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8 Tips to prepare the PSLE

Tip 1 – Remember the important science knowledge

Many parents focus on the 3Ps: Practice, Practice and more Practice. Their solution is to complete as many past-year papers as possible.

Yet some students have difficulty writing out the answers in the OEQ.

Why is that? This is mostly due to a poor understanding of science knowledge/concepts.

Fortunately, many textbooks provide the proper explanations of concepts.

Some examples include:

  • Condensation is where warmer water vapour…. loses heat and condenses to form ….
  • Plants absorb water, carbon dioxide…. to photosynthesise ….
  • Body cells absorb water…. to respire and release….

To find out if your child remembers the concepts, refer to your child’s lesson notes and ask them these:

Explain how plants make food?

Explain how do you respire?

Please explain how evaporation takes place?


If he recalls the concepts with ease, continue testing on other topics. You will find a topic where he struggles to provide the answers.

Tell your child to remember the proper explanations and give him a dictation test.


Does my child need to remember the detailed explanations?


Teachers have reminded your child countless times his answers lack details or there are missing keywords. To make matters worse, your child is writing his way and the answers do not make sense.

Remembering each detailed explanation equips your child with the must-know factors needed to analyse the question.

Let’s look at the evaporation concept:

Water gains heat from the heat source and evaporates into water vapour. There is less water in the beaker.

These are the conditions/factors:

1) Water gains heat: That means water is at a lower temperature than the heat source.

2) Gains heat: Heat is transferred from the hotter object (heat source) to the water.

3) Heat source: Identify the heat source from the question

4) Evaporate: Science concept needed to tell the examiner the change in state from liquid to gas.


Look at this question now

What happens to the liquid in a beaker when placed under the sun?



Hmm… there’s the sun. It is the heat source.

There’s the liquid. It’s a lower temperature than the sun.

Liquid, as the name suggests, means it is a liquid state. The conditions are met.


Voila! I identified the evaporation concept!

The unknown liquid gains heat from the sun and evaporates into vapour.


This does not stop there!

No matter how the examiner twists and turn the questions, your child applies the same concept!

And the same explanations are used in the OEQ

Plus there’s a much smaller chance of missing details in your child’s answers!


That is killing three birds with one stone!

Build up his science knowledge/concept competencies first before working on the MCQs or OEQs.



Tip 2 – Practice on the weak topics

Tackling the weak topics is the ideal step to quickly see improvements. Yet many students rush to complete the challenging questions first.

Here’s the thing:

There are basic level questions and challenging questions for each topic.

If your child cannot answer the questions in Tip 1, chances are your child’s science knowledge is missing too.


Does your child know the difference between

  • steam and mist?
  • melting and melting point?

(Yes. One word makes a HUGE difference in its meaning)

  • ovule and ovary?
  • pollination and fertilisation?
  • Fair test, accuracy and reliability, control setups and aim of experiments?

And more…


Jumping into the tough questions when scientific knowledge is missing might confuse your child. There is a lack of a structured approach to learning.

Fix them quickly by working on questions or simply giving a test to recall his science knowledge.


These affect all students

Once your child remembers his knowledge and concepts, check your child’s past papers.

Look for recurring mistakes in the MCQs and OEQs. That gives a good hint on the weak topics.


For MCQs,

The common mistakes are not reading carefully, did not remember the proper explanations of concepts or simply lacking exposure.

Once your child remembers the detailed explanations for condensation:

Warmer water vapour comes into contact with a cooler surface, loses heat and condenses to form water droplets.

Your child will spot the hidden factors.


Did you notice the explanation has the words “cooler surface”?

Hmmm… for the cooler surface. What kind of cooler surface?

The material used,

How large is the surface

How hot or cold is this surface


Eureka! Your child gains additional knowledge on this.

Each kind of surface affects the rate of condensation.

Once your child is aware of these factors, when he practices, he easily spots the “hidden” factors from the question and chooses the correct options in the MCQs.


What about the OEQ?

Apply the same explanations into the OEQ!

Use the hidden factors in your proper explanations for condensation.

Example: You noticed the examiner changed to a larger steel sheet.



Warmer water vapour touches the larger exposed surface area of the steel sheet, loses heat and condenses faster to form more water droplets.



