It is difficult to gauge the future when it comes to national examinations. With reports of difficulties with the PSLE papers along with the cancellation of year-end exams for students from Primary 3 and 4, it is clear we can’t predict everything.
But this doesn’t mean that we stop preparing for future examinations.
As students and parents learn about the type of education style that best suits them, educators also continue to figure out ways in which to help their students, especially post COVID-19.
To examine this year’s PSLE and the ways in which students can go forward with its exam papers, theAsianparent reached out to local tutors Lim Wei Yi, the co-founder of Study Room, and Benjamin Low, the Founder of Trinity Learning Centre.
Lim Wei Yi, co-founder of Study Room, and (right) Benjamin Low, Founder of Trinity Learning Centre
Here’s what they had to say.
Was 2021 Really The Hardest PSLE Year?
Image source: iStock
After several parents in Singapore complained that their children were left distraught after this year’s exam papers, we asked the tutors their thought of the test questions.
Responding to the question, Wei told theAsianparent, “To be honest, for the viral question, a similar Maths question appeared in the 2015 papers.”
“It is an examination after all, and thus, both easy and tough questions are set to test the child’s knowledge and the goal is to send them to schools and streams best suited for them,” says Wei.
The Study Room tutor also suggests that parents may appear more nervous about the exams this year since “this is the first batch of students undergoing the new scoring system.”
He adds, “There are a lot of worries as they do not know how this would pan out. Separately, there is a band for students scoring 46-64. As it is so wide, many parents are afraid their children might fall into that category.”
Mr Low also doesn’t think 2021 was the hardest PSLE year as compared to the last few years. But this is not to say that the questions in the last couple of years were easy.
Similar to the past few years, Mr Low notes that there were several challenging questions that required “thinking out of the box.” He says, “In particular, the ‘Helen and Ivan Coins’ and the ‘Difference by Elimination – Area and Perimeter’ Question among several others.”
“As a general trend, however, the average difficulty has definitely risen over the years, as more questions requiring analytical thinking appeared,” admits Mr Low.
Students Dejected After PSLE This Year And How This Affected Their Mental Health
Having read about the difficulty level of PSLE papers this year and that many students came home crying, Mr Low feels it’s understandable that they would feel disheartened.
Especially since they worked so hard, “memorising and drilling these so-called ‘heuristic skills,'” some of them were still unable to answer several questions. This can cause anyone to feel distressed.
The tutor also admits that the parents aren’t spared either. He continues to share, “Many parents I know spend lots of time sitting with the kids and finding the best ways to teach them. The problem for many of them is that the emphasis of the current curriculum and hence the type of questions asked requires a very different skillset from what they are used to.”
“I see lots of comments on social media about parents who feel upset and sorry for their children. It centres around the sentiment that having diligently sent their children to extra classes and their kids working hard at home, they are not able to handle these questions (circulating on social media),” shares Mr Low.
He suggests that parents should instead emphasise on ‘thinking skills’ that allow students to break down questions and approach them from a position of “understanding rather than memory.”
Study Room co-founder, Wei, also thinks that family support is important for children’s mental health.
He explains, “As we cannot control the external environment, we can control how we deal with the issue. From an early age, we must inculcate that studying is important because we learn and realistically, this is a paper-chase society. However, we need to tell our children that it does not define us.”
“When parents take a chilled approach to the national examinations, they are less likely to react negatively even if it is a tough paper,” he adds.
Advice On Ways Students Can Face The Hardest PSLE Questions Each Year
Image source: iStock
When asked about his advice to students preparing for the year-end examinations, Wei poignantly notes that “PSLE does not define you.”
“As long as you have done your best, that is most important. We must all learn to face challenges and be brave. That builds our grit and with that attitude, regardless [of] how we score at PSLE, we will succeed in life,” he adds.
For students who will be taking the PSLE soon, Mr Low does not advise students to only memorise the different heuristic skills. He says, “Many of the students who took the PSLE 2021 paper likewise did just that and look at their response now.”
Study Tips For The Hardest Questions During The PSLE Period Every Year
“So what then is the solution? Simple. Stop mindless memorising. Go back to the basics,” says Mr Low as he shares the following advice:
- Teach and learn from understanding
- Use one or two universal skills applicable to most questions
Mr Low also shares with theAsianparent the way to recognise an approach that would better help prepare students in dealing with unfamiliar questions that require analytical thought:
The Objective of any excellent approach should,
- Produce consistent top results in math comfortably without sacrificing the mental health of the child through endless hours of practice and studying
- Develop a strong interest in math rather than having to force students to do math
Its Purpose is to…
- To develop a strong foundation in math which is the cornerstone of many subjects and industries
- To allow children to have a healthy balance between academic achievement and having time to enjoy their childhood and growing journey
The Method must be…
- Able to build up a strong foundation in the subject as early as possible in their childhood through the use of a simple method to understand math and apply it to solve increasing complex questions
- Easy to understand and apply to a wide range of questions
Predictions For The Next PSLE Examinations In 2022
Image source: iStock
Mr Low shares that students would often tell him that “if a paper is tough one year, the next will be easy.” But he clarifies that this is a myth and is not true.
“The paper next year will definitely contain questions that are similarly challenging along with the most simple and basic,” predicts Mr Low.
The PSLE Math papers in particular he says are set based on “predetermined guidelines of the number of questions of each difficulty level to differentiate proficiency levels.” This, he mentions, is not going to change in the near future.
“So the best preparation for subsequent PSLE papers will be to understand (vs memorising) concepts and methods. Then practising flexible application of these concepts,” advises the Founder of Trinity Learning Centre.
Meanwhile, tutor Wei does not recommend making any predictions. Instead, students should work to understand the concepts and learn to think. He says, “Once we accomplish that, we will be ready for any type of questions.”
“Learn, understand, apply. When you prepare yourself for all scenarios instead of doing spotting questions, you will be more confident as you sit for the paper,” Wei adds for students.
2021 PSLE Paper Leaves Students Teary-Eyed And Singaporean Parents Upset!
4 Hacks To Try When Studying With Past PSLE Papers