7 Top Tips from PSLE Science Tutors in Singapore
The PSLE Science paper has a reputation of being one of the trickier papers of the annual national examination. This article provides 7 of the most effective study tricks and tips that we have gathered from our PSLE Science Tutors teaching Science Tuition. Since the introduction of the new syllabus by SEAB in 2014, rote memorisation is no longer the key to scoring. “Creative” questions have started to emerge, rendering typical textbook concepts unfamiliar and forcing students to look at scenarios from a totally different angle. The paper now demands the demonstration of critical high-order processing and analytical skills from our students – some have taken a greater liking to the subject and feedback that these questions have made Science much more interesting, while others have become demoralised and disinterested.
The study of science is inescapable and very relevant to our daily lives. The subject uses a very broad base of knowledge of interactions in our environment and there is a need to keep our young ones enlightened with a keen and exploratory mind to appreciate the subject. Together, we will help to overcome every student’s fear in Science, to pique their interest and to score well in their paper!
1. Familiarise Yourself with the PSLE Science Content
Before we get started, do make sure that you are updated with the correct MOE Science syllabus, latest revised in 2014. Do not stop at simply familiarizing yourself well with the content, but also get a feel of the skills that you will be acquiring during the study of the subject, which would be essential for use later in tackling the examination questions.
Before being able to answer any of the questions in your Science paper, you need to set your foundation of the content confidently. Only with this locked down, will you be able to apply the concepts to answer the scenarios at hand in the paper. Science explains every phenomena around us in our lives, and such heavy and sometimes difficult content for PSLE Science is only introduced in Primary 3, stretched out across only 4 out of 6 years of primary education. It is important that students are able to understand the “why”s and “how”s of each topic well within limited time, before being able to pen any answers down in their exams each year, and what better way to clarify their doubts than to ask.
One good way to be more engaged with the PSLE Science content, would be through a private PSLE Science home tutor. Students will be able to have the confidence and luxury of time outside of class to ask Science questions – both in and out of the textbook. The PSLE Science Tutors of our tuition will be able to promote and provide answers to an inquisitive mind – essential and helpful for students to get their concepts right for PSLE Science. With their content clarified, it is time to move on to Tip number 2!
2. Practice makes Perfect
On top of the syllabus, it is crucial that you are thoroughly familiar with the PSLE Science exam format. Students have 1 Hour 45 Minutes to complete 2 booklets:
Booklet A: Multiple-Choice Questions 28 questions carrying 2 marks each, totalling the score to 56. Booklet B: Open-Ended Questions 12-13 open-ended questions carrying 2-5 marks each, totalling the score to 44.
Knowing the exam format at the back of your fingertips is very important and it should not catch you by surprise. Students should try to clock a number of end-year papers that can be obtained from many schools nationwide, so as to get as much exposure as possible. Science questions (though incorporating the same concepts) can appear in all forms, and doing papers set by different teachers from other schools can certainly help with preparation. Practising the ten-year series would give you the extra assurance that you need, and on top of that, you can start to pick out recurring concept patterns and question types that appear so that you can know what to expect. Private PSLE Science tutors with MindFlex are often resourceful and able to provide a catalogue of these papers for you as well.
The PSLE content is covered only across a limited 4 years, so it is paramount that students clarify their concepts by the end of each topic before moving on. A check-list, topical revision worksheets and weekly or monthly quizzes are some examples that can truly test a student if he is confident of his knowledge. Frequent revision of old topics is also a must, to keep students fresh and polished with content they have learnt some time ago. With more practice, naturally comes better memorisation skills. Avoid highlighting everything you read in your textbook, always remember that muscle and mental memory is always obtained through practice! Do bear in mind that the content from Primary 3-6 have to be memorised by PSLE; so here are other ways to help your child with easy memorisation!
Constant practice and revision, though tedious in the moment, will be a big help in resulting in less mistakes eventually, and your child will certainly see the long-term benefits at the final PSLE Science paper!
3. Understanding the PSLE Science Questions well
Science questions are notoriously known to have tricks up their sleeves, and it is very common that students fall into their traps due to carelessness or misunderstandings. More often than not, students do not understand what the questions ask of them, resulting in them regurgitating their proudly-memorised facts, yet leaving the question unanswered.
“Read carefully” – the mantra that Science tutors tell their students can never be recited too much. Reading and understanding the question is indeed what needs to be done to eradicate careless mistakes. Some questions are straightforward and should not take too much time to answer, but others are designed to trick our students. Firstly, look out for the keywords in the both the MCQ and structured questions – what are they asking? We are not talking about the key concepts being tested, but rather – the subtle keywords that students overlook. Words like “which of the below reasons is NOT” and “which of the options are ALWAYS” are strategically deceptive, and have cost students the loss of countless careless marks. Start forming a habit to underline these “spoof” words, so that they are not missed.
In Booklet B, students must identify the different question types before choosing how to answer them. Spot the instructional keywords – Name / Describe / Explain – these are indicators of whether these are basic or higher-order thinking questions, and they tell you how the question is to be answered correctly. Some examples of these keywords can be found here. Be conscious of this, and you will realise that though you have the concept keywords written, the format of how the answer is phrased does make a difference to the marks obtained! In some questions, data, charts, graphs and other pictorial clues are given as well. They are crucial and given to aid your answering, so do not miss them out.
Knowing what the question is asking of you will definitely be a big help to good answering for PSLE Science!
4. Correct PSLE Science Answering Techniques
The marking for PSLE Science Booklet B follows a strict rubric and thus is rather rigid. Therefore, it is important that students seek help to obtain the correct answering skills needed to score for their Open-Ended Questions section. There is always a certain way to answer the questions – to use the correct concept key phrases and make sure that they are relevantly applied to the specific question. It is commonly observed that students are weak in this paper; they often can only obtain partial instead of the full marks of each question. “Why do my teachers always say my answers are incomplete?”, a student may ask. Yes you may have understood and memorised your content very well, applied them via the contextual clues in the question, but unfortunately, the lack of the correct answering techniques is the downfall of many students.
