Category Archives for Primary Exam Tips

Primary Level Comprehension

Tips on the Comprehension Component

In the recent examination, our teachers found that students have problems sourcing for answers in the Comprehension Open-Ended component. Students tend to make the following mistakes:

* They cannot identify the correct source in the passage for an accurate answer;
* They give incomplete answers; or
* They do not answer the question required.

In the Comprehension Open-Ended component, practice is key. Students must show that they ‘comprehend’, and therefore, understand the passage and the expectation of each question.

The following aspects are suggestions to improving Comprehension:

  • Understanding the question-- This can only be achieved by reading and understanding the passage well -- at least twice -- before sourcing for the answer. 
  • Checking the mark allocation-- Marks are an indicator of the length of the expected answer. For instance, if it is only a one mark question, then the answer is short and that there is probably only one point to source for.
  • Realising the importance of clues/sourcing-- In the months leading up to the next exams, students should attempt more timed trials to practice time management. In addition, post-paper analysis, do go through specimen papers. By practising the right sourcing techniques, students can discern the patterns and fine tune their answers accordingly. The importance of proper sourcing techniques should not be underestimated. 

Tips on Composition Writing and the Oral Component

After poring through the examination papers, our teachers have noticed the following problems students face:

1. During Essay Writing and Oral Practices, many students have memorised certain key vocabulary words and phrases, and try to force-fit these words and phrases. Sometimes, this can come off awkwardly. (e.g. John was over the moon to be punctual for school).

2. During Essay Writing, students conclusions tend to be cliched (e.g. I learnt that honesty is the best policy.)

3. During Oral-picture practices, while the students would give short and direct responses, they were unable to elaborate or think wider than the teacher’s initial question or prompts.

The following are suggestions to improving essays and orals:

  • Brainstorming-- Prior to Essay Writing, going through key vocabulary words and phrases that the students think they will use or is important. This helps everyone to learn new vocabulary and how to use them effectively.
  • Planning-- Students can improve their conclusions by planning more natural or meaningful conclusions (e.g. “…and receiving the bicycle it was one of my best birthday present!” vs “…I learned the importance of cycling safely and considerately”). At Creative Campus, we construct essay conclusions as a class by experimenting and penning down various ideas prior to writing the essay.
  • Structured Responses-- For Orals, our teachers set aside a certain structure students should use to answer for every question. E.g. Direct answer (Yes / No / I’ve visited this before / I’m interested in this / etc) + Reason + Example + Lesson learnt or other thoughts (if any). Excelling in orals takes time, but students can take baby steps to learn and adapt.

The new PSLE syllabus has a stringent rubric. By applying the essential skills and techniques, students can break that 35-mark barrier in essay writing, thereby having the added advantage of clinching that AL1 in the English paper.

Here are more exam tips from our specialist teachers

Primary Elite - Cloze Passages

Primary Elite - Comprehension

A Review on the Cloze Passage Component

In the recent examination, our teachers found that the students fail to realise the importance of clues in the Comprehension Cloze component. They either did not source for clues, or when they did, failed to identify the accurate sources.

In the Comprehension Cloze component, the words tested are often those that students are expected to know; and can be traced in the content and context provided in the passage.

The following aspects are key:


Understanding the passage

Read the passage more than once. This will help the student to be more mindful of the context of the passage.

Filling in the blanks

Actively use sourcing techniques to nail down the most suitable word to use. For example, use the process of elimination for tricky questions. Do read the passage again after the blanks are filled in to check.

Read widely

Most Comprehension Cloze passages touch on general topics and so, students should be aware of the vocabulary specific to these topics. Since there is no shortcut to reading, do start early, and the mid or year end break is a good time to consolidate vocabulary.

In the months leading up to the next exams, have more time trials, and post-paper analysis. Revise the pointers on exam techniques and look out for patterns in the type of answers that are usually expected in the exams. Good luck!

Ms Germaine Lee

Senior Teacher: Creative Campus Learning with Latitude

Mrs Elizabeth Yeo

Director: Creative Campus Learning with Latitude

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How To Deal With The Year Ahead

Small Fish in a Big Pond: how to deal with the year ahead

3 bulletproof tips students can arm themselves with

In a blink of an eye, we are on the cusp of a new school year. For all students, every new year is a frightening prospect: not only will there be a brand new curriculum, but also a fresh set of challenges. The questions of “how to handle the more difficult/increased workload?” and “how to juggle my academic and extracurricular commitments?” frequently recur.

