Errors in PMR English paper

By Mr. Lim in The Star

I WISH to highlight some glaring errors which appeared in English Paper 1 of the recent PMR (Penilaian Menengah Rendah) examination.

Candidates had to read through a passage and answer questions 29 to 34. I was both disappointed and surprised as the passage had some serious errors.

In the first paragraph, the author wrote: “Being a Penangite, it was indeed fun to go somewhere far as it would be a change from my normal routine…”

This is a classic dangling modifier in which the author refers it (the trip) as a Penangite.

There were two other flaws in the second paragraph:

The first one “Drop me off at a small town” should correctly read as “in a small town” while the other one “I went to enquire at the bus station” should in fact read “I went to enquire about the bus schedule at the bus station”.

The writer wrote in the third paragraph: “… I alighted where most buses stopped for passengers to get refreshments and stretch their legs.”

Did he or she really mean he or she got off the bus where most buses stopped for passengers to get refreshments and stretch their legs?

Then, in the fourth paragraph, the passage read: “I enquired from someone and was told to wait at a bus stop across the road. Hence, I waited eagerly…”

The word “hence” means “for that reason” and to me, it is not an appropriate word to use in that context. The word “hence” is a formal word, it should not be included in that context and is not followed by a comma but a noun, or noun phrase.

For example, “He was involved in a serious road accident – hence the scars.”

This is like a square peg in a round hole. Hence, the writer or teacher has poor diction.

Furthermore, the usage, “I enquired from” is not a standard form of English, it should be “I enquired of”.

I was fuming with anger when I read the last sentence of the passage: “This will definitely be one experience that I will never forget!”

What was the author trying to say – did the experience happen or did it not? It should read: “That was definitely an experience that I will never forget!”

Did the author imply that the experience is yet to happen? The correct one should be: “That was definitely an experience that I will never forget!”

In question 32, “The word alighted means: A – got down…”. In standard English, we do not say “get down the bus”, we use “get off the bus”.

In question 33, “The bus stopped at Yong Peng to allow the passengers to: A – take a nap; B – relax themselves; C – check into a hotel…”

The phrase “check into a hotel” (in C) should in fact read “check in at a hotel” or “check in to a hotel”.

The word “relax” (in B) is not used with reflexive pronouns like myself, yourself , themselves, etc.

There were at least four or five grave grammatical mistakes in this PMR 2010 English Paper 1 passage.

It is a shame that such errors have appeared in the language paper of a major national exam!

Even the reviewers, who must be English Language specialists, were not able to detect the mistakes.

There is a Russian proverb that aptly says, “A fish rots from the head down’’.

If we want to improve the standard of English in Malaysia, we have to retrain our English teachers comprehensively and thoroughly.

We have to do it before they start teaching our children. Please do something about this situation fast for the sake of our next generation.


*This letter was published in The Star.