English Language

Below is this year’s Waec Syllabus for English. Note that this syllabus is for both Internal and external candidates..

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WEST AFRICAN SENIOR SCHOOL CERTIFICATE EXAMINATION
ENGLISH LANGUAGE

(For Candidates in The Gambia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone Only)

THE SCOPE OF THE SYLLABUS

This examination sets out to test the different basic skills of communication in English
using the mediums of speech and writing. The examination will test the receptive and
productive abilities of candidates. These abilities will be demonstrated in the following
forms: Reading Comprehension, Summary, Vocabulary, Lexis and Structure, Listening
Comprehension and Recognition of different aspects of English speech.

AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
The objective of the syllabus is to measure the extent to which the aims of the teaching
syllabuses of member countries have been realized in candidates‟ Secondary School career.
The examination sets out to examine candidates‟ ability to
(i) use correct English;
(ii) write about incidents in English that are appropriate to specified audiences
and situations;
(iii) organize materials in paragraphs that are chronologically, spatially and
logically coherent;
(iv) control sentence structures accurately;
(v) exhibit variety in the choice of sentence patterns;
(vi) comply with the rules of grammar, spelling and punctuation;
(vii) comprehend written and spoken English;
(viii) recognize implied meaning, tones and attitudes;
(ix) use an acceptable pronunciation that can be comprehended by others;
(x) isolate and summarize relevant information from set passages.

OUTLINE
Candidates will be required to take three papers. Total marks for the three papers will be
220 marks for The Gambia and Sierra Leone and 200 for Nigeria.

PAPER 1: 2½ hours – Essay Writing, Comprehension and Summary – 120 marks

PAPER 2: 1 hour – Multiple Choice questions (Lexis and Structure) – 50 marks

PAPER 3: 45 minutes – Oral English – 50 marks (for the Gambia and Sierra Leone)

PAPER 3: 45 minutes – Test of Orals – 30 marks (for Nigeria only).

WEST AFRICAN SENIOR SCHOOL CERTIFICATE EXAMINATION
ENGLISH LANGUAGE

DETAILED SYLLABUS

PAPER 1: This paper will be divided into three sections (A, B and C).

SECTION A: ESSAY WRITING (50 marks)

Candidates will be required to spend 50 minutes on this section. There will be five
questions in all and candidates will be required to answer only one question.

The questions will test candidates‟ ability to communicate in writing. The topics will
demand the following kinds of writing:
(i) letter;
(ii) speech;
(iii) narrative;
(iv) description;
(v) debate/argumentative;
(vi) report;
(vii) article;
(viii) exposition;
(ix) creative writing.

Credit will be given for
(i) Content: relevance of ideas to the topic and its specified audience and
purpose;
(ii) Organization: formal features (where applicable), good paragraphing,
appropriate emphasis and arrangement of ideas;
(iii) Expression: control of vocabulary and sentence structure;
(iv) Mechanical Accuracy: grammar, punctuation and spelling.

The minimum length expected will be 450 words.

SECTION B: COMPREHENSION (40 marks)

Candidates will be required to spend 50 minutes on this section. The section will consist
of two passages each of about three hundred (300) words. Candidates will be required to
answer questions on the two passages.

The questions will test the candidate‟s ability to
(i) find appropriate equivalents for selected words and phrases;
(ii) understand the factual content;
(iii) make inferences from the content of the passages;
(iv) respond to uses of English expressions to reveal/reflect
sentiments/emotions/attitudes;

WEST AFRICAN SENIOR SCHOOL CERTIFICATE EXAMINATION
ENGLISH LANGUAGE

(v) identify and label basic grammatical structures, words, phrases or clauses
and explain their functions as they appear in the context;
(vi) identify and explain basic literary terms and expressions;
(vii) recast phrases or sentences into grammatical alternatives.

The passages will be chosen from a wide variety of sources all of which will be suitable for
this level of examination in terms of theme and interest. The passages will be written in
modern English that will be within the experience of candidates. The comprehension test
will include a total of three questions based on (vi) above in any one paper.