Feelings of stress run especially high in the milestone years, where students have to take their national exams (P6, secondary 4) or enter a completely new school (primary 1, secondary 1, junior college/polytechnic/other institutions).

During these important years, we may feel like ‘small fish in a big pond’, unsure of where and how to start the year right. Here are some tips on getting the headstart you need:

  • Have a Trusted Circle of Confidantes

The importance of social ties cannot be understated. A close friend, or
group of friends, is not only a good emotional support system; they are
also your go-tos for academic or administrative concerns!

Have a question about transferring CCAs? Ask a friend for advice! Have a question about your math or mother tongue homework? Ask a classmate! Feeling blue? Talk to a friend!

Here’s a pro tip: Include your teacher in this circle of friends. Due to their position in school and teaching knowledge, teachers can often give you advice or help that your peers cannot.

  • Be Organised
    There are few things worse than realising that you have misplaced your revision notes on the day before an exam. How do you prevent that situation from happening? ORGANISE! Some quick and easy actions you can take right now include:
  • For languages, use a notebook to compile new vocabulary or grammar pointers. Writing information down has been proven to help memory recall. Moreover, you will have a consolidated source of key knowledge at the end of the year.
  • Get file dividers for subjects that are tested topically, e.g. science, geography. Remember to file your worksheets promptly!
  • Declutter weekly! Take already-marked worksheets and old notes OUT of your school bag, and file/place them neatly in a location that you can access at a later date (for review and revision).
  • Don’t allow homework or corrections to pile up!
  • Don’t Overdo It

In a busy school schedule, time is precious. More often than not, we have more things than we can fit on our plate!

There are typical “crunch times” in which you can expect yourself to feel overwhelmed by the amount of things you have to do (e.g. before exams, before major CCA events). For these periods, my succinct advice is to do your best (and talk to your support system)!

However – just like an Olympic athlete peaks right before their event, a student should peak at the times that matter most – exams and CCA events.

If you want to maximise your mental and physical well-being, as well as maintain good performance during exams/competitions, try not to jampack your whole year with activities.

Since we are currently at the start of the year, simply focus on easing yourself into the hustle and bustle of the year ahead.

Wishing you all the best!

How I Dealt With High-Stake Tests

How I Dealt With High-Stake Exams

Handling national exams like the PSLE, O-Levels and A-Levels

First things first, let’s get this straight: few people like exams. The process of exam prep is often mentally challenging, intellectually fatiguing, and in certain cases, physically demanding. Yet, exams are a constant force in Singapore’s formal education system.

National exams like PSLE, O Levels, and A Levels happen every two to four years after the age of 12 – and this is to say nothing of the intermittent school exams that happen yearly until students leave school.

When I was still in the thick of said education system, I tried my best to take a hakuna matata approach to learning. This was not always easy to do in my immediate schooling environment, which might be politely described as “enthusiastic” on our best days, and “competitive” on our worst.

Over time, I’ve marshalled a fair few tricks that have helped me deal with the stress of routine testing. These include both practical tasks which are most
germane at zero hour, as well as personal philosophies that prevent stress from reaching a critical point. Allow me to share four pointers with you.

TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY AND MIND TO ENSURE MENTAL CLARITY AND ALERTNESS DURING EXAMS

If we were to see exams as a marathon that we must run, then clearly, our bodies are infinitely salient to the process. Getting sufficient sleep, movement, and nutrition, even when exams loom close, has been key to my stress reduction.

I found sleep particularly important in my younger days, as afternoon activity after activity took its toll on my energy levels. In my later schooling years, my schedule became more flexible and self-directed; at that point, I had to learn to prioritise habits like exercise, eating wholesome meals, and pursuing fulfilling hobbies.

Remember: rest is requisite. The last thing you want to be is sick or sleepy on your exam day, which is all too likely should you push yourself too hard. When it’s time to work, work hard; but when it’s time to decompress, do give yourself time to do something fun or good for yourself!

3 USEFUL TIPS TO REDUCE COMMON DISTRACTIONS FACED BY STUDENTS TODAY

The pervasiveness of digital technologies – and ergo, digital distractions – cannot be understated in this day and age. I can think of many an instance where I chose to spend “five more minutes” on social media or YouTube, rather than do the task that I was supposed to do. 

