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Everything You Need To Know About PSLE Chinese

Everything You Need To Know About PSLE Chinese

Following the rise of China, Chinese has become an increasingly popular second language to learn. As part of the syllabus, all students have to take Mother Tongue classes in primary and secondary school, whether that is Chinese, Malay or Tamil. However, it is not uncommon for many students to struggle with Chinese. As English is the main language of instruction in school, students may have limited opportunities to practice their reading, speaking and listening skills in Chinese. On top of that, many Chinese families tend to speak English at home, meaning that studenrs have even less interaction with the language.

Therefore, in order to score well in PSLE Chinese, many parents are turning to Chinese tuition to strengthen their children’s foundation in the language. Under the guidance of an experienced tutor, students will be able to spend more time on the subject and receive more personalised attention than they can expect in school.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about PSLE Chinese, including some top tips and tricks that will boost your child’s chances of scoring their desired grade!

Why PSLE Chinese is Important

chinese class students

Even if your child is doing well in their other subjects, scoring a low grade for PSLE Chinese can bring down their overall score and affect their chances of getting into the secondary school of their choice. In addition, as students will have to continue with Mother Tongue in secondary school, a weak foundation can end up causing them more frustration down the line. Because all other subjects are taught in English, it’s important for students to carve out time to strengthen their Chinese proficiency when they can.

As a parent, you may have noticed that many Singapore adults struggle to communicate clearly in Chinese. This is something you do not want for your child – as a growing language of commerce, being proficient in Chinese can open up many doors for them in future. As this is not something that can be acquired overnight, starting from a young age is key. If your child is weak in Chinese or not doing as well as they should, do not wait until the last minute to seek additional help for them. Get started early with primary school tuition so that by the time PSLE rolls around, your child will be ready and prepared.

What Are the Objectives of PSLE Chinese?

By the end of Primary 6, all students should be able to meet the PSLE Chinese objectives set by MOE. These include:

  • Being able to use the proper grammar, sentence structure, vocabulary and punctuation
  • The ability to read, understand and interpret various types of texts and passages
  • The ability to make inferences and convey them in a coherent and logical manner
  • Express their personal opinions coherently and

The Format of the PSLE Chinese Paper

In the PSLE Chinese examination, students will have to complete a total of three papers. These are:

Paper 1: Writing (写作)- 50 minutes, 40 marks

In Paper 1, students can take their pick from two essay questions. Regardless of which option they choose, a minimum of 100 words is required. Below are the two types of essays students can take their pick from:

  • Picture Essay (图作文): Students are expected to form a narrative based on a sequence of six images. The first five will illustrate an event or accident that occurred, and students are free to come up with a suitable ending for the sixth box, which contains a question mark:
  • Scenario-Based Essay (题作文): Students who choose this option will have to write an essay based on a provided title or theme. Prompts will also be given to help students along the way.

Paper 2: Language Use & Comprehension (语文理解与应用)- 1 hour 40 minutes, 90 marks 

This paper is divided into two sections

  • Section A: Multiple-Choice Questions(语文应用 / 短文填空/ 阅读理): Students will need to answer a total of 25 MCQs in this section, choosing the correct answer out of four options. Each question is worth 2 marks, amounting to a total of 50 points.
  • Scenario-Based Essay (题作文): Students who choose this option will have to write an essay based on a provided title or theme. Prompts will also be given to help students along the way.

Paper 3: Oral Communication & Listening Comprehension (/听)- 45 minutes, 70 marks

The main purpose of this paper is to test students’ listening abilities as well as how well they can express their thoughts verbally. Find out more about each individual section below:

  • Oral Communication (): Amounting to a total of 50 marks, students are required to read a passage out loud and engage in a discussion with their examiner. The conversation will be based on a minute-long video clip, which students will be given some time to watch and prepare discussion topics for.
  • Listening Comprehension (听力): The remaining 20 marks in Paper 3 will come from here. Students are required to answer questions based on a passage that will be read out loud. It is important for students to possess good listening skills so they can understand the information they hear and retain it for long enough to be able to answer the questions in the paper.

Common Challenges Faced in PSLE Chinese

There are many different reasons students may struggle with PSLE Chinese. One of the most common reasons is that some students tend to think in English before translating what they want to say into Chinese. Naturally, this doesn’t always work out and can result in a lack of fluency and coherency.

Here are some of the common challenges faced by students when taking on PSLE Chinese:

  • Inability to express opinions and structure sentences properly: Due to the reason mentioned above, students may find it hard to structure a grammatically correct sentence in Chinese despite knowing what it is they want to say. This is the most common cause of low-scoring essays.
  • Poor reading comprehension: Similarly, not being able to understand the passages or instructions given can result in students being unable to answer questions. This can be the case when students do not have an extensive enough vocabulary bank and do not understand the meaning of certain key words or phrases.
  • Poor analytical skills: Paper 3 is one that many students struggle to score well in because it requires them to carry on a discussion with the examiner. Students with poor analytical skills can have trouble formulating insights and opinions to share with the examiner. They may also not have a strong enough contextual understanding of the topic to be discussed.