SECTION C: SUMMARY (30 marks)

Candidates will be required to spend 50 minutes on this section. The section will consist
of one prose passage of about five hundred (500) words and will test the candidate‟s ability
to
(i) extract relevant information;
(ii) summarize the points demanded in clear, concise English;
(iii) present a summary of specific aspects or portions of the passage;
(iv) avoid repetition, redundancy and extraneous material.

The passage will be selected from a wide variety of suitable sources, including excerpts
from narratives, dialogues and expositions of social, cultural, economic and political issues
in any part of the world.

PAPER 2: This is an objective/multiple choice paper comprising 100 questions: 40
lexical and 60 structural items. Each question/item will have four options
lettered A to D.

A. LEXIS

In addition to items testing knowledge of the vocabulary of everyday usage (i.e.
home, social relationships, common core school subjects) questions will be set to
test the candidate‟s ability in the use of the more general vocabulary associated
with the following fields of human activity:

I. (a) Building;
(b) Plumbing;
(c) Fishing;
(d) Finance – commerce, banking, stock exchange, insurance;
(e) Photography;
(f) Mineral exploitation;
(g) Common manufacturing industries;
(h) Printing, publishing, the press and libraries;
(i) Sea, road, rail and air transport;
(j) Government and politics;
(k) Sports and entertainment;

WEST AFRICAN SENIOR SCHOOL CERTIFICATE EXAMINATION
ENGLISH LANGUAGE

(l) Religion;
(m) Science and Technology;
(n) Power production – hydro, thermal, solar;
(o) Education;
(p) Transport and Communication;
(q) Military;
(r) Journalism and Advertising.

II. Idioms, i.e. idiomatic expressions and collocations (e.g. “hook, line and sinker”,
“every Tom, Dick and Harry” etc.) the total meaning of which cannot be arrived at
simply by consideration of the dictionary meanings of the words in the structures in
which they appear.

III. Structural elements of English e.g. sequence of tenses, matching of pronouns with
noun referents, use of correct prepositions.

IV. Figurative usage

By “more general” vocabulary is meant those words and usages of words normally
associated with the field of human activity in question which are generally known,
used and understood by most educated people who while not engaged in that field
of activity may have occasion to read, speak or write about it. Thus, for example,
in the vocabulary of transportation by sea, one would expect knowledge of terms
such as “bridge” and “deck”, which most educated people understand, but not
“halyard”, “dodge”, “davit” or “thrust block”, which are specialized.

All items will be phrased in such a way as to test the use and understanding of the
required lexis, rather than dictionary definitions and explanations. In practice, the
test of lexis will be so designed as to explore, not merely the extent of the
candidates‟ vocabulary but more importantly their ability to respond to sense
relations in the use of lexical items e.g. synonyms, antonyms and homonyms.

In the testing of figurative language, candidates will be expected to recognize when
an expression is used figuratively rather than literally.

B. STRUCTURE
Structure here is used to include:
(i) The patterns of changes in word-forms which indicate number, tense,
degree, etc.;
(ii) The patterns in which different categories of words regularly combine to
form groups and these groups in turn combine to form sentences;
(iii) The use of structural words e.g. conjunctions, articles, determiners,
prepositions, etc.

WEST AFRICAN SENIOR SCHOOL CERTIFICATE EXAMINATION
ENGLISH LANGUAGE

PAPER 3 ORAL ENGLISH (50 marks)
This paper will test candidates‟ knowledge of Oral English. There will be three
alternatives for this paper: Alternative A for School Candidates in The Gambia and Sierra
Leone, Alternative B for Private Candidates in The Gambia and Sierra Leone and
Alternative C for Nigeria Candidates only.

ALTERNATIVE A: LISTENING COMPREHENSION

This paper will be a Listening Comprehension Test.
This will be made up of 100 multiple choice objective items:

Recognition of consonants, consonant clusters, vowels, diphthongs, stress and
intonation;
Understanding of dialogues and narratives.

