The Ultimate Guide To ES1103 (NUS)

ES1103 Review

The Qualifying English Test (QET) is an English test set by the CELC of NUS, done to assess you if you do not possess the relevant English Language qualifications upon matriculation into the university.

Based on your QET results, there will be 3 possible outcomes:

  1. If you get Band 1 in the QET, you will be required to take both ES1000 and ES1103.
  2. If you get Band 2 in the QET, you will be required to take only ES1103.
  3. If you get Band 3 in the QET, you will be exempted from both modules.
Module CodeModule Name
ES1000Foundation Academic English
ES1103English for Academic Purposes

To put it simply, the QET’s purpose is to test if you are capable of writing at the academic standards of the university. 

If you’re reading this, I’m assuming that you probably:

  • Obtained a Band 2 and is wondering what to expect from ES1103
  • Or just completed ES1000 and is wondering what ES1103 has in store for you

So, let’s hop straight into it, and let me share with you my experience and what I know about this module!

What is ES1103?

What exactly is ES1103?” and “What is the purpose of it?” are probably questions you have on your mind. Well, ES1103 is the module known as English for Academic Purposes

“According to NUS, ES1103 aims to “equip students with the knowledge of the academic genre and the ability to apply such knowledge in academic communication”.”

In simpler terms, to guide you on how to construct good academic writings. The purpose is to ensure that during your time in university, you can consistently churn out writings that meet the academic standards of your respective fields.

For example, understanding the appropriate tones to use when writing a research paper if you major in science.

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ES1103 also doubles as a prerequisite module for writing modules that you may have within your major or faculty. For example within the CHS faculty, there are 2 writing modules that are part of the common curriculumSP1541, FAS1101 – that have ES1103 as their prerequisite.

  • Arts and Social Sciences Majors are required to do FAS1101
  • Science Majors are required to do SP1541
Module CodeModule Name
SP1541Exploring Science Communication through Popular Science
FAS1101Writing Academically: Arts and Social Sciences

As you are required to pass either of the 2 modules to graduate, it is important that you pass ES1103 so that you can take them! The list of other modules which may also have ES1103 as a prerequisite can be found here on NUSMods.

However, if you do obtain a Band 3 or possess the relevant English qualifications, you will be allowed to take these faculty-specific modules without taking ES1103.

Is ES1103 considered as an Unrestricted Elective (UE)?

ES1103 is not considered a UE in the sense that, under normal circumstances, you would not be able to register for this module. You can only take this module if you obtained Band 1 or Band 2 for your QET. 

This module, however, does still carry 4 modular credits (MCs). It will still count towards your total UE’s that you need to graduate even though it does not count to the 60-MC limit of level-1000 modules as seen here.

Can I take ES1103 during the Special Term?

Important note: The list of modules available for the Special Term may change each academic year so keep yourself updated!

As I took ES1103 as per normal during my first semester, I am not too certain on the specifics of taking ES1103 during the Special Term. However, based on NUS’s website, you can take ES1103 during the Special Term Part 1. 

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All you need to do to find out what modules are available during each Special Term is to – scroll down to the section titled “Modules Available”  on this page and click the link provided for undergraduate and non-graduating students (pictured below).

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If you want specifics about the Special Term such as their fees, you can refer to this link.

However, a brief explanation based on my understanding would be that to take the module during the Special Term, you would have to apply for it during a set time frame based on the schedule provided by NUS here. The schedule can be found by expanding the section titled “Module Registration” (pictured below).

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There are 2 different Special Term module registration periods as the Special Term is split into 2  – one taking place from May to June, with the other being from June to July.  

  • If your module of interest takes place during Special Term Part 1 (May to June) – Registration is in March
  • If your module of interest takes place during Special Term Part 2 (June to July) – Registration is in June

Thus, if you are interested in taking ES1103 during the Special Term, do take note of which registration period you belong to! Registration for modules during the Special Term will also take place on the EduRec website under “Module Registration” of the “Academics Tab”.

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Grading Allocation (%)

Good news for you! ES1103 has no examinations but instead, there are 5 coursework assessments (CA’s) for you to do over the semester. These 5 coursework assessments, together with a video submission and tutorial participation will make up 100% of your total grade.

Grading allocation:

  • CA1: Synthesis Tasks – 20%
  • CA2: Problem Solution Essay (Part 1) First Draft – 10%
  • CA3: Problem Solution Essay (Part 1) Second Draft – 20%
  • CA4: Problem Solution Essay (Part 2) – 20%
  • CA5: Problem Solution Essay (Complete) – 10%
  • Video Submission + Tutorial Participation – 20 %


Through this module, you can expect to gain an understanding of how to properly structure your academic writings while learning ways to enhance them through the usage of linguistic toolkitsnoun groups, lexical chains, logical linkers, etc.