Sheer willpower is oftentimes insufficient, so you may find these tips helpful instead:

  • Leave your phone/tablet/laptop in another room, or leave it with someone who can keep you accountable.
  • Use apps that help regulate the time you spend on particular apps or sites.
  • Select suitable study spots. If you can’t focus in your bedroom – go somewhere else!

USE WHAT WORKS FOR YOU - THE PRODUCTIVE TOOLS I'VE USED AND WHAT I'VE DISCOVERED OVER THE PAST 16 YEARS

When it comes to “exam techniques”, “tips for studying”, “how to manage time/cram for exams” – I’ve been there, done that. Over the past sixteen years, I’ve tried the gamut of study methods: (Click on the links below to learn more)

*Pomodoro for time management;

*Cornell for note-taking and

*Bullet Journal for keeping on top of tasks.

I’ve tried studying first thing in the morning, late at night; at home, at school, in libraries; the list goes on. The only thing I’ve found that works? Doing what best serves you, and not anyone else.

Give different study techniques a shot (if you’d like!) before exams are nigh, but stick to the basics in your routine when it comes to crunch time. 

For example, the Pomodoro method was lauded by everyone around me, but I found that I had little patience for its 25-5 intervals.

Instead, I did better with ‘warming up’ in the daytime and more focussed studying at night. Sticking to a routine that I was comfortable with made for a less stressful, more timely preparation process.

FOCUS ON THE PROCESS - WHY CONSISTENCY AND MOMENTUM ARE THE BUILDING BLOCKS TO EFFECTIVE LEARNING

“The higher the stakes, the higher the pressure”: this perspective seems intuitive and almost natural to us. Parents, teachers, and students alike fret much more about national exams like PSLE or O-Levels than regular school tests, even though the difference between the former and latter is one of degree and not of kind.

Students should prepare for all tests/exams in the same way – by focusing on the
preparation process, and not the hypothetical catastrophic consequences that might (or more realistically, might not!) occur after the results come back.

I applied the same amount of effort to my weekly quizzes in university as I did to the final exams that happened every semester; as a result, not only were my quiz results consistent, I was much less stressed out in the days leading up to my final exams.

In other words: if we treat so-called ‘small stuff’ as equally important parts of the learning process, learning becomes more consistent and more organic. Following that, big-ticket items will naturally become less daunting – as they should be.

Spotlight on MOE: No-Streaming by 2024

Major reforms to Singapore's education system were announced in parliament recently, most notably the abolishment of streaming by 2024, towards a system of Subject-based Banding (SBB). What will this mean for parents and students?

From the commentary that we have sampled, a most significant drawback of streaming is how it unwittingly punishes academically weaker students through labelling and stigmatisation. The new system of SBB will blunt this negative effect but not eradicate it, because while streaming is now less overt, it is but masked under the subject classifications G1-3.

We expect it will be quite challenging for schools to deliver on this new policy: there are time-table issues, and teachers having to juggle multiple levels within the same class, to say the least. Administrative and logistical issues can disrupt lesson delivery and the learning process in the classroom, because every system operates within limits that are made even more acute by the burdens it must bear. 

There is an upside to this, though: mixing up of students of different bands, if managed properly, can be very conducive for learning. In perforating that cultural and social divide between 'weaker' and 'stronger' students, weaker students are motivated to do better when they see that the stronger students are human just like them; stronger students are pushed to excel lest they rest on their laurels. For both groups, their horizons are broadened. Anxious parents might feel more assured if their children have a one-track mind and focus on academic excellence -- but life is a long race, and its challenges, multi-faceted. In a well-managed multi-band classroom, students could pick up a more holistic spread of personal and social skills that will serve them well in life.

Moreover, unlike streaming which is very much fixed, SBB seems to offer flexibility – chances for mobility within the subject bands means that a student's education pathway is now less determined by the system than his or her own choices and commitment. For late bloomers, and those who desire to do better, they will have more chances to make good.

That said, the core of education and learning has not changed. In whatever way the education system is tweaked, the fundamental truth remains that learning happens and is determined at the level of the individual. For instance, the system may label a student – this is an operational matter. It is up to the student to not let the label define him and get in the way of what he must do: to be educated. 

