Choose the right picture for Primary 4 English composition

For the Primary 4 composition exam, pupils are expected to be able to write a descriptive story of considerable length with meaningful content.

The first step to doing this is to choose the right picture or pictures to write the composition.

When choosing a picture to write a composition, pupils often select the one which they can immediately think of the *conflict (the main problem in a story). Most do think that if a conflict quickly comes to their minds then the writing of the story should be just as easy.

However, not all conflicts are equal. This means some conflicts are more difficult to write than others and pupils will have difficulty only when they start to write the story. By then, it will be too late to write another story and they can only try their best to complete the writing even though they are struggling to write the details.

Therefore, choosing the right picture is the important first step to writing a mark-scoring composition.

Today, we will use a Primary 4 composition topic to explain how to choose the right picture and why.

Primary 4 English composition topic

As clearly depicted, not all the pictures look connected. The first important exam tip is there is no need to combine all 3 pictures. Some pupils mistakenly think that extra marks will be given if they write a composition which makes use of all 3 pictures.

Let’s look at the most common picture selection for the Primary 4 composition topic

Primary 4 composition topic picture of a train
Primary 4 composition topic picture of a girl crying

Conflict 1

A girl was lost in the train station.


At a glance, this conflict does seem to fit the title “The day you helped someone”. It seems very possible that a girl was lost in a train station and you helped her to find her mother.

1) Why was she lost? 

Most pupils are inclined to write that

a)  The girl’s mother boarded the train without her.

b)  The girl’s mother lost her in the crowded train station.

2) How did you help her?

If her mother boarded the train without her, how would you know where her mother had gone to? How were you going to reunite her with her mother?

Do you know who or where in the train station to bring the lost girl to for help?

If her mother lost her in the train station, remember that a train station is a rather confined space. Wouldn’t her mother easily find her or wouldn’t you easily find her mother?

Doesn’t this mean that there are not many helping actions which you can do?

Wouldn’t the story have to end rather quickly then?

Doesn’t this mean the story will be too short with insufficient helping actions?


This is the type of conflict which is easily thought of but difficult to write a detailed composition on.

Let’s move on to the next picture selection:

Conflict 2

A girl fell down at the playground.


It is true that you can help the girl after she fell down. Since you are helping the girl, the story does seem to fit the title.

However, consider the following question –

1) How did you help her?

Since she fell down, it is realistic to assume that you would :

  • help her to her feet
  • comfort her
  • help her home

Even though it fits the title, doesn’t the storyline seem relatively brief and simple?

When pupils write a composition based on this storyline, it is likely that :

a) Most pupils will find it challenging to expand the helping actions above with meaningful details.

b) Some pupils will try to lengthen the story with unnecessary content.


This conflict is considered too small to be the main problem for the story. This results in pupils struggling to complete the writing of the story.

Let’s look at the last picture selection:

Conflict 3

A girl was lost in the shopping centre.


To consider if this conflict is story-worthy, you will need to consider the same question – How did you help her?

Since she fell down, it is realistic to assume that you would :

  • comfort her
  • retrace the girl’s steps by bringing her to where she was last at with her mother.
  • bring her around the shopping centre to look for her mother.
  • bring her to the Information Counter to seek the staff’s help.
  • accompany her till her mother arrived.

As you move around in the shopping centre, there are actions which you can create to help the girl.

More movement leads to more actions and ultimately more content.


This conflict can create sufficient meaningful content for pupils to write a descriptive story.

When pupils learn how to evaluate and select the right picture or pictures, it is the first step to writing a good composition.

For Primary 4 pupils, it is important to note that smart picture selection is an important skill for Primary 5 and Primary 6 composition writing. Therefore, it is always good to master the skill early.

Smart picture selection is one of the important composition exam skills covered in our upcoming holiday workshop. Enjoy a special discount when you enrol your child today!

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