8 Useful Tips To Prepare For The PSLE

  1. Invest your precious revision time smartly

As PSLE 2020 draws closer with each passing month, the precious revision time becomes scarcer. Your child needs to invest his/her revision time smartly in all subjects. “Smartly” means to be able to identify the problem areas and start to do focused practices on areas that are causing a loss in precious marks. Why would you want to revise 1 + 1 = 2? It is also a reasonable assumption most students do not need to spend two centuries memorising ‘… as cool as a cucumber …’.


  1. Know your enemy well by having a good overview of the commonly examined topics in PSLE

Here’s a chart showing the average distribution* of the topics examined in PSLE Maths from 2013 to 2016. This should provide a good reference on the allocation of revision efforts.

*Percentages will vary depending on the classifications of topics and the statistical tool/technique used.


From the chart, you can see that ratio, fractions, decimals and percentage add up to a whopping 44%! These topics, known as the Quadruplets of Mathematics as AKLC calls it, are essentially what PSLE Maths Paper 2 is all about.

distribution of topics


  1. Daily revision vs interval revision


Our brains’ ability to retrieve or re-access information from the past is a “re-enactment” of a sequence of neural activities that were generated in response to a particular event. In the case of recollecting past revisions during a stressful event such as PSLE or O Level, studies have shown that by strengthening the pathways of these neural activities, one is able to consolidate, reconstruct and recollect past learning more efficiently.


Without getting into the mumbo jumbo of scientific terminology, we suggest for a very practical way to improve long term memory, which is to do daily revision instead of interval revision (few days apart).


Research has shown that most (average) human beings tend to forget 50% of new information within an hour. Within 24 hours, people tend to forget an average of 70% of new information. However, when revised within the first 24 hours, one is able to retain the memory up to 2 weeks. A revisit of this prior revision in 2 weeks’ time allows one to retain the memory up to another 2 months.


An added bonus of this daily revision schedule is a beautiful virtuous cycle:

revision cycle jpg

  1. Avoid information overload by taking suitable breaks


Why do our brains tend to discard (irrelevant) new information? For example, you will (often) remember where you left your school bag or parked your car for most part of the duration you were away from the location, but now that the information is no longer of use, your brain has forgotten it.


This “forgetting” is unavoidable. It is in fact a desirable adaptation (for those who are taking Science PSLE) because it frees up memory space for things that are more relevant or recent.

dexters laboratory what a fine day for science GIF


With this adaption of the brain in mind, we suggest for revision at suitably timed intervals of around 30 minutes; take a five-minute breather (not to play mobile games!) and continue with the revision. This allows the brain to process and compartmentalise newer and newer information instead of wanting to discard it in place of the most recent information.


  1. Mental rehearsal

This is often an overlooked aspect of examination preparation. Many students and parents complain of examination anxiety, hence the common complaint of underperforming.


Have you ever wondered how Steve Jobs is able to deliver a great, if not flawless, presentation? Rehearsals, rehearsals, rehearsals!

You can attempt to do (mental) rehearsals by visualising as vividly as you possibly can all the possible and even outrageous events that could happen to you during an examination, right down to the details of your palm sweating, the smell of the 85gm examination script, the voice of that unfamiliar invigilator reciting the examination rules and regulations, etc. This is to prepare your mental state to associate these events as familiarity. When these events do happen, they are no longer unforeseen, hence the (undue) anxiety would have a lesser (or zero) impact on your performance. 



  1. Time management during examination


This is, in fact, easier “nagged at” than done. Before we talk about this, we need to first understand, and then analyse, the format of any PSLE subject. Here’s an example on PSLE Maths:




Item Type

Number of questions

Number of marks per question









50 min


















1 h

40 min


Structured/Long answer


3, 4, 5






2 h

30 min

*A new format has been adopted for 2018 PSLE Maths 


You only have 75 seconds per mark for Paper 1. And 100 seconds per mark for Paper Two.


This means you have 500 seconds or approximately 8 minutes for a 5-mark question which includes reading the question, re-reading the question if the wording is confusing, planning your steps, and finally writing down the workings. Oh, this also includes checking!


What about PSLE English? Take Paper 2 for example, you have approximately 70 seconds per mark. It is not all that luxurious, time wise, to complete the various sections such as Vocabulary Cloze and Grammar Cloze.


You are now in a much better position to realise when it is no longer worth the extra time and effort on a seemingly difficult question and to move on to the next.


  1. Logic – a great tool to avoid silly, careless mistakes


PSLE Maths loves to test less than a percent of a quantity. For example, “What is 0.2% of 4 kg?”


We hope we can safely assume most students know how to determine 1% of any quantity easily – 1% of 4 kg (4000 g) = 40 g. This means that basic logic will inform us that an answer of more than 40 g would be wrong!


  1. What parents/guardians can do to help your child excel in PSLE?


Nobody likes to be nagged at especially when it involves something as sensitive as one’s (Maths) intelligence. It affects our ego and ultimately destroy every last shred of self-confidence that we used to have. Be encouraging but firm. For example, you can say to your child:


“I believe in you. Take as much time as you need to understand this. At the same time, you need to take charge of your learning and seek clarification when needed.”


“Great that you are making this mistake now. You can now learn from this mistake.”


And perhaps somewhat light-heartedly: “This is your personalised John’s book of mistakes that you can never buy from any bookstore.”


Parents, what you can do to help your children is much easier than you think – simply be the student that you had always wanted to be when you were one!