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 Primary School Leaving Examinations are what decide a child’s ‘final destination’ — academically — next year. And it’s now that time of year to do some serious PSLE revision.
If you are a parent in Singapore, you are probably hugely invested in your child’s school affairs and achievements, especially their exams. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. You’re in good company. But if your child hasn’t started revising yet, it is time to start revving up that mugging train ‘cos the final papers are *gasp* barely a month away! We ask parents whose children have successfully soared over the PSLE hurdle for their tactics.
Tip #1: Know Your Child’s Learning Style
What kind of learner is your child? Do they learn best in the morning, the afternoon, or the evening? Can they sit and work for a stretch or do they do better with frequent breaks? Work out a schedule, taking into consideration their studying style. Understanding whether they are a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner would help too.
If you don’t already know by now, ask which their 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 brushing up the former. Once the subject(s) your child needs to improve in is identified, give them 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 PSLE revision less of a chore; pretending to be a radio deejay 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 roller-coaster mood swings. 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.
So even as you urge them to study hard, be gentle and avoid giving them undue stress. As the PSLE looms, they’re likely to be mentally pushing themselves as well, even if they don’t appear to. Too much extra pressure can backfire and push them over the edge.
Tip #3: Study Smart
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 in the next day’s spelling. In every sentence, she misspelled the same word. 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.
Of course, it’s best to 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 PSLE revision schedule for each day. Remember to leave time for relaxation and play!
Tip #4: Less is More
A 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 them to schedule a few topics per subject per day.
And doing assessment books and past-year papers is all well and good. But as we mentioned earlier, strategising is key. Janine only buys 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 Core Subjects
Basically, your child needs to pass four subjects in the PSLE — English, Mother Tongue, Maths, and Science. If your child is taking Higher Mother Tongue as well, but is struggling, it might be a good idea to drop it. Discuss it with your child’s school teacher, as well as with your child. Dropping a subject should not be taken lightly, so think carefully before you decide.
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 attained a T-score of 261.
(See also: How to Support Your Gifted Children in Singapore)
Tip #6: Train Your Child to Study Independently
When they were younger, Janine regularly sat down and revised with her daughters. She would draw up a timetable to allocate revising time for all subjects, particularly when exam season was on the horizon. Her older girl is now used to it and can manage her own revision schedule independently.
She also helped her daughters compile a ‘Mistake Book’. It was filled with “all the mistakes from their homework, tests, exams, and assessments”, so that her daughters could go through them and learn from them.
Tip #7: Don’t be Too Proud to Get Tuition
“No matter what they say, it takes two years to prepare for the PSLE,” daddy Mark declares. He believes sending his boys early to well-known tuition centres helped them. “The centres teach topics weeks ahead of school. It’s useless 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.”
For some, a different teaching method can help. Mohammad Hamdan, 42, an electrical engineer and 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
After moving to Singapore from Indonesia a little over 10 years ago, Ineke Christina, 42, a full-time mum, enrolled her three sons into a neighbourhood school. Her oldest son had tuition for English, Science, and Maths. He was doing well in the first two subjects, but not in Maths. At the end of the second term, his Maths 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 has this reminder: “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.”
Doing Last-minute PSLE Revision?
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”. Pick the PSLE revision strategies and tactics that work for your child and work with them. Then sit back and relax, because all you — and your child — can do is your best.
Featured & header images: Source