You will also be given a refresher on how to properly cite sources and the different types of citations – author prominent, information prominent, in-text, and end-text citations. 

And finally, have the chance to practice your paraphrasing skills, which is important so you don’t run the risk of plagiarism which is taken seriously by NUS.

Brief run-through of the content

Disclaimer: The contents of the module and CA’s may be subject to change over time.

As there are too many chapters to break down individually, I will give you a brief idea of what to expect based on my experience! 

This module can be split into 2 separate parts – Part 1 which takes place from Week 2-6 and Part 2 which takes place from Week 7-13.

Part 1 (Weeks 2-6)

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Based on the lecture notes provided to me, the first part of this module is fairly simple. The beginning week focuses on introducing the different types of academic texts and the differences between them genre, language used, purpose, etc.

It then progresses to the essential skills that you may need during your studies – paraphrasing, citing, and synthesizing. Paraphrasing and citing are quite self-explanatory. Synthesizing refers to how you can take information from multiple sources and combine them to form an idea or stance towards a topic. 

The rest of the tutorial classes will then focus more on how to write a good essay – such as having cohesion between your paragraphs or having a good introduction with a strong thesis statement.

Part 2 (Week 7-13)

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The second half of this module is also fairly straightforward and focuses on introducing the different linguistic toolkits to help enhance your essays. As you can see from the image, even though Part 2 lasts 2 weeks longer than Part 1, there are actually fewer tutorial classes in Part 2.

The reason for this is that 6 of the tutorial time slots will be used for consultations with your module tutor – 3 slots being used for CA3 consultation and 3 for CA4 consultations. You will only be required to attend 1 out of 3 of the slots for each CA consultation

During your consultations, you will receive feedback from your tutors on how you can structure or write your essays better – such as by having better cohesion between your paragraphs. You can also use this time to clarify doubts or questions you may have for the different CA’s.

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Source: GIPHY

I personally made use of my consultations to check if, at any point, did my essays go off-topic and for suggestions on what I should focus on for each of my body paragraphs of my essay. 

For example, as I chose to write an essay on eating disorders, I had chats with my tutor to clarify if it would be better to write in-depth on a single treatment option available or explain briefly the various treatment options available.

Brief Explanation of each Coursework Assessments (CA’s)

In total, you will be required to do a total of 5 CA’s. CA2-5 are all related, being built off each other while CA1 is completely unrelated to the rest.


CA1 is probably the easiest CA out of the 5, where you will be required to write an essay to support a single stance towards a topic. It’s basically an argumentative essay, but easier. 

The sources where you will extract the information to base your argument on, are even provided to you so you don’t even have to look!

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Snippet of a prompt provided by my tutors

For my CA1, the topic was if historical artifacts should be returned to their place of origin, so I had to take the stance of either supporting or arguing against the idea of returning them.


CA2 to CA5 are all linked together and are essays that progressively build on each other – being based on the same topic.

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Snippet of a prompt provided by my tutors

As seen from the snippet above, CA2 only requires you to introduce the topic and describe the problem arising from the topic. For me, my topic of choice was the increasing social media usage and the problem arising was eating disorders.

After your CA2 is completed, you will be tasked to do a peer review with your tutorial class. This is where you will read and comment on your tutorial groupmates’ CA2 essays and they will likewise do so for you.

The peer review will be done using a checklist that is provided by your tutors.

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Based on their feedback, you will then rewrite your CA2 and this new essay will be your CA3.

Your CA4 will then be about the currently existing solutions available to your problem introduced in CA2. This is then followed by a recommendation of a new possible solution and finally, the conclusion of the essay.

CA5 is the final assessment and the combination of your CA3 and CA4 to form a fully completed essay.

When I was taking this module, all 5 of my CA’s were done at home and were not timed assessments, like they were in the past. All I had to ensure was that they were submitted on time to the submissions folder on LumiNUS. This was probably a result of COVID.

Brief Explanation of the Video Submission

Here I will briefly explain what you will be expected to do for the video submission:

The video submission requires you to analyse any selected academic text of your choice. Your analysis will be based on the criteria provided by your tutors – identifying the main message of the text, linguistic toolkits used, types of references used, etc.

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This was what I was tasked with finding for my text analysis

Your analysis would be done on PowerPoint and after, you will be required to do a voice-over to explain the contents of each slide. After the voice-over is incorporated into the slides on Microsoft Powerpoint, you will then submit it as a video.

This video submission actually replaces a live presentation which used to be part of this module. However, it was scrapped due to COVID making it not possible to have live classes.


