Can You Answer the “Easiest” Question in the 2019 GCE ‘O’ Level Social Studies Paper? (Hint: You May

Quite frequently, questions that appear to be very simple or straightforward might not always be so. While students may perceive a question to be “easy”, in actual fact, these questions actually require significant thought and input. Let us take an example from the recent 2019 GCE ‘O’ Level Social Studies paper, which is an assertion or evaluation question that carries 20% weighting in the overall mark scheme.

Question 5 of the 2019 GCE ‘O’ Level Social Studies paper reads:

Introducing taxes on soft drinks and fatty food is the best way to make people eat healthily.’ Using the sources in this case study, explain how far you would agree with this statement. [10]

All students should know that this question would be marked using the following rubrics. They are as follows:

Level \ Marks Descriptors

L1 \ 1 No source use OR invalid explanation of source (s)

L2 \ 2-4 Yes OR No

L3 \ 5-8 Yes AND No

Note that 2 marks (+2) is to be awarded for assessing the validity of the source (s) through questioning sufficiency, reliability or providing a balanced conclusion.

Now, let us look at two of the sources which most students would use as the sources appeared to be very simple.

Many students would use Source A as a `No’ (challenging the hypothesis) and proceed to explain how Source A disagrees with the assertion that ‘Introducing taxes on soft drinks and fatty food is the best way to make people eat healthily.’ Most of the responses would be focused on how the action of the Kerala government is against human rights or freedom. However, these responses do not answer the crux of the exam question, which is, what were the limitations or ineffectiveness of the tax. Instead, such responses only touch on restrictions on freedoms and how people are angry at the proposed decision by the government.

The nature of Source B makes it a popular choice amongst students. There are several pieces of evidence that students could use to explain that Source B supported the hypothesis, for example, from paragraphs 2 and 3. Students who are mindful of the question requirement “to make people eat healthily” and sensitive to the nuances would explain how the taxes worked by increasing the prices of drinks and thereby leading to a drop in consumption. On the other hand, students who only write that ‘Source B shows that purchasing or the buying of drinks have declined’ is merely paraphrasing the evidence and will receive an L1/1! Note that whether you use the words “purchase” or “consume/consumption” in your answer will make all the difference in the marks you will receive!

In Humanities Hub, we have a well-proven approach to handle similar questions like these, where students are taught to be sensitive to nuances. Our students are trained to make sense of the requirements of the questions before they select sources to achieve the highest level. Students have always highlighted to us that they are taught to use the “PEEL” method in school, but that does not work in situations like this. To ace this critical question which takes up 20% of the overall score, students must have the necessary critical thinking skills and apply them under examination conditions.


If you are still struggling with your Social Studies at this juncture, wait no more. Join our Social Studies classes at Humanities Hub, and get the guidance you deserved. Our tutors will ensure that you can ace your 2020 GCE 'O' Level examinations! Call us at 6264 2236 to register now or check out our Class Schedule here.

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