Today, we are honoured to have one of Ai Tong Primary School’s top PSLE students, Ms Liew Ai Xin, on-board. As our interview guest, she will share her journey in preparing for her PSLE, as well as her most effective revision tips.
PSLE is probably the most important national examination for Singapore’s kids. With it determining the next four to six years of a child’s life, it can be stressful to both parent and child. How do we ensure that our children are revising effectively? Are we as parents doing enough to help them? Do top performing students have some secret tips to acing their PSLE?
Let’s find out!
Hi Ai Xin, thank you for taking the time to share your insights on PSLE with us. Tell us a bit about yourself and what you are presently doing.
I’m currently a freshman at New York University, studying at the College of Arts and Science. Before arriving in the U. S., I had about a year off after graduating from Raffles Junior College (RJC), due to the States starting their school term in September. During those months, I worked as a private tutor, interned at a English & Writing centre, and also taught piano while pursuing my FTCL in Piano Performance.
What does it take to be a top student? What were the most important factors that aided you to effectively revise for the PSLE?
I remember my PSLE year very well. It was the year when everyone started buckling down to study. Suddenly, school became a serious place instead of a playground. My revision mantra can be distilled into 5 main tips.
Tip #1: Practise, practise, practise!
Assessment books were my constant companions throughout the year. Once I received the syllabi from my teacher, my parents and I would immediately head off to Popular and start buying assessment books. We would do chapters coinciding with whatever was being taught in school. This increased in intensity when the exams neared. Attempting and reviewing questions in assessment books definitely reinforced my grasp of key concepts in Mathematics and Science. This practice was equally beneficial for Higher Chinese, particularly for the Comprehension (理解问答) section. For English, however, I never really needed extra practice. My vocabulary was naturally boosted by the books I read, and I mostly needed assessment books to practise the oral component.
However, the assessment books took a backseat once the school covered the content for the year. In fact, near the end of the revision period (i.e. the months of August – October), I was doing four top schools’ papers a day; one for each subject. Doing these papers really let me know the type and standard of questions that other schools were testing their students on, and really gave me new challenges to tackle.
Tip #2: Understand and analyse your mistakes
Despite the above tip, I think one should not lose yourself in mindless studying. It does not matter if you finish all your assessment books, or if you can do > 10 papers a day, if you do not understand your mistakes. It is very important to ask for help, particularly from your teachers, especially when you have a weak spot that you fear. Only through understanding your mistakes will you truly improve.
Tip #3: Plan ahead
It is also prudent to plan ahead, especially once you receive your examination schedules. Most, if not all, oral examinations come first, so practise those first. This way, you can start preparing for your other subjects without worrying about your oral components. Also, know your own weak spots (see Tip #4). If you have certain topics that you know you stumble over easily, set more time to practise questions pertaining to that topic.
Tip #4: Work hard and play hard
The old adage, “Work hard and play hard” really comes to mind when I think on how I prepared for my PSLE. I remember my classmates and I would study together in class and test one another on memory work. Once PSLE was over, though, all mayhem broke loose. We played hide-and-seek, UNO and watched films together. That brief period of post exam fun would not have been so enjoyable if we had not studied hard together. Thus, it is important to remember that your classmates are the ones that are undergoing the same journey as you. Help them, and they will most likely be your friends for life.
Tip #5: Parental support is key
Last but not least, parental support is very important. In primary school, I was still quite reliant on my parents to dictate which hours of the day I should be studying, hence I did not do much time-tabling myself. That was a skill I only developed later in secondary school, and in particular Junior College, when I had to be more independent. Nonetheless, being stressed is inevitable during examination periods, and parents can help regardless of how old your child is. It does not have to be academic. During my PSLE year, I was very grateful to my parents for taking me out to the movies as a “reward” during those hectic months. It allowed me to relax and feel that I had a life outside of just studying.
Needless to say, one’s diet and exercise is very important. One bottle of chicken’s essence can only do so much! It’s more effective to sleep early and eat healthily.
How different would it be for you if you had digital access to challenging questions on platforms such as OwlSmart during your PSLE revision?
I think that it would have been a tremendous help in my PSLE revision. The challenging questions, provided that they are of high quality and relevance, would have greatly facilitated my revision.
During my revision for the PSLE, I remember feeling dissatisfied with the resources I had. Besides school-approved revision papers, which were few and far-between (as the school did not want to unduly “stress” us), I only had assessment books and school papers to practise on. The assessment books sometimes differed drastically in terms of difficulty and practicality. Sometimes, I bought and discarded immediately as they were too easy; and sometimes, I couldn’t finish because they were too obscure. Additionally, there is also no MOE-approved Ten-Year Series (TYS) for primary schools, so the papers I bought from vendors were not regulated. As such, some papers clearly had scribbles on them, or were carelessly photocopied. Some even had answer keys written by the vendors themselves, which would have been alright if they were 100% accurate! My parents and I really wasted a lot of precious time trying to figure out if we were wrong, only to realise that the provided answer key itself was incorrect.
Thus, if such a database can hit the sweet spot for questions, as well as be organised and regulated, that would have been of great use to me. It will also be more useful if there are explanations included in the answers, so that students can push themselves to learn.
Other than the questions, there is also the question of space! I also remember the stacks of books and papers would occupy a sizeable part of our living room. It was always a relief to get rid of them after exams ended! It would have been nice to have an electronic database that would have reduced my paper trail, and made it easy for me to access the questions in one spot.
Would you have any final tips for parents and their kids who are taking their PSLE this year?
PSLE is one year, but your relationship with your kids is forever. Balance the stress, and create some precious memories together!
OwlSmart would like to thank Ms Liew for taking the time to answer our questions and give us an insight into the strategies of a top PSLE student. We wish her continued excellence in her studies and career ahead.
OwlSmart is an essential revision tool for all PSLE students. With thousands of challenging questions adapted from top schools and model answers with explanations written by PSLE markers and teachers, you no longer need to hunt for top schools’ exam papers and shop for assessment books for the rest of the year. With OwlSmart, parents will gain instant insight to their child’s revision progress and quickly focus on the topics that they might be weak in. Sign up for a FREE TRIAL now!
About Ms. Liew
Ms. Liew Ai Xin was Ai Tong Primary School’s Top Singaporean Female Student in 2010. She then had the privilege of studying in both Raffles Girls’ School (RGS) and Raffles Institution (RI). A recent graduate of RI’s Humanities Programme, she hopes to go into the creative writing field. Besides writing, her interests also include piano performance. She is currently a freshman at New York University (NYU)’s College of the Arts & Sciences. When not hitting the books, she can be found watching cat videos on YouTube and missing bak kuh teh.