Do you have more evidence to substantiate or even to show otherwise?


Band 1: Very clear shape and paragraph organisation and cogent argument.

1. Coherence WITHIN a paragraph

  • Organisation – points must flow logically in sequential order.

  • Linking words to glue the explanation and evaluation components together.

  • Use words in your response that resonate with the keywords given in the question.

2. Coherence ACROSS paragraphs

  • Use linking words to show balance

  • Ensure the overall stand is reflective of the sum of your evaluation of the writers’ arguments

Remember that the AQ answer is not a summary of the author(s)’ views. You must always make a connection between the author(s)’ viewpoints and your experiences (your society/your generation etc) but you should expand your scope by going beyond personal experiences. Do not make assertions with no evidence (trends/statistics/case studies). The biggest challenge most students face is the very limited time of 30 minutes they have to write a 5-paragraph “condensed essay”.

With regular and consistent timed practices in class coupled with prompt and specific feedback from our Humanities Hub tutors, one should be able to gradually improve one’s quality of answer and eventually ace AQ with ease.


Wish to learn more valuable GP techniques from Mr Chong? Call us up at 6264 2236 or 9661 9760 to register now or check out our Class Schedule here.

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