IGCSE English (First Language): Specimen Questions with Answers 167 - 168 of 179


Here is a narrative story of Kushwanth Singh’s Portrait of Lady.

My grandmother, like everybody’s grandmother, was an old woman. She had been old and wrinkled for the twenty years that I had known her. People said that she had once been young and pretty and had even had a husband, but that was hard to believe. She often told us of the games she used to play as a child. That seemed quite absurd and undignified on her part and we treated it like the fables of the Prophets she used to tell us. She had always been short and fat and slightly bent. Her face was a crisscross of wrinkles running from everywhere to everywhere. No, we were certain she had always been as we had known her. Old, so terribly old that she could not have grown older, and had stayed at the same age for twenty years. She could never have been pretty; but she was always beautiful. She hobbled about the house in spotless white with one hand resting on her waist to balance her stoop and the other telling the beads of her rosary. Her silver locks were scattered untidily over her pale, puckered face, and her lips constantly moved in inaudible prayer. Yes, she was beautiful. She was like the winter landscape in the mountains, an expanse of pure white serenity breathing peace and contentment. My grandmother always went to school with me because the school was attached to the temple. The priest taught us the alphabet and the Morning Prayer. While the children sat in rows on either side of the verandah singing the alphabet or the prayer in a chorus, my grandmother sat inside reading the scriptures. When we had both finished, we would walk back together. This time the village dogs would meet us at the temple door. They followed us to our home growling and fighting with each other for the chapatti we threw to them.

When I went up to University, I was given a room of my own. The common link of friendship was snapped. My grandmother accepted her seclusion with resignation. She rarely left her spinning wheel to talk to anyone. From sunrise to sunset she sat by her wheel spinning and reciting prayers. Only in the afternoon she relaxed for a while to feed the sparrows. While she sat in the verandah breaking the bread into little bits, hundreds of little birds collected round her creating a veritable bedlam of chirruping. Some came and perched on her legs, others on her shoulders. Some even sat on her head. She smiled but never shooed them away.

It used to be the happiest half-hour of the day for her. Even on the first day of my arrival, her happiest moments were with her sparrows that she fed longer and with frivolous rebukes. The next morning, she was taken ill. She lay peacefully in bed praying and telling her beads. Even before we could suspect, her lips stopped moving and the rosary fell from her lifeless fingers. A peaceful pallor spread on her face and we knew that she was dead. We left her alone to decide for her funeral. In the evening we went to her room with a crude stretcher to take her to be cremated.

The sun was setting and had lit her room and verandah with a blaze of golden light. We stopped half-way in the courtyard. All over the verandah and in her room right up to where she laid dead and stiff wrapped in the red shroud, thousands of sparrows sat scattered on the floor. There was no chirruping. We felt sorry for the birds and my mother fetched some bread for them. She broke it into little crumbs, the way my grandmother used to, and threw it to them. The sparrows took no notice of the bread. When we carried my grandmother’s corpse off, they flew away quietly. Next morning the sweeper swept the bread crumbs into the dustbin.

Question 167 (3 of 3 Based on Passage)


Write in Short

Short Answer▾

As young Khushwant Singh, write a letter to your parents describing your daily routine along with your thoughts and feelings about staying in the village.



6th July 2,020

Dear Dad and Mom, Well and wish to hear the same from you. Here I am fine. Grandma is also fine. She fills my belly with her hand made-delicious chapattis. Not only that, she teaches me a lot of moral stories. She helps me even in arithmetic’s too. We go to school regularly in the morning. At that moment she feeds the stray dogs with stale chapattis. When I attend my school, she is praying at the temple which is beside the school.

When we return home in the evening the dogs follow us. They fight with one another for the chapattis we give them. I feel very happy for being here with my sweet grandma. Take care of your health. There is no need to worry about me. I enjoy my life with my sweet grandma.

With regards

Yours loving son,

Khushwant Singh

Address on the envelope:

To, 88 Sir Sobha Singh, 3.

Sixth Avenue Hadali,

Khushab district, Kerala,

Descriptive writing


The Model Millionaire

Hughie was wonderfully good looking with his crisp brown hair, his clear-cut profile, and his grey eyes. He was as popular with men as he was with women, and he had every accomplishment except that of making money. He had tried everything. But he became nothing, a delightful, ineffectual young man with a perfect profile and no profession.

