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7 ways to help your child score in Primary School Science

The PSLE (Primary School Leaving Exam) is a suite of examinations specific to students in Singapore that occurs at the end of their sixth year. Many students find the PSLE challenging and arduous - so much so that a small culture has spawned around improving PSLE scores and ensuring that students do as well as possible.

PSLE Science is the Science portion of the exam, and covers topics like systems, cycles, interactions, and elementary biology/chemistry/physics. In this concise but effective guide, we give you 4 exam-smart tips for PSLE Science to help you achieve better and improve your likelihood of a strong future.

Successfully passing The Primary School Leaving Examination’s (PSLE) Science Paper will be the corner stone of that future success. Primary school science may not sound that intimidating at first glance, but it is definitely not to be taken lightly.

If a child doesn’t grasp basic scientific facts they will have trouble understanding more complex notions. The science tutors explain that the majority of primary school students may be able to tackle around 40 % of the questions in the PSLE science paper.

However, knowing how to apply learned concepts and principles to new situations is what enables a child get the coveted A. You can follow the tips given below in order to help your child score the highest mark at this vital exam.

Understand the Curriculum

The best way to improve your PSLE Science score is to first understand the types of questions you're most likely to be asked, and then develop your knowledge of the underlying content.

In this section, we touch on a brief overview of the PSLE Science Syllabus, describe each foundational topic, and then give you several questions that you should review to better understand each subject.
It’s important that, when reading through this content, you don’t simply skim by and passively read the material. Instead, actively engage - try your best to answer each question and stimulate your mind. This will help you better understand the content and its implications.

i) Diversity in Living and Non-Living Things

Whether living or non-living, things in the Universe are incredibly diverse and feature a number of structures, systems, and patterns. These include atoms, molecules, cells, organisms, ecosystems, ecosystems and more. The diversity of life forms on Earth and throughout the universe is mind boggling.

Questions to consider when studying this section are:

Q1. How can we classify the great variety of living and non-living things?

Q2. Why is it important to maintain diversity?

ii) Cycles

Cycles are patterns that repeat themselves naturally over time and space. They may occur spontaneously, such as a solar eclipse or an earthquake, or they may have been artificially created through human intervention. Examples of natural cycles include the seasons and the moon's phases.

Questions to consider when studying this section are:

Q3. What causes cycles to repeat themselves?

Q4. Which cycle(s) are most relevant to our own lives?

iii) Systems

A system is a changing entity that consists of smaller parts that work together to perform a task. There are many different kinds of systems, including biological, chemical, physical, social and economic systems. A system is composed of two components: its parts and its environment. The parts are what make up the system; the environment is all that surrounds or interacts with them (e.g., air surrounding a person).

Questions to consider when studying this section are:

Q5. What are some examples of systems?

Q6. How might these concepts apply to human society?

iv) Interactions

When two systems, entities, or cycles meet, they interact to produce new and interesting phenomena. Something like a solar eclipse is one example of an interaction between astronomical bodies. Other examples of interactions include predator-prey relationships, and the human consumption of resources.

Questions to consider when studying this section are:

Q7. What are some examples of interactions?

Q8. What are the consequences of Man’s interactions with the environment?

v) Energy

Energy is the driver behind change and movement. We use energy to power our lives and lifestyles. We can classify energy as either potential or kinetic. Potential energy is stored away to be used later. A wound-up spring, a loaded gun and some gasoline in a tank are all examples of potential energy. Kinetic energy is in constant motion and cannot be stored (e.g., the vibrations of atoms). The burning of diesel fuel and the constant motion of an atom are both examples of kinetic energy.

Questions to consider when studying this section are:

Q9. What are some examples of potential and kinetic energy?

Q10. Why is it important to conserve energy?

Marks Allocation & Papers

In recent years, the PSLE Science testing format has been relatively standardized, and features similar sections and layouts. In order, these are:

1. Booklet A

Booklet A features approximately 56 marks (56% of your final score), and consists mainly of multiple choice questions that test your understanding of the subjects listed above. Students often finish this section with a substantial amount of time to spare - which is good, because the next section is often more difficult.

2. Booklet B

Booklet B, on the other hand, is 44 marks, open-ended, and consists of a long-form question answer layout that tests your ability to both write and communicate concepts effectively. This section is where most students struggle due to the open nature of its problem solving. Understand that, even though it’s technically only 44% of your total grade, this section is important to take your time on and review your answers!

Here are the power tips to help you ace the PSLE science paper:

1. Roll up your sleeves and get in there.

Learning exclusively from books can seem tedious when it comes to any subject, but it is especially true of science.

Here’s the good news: it doesn’t have to be this way!

Not at all!

Unfortunately, schools are under time constraint to cover the entire school curriculum until the end of term, so they usually do not have the time to perform engaging experiments.

But there is nothing that prevents you from throwing on a lab coat and a pair of goggles on yourself and your child and learning about the world around us by carrying out some fun and educational science experiements at home. You can also use e-learning resources online to promote self-guided learning.

This will not only help your child internalize the knowledge presented in the textbooks, but it will also help you bond with your little one and create some precious memories.


2. Don’t be impatient and read the questions thoroughly.

Children are notoriously impatient in every activity they do and exams are no exception.

