PSLE 2023: Good Vs. Useless Revision Strategies

Submitted by KiasuEditor

For Singapore students born in 2011, this is the year of the much-anticipated Primary School Leaving Examination, or PSLE.

Although the exams are months away, it’s not too soon to put the right study habits in place. However, do remember that your child is not just preparing for the PSLE — he or she is also building skills to be an effective learner in secondary school and beyond. This means being intentional about how time is spent on studying, and choosing to focus only on the most effective revision methods for best results.

It’s a tall order for a 12-year-old, so this is where you, the parent, can help. Below, we outline the revision techniques that have been deemed less useful (according to research), and highlight the learning methods that will help your child to study smarter and with greater purpose. Next, you and your child can start mapping out a PSLE study plan for the year — the earlier you do this, the better!

Revision Techniques: Trash or Keep? 

Time is precious during the PSLE year, so please don’t let your child waste it on the wrong study methods! What’s a hit and what’s a miss when it comes to studying? Read on to find out.


You may feel assured seeing your child rereading a textbook or guidebook, but did you know this is not considered a good form of revision? While reading a piece of new information provides exposure that is memorable, rereadings tend to be cursory, giving the false impression that one is mastering information when no new connections are being made.


Instead of rereading, your child should read a new chapter once, and proceed to generate or tackle questions for further learning. This can be done through:

  • Making a quick list of the important ideas/facts that one needs to know
  • Asking oneself questions about these important ideas/facts, such as “How does X work?” or “Why does Y happen?” and trying to answer the questions, based on the new knowledge gained
  • Making connections between two ideas, such as “How are X and Y similar or different?”
  • Thinking about how these ideas/facts are observable in real life
  • Answering the quiz questions that textbooks and guidebooks typically provide
  • Working on related topical exercises

For detailed examples on how your child can revise through questioning, read these guides:

❌Highlighting & Underlining

Along with rereading, highlighting is a popular study strategy that offers great comfort but little else. In fact, most children will tend to highlight large chunks of text, and this makes everything seem equally important, which is not helpful for revision.

✅Creating Flashcards

Flashcards are useful for self-testing, because they promote ‘active recall,’ or the ability to remember something without assistance. At the same time, flashcards provide a way to revise through ‘spaced repetition,’ which is about reviewing materials across multiple study sessions spread out over several weeks or months, in order to boost recall. (Read more about this here.)

Flashcards are best created from memory rather than purchased pre-made, and they should be kept simple, i.e. one word or phrase matched to one definition, or one question to one answer. Your child can make physical flashcards or use a digital app such as Quizlet.

❌Copying Notes

Many students make summary notes by copying information almost verbatim from a source such as a textbook. This is considered an ineffective form of revision because it is passive, i.e. it doesn’t require one to actively engage with information. A better way to make summary notes is to create them entirely from memory, but this would still be more time-consuming and less effective than any form of self-testing.

✅Summarise From Memory

If your child is unwilling to give up the habit of writing notes, try the following to turn note taking into an active learning process:

  • Read a textbook or class notes and write summaries from memory
  • Use one’s own words as much as possible

At the initial stage of note taking, your child may not incorporate the keywords that are needed for exams — these keywords can be included once your child has a firm grasp of the topic. A good alternative to note taking is to tell someone about what one has learned, because the act of explaining information is an active process that helps one to spot knowledge gaps quickly.

Check the Process: Questions to Ask Before Revision

To prepare for the PSLE, your child will need to study for two language subjects, as well as mathematics and science. As revision isn’t a one-size-fits-all process, are you wondering how to decide on revision strategies for each subject? 

Together with your child, you can try making a simple to-do chart such as this:

Subject/Topic What I Need to Know What I Need to Do
English/Situational Writing
  1. Format for situational writing: date, salutation, purpose, content, call to action, sign off
  2. The types of writing tested, e.g. formal letter, informal e-mail, report
  1. Memorise the format for situational writing
  2. Practise writing the different types of pieces, using the format.

To assess if revision tasks are truly effective, you can use these questions (if relevant):


  • Is your child actively revising? Is there thinking and recall involved?
  • Is the activity appropriately challenging for your child? For instance, you may want a less challenging activity to support your child if a topic is new or difficult to grasp.
  • Through the activity, is your child linking new information to pre-existing knowledge, or personal experience?
  • Is the activity being repeated multiple times to aid retention?

Need more ideas for PSLE preparation? Join the 2023 PSLE Discussions and Strategies conversation on the KiasuParents forum!

Tue 10/01/2023