8 Tips to Prepare Your Child For PSLE Science Papers
Tip 1 – Remember the important scientific concepts
Many parents focus on the 3Ps: Practice, Practice and more Practice. Their solution is to complete as many past-year school exam 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 the keywords/concepts in the PSLE Science syllabus.
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 digested food…. to respire and release….
To find out if your child remembers these three concepts, refer to your child’s lesson notes and ask them these questions respectively:
- Please explain how evaporation takes place?
- Explain how plants make their own food?
- Explain how do you respire?
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 for evaporation:
- Water gains heat: That means water is at a lower temperature than the heat source.
- Gains heat: Heat is transferred from the hotter object (heat source) to the water.
- Heat source: Identify the heat source from the question
- Evaporate: The science concept needed to tell the examiner the change in state from liquid to gas.
Look at this question now.
Explain 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 at 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 turns the questions, your child can apply the same concept if they apply the correct question analysis skills!
And the same explanations are used in the OEQ.
Plus there’s a much smaller chance of missing scientific keywords in your child’s answers!
That is killing three birds with one stone!
Build up his competency with scientific concepts 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 is struggling with the scientific concepts.
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?
Jumping into the tough questions when scientific concepts are missing might confuse your child. There is a lack of a structured approach to learning.
Fix them quickly by practising simple questions or simply giving a test to recall his science concepts (see Tip 1).
These affect all students
Once your child remembers his 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.
The common mistakes are not reading carefully, not remembering the proper explanations of concepts or simply lacking the targeted practice (your child needs to understand how examiners test the scientific concepts).
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 be able to spot the “hidden” factors affecting the rate of condensation.
Did you notice the explanation has the words “cooler surface”?
Hmmm… for the cooler surface. What kind of cooler surface?
Is it the type of material (this relates to the conductor of heat concepts) used to make the cooler surface?
Or how large is the cooler surface?
Or how hot or cold is this surface?
Your child knows there are “hidden” factors affecting the rate of condensation (we have to analyse the conditions of the cooler surface).
When he practices the science questions, he will spot the “hidden” factors easily and choose the correct options in the MCQs.
What about the OEQ?
Apply the same explanations to the OEQ!
Choose the correct factors affecting the rate of condensation when answering the OEQ.
Example: You noticed the examiner changed from a smaller to a larger steel sheet. The temperature of the steel sheet stays the same and is at a lower temperature than the warm water vapour.
Warmer water vapour comes into contact with the larger exposed surface area of the steel sheet, loses heat and condenses to the cooler steel sheet 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 these techniques to your OEQ in order to get accurate answers.
Repeat steps 1 to 3 for other topics:
- Remember the science concepts
- Apply the concepts to the MCQ – They provide the factors needed in the MCQs
- Apply the concepts to the OEQ – 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 tip.
If your child gets 36 / 56, aim for 44 and above.
If your child gets 44 /56, aim for 50 and above.
Why are we aiming high for the MCQs?
It is so much harder to do well in the OEQ segment.
Your child needs to write out the answers with the correct scientific keywords and with the phrasing.
Take this example “The kinetic energy of the ball is converted to heat energy due to friction. Eventually, the ball comes to a stop.”
Writing the above 2 sentences awards your child 1 mark.
Each MCQ simply requires your child to read the question; analyse the options and choose the correct answers.
It is WAAY easier to get two marks in the MCQ.
Yet, I have been seeing students obsessed with pulling up their OEQ marks when their MCQs are in the 40 to 44 mark range.
Work on the MCQs for weaker topics.
(Go to Tip 1 and Tip 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 read the entire question again. Worse, he struggles to remember why he got it wrong.
By writing learning pointers, your child acquires these:
- Putting his thoughts into words. (This is useful when your child needs to answer the OEQ using those words.)
- While revising the previously completed questions, he can quickly notice his mistakes instead of reading the entire question.
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:
The mass of ball X does not change.
This is one of the common pitfalls in note-taking. The learning pointers lack context.
Write this instead:
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 brief your child on why he picked the wrong answer.
The aim here is to quickly recall the mistakes and to spot the hidden clues in the question.
Learning pointers can be written for challenging questions that your child has done correctly.
One good way to write the learning pointers 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 mock examination 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 test 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 can test one topic or a few topics. If your child did poorly in many questions, that is a good hint your child is weak at different topics.
your child has completed a number of questions on electricity.
You notice your child scores well in the MCQs 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 practice on the OEQ on the electricity topic.
3) Ask your child’s school teacher/tutor for the weak topics.
Prepare 2 categories: Weak topics for MCQs and weak topics for OEQs. There’s a high chance your child is strong in scientific concepts but weak in writing them out clearly.
Once the weak topics are identified,
start looking through the past year’s papers and circle questions relating to the weak topics. Next, tell your child to work on them. It can be the MCQs and/or the 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 you have limited time,
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, and circle the questions relating to the topics in that group. Next, tell your child to work on them. It can be the MCQs and/or OEQs.
Energy conversion and forces
Electricity with energy conversion and forces – electromagnet used in the fire alarm system
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?
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
Water cycles with photosynthesis – Question that involves a Terrarium
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, and will have the opposite effect on your child’s learning.
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 can happen:
Your child struggles to spot the clues in multiple-choice questions. 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.
Answering the 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 forget 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 in everyday things.
If you make it fun to learn science, your child will remember 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 out there.
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, and properties of matter. Let your child be curious about it.
When I show the videos in my online 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 understanding the scientific concepts and sharpen the answering techniques. Next, do targeted practise for the MCQs and OEQs. That gives your child the best chance of doing well in the science 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 is much room for improvement 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 PSLE Science examination paper, revise all completed questions and look through the learning pointers / your own revision notes ( I am sure your child has collated the learning pointers in an exercise book).
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!
Talk again soon!
Andy Ling – Founder of ScienceShifu.com
Guiding your child to be the master of science concepts
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