PSLE: A Brief Introduction
Singapore is a country that prioritises its educational system. Here, the PSLE or the Primary School Leaving Examination is the first national academic exam with immense value and importance. This exam is mandatory for all students completing six years of primary education and looking forward to stepping into secondary school.
The PSLE score determines the students' higher educational path and future career. Of late, some changes have been made to the PSLE grading system. Singapore's Ministry of Education scrapped the old T-scoring method and replaced it with the Achievement Level scoring system or the AL scoring system.
This is how the PSLE new scoring system works:
- Each Standard PSLE subject is scored using wider scoring bands from AL1 to AL8.
- The total PSLE score is the total of all four subjects: English, Maths, Science, and Mother Tongue Language.
- The score ranges from 4 to 32, with the best score being 4.
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Since this new system has been in place only since 2021, you will likely have many questions and doubts. Our blog discusses the most answers to the most commonly asked questions regarding the new grading system. Let's take a look.
9 FAQs About PSLE AL Scoring System & The Process
1. Will the PSLE curriculum be modified or become tougher because of the changes in the scoring system?
The PSLE new system will not affect the curriculum and the PSLE subjects nor undermine the importance of PSLE. Moreover, the Ministry of Education (MoE) reviews the PSLE curriculum to ensure it is updated and relevant to the current times. Curriculum upgradation will continue as per current practice and is independent of the S1 posting and PSLE scoring changes.
2. Will the new uneven and wider scoring at the middle and lower ranges be more disadvantageous to average students?
The scoring bands are designed to strike a careful balance between two aspects:
Reducing the differentiation between students' exam results.
Ensuring secondary school posting outcome.
You may notice that the upper bands are intended to prevent too many students from achieving the same PSLE score so that tie-breakers are also avoided. The middle and lower AL bands are widely distributed, so finer differentiation is less meaningful.
At the 2021 PSLE, students did not find it more challenging to qualify for the Express course. Schools are less differentiated based on Cut Off Points (COPs) since fewer possible PSLE scores are available. As a result, students and their parents will have a wider selection of schools at every PSLE score.
3. Will computerised balloting become common under the new scoring system?
MoE's simulations indicate that most students need not undergo computerised balloting because posting will be based on academic performance. Generally, tie-breakers are only used when two or more students with similar PSLE Score are competing for the remaining places.
The first tiebreaker is Singapore citizenship, and the second is the order of school choice. Computerised balloting is the last tie-breaker used only if the first PSLE score, citizenship, and the choice order of schools are the same.
4. On what basis were the indicative PSLE COP ranges determined for schools?
For each school, the indicative scores represent the first along with the last students admitted as per the new scoring system. The school's cut off point is determined by the PSLE score of the last student who is admitted. The MoE simulated each student's individual score in according to the Achievement Level based on their subject scores. These scores were then added up to get the PSLE total score.
5. Why does the new scoring system have eight achievement levels to grade each subject?
Two reasons explain why there are wider scoring bands with the new PSLE grading system:
- To gain an idea of the student's academic progress and understanding of the subject in primary school.
- To match the student's progress with the most suitable academic programmes in secondary school.
- To prevent more students from getting the same PSLE score, leading to more balloting incidents. This will also cause more anxiety and pressure amongst parents and students.
6. What is the pass mark for each subject under the new grading system?
Please note that there's no pass or fail marks for individual PSLE subjects or PSLE as an entirety. PSLE's main objective is to serve as a point of entry into secondary school.
For example, if a student's PSLE score is within 26 to 30 and has an AL 7 in Mathematics and English, they are eligible to take the Normal (Technical) course in secondary school. The same is possible if the student has an ALB at the Foundational level.
And that's not all. Students can repeat the PSLE if they do not qualify for Express, Normal (A), or Normal (T). They also can shift to NorthLight School or Assumption Pathway School with the principal's endorsement.
7. How does the AL scoring system work for Foundational subjects?
Under the AL system, the scores for foundational subjects are marked as AL A, B, and C. They are correlated to AL 6, 7, and 8 for Standard subjects. Since there are only three bands, the mark range is wider. Besides, given the nature of the Foundational subjects, there is no point in further differentiating the students with more achievement levels.
The following table explains the correlation between the Foundational subject scores and the corresponding Standard subject AL scores.
|Grades for Foundation
|Foundation Raw Mark Range
|Equivalent Standard Level AL
|75 - 100
A student who scores AL A in Foundational subjects can choose Normal (Academic) in the secondary school.
8. Why does the Normal (Technical) requirement only apply to English and Mathematics, but not to other subjects such as Science or MTL?
More than Science or MTL (Mother Tongue Language), subjects like Maths and English are vital for building and strengthening the foundations in language and numericals. A student with an AL 7 in these subjects has a better chance of taking Normal (T) because the score demonstrates their academic prowess and skills.
9. Does the new grading system make it tougher to qualify for Express?
Not at all. The new scoring system does not affect the rigour, quality, curriculum, and importance of PSLE. In fact, under the new grading system, pupils will have more opportunities to enrol in Express if they demonstrate a high level of achievement.
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