There are no lectures for this module and tutorial sessions are conducted completely online over Zoom.


You will have a total of around 18 tutorial sessions, spread across the 14 weeks with an additional 2 consultation sessions. For most of the weeks, you will have 2 tutorial sessions and you can choose which days you want to have your tutorial classes – when registering for the module.

Each of your tutorial sessions is scheduled to last for 2 hours but based on my experience, my tutor usually ended slightly past the 1.5-hour mark. Ultimately, it is still based on your tutor as I have had some friends taking the module who usually ended before the 1.5 hours mark.

Is ES1103 very time-consuming?

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Source: GIPHY

I would say that ES1103 is actually a pretty chill module. Apart from the two 2-hour tutorial sessions each week, there is no need to read up or study the module outside of these sessions. This is due to the lack of examinations and the content being fairly easy to digest.

You might still take a fair bit of time to do each CA but that does boil down to how easy it is to research information about your topic.

For example, some of my friends did their essays on climate change, which is a highly popular topic of interest. Thus, they did not need to do much digging to find the information they needed and completed their essays pretty quickly in around 3-4 hours.

I, on the other hand, being a wiseacre, decided to do my essay on eating disorders. Information and relevant research on eating disorders were fairly difficult to find as they had only come to light in the recent decade. Thus, it was an arguably tedious process to look for the information I needed and I usually took around 6-7 hours to complete my essays.

Well, so I guess if you’re looking for an easy time with this module, just look for an easier topic to write on.

Is ES1103 tough?

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Source: GIPHY

ES1103 is honestly probably the easiest module that I’ve taken and you will probably take. The content of the module is extremely straightforward and I doubt that you will have any trouble understanding them.

With that said, while it is easy to understand and digest, there is a tad difficulty in writing the essays required especially if you haven’t written essays in a long while. Coming from a polytechnic background in science, I personally hadn’t written essays since secondary school so it did challenge me in the beginning.

However, with the constant support and feedback from my tutor, the process did become easier with each CA. And at the end of the module, I do feel a lot more confident in being able to structure and write a good academic essay.

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Comments made by my tutor after my CA4

Bell Curve and S/U

Based on my experience, I would say that unless you have a good command of English or background in writing essays – Literature, etc. – do expect to score around a B for the module. I was not the best writer throughout the module. However, I still managed to score an average of B for each of the CA’s.

The grading of this module is moderated by the module coordinator and thus the number of A’s given is limited. The A’s are usually reserved for the best writers in your class and based on my tutorial group, only around 4 people were given A’s in a class of 18

As such, I would say that scoring an average grade is not too difficult, as long as you put in the effort to listen in class and absorb the content and feedback from your tutors. Scoring an A, however, is definitely tougher due to the small amount of A’s given out.

You can S/U this mod if you want to, but I do feel that you should still try and make an effort to listen to the class as the content taught can be beneficial to you!

How beneficial or relevant is this module?

I would say that you definitely should keep an open mind when going into this module. 

In this day and age, most of us come from an English educated background so you might probably be thinking – “What can I gain from an English module when I’ve been speaking English my whole life?”.

“There is a lot to be gained from taking this module – from understanding ways to enhance your writings to making you a more comfortable writer!”

For example, skills, such as the usage of lexical chains to create textual cohesion was something that I, a “native English speaker”, had never heard before in my life. 

I will admit that some of the ideas and concepts taught, do come to us intuitively such as the usage of logical linkerswhile, as, before.

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Slide from my tutor’s notes

However, I do feel that being aware of such concepts ensures that while writing, we are more conscious about our word choices and know ways that we can improve them. 

For example, while vetting through this article, I realised that the phrase “about the words that we choose to use” could be simply rephrased into “word choices”, which you see now in the preceding paragraph. This is actually known as the usage of noun groups – another linguistic toolkit!

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Furthermore, the skills learned throughout this module can be applied anywhere else as most disciplines do still require you to construct academic writings in English.


So what is my verdict on this module?

I would say that this module is honestly pretty straightforward and not too tough! For most of the semester, this module was on the back of my mind and I honestly didn’t focus too much on it and I feel that you don’t need to!

As long as you listen attentively and participate in class and absorb the feedback your tutor provides you, there isn’t much of a need to study this module outside of class as it’s at its core – just an English module and not like a Science or Math module, where you need to study them.

However, the knowledge that you can pick from this module is extremely valuable and can be applied no matter the field that you are in!

Thus, do listen in class and keep an open mind about learning things that you may already know. I know it definitely feels like a chore, learning all these “English stuffs” all over again but I mean if you’re already pre-allocated it, just make the best of it!

“Learn what you can because you never know when they might help you in the future”

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Isaac Lim

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