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Higher Chinese vs Standard Chinese

The demand for PSLE Higher Chinese Tuition has been on the rise. Many parents are aware of schools offering Higher Chinese to Upper Primary students who are exceptionally good with their Chinese and and those who excel in their studies. Higher Chinese is advanced Chinese, with 20-30% more words as compared to standard Chinese and the test paper requires a higher level of mastery in terms of comprehension and composition. 

The Requirement For Higher Chinese 

Most schools offer Higher Chinese to students who have achieved 70 marks and above for their Chinese in P4 or P5. For SAP schools, Higher Chinese is offered right from the start in Primary. However, the schools have the flexibility to withdraw a student from Higher Chinese if the student does not meet the criteria of either A* in Chinese or Merit in Higher Chinese. After understanding more about Higher Chinese and its requirements, whether to take up the subject is still a hard decision to make. As a parent, you would worry about the uncertainty of your child’s ability to cope with an extra subject; as a student, you would want to know what you are facing if you chose to take up Higher Chinese. In this article, MindFlex Home Tuition, as a popular choice for Chinese Tuition in Singapore, is here to share some advice from our PSLE Higher Chinese Tutors on the difference between Higher Chinese and Standard Chinese, with regards to the syllabus, workload and the advantages it can bring.

Higher Chinese – Syllabus Differences

When you think of Higher Chinese, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Most would remark that Higher Chinese is like an “upper level” of Chinese, taken by the “top students” in schools. This is not necessarily true, if you have a flair and passion for the Chinese language coupled with hard work, Higher Chinese could be the subject. According to SEAB, both PSLE Standard Chinese and PSLE Higher Chinese courses in Primary school share similar goals of building a good Chinese foundation for students, cultivating on students’ ability to listen, read and write in Chinese to build and foster interactions with others. However, the examination structure for both papers are different. Here are the three key differences between the subjects highlighted by our PSLE Higher Chinese Tutors: 

  1. Standard Chinese students take Paper 1 (Composition), Paper 2 (Comprehension) and Paper 3 (Oral and Listening Comprehension). Higher Chinese students have to take the additional Higher Chinese Paper, which only consists of Paper 1 (Composition), Paper 2 (Comprehension). Chinese students are required to take Paper 3 which is Oral and Listening Comprehension for PSLE Chinese, but for Higher Chinese students, there is only 
  1. Regarding Paper 1 (Composition), students who take the Standard Chinese paper need to choose between a Titled Composition (命题作文) or Picture Composition (看图作文). The minimum word requirement is at least 100 words and above. However, for Higher Chinese Paper 1, students are required to write a narrative story based on the given Topics/Theme or complete the essay from a sentence given.

Example of a PSLE Chinese Paper 1 Question:

PSLE Higher Chinese Tuition - Chinese P1

Here is an example of a Standard Chinese Paper 1 Question. Click here for source.

Example of a Higher Chinese Paper 1 Question:
PSLE Higher Chinese Tuition - Higher Chinese P1

An example of a Higher Chinese Paper 1 Question. Click here for source.

  1. For Paper 2 Comprehension, the PSLE Standard Chinese paper tests students based on their ability to understand the passage and answer the questions based on the content. On the other hand, the PSLE Higher Chinese paper tests students’ abilities to capture the theme of the passage and demands more higher-order thinking that is reflected in their answers. Students are also expected to be skilful in the ability to summarise the key points in a passage concisely.

In Learning Higher Chinese, What Do I Have To Invest? 

While Standard Chinese students carry out their lessons, Higher Chinese students are grouped together to attend their own separate Higher Chinese lessons. Although technically the number of class hours are the same in school, Higher Chinese students are expected to read more and practice more at home. PSLE Higher Chinese Tutors have said this – students will need to pick-up more advanced vocabulary and idioms to use in their essays, not only to display a better ability and competence of the language, but also to be able to even understand the paper’s contents (which would include tougher vocabulary compared to the Standard Chinese paper). Higher Chinese students will need to spend some time and effort in training yourself to write faster so you can finish your composition during any examination, whose demands are more strenuous compared to that of the Standard Chinese paper. On top of doing the ten-year series for the Higher Chinese paper, students would also have to practise on the Standard Chinese ten-year series too. This is so that they are familiar with both papers’ requirements and differences, and that they are ready to take the Oral exam too. Instead of the standard 4 subjects that students typically take for the PSLE, Higher Chinese students will be taking 5 subjects, with Higher Chinese considered as a separate subject altogether. This means you will have one more examination date on your list.  Thus, taking Higher Chinese is like taking another subject on its own, moreover a more advanced one. If you are focused on the result, time and effort investment is necessary. If you are finding difficulties in coping, you can also consider hiring a Higher Chinese Tutor from us to provide you with assistance in your Higher Chinese subject. Our tutor will facilitate you with methods to answer higher-order thinking questions in your comprehension paper, and also able to provide their student with more list of suitable phrases such as cheng yu (成语) and Chinese idioms (谚语) for composition.


Extra time, effort and discpline is required if one decides to take up Higher Chinese

What are the benefits of taking PSLE Higher Chinese? 

The differences between Higher Chinese and Chinese and investment for PSLE Higher Chinese have been discussed above. Now, it is time for our PSLE Higher Chinese Tutor to share with you the advantages of Higher Chinese students. 


In Secondary school, students focus on composition and comprehension for Chinese. In this case, PSLE Higher Chinese students are well-trained with higher-order thinking comprehension questions and themed based composition required in Secondary Chinese, making it easier for them to understand and score for Secondary Chinese. 

