Model Essay
by English Mastery Teachers

‘It was my proudest moment.’

Write about a time when you felt like this.

2019 O Level English Examination Question

I was the last speaker to deliver my speech in the room. Our school team sat just a meter or so away, so nervous I could physically feel anxiety radiating from them. Every painful hour of training we submitted ourselves to was for this moment. So far, it had gone well: we had trounced so many of the so-called elite debate teams, cementing our status as the underdog. No one expected a team of seemingly-quiet girls to have come this far, but here we were, in the finals, against a team that had won the championship for ten years in a row. 

Our coach held our hands tightly as we walked towards the lecture theatre where the results would be announced, reassuring us that we did well, and that accomplishing a guaranteed silver medal was still good enough. However, secretly in our heart of hearts, we hoped we would take the gold. Otherwise, what was all that training for?

I was so nervous I kept quiet, feeling the sweat trickle down the back of the school’s formal uniform that was set apart for only students who participate in the most prestigious competitions. My tie suddenly felt tight and uncomfortable, but I did not dare to loosen it and sully our image. Walking into the blessed air-conditioning of the lecture theatre, we sat down and awaited our fate. Unfortunately, we were seated next to our competitors, who kept pointing at us and laughing condescendingly, as if they were expecting the win.

“And the winner of the Singapore Debating Championships is..."

He trailed off into silence but I swore you could hear our collective hearts pounding in sheer anxiety. 

When he cried out our school name, I could not even react. It was like an absolute dream when everyone started bursting into tears of joy, while I stared, stunned, until I finally realised what happened. We won. The underdogs won. We, the quiet, unassuming team that had just barely made it to this high-level division via the qualifiers won. Our competitors looked disgusted and refused to shake our hands, choosing instead to cast us looks of disdain.

It was then my team and I stepped forward with courage we never knew we had, and turned around to face our opponents.

“You will display proper gentlemanly behaviour and sportsmanship, or you will forever be known as bad losers,” I managed to say, as politely as I could, even though I wanted to scream inside me. Staring them directly in the eye even though I was at least a head shorter than them, I refused to break my gaze.  

Finally, they looked away, then embarrassedly stuck out their hands.

That was when I felt the proudest of myself and of my team. It was not the gold medal that went around our necks, not the championship trophy that we got to bring home, but the act of standing up against people who truly believed we would not make it. We had struggled through so much to make it this far and we deserved that respect. Even though we had to demand it, I still proudly reached out and shook their hands. From that day on, we would not just be known for our debating prowess, but for the fact that even though we seemed like pushovers, we were incredibly strong. Our gold medals shone brightly under the lights, but our faces and spirits shone ever brighter.

Total: 572 words

Teacher's Commentary

  1. Building Tension
    We knew we were going to have fun with this question! We wanted to build up the tension and have it culminate at the point where we could describe where the writer was at her proudest.
  2. Championship Setting
    We picked a championship setting because it was the most relatable setting. We thought of setting it up so that it would seem that we were proudest because our hard work had won us the tournament.
  3. Competitor vs Home Team 
    It was important to show the build-up as to how and why we were so proud. So, we developed the contrast between the main team and the competitor’s team.
  4. The Twist
    The climax was not the win as expected, but rather the moment where their characters were tested. Since the main team of the story was described as quiet and unassuming, speaking up against the more arrogant competitor’s team would be a surprise that no one would expect in the story.
  5. Reflection
    Finally, it was important to have some reflection as to why that was the proudest moment. This part would differentiate this writing from other students who chose the same 2019 O Level English examination topic. While other students would write about hard work paying off, we would talk about standing up for ourselves.

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