For experimental based questions

Compile the proper answering techniques for fairness, control setup, reliability and accuracy, relationships and conclusion questions.

Apply the answering techniques to your OEQ.

Repeat steps 1 to 3 for other topics:

  • Remember the science concepts/knowledge
  • Apply the concepts/knowledge – They provide the factors needed in the MCQs
  • Apply the concepts – Each concept has a proper explanation needed for the OEQs.


You can download the Free Ebook on water cycles which includes the Must-Know answering techniques.

Tip 3 – Aim high 

If your child scores 52 out of 56 for MCQs consistently, skip this.

If your child gets 36 / 56, aim for 44 and above.

If your child gets 44 /56, aim for 50 and above.

Your child works on the OEQ. It is so hard and difficult to explain energy conversion concepts.

Take this example “The ball slows down as kinetic energy is converted to heat energy due to friction. Eventually, the ball comes to a stop.”

Writing those 2 sentences awards your child 1 mark.

The MCQ simply reads the question, analyse the options and get the correct answers.


It is WAAY easier to get two marks in the MCQ.

Yet, I saw students are obsessed with pulling up their OEQ when their MCQs are in the 40 to 44 marks range.

Work on the MCQs for weaker topics.

(Go to Tip 1 and 2 on boosting MCQs quickly)


It’s easier to take the low hanging fruits of a tree.

MCQs are the low hanging fruits. Seize them!

Tip 4 – Compile the learning pointers

This is not practised by many students yet it can provide tremendous benefits to your child.

I’ve seen this plaguing many students when they revise:

he does not know what this question is all about and reads the entire question again. Worse, he struggles to remember why he got wrong.


By writing learning pointers, your child acquires these:

  • Putting the thoughts into words. (Useful in the OEQ)
  • While revising the completed questions, he can easily see the mistakes instead of reading the entire question.

There’s so little time to read past questions and recall the mistakes when exams are near.


With learning pointers, revision is efficient and your child has more time to revise other topics.

How to write the learning pointers?

For this question:

I’ve seen students write this:

Mass of ball X does not change.

The learning pointers lack context.


Write this:

Mass does not change when heated. Only the volume increases.


Learning pointers have enough details yet not too long or else your child loses focus.

Learning pointers briefs your child on why he picked the wrong answer.

The aim here is to quickly recall the mistakes or hidden clues in the question.

Learning pointers can be written for challenging questions that your child did correctly.


A good way is to ask your child why he got it wrong? A meticulous child gives a detailed explanation. His replies are the learning pointers.

Tip 5 – Have a revision plan

Students usually complete past year papers as part of their revision.

To learn more effectively, you might want to split up the revision papers by topics.

The reason is exam papers tests all topics.

By completing one exam paper, your child is “hopping” across different topics. There’s a lack of focus.


Your child needs to strengthen his weaker topics. Your child needs to dive deep into that topic to see improvements.

Instead of completing the entire exam paper, break them up into different topics.


Consider any one of these to spot his weak topics:

1) Ask your child which topic they are weak at. (Be aware of the topics they like to do and the topics they are truly weak at)


2) Look at your child’s completed papers and notice which questions he got wrong. Each question relates to a few topics. If your child did poorly in many questions, that is a good hint your child is weak in a topic.

For example:

your child completed a number of electricity questions.

You notice your child scores well in the MCQ for electricity. There are very few mistakes.

However, your child loses 0.5 to 1 mark for each electricity OEQ. That shows your child understood the concepts (That’s good!) but he needs more practise on the OEQ.


3) Ask your child’s school teacher/tutor for the weak topics.

Have 2 categories: Weak topics for MCQs and weak topics for OEQs. There’s a high chance your child is strong in the concepts but weak in writing them clearly.


Once the weak topics are identified,

start looking through the past year papers and circle questions relating to the weak topics. Tell your child to work on MCQs or OEQs.


Start this early.

Work on questions relating to a topic each week.

One week later, work on the next topic.

This gives your child a deeper understanding and exposure to that topic.


If time is limited,

I’ve provided some common groups many students are weak at.

