Primary 6 English:  Advice on how to help your child   prepare for the PSLE year

By now, all the P6 students are hard at work preparing for the upcoming CA1. Yes, I have a number of ashen-faced students who have been mixing Chinese New Year late-night celebrations and tons of revision over the long weekend – poor things! But as I told them, its just a short-lived discomfort for some long-term gains.

Since the change of the English syllabus a few years back the consensus that I get from students is that the English papers are generally more challenging than expected. The irony of it all is that the change was supposed to make the papers less difficult for the students. Ha ha. Vocabulary given is of a higher level and there are more inferential questions in the Comprehension OE.

Thankfully, the research that I did when the changes were made and the years after, have resulted in my pupils having fared pretty well.

Every year, on my blog, I emphasize the importance of starting preparation work for the PSLE from as early as possible.

Unfortunately for languages, doing multiple examination papers does not automatically result in higher grades. New vocabulary must be learned, Editing spelling retained and grammar rules assimilated. Composition writing needs time to improve as they write on a regular basis. All this takes time and that is one of the reasons why I start my classes from October the year before.

The speed in which the PSLE year will move will be quite unbelievable. The examinations will come at an amazingly fast rate, from the CA1 papers in February, SA1 Oral in April, SA1 papers in May, PSLE Oral Examinations in August, Preliminary examinations in August, PSLE Listening Comprehension in August and finally the PSLE begins early October. The students will just have a few months of break before moving on to a new examination.

Language papers are particularly challenging due to the number of components for each paper. From my experience, students can get quite stressed if their SA1 results are not where they want it to be. There is a big rush to improve before the Preliminary Exams and PSLE, but by then most schools would have started flooding them with worksheets and loads of homework for all the subjects. Fatigue and stress are not good combinations to process new information and techniques. Which is why in my P6 classes, all new writing techniques, rules and methods are taught in the first 6 months of class and the rest is spent practising. I do not like to see my students stressed or exhausted which is also why I do not give my students homework unless absolutely necessary.

So, how can you help your child prepare for the PSLE, without overtaxing him/her by the time the PSLE arrives?

1) Take note of the marks for each component of their P5 SA2 & P6 CA1 papers

I know that certain schools do not return the Writing and Oral marks and others do. If there is some way for you to know how they scored take note of that and see which areas they need to work on. A generally good score for Composition can be between 27-34 /40. For SW, a student should be scoring between 12-15/15. Oral should be between 25-30/30.

The Paper 2 scores should be in the A (75%) or A-star range (91%) by the SA2. Look through the Paper 2 and take note of which areas your child has lost the most marks. Ask your child why she has fared badly in those areas. Does she not know the grammar rules? Vocabulary is too challenging? Unable to find contextual clues in the Cloze? Or unable to figure out the inferential questions in the Compre OE? And yes, ‘careless’ is also something that needs to be seriously worked on.

If your child has a tuition teacher, ask the teacher to list the areas that she needs to work on by herself.

2) Helping at home- Paper 2

When you have a clear picture of which areas your child needs help in or the areas she is most careless in, look for ways that your child can self-study at home. Purchase assessment books targeted at the weaker component and get her to practise those. Students are matured enough to mark their own work and pinpoint areas that they are unsure of.

At the start of the PSLE year, my students’ parents usually ask me how they can help their children at home. Instead of doing countless assessment books, simply target on the areas that he/she needs to work on. When they have improved on that component, move on to the next.

If there are concerns about your child’s Paper 2, SA2 grades, work with your child’s tutor, asking for regular feedback and updates.

3) Helping at home- Writing

Situational Writing (SW) is one of those components that were easier to score full marks in with the old English format. While the format has not changed, the marking scheme has. The Audience, Context and Purpose of the SW must be laid out clearly and the tone and language of the SW are very strictly marked.

Surprisingly, students who may write beautiful descriptive compositions can find it difficult to phrase their points in a concise sentence for both Formal and Informal writing.

If your child has issues structuring his sentences properly and needs help in organising his thoughts, SW is one component which he may struggle with for Writing.

This is also a good time to take a look at the marks given for your child’s composition. If your child’s composition is peppered with grammatical mistakes and sentence structuring, this is a good time to review his grammatical rules.

If the loss of marks is more for the Content- story isn’t developed, lacking descriptive phrases- the holidays can be a good time to kick start the reading habit (fiction and non-fiction materials) or find a writing workshop that he can attend. Look out for Model Compositions, written by other students (I have some on my blog) that he can read and highlight the different ways to describe different scenarios.

Composition writing is something that should be done regularly, at least weekly or twice a month if possible. If this is your child’s week area, start looking for Writing classes that focus on that. If you have a home tutor, request that compositions be done at least twice monthly or more if possible.

I would just like to say everything that has been written here is my own personal opinions formed through my 20 years of teaching experience. Every teacher, tutor and parent has their own opinions on what works and what doesn’t.

All the best to all the students doing their CA1 in the next two weeks! Visit my blog when you can to find some Composition and Oral topics with Model Answers done by my students as practice.


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Primary 6 English tuition class schedule

DayStart timeEnd time
Wednesday - FULL3.00 pm5.00 pm
Wednesday - FULL5.00 pm7.00 pm
Saturday - FULL9.00 am11.00 am
Saturday - FULL11.00 am1.00 pm