PSLE science paper questions are often quite long in order to provide accurate information. However, some children may zone out and choose not to read the question as thoroughly as it is recommended and jump to conclusions after catching a glimpse of a few familiar terms.

Needless to say this will increase the number of the mistakes they make. The devil is in the detail.

So, when doing practice tests make sure that your child reads all of the questions carefully from the beginning to the end, even if they seem confident what they are about.


3. Look out for the keywords!

Help your child understand how to identify keywords in any given question. There are some obvious ones like “explain” or “compare” that tell your child exactly what is required of them.

Other keywords may be specific scientific terms that they were taught during the term. Special attention should be paid to words such as “always”, “never”, “some”, “not” etc. as they may change the meaning of the question radically.

Initially, during practice, it is a good idea to tell your child to underline the keywords in the questions. After a while their brain learns to distinguish them as they read so it will no longer be necessary.

Chunking is relating a large amount of information that you need to remember, and dividing it into more manageable groups. For example, if you were asked to remember a 10-digit phone number but only had to remember it for a short period of time, you're more likely to remember it as two chunks of 3 numbers and one chunk of 4 numbers instead of ten chunks of 1 number. For example, to chunk 0715582461, you would try remembering: 071 558 2461. This seems like a small difference (you're really only adding a few spaces), but you'd be surprised at how well it helps you remember subjects.


4. Different questions require different types of answers.

The PSLE paper consists of two parts. First part contains multiple-choice questions and accounts for 56 marks. Second part consists of open-ended questions and takes up 44 marks. These two types of questions each demand a different approach.

If questions are given in the imperative, and contain verbs such as “state”, “name” or “list” they require simple recall answers.

You don’t need to write at length when dealing with these questions. Just write down the names of objects, people etc. the examiners are looking for and move on, save the time.

In the questions of open-ended variety it is important to answer fully and to show how you arrived at that specific conclusion.

Before handing in your PSLE Science paper, always check through your answers to see if you got them right. Remember that the marking scheme tends to offer more marks for some questions than others, and you want to prioritize your time and attention on those questions.

Additionally, don't be afraid to stay the full length of the exam - if you still have time left over, it makes sense to use that time to double and triple-check what you think you know before handing your PSLE Science in.


5. Using scientific language will help you score more points.

Even if your child knows the correct answer to the question, not being able to use the scientific style of writing and vocabulary may cost them a few points.

Learning how to write things in a scientific manner is especially important in the booklet B which contains open-ended questions. A child must be able to recall the names of various processes and phenomena that they had learnt from the book.

As well as this, they should be able to demonstrate that they understand the “cause and effect” relationships which exist between various phenomena. Simply regurgitating dry facts will be of little use in this part of the exam.


6. Applying familiar concepts to new situations.

Never before seen pictures and diagrams are to be expected at the exam.

They will be similar to those already studied but not 100 % the same. By asking the child to identify specific characteristics of the object examiners test how well the child has grasped basic scientific principles that cause those characteristics.

The only way your child can successfully overcome this part of the test is if they truly understand the underlying principles. Merely memorizing facts will not help you here.


7. Practice. Practice. Practice.

Practice makes perfect. It really does. If you are aiming for that A, then you better print some past year exam papers from other schools and get to work as early as possible. And remember, having a motivated child is a battle half-won, so make sure to practice positive reinforcement.

If you're struggling with a particular part of PSLE Science, don't be afraid to put your hands up and ask for help from your teachers. Much of the time, the problem is simply one of not understanding the wording or perhaps not reading the question correctly.

Your teachers aren't allowed to give you the answer, but they can inform you if, for example, there is anything wrong with the way the question is written or if there are figures or graphs that you're not seeing. You might be surprised at how willing they are to help students who are keen on understanding the material and doing well on the exam!

8. Bonus tip! Stay Healthy

Finally, the best tip of all is to relax and take everything in stride. The PSLE Science isn't the end-all-be-all, and your performance on this test doesn't dictate what you'll do with the rest of your life. Try your best, of course, but make sure to balance your effort with the other parts of your life - health, friends, and family.

Remaining healthy in both body and mind is an incredibly important part of learning. Staying hydrated, for example, helps stave off fatigue and allows your brain to operate at full capacity. A well-rested mind is an effective mind, and this is especially important on a test like the PSLE.

What can you do to keep yourself healthy? Sleeping enough and eating right are probably two of the most obvious. Beyond that, find out which work-arounds you have. Is there something that helps you focus when you're studying? A certain song, a piece of gum, or something similar? Everybody is different, so not all techniques work for everybody. Experiment with different conditions and see what works best for you.

Although, if you still have some doubts, or if you’d rather have a professional handle this important aspect of your child’s education, feel free to hire a private science tutor.

We hope that you found this guide informative and helpful, and wish you the best of luck in preparing for and achieving great scores in PSLE Science!

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About Author

Tutor City's blog focuses on balancing informative and relevant content, never at the expense of providing an enriching read. 

We want our readers to expand their horizons by learning more and find meaning to what they learn.

Resident author - Mr Wee Ben Sen, has a wealth of experience in crafting articles to provide valuable insights in the field of private education.

Ben Sen has also been running Tutor City, a leading home tuition agency in Singapore since 2010.