Section 1: Test of word final voiced-voiceless consonants in isolated words mainly,
but other features such as consonant clusters may also be tested.

Section 2: Test of vowel quality in isolated words.

Section 3: Test of vowel quality and consonant contrasts in isolated words.

Section 4: One of three alternatives below will be used in different years:

(i) test of vowel and/or consonant contrasts in sentence contexts;

(ii) test of vowel and consonant contrasts in isolated words – to be
selected from a list of at least four-word contrasts;

(iii) test of vowel and consonant contrasts through rhymes.

Section 5: Test of rhyming.

Section 6: Test of comprehension of emphatic stress.

Section 7: Test of understanding of intonation through short dialogues.

Section 8: Test of understanding of the content of longer dialogues and narratives.

NOTE: 1. Tape recorders will be used for the administration of this Listening
Comprehension Test.

2. Features to be tested:

WEST AFRICAN SENIOR SCHOOL CERTIFICATE EXAMINATION
ENGLISH LANGUAGE

I. CONSONANTS

(a) Single Consonants – Candidates should be able to recognize and
produce all the significant sound contrasts in the consonantal system
of English. For the guidance of candidates, a few examples of such
contrasts are given below.

Initial Medial Final
they – day buzzes – buses boat – both
ship – chip parcel – partial breathe – breed
fan – van sopping – sobbing wash – watch
pit – fit written – ridden leaf – leave
pit – bit anger – anchor cup – cub
tuck – duck faces – phases cart – card
card – guard prices – prizes –
gear – jeer – –

(b) Consonant Clusters – Candidates should be able to produce and
recognize consonant clusters which may occur both initially and
finally in a syllable. They should also be able to recognize and
produce the consonant sounds in a consonant cluster in the right
order. For the guidance of candidates, a few examples are given
below.

Initial Final

play – pray rains – range
sting – string felt – felled
scheme – scream sent – send
crime – climb nest – next
flee – free ask – axe
three – tree lift – lived
true – drew missed – mixed
blight – bright seats – seeds
tread – thread hens – hence
drift – thrift lisp – lips
glade – grade coast – coats
marks – masks

II. VOWELS

(a) Pure Vowels
(b) Diphthongs
(c) Triphthongs

WEST AFRICAN SENIOR SCHOOL CERTIFICATE EXAMINATION
ENGLISH LANGUAGE

Candidates should be able to recognize and produce all the significant sound
contrasts in the vowel system of English. For the guidance of candidates, a few
examples of such contrasts are given below.

seat – sit
sit – set
peck – pack
pack – park
cart – cat
load – lord
pair – purr
park – pork
hard – heard
word – ward
let – late
cheer – chair
pet – pat – part – pate
hat – heart – height – hate – hut
part – port – pot – pat
caught – cot – cut – curt
pool – pull – pole –
bird – bed – bared
but – bat

III STRESS

(a) Word Stress – Candidates should be able to contrast stressed and
unstressed syllables in words which are not otherwise distinguished. In
addition, they should be aware of the possibility of shifting stress from one
syllable to another in different derivations of the same word with
consequent change in vowel quality. For the guidance of candidates, a few
examples of changing word stress are given below.

„increase (noun) in‟crease (verb)
„import “ im‟port “
„rebel “ re‟bel “
„convict “ con‟vict “
„extract “ ex‟tract “
„record “ re‟cord “
„subject “ sub‟ject “

(b) Sentence Stress – Candidates should be aware that stress in sentences in
English tends to occur at regular intervals in time. English is therefore
called a stress-timed language. They should also be aware that in most
sentences, unless some sort of emphasis is introduced, only nouns, main
verbs (not auxiliaries), adjectives and adverbs are stressed. Final pronouns

WEST AFRICAN SENIOR SCHOOL CERTIFICATE EXAMINATION
ENGLISH LANGUAGE

198

should not be stressed, unless some kind of contrast is intended; relative
pronouns should not be stressed, nor should possessive pronouns. Thus, for
example, the following sentences should be stressed as indicated:

He „went to the „town and „bought some „oranges.