Hughie wanted to marry Laura Merton, the daughter of a retired Colonel. The Colonel was very fond of Hughie but would not hear of any engagement. “Come to me my boy, when you have got ten thousand pounds of your own and we will see about it, ” he said. Hughie looked very glum and he cursed himself for his inability to fulfil the condition.

One morning as he was on his way to Holland Park, he dropped in to see a great friend of his, Alan Trevor. Trevor was a painter. He was a strange rough fellow with a freckled face and a red ragged beard.

When he took up the brush, he was a real master and his pictures were eagerly sought after.

When Hughie came in, he found Trevor painting the final additions to a wonderful life size picture of a beggar man. The beggar himself was standing on a platform in a corner of the studio. He was a wizened old man with a face like wrinkled parchment and a most piteous expression. Over his shoulders was flung a coarse brown cloak, all tears, and tatters; his thick boots were patched and cobbled and with one hand he leant on a rough stick while with the other he held out his battered hat for alms.

“What an amazing model! ” whispered Hughie, as he shook hands withhis friend.

“An amazing model? ” shouted Trevor at the top of his voice. “I should think so! Such beggars as he is not to be met with every day. “

“Poor old chap! ” said Hughie, “how miserable he looks! But I suppose to youpainters, his face is his fortune? “

“Certainly, you don’t want a beggar to look happy, do you? “

“How much does a model get for sitting? ” asked Hughie.

“A shilling an hour. “

“And how much do you get for your picture, Alan? “

“Oh! For this I get two thousand pounds. “

After sometime, the servant came in and told Trevor that the frame maker wanted to speak to him. “Don’t run away Hughie” he said, as he went out, “I’ll be back in a moment. ” The old beggar took advantage of Trevor’s absence to rest for a moment on a wooden bench. He looked so forlorn that Hughie could not help pitying him. All he could find was a sovereign and some coppers.

“Poor old fellow, ” he to himself and slipped the sovereign into the beggar’s hand. The old man said, “Thank you sir. ” Then Trevor arrived and Hughie took his leave.

The next day when Hughie visited Trevor, he was surprised to hear that the model kept asking Trevor for all details about him. Trevor informed Hughie that he had clearly explained Hughie’s condition to the old model. “What! You told that old beggar all my private affairs? ” cried Hughie looking very red and angry. “My dear boy, ” said Trevor smiling, “that old beggar as you call him is one of the richest men in Europe. He is Baron Hausberg. He is a great friend of mine. “

“Good Heavens! I gave him a sovereign! ” and he sank into an armchair. “Gave him a sovereign! ” shouted Trevor and he burst into a roar of laughter.

“What will he think of me? ” said Hughie. “Oh, my God! I could not make out why he was so interested to know all about you; but I see it all now. He will invest your sovereign for you, Hughie, pay you the interest every six months and have a capital story to tell after dinner, ” commented Trevor.

The next morning as he was at breakfast, the servant brought him a card on which was written Baron Hausberg and Hughie told the servant to show the visitor up. An old gentleman came into the room. “I have come from Baron Hausberg, ” he continued. “I beg sir, that you will offer him my apologies, ” stammered Hughie.

“The Baron, ” said the old gentleman with a smile, “has commissioned me to bring you this letter, ” and he extended a sealed envelope, on which was written “A wedding present to Hugh Erskine – Hughie and Laura – from an ‘old beggar’ and inside was a cheque for ten thousand pounds.

“Millionaire models” remarked Alan, “are rare enough, but by Joe! Model Millionaires are rarer still! “

Question 168 (4 of 7 Based on Passage)


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Short Answer▾

Imagine another possible reaction the Baron could have had on receiving alms from Hughie. (Marks 25)


The Baron was a rich man in Europe. He was posing as a beggar for his friend Trevor. But Hughie did not know the truth. He thought that the Baron was a real beggar. So, he gave a shilling as alms. It was a great dishonor for a rich man. So, the Baron could have got angry with him and behaved in an impolite manner. This is another possible reaction the Baron could have had on receiving alms from Hughie.