An interesting observation that we as a tuition agency have made – many parents and PSLE Science tutors have noticed that one of the reasons their children are unable to answer well is because of the level of their English skills – the limited ability to 1) comprehend the question, 2) express themselves clearly using scientific reasoning. A good command of English is first needed to be honed in order to understand the command words used in the questions, as well as to later answer the questions clearly and concisely.
Students do sometimes give answers that are too generalised or vague. Do be specific in your words used, avoid using “they” or “it” to be safe. Again, answering techniques used depend on the instructional keywords of the question. Some examples: “Compare and contrast” questions – comparative words have to be used between the objects of concern; eg. ” X is at a higher temperature than Y”, and not just simply listing the state of each object. “Describe” vs “Explain” questions – the latter would require a deeper analyse of the reason for the scenario at hand, instead of merely describing observations like the former.
As such, not only must you be able to use the correct scientific terms to communicate your explanations concisely, applying the correct answering technique using instructional cues will definitely be key in helping you ace your PSLE Science paper.
5. Mastering Clever Exam Strategies
Now that we have gotten the question understanding and answering techniques in check, our PSLE Science Tutors advise that the ability to master clever exam strategies may be the biggest tip to help you ace your paper!
Firstly, always attempt the questions that you are confident in answering swiftly first. The PSLE Science paper has proven to be difficult and students would definitely face some mental blocks within. Take deep breaths and do not panic if you do not understand a question. Take a minute to think about which science concepts may apply; you would be able to think better with a clear head. Skip over the tough questions and return to them after. Students tend to want to complete a question before moving on to the next, and the lack of time for the other questions would cause great regret later on.
A second great tip that we have would be to notice the time-to-mark ratio. Having 1 Hour 45 Minutes to complete the paper translates to 1 minute per mark. Students will have 2 minutes to attempt each MCQ question on average, so do keep to that as a gauge for time management!
Thirdly, looking at the mark allocation would also cleverly guide you on how much to write for your Open-Ended Questions! The number of marks (and even lines!) commonly translates to the number of points you need to write to get the full score. Primary level students tend to think that “the more I write, the more marks I will score”. This could not be more wrong. A very common mistake is that students try to write as much as they can for each question, resulting in the inability to complete their paper. A pattern can be observed: Questions that have “Describe” / “Name’ / “List” as their instructional keyword would probably cost 1-2 marks, and thus students need to realise that these are basic questions that do not require much time, explanation nor long sentences to score. Questions that require to “Compare” / “Identify and explain why” are higher-level thinking questions. They would cost 2-5 marks, and students should use this as a clear gauge to allocate more time to these questions, which often require 2-3 part answers.
The 3 tips above can definitely help to differentiate scores in an exam, even between 2 students who are equally as familiar in their content. Do ensure that you do enough timed-practices to help with your PSLE Science preparation, then only will be able to experience the magic of these clever exam strategies!
6. Check, Check, and Re-Check!
As with every exam, you should aim to complete the paper at least 10 minutes before the end-time, to check your answers thoroughly. Do make sure there are no spelling errors, and that all your answers are written clearly and concisely for the markers to read and understand. Ensure that all questions have been shaded in correctly on the Optical Answer Sheet (OAS) – a painful mistake for students who have missed out or shaded wrongly.
Last but not least, PSLE Science tutors always advise never to leave any question blank despite having no clue on how to answer it. Writing a simple single-lined concept could give you a chance to score a mark in Booklet B. Who knows, you could get a question correct from just guessing an option for the MCQ paper! Any chance for a mark is always better than zero chance, so do not give up! Checking your work is essential to give you a chance to save some marks from careless mistakes, and would definitely be a big help to scoring well in the PSLE Science paper.
7. Don’t Understand PSLE Science? Do It Yourself!
A seventh recommendation that the tutors at MindFlex have for PSLE Science help is a fun one – science experiments! Many studies have shown that hands-on activities have a great positive influence on children’s learning, especially for kinesthetic learners of that primary level age range. Science experiments are a great and creative way to get students immersed and to bring the concepts in the boring Science textbook alive! Simple experiments such as the use of magnets to explain materials and magnetism can be done in the safety of your home, fun and risk-free (other home experiment examples can be found here)!
Not only would simple DIY experiments help students to escape from mundane rote learning, they give the unmeasured ability for students to visualise content that was previously difficult to comprehend. As also done in the school science labs, the constant use of experiments during Science home tuition would undeniably be of great help to understanding the PSLE Science syllabus.
Conclusion – Consider engaging a PSLE Science Tutor
Not only intending to help students reach their fullest academic potential, MindFlex aims to pique the interest of primary level students in learning science. Hiring a private home tutor for Science can certainly provide the support your child needs, and to impart the above tips and skills to him to reach excellence. Not only will our tutors be able to provide content clarification each week, they will also be able to work closely with your child to create customised topical notes, as well as to set the occasional quiz to ensure that your child does not get left behind before it is too late! Our committed tutors would always be there to keep in check if your child’s Science learning progress from P3 to P6, to teach at a pace which is comfortable for your child and also to stretch him to think out the box when ready.
As we draw nearer to the crucial PSLE period, your child would need as much PSLE Science help as he can get. You can count on your personal science tutor to discuss any last-minute queries, and even have mini verbal pop-quizzes to re-assure and encourage your child that he is prepared for his first major exam! Increased frequencies of lessons per week can be arranged for if your child needs extra help, and your tutor will ensure that they will be with your child every step of the way. Good luck!