Moving Forward: What Is Secondary School Literature?

Congratulations on completing your PSLE! It is now time to kick back and take your well-deserved rest! Perhaps some of you might even be thinking about the secondary schools that you would be applying for. It is never too early to start thinking and looking up what the schools have to offer. Have you also read up on the subjects that you will be studying in Secondary 1? Perhaps you might have come across this subject, Literature. How is it different from English Language? Today, I shall help to explain the differences between English language and English Literature so that you can be better prepared for your exciting journey ahead!

What Is Secondary School Literature? | Lil' but Mighty

Secondary School English Language

English Language is the study of how language works. Recall doing your grammar multiple-choice questions, synthesis and transformation and so on? Yes. English Language focuses more on the technical aspects such as the grammaticality of the sentences or how words and phrases are put together to convey meaning.

However, do note that in secondary school, the format of assessment is different. The components tested are:

What Is Secondary School English Paper Components | Lil' but Mighty

The above is an outline of the components which will be assessed in secondary English. In particular, the question types tested in comprehension are open-ended in nature and students are expected to have already mastered the ability to craft their responses using precise language and in grammatically correct structures.

English Literature

English Literature on the other hand is the in-depth study of works of Literature like poems, plays and novels. Components like editing, listening comprehension and oral communication are not tested here. Instead, for lower secondary, students will study texts from three genres: prose (one novel in its entirety or a range of short stories), poetry and drama. The focus is not entirely on the technical aspect of the language, but also on how students can make meaning of the texts. It would require the reader to actively engage with the texts, be able to provide personal responses and think about the text more critically.

Students are tested on set texts (prose and drama) and unseen texts (poetry). Set texts are those that have been taught in class while unseen texts are those that students will see for the first time during the examination. Students will be required to answer essay questions (no passage is given) and passage-based questions.

What is the difference between attempting English Comprehension & passage-based questions for Literature then?


Firstly, the comprehension passage tested in English is unseen while the prose and drama passages tested in Literature are set texts which students would have studied in class.

Secondly, while it is true that students are required to answer questions based on a given passage for both the English comprehension component and in the Literature papers, the types of questions asked are very different. Let’s take a look at an excerpt below and some sample questions to have a better understanding of what each subject entails.

I will be making a comparison between both subjects using the same passage so that you can have a clearer idea of how they will differ in terms of assessment only.

Secondary English Comprehension | Lil' but Mighty

Questions for English Language paper comprehension
(You can try the questions before looking at the suggested answers!)


  1. Explain clearly why whole villages were suddenly abandoned.
  2. How do we know that Appa was a violent man? Suggest two reasons that tell you so based on what the first-person narrator shared.

Secondary School English Comprehension Questions | Lil' but Mighty


1. Explain clearly why whole villages were suddenly abandoned.


What Is Secondary School Literature?

English Comprehension Passage | Lil' but Mighty

2. How do we know that Appa was a violent man? Suggest two reasons that tell you so based on what the first-person narrator shared.


Secondary English Comprehension Questions | Lil' but MIghty

Secondary English Language Comprehension Paper | Lil' but Mighty

Questions for English Literature passage-based questions (You can try the questions before looking at the suggested answers!)


  1. What are your impressions of the people from the villages?
  2. How does this passage make you feel sorry for the family?

The answers below have been crafted in point form using the PEEL structure which some schools subscribe to. Do take note that during the examination, you will be required to answer in complete sentences and with elaboration. Also, it is likely that more points will be required for you to score the 25% allocated to each question. (Yes, each question is worth 25% for this subject!)

1. What are your impressions of the people from the villages?

Secondary School Literature PEEL Structure | Lil' but Mighty


2. How does this passage make you feel sorry for the family?


What Is Secondary School Literature? | Lil' but Mighty

Do you realise that the questions not only require the students to make use of accurate details from the passage but also insert their personal thought and response? A comparison between English language comprehension Q2 and Literature Q2 shows how the Literature question needed the student to communicate a personal response (feeling sorry) using textual evidence.

Secondary School Literature Essay Questions | Lil' but Mighty

I hope this blog post has provided you with more insight as to what you can expect for lower secondary English and Literature! It can be quite daunting to learn a new subject but I am also sure it will be an eye-opening and exciting journey for you. See you in the next blog post!

Summary of Comprehension and Literature Requirements | Lil' but Mighty


Secondary School Schedule | Lil' but Mighty

Ms. Cynthia

Ms Cynthia is an English Teacher at Lil’ but Mighty. In her 5 years of English Language teaching experience, she has enjoyed guiding her students to explore the literary world and provide them with the tools to unpack and decipher texts. As a teacher who is passionate about the language, she hopes to inspire the children to become creative and critical thinkers who will be ready to face the challenges of the world.

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