PSLE – The Journey to getting all the answers right!

It’s Tuesday today and the first paper for PSLE is on Thursday. You can imagine the stress and pressure the kids are facing now. On top of that, consider the stress and pressure the parents are facing! If there’s some kind of meter to measure such pressure, S’pore number now is possibly close to the peak.

I won’t be able to represent all PSLE parents, since everyone has different dreams, values and expectations. But one thing for sure, we all want our kids to do their best, don’t black out, and definitely don’t start thinking PSLE is their whole life! (We are very conscious of the suicidal tendencies that can come with too much pressure!)

For us, the journey really begun only in June, when failing Mid-year exams woke us up. You see, we left Nicole to do her own revision since P1. If she doesn’t understand, she’ll come and ask. If we realised it’s beyond us (like Math and Chinese), we got her a tutor. There was never a need then to sit beside her and go thru work line upon line, page after page. However, when we saw her Mid-year grades, we knew this method ain’t working for her.

So I knew it’s time to be more involved. Since June, I familiarised myself with each subject’s paper, analysing what she can or cannot do, and deciding what we can achieve in the next 4 months. As much as I could, I sat in the same room as her while she revised her work. Every 10 min, she needed a pat on the back or a check on how’s everything. (if I didn’t, I’ll be rewarded with many forms of her name in beautiful calligraphy in various colours!)

Papers and more papers!

Although it seemed like going back to babysitting, we realised this was necessary for her. There really wasn’t time for more screaming and shouting or huge lectures on responsibility and vision setting. And it worked! Slowly, she learnt that mummy was always watching her back (with EAGLE EYES) and she became more disciplined and focused.

This is what really worked for us… June to August (Prelims):

  1. Do 1 paper in exam conditions from that stack of 2016’s various school’s P6 papers
  2. I mark the paper as strictly as I can and grade it
  3. She will do corrections
  4. We will mark corrections together and realised XX marks were lost cos of carelessness
  5. She can see she could have gotten +XX marks instead!
  6. We look at the topics she struggled in, and do one page of revision from that topic in the assessment book
  7. Then we repeat again Step 1

Steps 3-5 were very important, as it helped boost her confidence and keep her sharp from making silly mistakes.

Then came Prelims, and I realised there are THREE schools of thought for setting Prelim papers. The least popular is to have a super duper easy paper, to encourage the kids. The most popular is to have a fair paper with questions that range from easy to difficult. and the one I really hate are the papers that are so difficult with most demoralising questions!

Small rant here: WHY on earth would a school set such ridiculously difficult papers? To give the kids a rude wake up call? Sigh… The actual PSLE paper doesn’t have such tricky and mean questions, and definitely not at the same frequency! Thank God Nicole’s school isn’t one of these psycho schools! 

Anyhow, she improved from her mid-year exams and was greatly encouraged. In the past month, our strategy changed, I came to a realisation it is pointless trying to get her to get all the answers right. 

We are thankful for the past 3 weeks, we had the opportunity to do Math together with her church buddies. All three girls are from different schools, and they had great fun doing the paper together, getting it marked, and most importantly, doing peer learning! As one parent said, the best learning happens when the child explains the answer to their friends. And we are so thankful that we had some youth leaders (whose brains were younger and more math-proned) to help explain the tough questions too!

Learning at its best–with peers!

So before the actual paper starts, what’s my conclusion about the PSLE?

Many have raised awareness about affirmation and how important it is to emphasise that as long as you do your best, it would be ok. Yup, I agree. But we have to admit, the definition of best is not up to the child to define. We always think that we know better and we know the child’s potential .

Here’s my take. 

Unless your child’s ability is the full-marks type, please don’t expect them to be able to answer all questions correctly. It does not make sense for an Examination to be pitched for everyone to score full marks. Now, the argument for the necessity of PSLE is a separate topic… we know that the examination looks here to stay, so we just have to manage our expectations.

Ideally, getting ALL the answers would be best. But how is that possible? The ministry needs to sieve out the A*s, As, Bs and Cs. And I strongly believe, unless your child is clearly an A* and has high, incredibly high potential to get full marks, we have to manage our expectations that our precious off-spring just ain’t full marks material.

The Math paper for example, is the bane of our lives that past few months. The problem sums are such a challenge some times. And I realised some of these sums are the distinguishing questions for that elusive A*! So in this last month, I told Nicole, please just have NO careless mistakes and try your best to understand these difficult questions. Get 1-2 method marks and that would be great!

Similarly, for English, the Transformation and Synthesis questions. There’s no memorising to do for these questions. It’s either you have it in you, as part of your language foundation, or you don’t. I know what’s her level, and there are those “you can’t get it wrong” questions, and those “let’s try again” type.

If you ask me, do I know what’s Nicole’s best? erm not really. But I do know when she’s tired, when she’s unmotivated to try, when her mind gives up, or even when she’s in her la-la mode. In the next couple of days, I’m not doubling the intensity of revision, nor am I diminishing it. We’ll just keep at regular revision, regular devotion, peppered with Herbal chicken soup, tons of love and attention and bits of TV and Tablet time.

Herbs for Chicken Soup to boost brain power and stamina

Do I wish I can do more? Aiyo, I will be lying if I said no. Of course I could have done more… like start this crazy revision schedule in Dec last year, or maybe even when she was in P3! But there’s only so much to Ability. Cannot do means cannot do. Cannot see the rationale means cannot see. Even we adults can’t see the answer and we are big grand degree holders…

I honestly can’t wait for the papers to start. It’s finally coming and within sight. Phew!! (and one mummy told me, the next big thing is Results Day! and that’s another story altogether!)


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