If any of these challenges sound like what your child is going through, it’s always wise to engage additional assistance for them as soon as possible. Whether that is signing them up for classes with a tuition centre or engaging a private tutor who can come to your home, parents should never underestimate the importance of seeking help for your child who struggles with Chinese.

Scoring Well for PSLE Chinese: Top Tips


Now that you are aware of the common pitfalls experienced by students taking the PSLE Chinese paper, you may be looking for some tips and tricks to help your child improve their grade.

Below are some top tips to keep in mind when devising a revision plan for your child:

  • Interact with different kinds of media: The most common strategy adopted by parents is to buy assessment books for their child and leave them to complete the practice papers in them. However, that’s not all there is to it as students will also need to improve their speaking and listening skills. One way this can be achieved is through exposure to different forms of media, including newspaper reports and broadcasts, educational videos and more.
  • Read widely: Although students may be provided with a lot of reading material in school, these are mostly in English. In order to improve Chinese proficiency, students will need to read extensively in their Mother Tongue as well. A good place to start out would be model essay books, where students can pick up new words for their vocabulary bank and be introduced to various types of sentence structures.
  • Keep a notebook of new words and phrases: As your child starts reading more extensively, they will come across words and phrases they do not know the meaning of initially. Once they have looked up the definition in the dictionary, get them to write these new words done in a notebook and constantly review them. This will come in highly useful for essay writing and ensures that your child can easily come back to what they have learned instead of forgetting them!
  • Practice speaking and listening: Paper 3 can be a tough one to practice for if your family does not speak Chinese at home. Your child will need to converse regularly with someone in Chinese in order to improve their speaking and listening skills. If they are unable to get enough individualised attention in school, you may want to consider engaging a private tutor who can assist them with practice in their own time. Regular practice will allow your child to get used to articulating their thoughts in Chinese and gradually become more fluent.
  • Be consistent with practice: Understandably, you will need to carve out time for your child to revise for their other subjects as well. However, the key is to maintain consistency for practice times, regardless of how many subjects you need to fit in. Building a strong linguistic foundation takes time, and trying to cram everything in the last minute will not work.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help: In recent years, an increasing number of parents are engaging additional help to improve their children’s foundation in various subjects of weakness. If you find that your child is struggling particularly badly with Chinese, don’t be afraid to reach out to their teacher to find out what is going on. From there, you will be better able to understand your child is doing and decide on the best way forward, such as requesting a tutor who is experienced and qualified to help them from Tutor City.

Now that you know some of the best ways you can maximise your child’s grade, it’s time to come up with a revision strategy in advance of PSLE rolling around. This is especially true if your child requires additional help with more than one subject, whether that is English, Maths or Science. As they say, the early bird catches the worm and by starting early, you are giving your child the best chance of scoring their desired grade and getting into the secondary school of their choice!

What About PSLE Higher Chinese?

If your child is doing well enough in Chinese that he or she has been encouraged to take on Higher Chinese at Primary 5, you may be wondering if this is a good choice for them. As long as they are able to cope with an additional workload and have a strong enough foundation in Chinese, taking on PSLE Higher Chinese can benefit your child. Although it does not count towards the overall AL score, taking on this additional paper means that your child will be given priority admission to a Special Assistance Plan (SAP) school should they score well.

SAP schools are schools that are dedicated to the promotion of Mother Tongue, and many of them are highly rated. Some examples of SAP schools include:

  • Nanyang Girls’ High School
  • Hwa Chong Institution
  • Nan Hua High School
  • River Valley High School
  • Catholic High School
  • Dunman High School
  • Maris Stella High School
  • … and more!

Of course, priority admission to a SAP school should not be the main reason your child is taking up Higher Chinese. If they are already struggling to do well in Chinese, it is not recommended that they take up Higher Chinese – in fact, this can end up heaping additional stress on them. The Higher Chinese syllabus has been specially prepared for students who already have an existing aptitude and interest in the language and your child’s teacher will be able to advise on whether it’s a good choice for them.

In comparison to standard PSLE Chinese, the Higher Chinese paper does not come with an oral and listening comprehension component, so students taking up the subject can rest assured that they won’t need to prepare for and go through Paper 3 twice.

You Are Not Alone in This Ride

chinese student exam

Both parents and students can come under an immense amount of stress when preparing for PSLE Chinese, especially if you are an English-speaking household. It can be tough going out of your way to converse in Chinese, especially if you are not particularly fluent in it. However, your child will need all the exposure they can get if they are to improve their linguistic skills. Here is where you may want to consider hiring a tutor or sending your child for tuition classes. Online tuition is also an option if you find it hard to fit classes around your child’s busy schedule or do not have time to fetch them back and forth every week.

There’s no shame in seeking help for yourself or your child in the subjects they struggle with. After all, your end goal is for them to achieve an AL score they are happy with and to enter a secondary school of their choice. Let Tutor City recommend a tutor who will tick all the right boxes and save time on doing the research yourself. The best part is that you don’t have to commit until you are sure the tutor is the best fit for your child – all you need to do is pay for the one lesson your child has tried out if you decide not to continue with the recommended tutor.

Feel free to check out our blog for more information on examination- and tuition-related topics and remember, you are not alone in this ride! Many generations of students have sat for the PSLE and achieved good results, and you can too!

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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.