At Creative Campus, we focus on building the individual. The education system is not tailored to the individual, teachers at school may be over-burdened, and even good schools can be 'bad' as the case may be; but the student with the motivation and skills to learn, can prevail over these factors, and do all right. We teach English only – language is the conduit of thought, and through our programme, children learn to be curious, to imagine, analyse and express themselves with clarity and perspective. Regardless of the stream or band, this core ability makes the effective difference in one's education. 

PSLE English Composition Writing

Our qualified experts have helped numerous P6 students overcome the 30-mark barrier in their Compositions.
Here's why Creative Campus is able to do so for your child.

  • Proven track record of As and A*s since 2011
  • Impart skills and techniques to address examination topics
  • Focus on developing the student’s personal voice
  • Rigorous and engaging in-house curriculum
  • Qualified and passionate teachers 

5 Ways to Prepare for PSLE English Composition Writing

Read widely: periodicals provide ideas to derive your plot. Visit sites like time.com, nationalgeographic.com.

Subscribe to news sites to stay updated with the latest development. Do visit reputable sites like bbc.co.uk, cnn.com, or channelnewsasia.com for a dose of local news

Practice, practice, practice: regardless of the topic, compositions need planning so that the ideas for the compositions are fleshed out.

Read, read, read: novels still have a place in vocabulary development. Apply useful phrases in compositions as far as possible.

Keep a vocabulary book: categorise into commonly used phrases or ideas and apply them wisely. Never memorise chunks of paragraphs: there is a risk that the sentences do not answer the topic, or worse, sit awkwardly in the story.

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Tips for English Composition Writing

In the PSLE English Paper 1, students are required to write on one given topic. There are 3 pictures, and question prompts are provided to keep the composition relevant. For instance,


Write a composition of at least 150 words about an act of honesty.


The pictures are provided to help you think about this topic.

Your composition should be based on one or more of these pictures.

Consider the following points when you plan your composition:

· What was the act?

· Why was the act honest?

You may use the points in any order and include other relevant points as well.

The picture prompts include:
* a wallet full of cash;
* a broken vase; and
* a student peering over the script of her friend.

There are two ways to tackle this composition:

(1) Write a narrative prose about at least one of the pictures.

* Plan the plot carefully and ensure that the story illustrates the topic clearly.

Examples of plot lines:
-- returning a wallet;
-- learning that copying answers is dishonesty; or
-- admitting to breaking the vase at home later in the day.

(2) Write a non-narrative prose revolving around the topic, using the pictures as examples or prompts.

* A non-narrative continuous writing does not have a story.
* It is an open platform for students to write anything in continuous writing, in any text type, as long as it uses at least one picture and addresses the topic.

Examples of non-narrative paragraphs:
-- discuss how an act of honesty refers to situations where you return items that do not belong to you; use the wallet picture as an example
-- discuss how when you can be tempted to be dishonest at times; use the picture of the copying exam as an example
-- discuss how an act of honesty involves taking ownership and responsibility for the mistakes you make; use the broken vase as an example


Why Non-Narrative Essays?

The move to include a non-narrative prose at the national level is important. With guidance, students can use this as a stepping-stone towards the GCE ‘O’ levels and subsequently, the General Paper at the ‘A’ levels.

In these higher-level examinations, the syllabus has also been changed to include only discursive writing: exposition writing and argumentative writing. However, most school teachers tend to prepare students only on the narrative prose.

Perhaps the PSLE is too high a stake to risk attempting something as unfamiliar as a non-narrative prose; and why should they, since students have been writing narratives (creative writing included) since Primary 1? It is much easier to plan a story around one picture, a simple side-step from the old PSLE English format circa 2015.

Nonetheless, writing pure narratives can be stifling for students who have the maturity to discuss these topics at a more general level. It is important to equip your child with the skills to handle BOTH text types. At the very least, knowing how to write a non-narrative prose gives him the added advantage in the PSLE. There is an alternative for him, in case he cannot think of a narrative plot. Furthermore, the ability to use the pictures in a well-thought out composition can score higher marks compared to a bland narrative on the topic.


What Creative Campus can do for your child

PSLE is a major milestone for children aged 12. This national examination aims to test key language skills, while ensuring test questions are based on real-world scenarios.

Our dedicated teachers will equip your child with the skills to tackle the new PSLE English format. Call us for more details.

Our PSLE Blueprint is a comprehensive guide to writing narrative and non-narrative essays.  You can find out more and get a copy here. 

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