This year’s West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) is just around the corner and so, between now and the time the English Language paper of that examination is written, I would like to discuss some of the trickier questions in the objective test of the English paper or the English Language Paper 2.
Before I go on to specific questions, there are certain observation I want to make concerning the objective paper.
First and foremost, the fact that the examination is an objective test means for every question asked, only one of the four or five alternative answers is correct.
Therefore, if, for a question, a candidate is of the belief that two alternative answers could be correct, then there is something wrong.
Secondly, for those of you who choose answers based on how those answers sound to the ears, get to know that in English, correctness is not determined by how an expression sounds to the ears.
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For instance: ‘There is a boy and a girl waiting for you’ may sound perfect to the ears but it is incorrect.
The corrected version: ‘There are a boy and a girl waiting for you’ does not sound well to the ears, but that is what is correc.
Third, what others have held to be correct over the years and which we have, therefore, come to accept as correct, may not be so. This means that we should be careful in selecting answers in the objective test, since the marking scheme is not prepared with popular belief in mind.
For instance, even though many people write and say ‘dispose off’, it is incorrect. The correct form is ‘dispose of’.
In the same way, 'left off the hook', is incorrect, even though that is what many people write. The correct form is 'let off the hook".
Fourth, bear in mind, that there are 100 questions to be answered in 60 minutes. What this means is that you have to answer every question in 45 seconds, as anything more than that would mean that you can’t finish all the questions before time runs out.
One very good advice is that it is better to skip a question whose answer is not easily forthcoming than to waste a minute or more on it, at the expense of the other questions. It makes a lot of sense to go through all the 100 questions, having skipped, say, eight or 10, instead of being asked to stop work with, say, 25 questions or more to go.
Now, let’s look at some of the objective test questions, starting with those that require you to provide correct prepositions to go with some verbs. Note that particular verbs take particular prepositions, meaning that matching a preposition with a verb just because you hear other people do that or it sounds well is not right.
Note also that a verb may take two or more prepositions depending on the context in which the verb is being used.
That is why agree, for instance, could take with on, to; responsible for, responsible to, etc.
The boys agreed with their father.
We agreed on the price for the goat.
Every member of the club agrees to pay monthly.
Parnts are responsible for their children’s upkeep (that is, parents must provide for their children).
The assistant headmaster is responsible to the headmaster (that is, he is accontable to the headmaster).