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Secrets Of A Top Teacher: Exam Strategies For Lower Primary Kids

SA1 Lower Primary

In Singapore, children in Primary 1 are usually spared from having to sit for school exams, but from Primary 2 onwards, they will have to get in the game.

“Lower primary students may find it difficult to face school examinations such as the upcoming SA1s,” says Sue Lynn Lee, the academic director in charge of early learning and lower primary education at The Learning Lab. “For a Primary 2 student, the SA1 is his or her first Semestral Assessment. For a Primary 3 student, he or she will have to tackle Science as a new examinable subject.”

Achieving success at lower primary examinations begins with a sound revision strategy, but how can parents help their children to ease into the process? Sue Lynn offers us her expert advice.

Between topical exercises and school exam papers, which is better for SA1 prep?

If your child is weak in a specific topic, then topical exercises will definitely be more beneficial for him or her to work on. Topical practices help to address any gaps in foundational knowledge and develop the skills your child needs, in order to apply his or her knowledge for each topic in the syllabus.

However, if you are looking to give your child a more holistic form of revision, exam papers will be most effective as they offer your child the opportunity to practise applying skills and knowledge by exam components. Working on papers will help him or her to become more familiar with the exam format as well as to engage in time management.

For a lower primary child, I recommend a mix of both topical exercises and exam paper practice:

  1. Start with exam paper practices to identify areas of weakness or difficulty in terms of component or topic.
  2. Proceed to use topical or component-specific practices to work on these areas of concern.
  3. Follow up with more mock paper or exam paper practice to ensure your child has the opportunity to apply the revised concepts and components.

Apart from practice questions, how else can lower primary kids prepare for their exams?

Review Past Work

Your child should revise work that has been done before. A lot of learning can be captured from revising past mistakes and the corrections that have been made.

Simulate Exam Conditions

Lower primary students should also work on exam papers under exam conditions. This involves doing the exam paper within a set time limit without the option of wandering around. When your child is familiar with exam conditions, it can help him or her to be calmer during the real exam, allowing for clearer thoughts and more effective time management.

Expose Your Child To Tougher Questions

Lower primary students can also practise the skill of managing difficult questions. They should:

  • be mentally prepared to encounter questions that they are uncertain of answering
  • know how to work on these questions using a strategy like the elimination method to weed out incorrect options
  • be encouraged to move on to the other questions and not spend too much time dwelling on the difficult question

What are the most effective study methods for each subject?

Most revision techniques work across all subjects; the important thing is that the technique must work for your child.

Practice Makes Perfect

As a general rule, constant and effective practice is very important. Reviewing past errors and the corresponding corrections is also very important. In the weeks leading up to the SA1s, our students at The Learning Lab attempt mock papers to learn how to tackle questions with speed and accuracy and apply exam skills that were taught.

Consult Your Child’s Teachers

Speaking to each of your child’s subject teachers will allow you to find out subject-specific details on the common errors students make, and the corresponding solutions to these pitfalls. Your child’s teacher is also the best person to turn to, to help you identify specific areas that your child needs to work on.

If students are feeling reluctant to revise for the exams, how can parents help?

As a parent, you may want to find out the main reasons as to why your child is reluctant to revise. It could be due to:

  • Fatigue
  • Feeling discouraged
  • Finding a particular topic/subject unmanageable
  • Not seeing the importance of the exam

There are many other factors, and understanding the reasons behind the lack of motivation can help you better address the issues. For example:

  • If your child is fatigued, you might need to look into reviewing his or her timetable, to strike a good balance between managing homework, participating in extra activities, revision time, and leisure time.
  • If your child is feeling discouraged, you can try to motivate him or her by giving words of affirmation, using incentives, or incorporating fixed pockets of play time.

What good habits should lower primary children cultivate, to help them study independently going forward?

Parents should help kids understand the importance of consistent revision. This can come in the form of constant homework completion and consistent practice. It also instils discipline and aids your child in remembering and retaining what he or she has learnt.

You can also help your child to set achievable goals. These goals have to be realistic and should consist of an end goal, accompanied by smaller milestones that will lead your child to achieve that end goal. Goal-setting exercises can go a long way.

Any final tips?

Emotional well-being is important. Exams can be very stressful for children, especially if they have not been exposed to them. You might want to look out for changes in general behaviour, energy level, mood, or appetite in your child.

Also, children look up to their parents. As a parent, you can be a role model and set realistic examples for your child to emulate. For example, when your child sees you managing challenges in a calm and methodical manner, he or she may be encouraged to know that feeling some stress is normal and that there are healthy and productive ways to manage stress.

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