I „told him to „go to the „station to „ask when the „train would „leave.

Did you „ask him?

I „read it but I „didn‟t understand it.

They ar‟rived „yesterday.

The „man who „came.

I „fetched his „book.

NOTE: There are a few words in English that are pronounced differently depending
on whether or not they are stressed in the sentence. These are usually called
strong and weak forms.

(c) Emphatic Stress – Candidates should be aware of the use of emphatic
stress, most commonly to indicate a contrast, which is realized partly as a
change in pitch within the intonation pattern. The falling pitch illustrated
below is one of the common ways of indicating this:

IV INTONATION

Candidates should be made aware of the different forms English intonation takes in
relation to the grammar of the language and the attitudes conveyed by the speaker.
There are two basic intonation patterns or tunes: the falling and rising patterns.
They should also realize that whereas the normal place for the changing pitch in an
intonation pattern is on the last stressed syllable of the utterance (as indicated
below), placing the changing pitch elsewhere implies a contrast to the item on
which this changing pitch falls. For example:

He borrowed “my newspaper
He “borrowed „my newspaper
He borrowed my “newspaper
“He borrowed my „newspaper

(i.e, not hers)
(i.e, he did not steal it).
(i.e, not my book).
(i.e, not someone else).

( )
( )
( )
( )

WEST AFRICAN SENIOR SCHOOL CERTIFICATE EXAMINATION
ENGLISH LANGUAGE

199

(a) Falling Pattern

(b) Rising Pattern

Note that (i) the two patterns indicated above may be combined in longer sentences,

(ii) candidates should note, in addition, that any unstressed syllable
following the last stressed syllable of the sentence is said on a low level
pitch when the pattern is falling, but continues the rise if the pattern is
rising. The same rule applies to tags following quoted speech.

They ar‟rived to‟day
„Where did he „go?
„Come „here!

Statement
WH — question
Command

( )
( )
( )

Did he „see the „principal?
When the „train arrived
They arrived to‟day?

Yes/No question
Incomplete
Question

( )
( )
( )

e.g: When the „train ar‟rived, the passengers were on the platform.
( )

WEST AFRICAN SENIOR SCHOOL CERTIFICATE EXAMINATION
ENGLISH LANGUAGE

200

ALTERNATIVE B

Alternative B is a multiple-choice paper of 50 items testing the content of the syllabus as
outlined for Alternative A.

The 50 items will cover the recognition of the following:

(1) pure vowels (5) word stress
(2) diphthongs (6) sentence stress
(3) consonants (7) emphatic/contrastive stress
(4) consonant clusters (8) vowel and consonant contrasts through rhymes.

ALTERNATIVE C: TEST OF ORALS (For School and Private Candidates in
Nigeria)

A Test of Orals format is a multiple-choice paper of 60 items testing a wide range of areas
or aspects of Orals as contained in the syllabus.

The Test of Orals will cover the following areas:

(1) Vowels – pure vowels and diphthongs;
(2) Consonants (including clusters);
(3) Rhymes;
(4) Word Stress/Syllable Structure;
(5) Emphatic Stress/Intonation Patterns;
(6) Phonetic Symbols.

The items to be tested in the specified areas are in accordance with the following blueprint:

SECTION AREA/FEATURE NO. OF ITEMS

1.
2.
3.
4
5.
6.

7.

Test of Vowels
Test of Consonants
Test of Rhymes
Test of Stress (4 – Syllable word)
Test of Stress (2/3 – Syllable word)
Test of Emphatic Stress/Intonation
Patterns in Sentences
Test of Phonetic Symbols

15 (10 pure vowels, 5 diphthongs)
15
5
5
5

5
10 (5 vocalic and 5 consonantal)
60


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2016 Waec Syllabus for Other Subjects Below

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