Category Archives for Secondary Exam Tips

The New Secondary Posting Exercise: What You Should Know

The New Secondary Posting Exercise: What You Should Know

The Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) is a rite of passage for children studying in Singapore. Although the PSLE has undergone several changes in the past, the nerves and worry that afflict parents, teachers and students alike have remained largely the same.

Yet, should this be the case? This is one of the key questions — among other concerns revolving around an overemphasis on grades at the expense of holistic education — that have prompted the Ministry of Education (MOE) to redesign the PSLE scoring system and, accordingly, the secondary school posting exercise.

Here’s what you should know from 2021:

  • PSLE results are traditionally released in late November. The confirmed date will be released one week beforehand.

  • Students may choose to return to their schools to collect the results or view them online (via the SEAB website).
  • Each of the four subjects — English, Mother Tongue, Mathematics and Science — will be given an Achievement Level (AL) of 1-8, 1 being the highest grade possible.

  • The PSLE score is the sum of the four ALs. Hence, the best achievable at the PSLE would be 4. The lower the total AL, the more options the student has when considering secondary schools.
  • Students will be posted to a secondary school, based on their AL from 2021 and personal school choice ranking.

  • There will be cut-off points to enter a school. Schools with an affiliated primary school will have two sets of cut-off points: one for affiliated students and one for non-affiliated students.
  • The AL cut-off point range for each school will only be released in early 2021. However, MOE has shared the estimated cut-off points for each school category — government or government-aided, autonomous and independent schools. They are as follows:

How does the new system differ from the previous one?

Although the new system featuring ALs is similar to the old system in principle, the crucial difference lies in the execution. At first glance, the introduction of ALs does not seem to represent a groundbreaking shift in Singapore’s education system.

However, it joins subject-based banding* as a signal of MOE’s move towards creating more diverse and passion-focussed schools. The key effect of ALs is that students are more broadly differentiated. Instead of the 200+ scores that a student can potentially have, today’s primary school graduates can only have one of 32 ALs.

What does this mean for your child?

For the student, this could mean less comparison between themselves and their peers. After all, there is not much to compare when a friend scores the exact same number as you — a more statistically likely scenario under the new scoring system, compared to the old one.

Furthermore, the broadened differentiation also means that more schools across the three school categories potentially accept a larger number of students. In other words, students are now eligible for and can choose from a wider pool of schools.

Keeping this in mind, it becomes more beneficial for students to consider aspects of any given secondary school choice other than its cut-off point. When multiple schools have the same cut-off point, the students should feel more free to select their preferred one based on things like school niche, CCAs, culture and more.

*By 2024, the Express, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) streams will be replaced by subject-based banding (SBB), which empowers students to dive more deeply into the subjects they are more passionate about.

Find out more about SBB here (link to: tant-move-to-maximise-12227146).

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.


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!


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!


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.


“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.