(Examiners test multiple topics in a question and we classify them into groups)


Your child can pick any one of the groups he is weak at.
Start looking at the past year’s papers, circle the questions relating to the topics in that group. Tell your child to work on them it can be the MCQs or OEQs.


Group 1

Energy conversion and forces

Electricity with energy conversion and forces – electromagnet used in the fire alarm system


Group 2

Photosynthesis, respiration and plant transport system – After removing a part of the stem, what happens to the leaves? What happens to the leaves wrapped in plastic or in a cardboard box?

Respiration, circulatory system, digestive system and respiratory system – Explain why a person’s breathing rate/heartbeat rate increases after completing a 500m race?


Group 3

Properties of matter with heat and temperature – bimetallic strip question

Properties of matter with water cycle – Good and poor conductors of heat and evaporation concept


Group 4

Water cycles with photosynthesis – Question that involves a Terrarium


Group 5

Reproduction in plants with human and plant transport systems – Compare the functions of different parts of plants and human

Note: The list is not exhaustive.


Having a proper roadmap, you need to be aware of this next tip.

Tip 6 – Don’t overdo this

Practising too many questions makes your child feel stressed and tired.

Practising too many questions on the same topic might create more careless mistakes.

It’s good to heed those warning signs and take a break. Revisit them at a later time.


This happens:

Your child struggles to spot the clues in the MCQ. He then takes a break and revisits the question.

Miraculously, the child spots them and answers correctly.

This happens at the subconscious level. The brain is constantly active and working on its problems without your child noticing them.


Though miracles do not happen all the time, what it guarantees is it reduces anxiety.

Another suggestion is to split up the practice questions into a few parts.

If there are 10 challenging OEQs and 10 MCQs, you can consider completing all the MCQs and 5 OEQs in one session. Complete the remaining 5 OEQs in another session.

OEQ is mentally demanding as it requires your child to paraphrase his answers. Do apportion breaks for your child.

Tip 7 – Journey of discovery

We are so engrossed in the exam papers that we care more about the loss of marks and forgot the very purpose of studying science concepts.

We are missing out on the amazing applications of science concepts to our real life.

It will be great to show your child interesting videos or demonstrations of science concepts.

Learning becomes fun and your child remembers the concepts better.


Does that mean we have to do plenty of research?

No need (Hurray!) 🙂

You can start with the practice questions. I am sure there are many real-life application questions.

Look at this question from our worksheet.

After your child completes this question, you can show your child the inner workings of a cistern.

You can do a google search to find the relevant videos and let your child watch the videos. Watch and understand how cistern works without the use of electricity. It’s a pure application of science concepts like gravitational force, properties of matter. Let your child be curious about it.


When I show the videos in my classes, the kids are amazed.

(When there is passion, it bounces off from the tutor and into kids. It is how tutors present those facts that matter to the students.)


You don’t have to do that for every practice question. For 20 questions, you can show only one such application to your child. That is better than none at all. 🙂


It might even become an interesting discussion between the parent and your child but do take note of the tendency to introduce science concepts not taught in school.

Showing the useful applications brings about curiosity while your child masters the science concept.

Finally, be realistic and never give up

Focus on the science knowledge and hone the answering techniques for the MCQs and OEQs. That gives your child the best chance of doing well in the exams.

Plus, the answering techniques are applicable to secondary schools and beyond.


If your child is getting an AL3 or AL2 grade and would like to get an AL1, be meticulous in the MCQs. Tackle the challenging questions and seek advice from your teacher on improving the OEQ answers. Remember Tip 4 and be aware to give your child Tip 6.


If your child scores in the AL5 or AL4 grade, you can work on Tips 2 to 7


If your child fails his exam, be realistic and never give up by strengthening the easier topics first.  The good news is there are many rooms for improvements and you can start with Tip 1 followed by Tip 2 then Tip 3.


Remember the low hanging fruits? Seize them!


A few days before the exam, revise all completed questions and look through the learning pointers / your own revision notes.

One last reminder to your child: In the exam, DO NOT spend too much time on a single question. Manage your time properly.


I wish your child all the best!

Follow Science Shifu on Telegram for the latest tips and strategies for Science MCQs and OEQs!

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Talk again soon!


Andy Ling

Guiding your child to be the master of science concepts


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