With the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) kicking off at the end of September, students—and parents—are giving it their all for the final lap. Last-minute parental efforts range from cooking nutritious meals and stocking up on chicken essence to taking leave from work for the purpose of supervising revision or sending children to intensive drill sessions. With barely two weeks of preparation time left, we spoke to a mother of two and primary school teacher with over 15 years of experience about what her approach would be for her own children at this juncture, if they were sitting for the PSLE this year, and here’s what she shared with us:
How would you help a child revise for the PSLE English paper at this point? For composition, I would ask my kids to refer to a book of recommended phrases, highlight phrases that they like or are comfortable with, and choose a few from each writing theme or topic to memorise. If there is time, they can read model compositions for plot development ideas, and I would also make sure they are aware of certain current events, such as Zika’s spread in Singapore, as there may be current affairs-based topics.
For situational writing, I would check that they know the difference between formal and informal contexts and are aware of how to write differently for different audiences. I wouldn’t ask them to do more writing at this stage.
The other major challenge for English is usually comprehension, and I wouldn’t introduce any new strategies now, but focus on reinforcing whatever the school has taught the kids. For instance, some schools teach the CUB method (example here, from Slide 23) of dissecting comprehension questions, where students circle anything to do with the 5Ws and 1H (who, what, where, when, why, how), underline tenses, and bracket words that might be required in the answer.
Apart from that, I would go over strategies for tackling the different sections that I personally believe are effective or essential, such as reading vocabulary cloze passages once or twice before attempting to fill in any blanks. I definitely wouldn’t buy any new assessment books now, for English as well as for the other subjects. I think it’s more important for students to get as much rest and sleep as they can leading up to the PSLE.
Any tips for Maths? Make sure your child is familiar with the basic formulas, as well as with heuristics, which are the various strategies that one can employ to solve math problems. Again, go over exam strategies such as reminding your child to indicate all steps on the paper itself, as marks are awarded for correct methods.
I trust that schools would’ve had their own preparations going on for some time, and students would’ve been made to do many practice papers by now. Go over the mistakes in the papers that have been completed.
If you should ask your child to work on practice papers now—and this applies to all subjects—it should be for the primary objective of honing their time management skills. I would require kids to time themselves, with a reminder to move on and not dwell on questions if they’re stuck. More important, do set aside time for checking the papers; for maths, this means doing the sum again if you have to. (Read more on checking exam papers here, and more last-minute tips for PSLE maths here.)
What would you recommend for Science? Get hold of a good Science guide that has concept or mind maps that summarise each topic, and go over these concepts together with your child. Children should be reminded that topics can have overlapping themes, and that questions may require bringing together knowledge from more than one topic. For instance, a question on magnetism can also touch on electricity.
Since time is short, one way to save time is to go through questions together verbally, to ensure that your child:
Knows the required facts or concepts
Understands what the questions are asking for
Applies only the relevant facts or concepts
And particularly in the Science paper, kids need to look at the mark allocation for each question to gauge the length of their answers. (Find more last-minute tips for PSLE Science here.)
But once again, beyond these, ample sleep should be the priority!