Is your child taking the PSLE exams this year? If he or she has not started revising yet, it’s time to buck up ‘cos they’re only a month and a half away. Here are some easy – and less stressful – ways to get prepped — even at this stage.
P-S-L-E. These four letters strike panic in the hearts of parents while their kids stay sanguine, enviably relaxed and oblivious (or is it just mine?). The biggest national exam for every 12-year-old in a local school, the PSLE or Primary School Leaving Examinations are four little letters that decide a child’s ‘final destination’ – academically – the next year.
If you are a parent in Singapore, you are probably emotionally invested in your child’s school affairs and achievements, especially their exams. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. You’re in good company. At this time of the year, if you haven’t already started doing so, it is time to start revving up on revision to face the final hurdle of the year — the PSLE — which starts in *gasp* less than two months! (PSLE 2018 dates)
As Sun Tzu said in The Art of War, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”. We’ve asked parents whose children have successfully soared over the PSLE hurdle for their tactics. Pick those that work for your child, and start strategising.
Tip #1: Know Your Child’s Learning Style
What kind of learner is your child? Does he learn best in the morning, the afternoon, or the evening? Can he sit and work for a stretch or does he do better with frequent breaks? Work out a schedule, taking into consideration his studying style. Understanding whether he is a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner would help too.
If you don’t already know by now, ask him which his favourite and least liked subjects are. Work out what you can do to help your child improve in the latter, while maintaining their interest in and improving in the former. Once the subject(s) your child needs to improve in is identified, give him space to focus on it.
If necessary, engage a tutor for last-minute revision. Source for external materials (read: assessment books or past-year exam papers) that can help. Find ways to make learning less of a chore: pretending to be a radio DJ or a newscaster makes oral practice fun. One of my mummy friends even helped her daughter to grasp the concept of fractions through baking!
Tip #2: Know Your Child’s Emotional Style
Most children turn 12 the year they take the PSLE. As pre-teens going through or starting puberty, they may be prone to rollercoaster mood swings. If you have a daughter, she may be even more sensitive. Full-time mum Janine found her older daughter becoming more emotional. “Girls go into full-blown puberty earlier than boys. They could be at their most fragile emotionally,” she cautions.
Tip #3: Study Smart
Firstly, little a day adds up when it comes to studying, and breaking things down into smaller parcels of work can make them easier to get through. So instead of piling on chapter after chapter for your child to complete each week, help her to schedule a few topics per subject per day.
Secondly, check that what your child is learning is right. A friend related how her daughter was copying down sentences that were going to be tested for the next day’s spelling. In every sentence, she misspelled the same word. Little did she realise that instead of learning the right way to spell the words, she was committing to memory the wrong way to write them. The lesson here? Check and find mistakes early and remedy them.
Finally, start as early as possible. Okay if you’re reading this because your child has not done a lick of revision for the PSLE yet you’re in the ‘late’ group. But better late than never, right? Sit down with your child and draw up a revision schedule for each day. Remember to leave time for relaxation and play!
Tip #4: Less Is More
“No matter what they say, it takes two years to prepare for PSLE,” Mark declared. He believes in sending his boys early to well-known tuition centres helped them. “The centres teach topics weeks ahead of school. There’s no use to start doing assessment books and past year papers too near to the exam. Schools will have the children do all these papers two months before the exam, but the good schools would have already completed the syllabus before the prelims”.
But what if you don’t have the luxury of time? As we mentioned earlier, strategise. Janine helped her older girl compile a ‘Mistake Book’. It was filled with “all the mistakes from her homework, tests, exams, and assessments” so that her daughter could go through them and learn from them. “I buy just one assessment book per subject. I believe that less is more. And not to stress the kid too much. I also took the revision as time of bonding and an opportunity to demonstrate that I believe in her”.
Tip #5: Focus On The Core Subjects
Basically, your child needs to pass four subjects in the PSLE – English, Mother Tongue, Maths, and Science. If your child is doing Higher Mother Tongue as well, and is struggling to pass it, it could be a better idea to drop it. Speak to her school teacher first to find out why your child is having problems in the subject, and whether she should continue. Dropping s subject should not be taken lightly, so think carefully before you make your decision.
Doing this worked for Janine’s daughter. Although her daughter was in a SAP (Special Assistance Plan) school, she did not take Higher Chinese (HCL). Taking HCL would mean she had to attend extra classes on Mondays, and have additional homework and assignments. Without HCL, her daughter had more time to focus on the four core subjects. This tactic worked out well for her, and she passed with a T-score of 261.
Tip #6: Teach Your Child to Study Independently
Janine regularly sits down and revises with her daughters. She would draw up a timetable to allocate revising time for all subjects, particularly when exam season was in the horizon. Her daughter is now used to it and can manage her own revision schedule independently.
Tip #7: Don’t Be Too Proud to Get Tuition
For some, a different teaching method can help. Mohammad Hamdan, 42, an electrical engineer, a father of five, sent his daughter to a tuition centre which a local Malay blogger recommended, and saw her results improve after half a year. “Initially she was very weak in Maths and Science. The tuition centre managed to teach different methods to make the subjects easier to understand,” he said.
Tip #8: Don’t be Afraid to Stop Tuition
Having moved to Singapore from Indonesia a little over 10 years ago, Ineke Christina, 42, a full-time mom, enrolled her three sons into a neighbourhood school. Her oldest son had tuition for English, Mathematics and Science. He was doing well in English and Science, but not in Mathematics. At the end of the second term, his Mathematics score was 57.
Ineke said, “He was too tired. School dismissal at 2pm, followed by supplementary classes on Mondays and Tuesdays until 4.15pm. He had tuition classes Wednesdays through Fridays from 4 to 6pm. I decided to stop all the tuition classes and let him study by himself. He re-did all the questions he had gotten wrong again and again until he understood them inside out. At the end of the year he received an award for the most improved in Maths.”
Tip #9: Pay Attention to the Small Things
This has nothing to do with academics, but it’s no less important. Ineke reminded, “Check that they have the right stationery packed in the (required) transparent pencil case. Also make sure that their calculators and dictionaries have sufficient battery life”.
“My wife got my daughter supplements to boost her brain and energy so she would remember what was taught,” Hamdan shared. “They helped as she needed to juggle between school on weekdays, and tuition on weekends. She did well especially in Maths for the PSLE, and she received a progress achievement award”.