Acing Higher Chinese means Additional Bonus Points

In PSLE, Higher Chinese offers a student up to 3 points if he/she is applying for SAP Secondary School. Some SAP Secondary Schools include Catholic High School, Chung Cheng High School, River Valley High School, and Nan Hua High School, etc. Referring to this article by MOE, students who achieved a Distinction, Merit or Pass in Higher Chinese for PSLE and who a PSLE Score of 14 or below, they would receive an advantage of being posted to SAP Secondary schools. One’s Higher Chinese grades would be the determining factor between 2 students who had applied in for the same SAP school with the same PSLE score. Therefore, one can see how crucial the additional bonus points that come with Higher Chinese can be.

Planning Ahead for the Future

Students do not take PSLE Higher Chinese, but who wish to take up Higher Chinese in Secondary school need to score at least a PLSE score of 8 to be offered the subject. However, if you are taking PSLE Higher Chinese and receive at least a Merit and Distinction, you will most likely be offered to take Higher Chinese in Secondary school even if your overall PSLE score falls within 9-14 and if you score an AL 1 / AL 2 grade for Standard Chinese. Later for the O Levels, Higher Chinese students will have a -2 points bonus upon entry to JC and it is considered as a language subject for GCE O Level L1R5. You can also opt out for Chinese subjects in JC if you have passed Higher Chinese in GCE O Levels.


Although taking Higher Chinese can be advantageous, one has to evaluate the boons and banes before eventually deciding whether to take it as a PSLE subject. In order to make the right decision, here are some concerns PSLE Higher Chinese Tutors have raised about what one has to be aware to make a more informed decision.

All Academic Results – Not Just Higher Chinese

Higher Chinese adds on as an additional subject altogether, and this means that your time has to be split and there would be less time allocated for each of the other subjects. The more time you invest in managing your Higher Chinese, the less time you have left for your other subjects. The amount of time one has to prepare for PSLE is already limited, thus if you are not able to balance time well amongst the 5 subjects, you are putting the cart before the horse. Therefore, you will need to make sure you are able to balance your time and effort well – and not only do well in Higher Chinese alone but also to maintain a good record for your other academic subjects. 


Many students who take Higher Chinese actually face difficulties while learning and studying this subject. Why is it so? Some of them struggle with advancing in their Chinese standards to Higher Chinese as they do not have enough academic support or someone to assist them with Higher Chinese. Some of them are just not academically inclined but still push themselves to take the subject knowing the long-term benefits it can bring them later. On the other hand, other students are not ready to sacrifice their already limited time to put in extra effort to work on a new subject with harsher criteria. As a student, you should mentally prepare yourself if you want to take Higher Chinese and if not so, you should communicate with your parents or your personal PSLE Higher Chinese Tutor, asking them for advice. Generally speaking, you may struggle to keep up for your Higher Chinese lessons if you are not ready to spend more time and effort to learn this subject.

 Tips to do well in PSLE Higher Chinese


Take note of the points of consideration below to make an informed decision on whether to take up Higher Chinese

Even though Higher Chinese may be challenging, we are here to provide some tips to help you excel in this subject if you still intend to follow through with it. Here are some small tips compiled by our PSLE Higher Chinese Tutors: 

  1. Prepare a file folder as your vocabulary word bank. You can classify your folder into different categories, such as words to describe feelings/emotions, words for the weather and words for description of events, etc. Put in a word every day and write a small paragraph with 5 words weekly to familiarise yourself with the application of the words. 
  2. Put in effort to speak to your friends a little in Chinese, or if you like sharing and are comfortable with making friends online, try chatting online in Chinese! 
  3. Watch your favorite dramas or movies with Chinese subtitles! This method enables you to improve your vocabulary words while enjoying your shows. 
  4. Make sure to read a little Chinese every day. You can read outside your textbook and an easy piece of text to practise reading Chinese, such as those from Weibo, a Chinese web application known as the Chinese version of Twitter. You can scroll through the app whenever you have a few spare moments. Every bit of reading will count to great improvement in mastering the language. 

To Take Or Not To Take Higher Chinese

Finally, if you are still stuck on the fence on whether to sign your child / yourself up for Higher Chinese, here are some points you can take into considerations to help you make a better decision.

  1. Is your child good in Chinese and is consistently achieving at least 70 marks and above for his/her Chinese tests and examinations?
  2. Are you and your child willing to invest more time and effort into learning Higher Chinese?
  3. What are your goals of taking Higher Chinese? What is your future plan in mind? eg. To reap the benefits at the O Levels as Higher Chinese can be considered as a language subject in L1R5 which is critical for entry to JC
  4. Are the benefits of Higher Chinese worth your investment in time and effort? 
  5. Do you have the necessary support to help you cope with Higher Chinese? You can naturally cope better if you come from a Chinese family background with good exposure to Chinese daily. Otherwise, can you receive help from someone close to you who is well-versed in Chinese?

If you are convinced that you are up for the challenge of taking up the Higher Chinese subject, fret not, for you can still seek help from PSLE Higher Chinese Tutors at MindFlex Home Tuition! Our Tutors are well versed with the syllabus and have years of experience training their students in all the necessary skills required in each component of the Higher Chinese paper. By engaging a private Higher Chinese Tutor, not only you can consult him/her for your Higher Chinese work, but for Standard Chinese as well, to generally buck up in the language. The tutor will also do his/her best to expose you to a greater variety of questions, develop your skills in conquering higher-order thinking questions and teach you different methods to earn the marks you deserve. Your lessons are also customised specially to help you improve on your weakness and strengthen your Chinese foundation. Contact us today!

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