Evolving Wisdom WAEC Syllabus for English 2021 | Hot Topics to Read and Pass

WAEC Syllabus for English (2021) to Read if You Must Pass (Download PDF)

Are you a WAEC candidate and you are looking for the English syllabus? You are in the right place. Here in SCHOOLISLE, I will give you the Comprehensive list of all topics on English to read so as to pass your exams without stress.

Intro to WAEC English syllabus

The English syllabus contains all the English topics recommended by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) for candidates to read in preparation for their exams. This simply means that your questions won’t come outside these topics.

The WAEC board understands that English is vast and contains several topics just like other subjects. For this reason, they gave students area of concentration. These topics are also available in PDF format. Scroll down to download.

How to pass your WAEC English examination

Read Also: Comprehensive WAEC Syllabus for Government 2021/2022 and the Recommended Textbooks (Download PDF)

Under this sub-topic, I’ll share with you a few tips on how to make your WAEC (English) at once. It very simple.

  1. Start early to cover the syllabus. This is one of the most effective tactics. When you start on time to read, you read without tension and before you know it, you have covered all.
  2. Even though you didn’t read all, read at least 70%. Don’t just download the syllabus and keep. Try your best to cover it all before exam and if you fail to cover all, try to cover greater part of it.
  3. If your exam is already around the corner when you saw this syllable, simply calm your nerves and take it bit by bit. Don’t rush it. Even though you must do, read it with ease. Don’t be nervous while reading it. It has been proven that the human brain is more productive when it’s under stress or pressure. But, it only works for anyone who knows how to manage it.
  4. In the examination hall, read every instruction before you do anything.
  5. Also be conscious of your time. Ensure you alot time to each question and manage it well.

WAEC Syllabus for English 2021


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


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:

  1. letter
  2. speech
  3. narrative
  4. description
  5. debate/argumentative
  6. report
  7. article
  8. exposition
  9. creative writing.

Credit will be given for
(a) Content:

relevance of ideas to the topic and its specified audience and

(b) Organization:

formal features (where applicable), good paragraphing,
appropriate emphasis and arrangement of ideas;

(c) Expression

control of vocabulary and sentence structure;

(d) Mechanical Accuracy:

grammar, punctuation and spelling.

IMPORTANT: The minimum length expected will be 450 words.


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:

  1. find appropriate equivalents for selected words and phrases.
  2. understand the factual content.
  3. make inferences from the content of the passages.
  4. respond to uses of English expressions to reveal/reflect
  5. identifyand label basic grammatical structures, words, phrases or clauses and explain their functions as they appear in the context.
  6. identifyand explain basic literary terms and expressions.
  7. recastphrases 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.


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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

  1. extract relevant information
  2. summarize the points demanded in clear, concise English
  3. present a summary of specific aspects or portions of the passage.
  4. 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.


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.


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:


  1. Building;
  2. Plumbing
  3. Fishing
  4. Finance – commerce, banking, stock exchange, insurance
  5. Photography
  6. Mineral exploitation
  7. common manufacturing industries
  8. Printing, publishing, the press and libraries
  9. Sea, road, rail and air transport
  10. Government and politics
  11. Sports and entertainment
  12. Religion
  13. Science and Technology
  14. Powerproduction – hydro, thermal, solar
  15. Education
  16. Transportand Communication
  17. Military
  18. Journalismand Advertising.

B. 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.

C. Structural elements of English

e.g. sequence of tenses, matching of pronouns with
noun referents, use of correct prepositions.

D. Figurative usage | Waec syllabus for English

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.


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.


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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.


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
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:

  1. test of vowel and/or consonant contrasts in sentence contexts.
  2. test of vowel and consonant contrasts in isolated words – to be selected from a list of at least four-word contrasts;
  3. test of vowel and consonant contrasts through rhymes.


Test of rhyming

Section 6

Test of comprehension of emphatic stress.

Section 7

Test of understanding of intonation through short dialogues.

Section 8

Testof understanding of the content of longer dialogues and narratives.

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

Features to be tested | WAEC English topics


(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

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


  1. Pure Vowels
  2. Diphthongs
  3. Triphthongs

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


(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

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

Candidatesshould 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 | Waec syllabus for English

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).

(a) Falling Pattern

(b) Rising Pattern

Note that:

  1. the two patterns indicated above may be combined in longer sentences,
  2. 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!

WH — question

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

Yes/No question

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


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
  2. diphthongs
  3. consonants
  4. word stress
  5. sentence stress
  6. emphatic/contrastive stress
  7. consonant clusters
  8. voweland consonant contrasts through rhymes.

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

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:


  • 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)

10 (5 vocalic and 5 consonantal)

Download Waec syllabus for English language

Here comes the end of the 2021 WAEC Syllabus for English. You can also check this blog for the syllabus of other subjects you are offering.

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