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MOE's Take on Maintaining 15% Challenging Questions in PSLE Exams

September 15, 2022
StudySmart Team
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Primary students write in a notebook with a pencil in a classroom.

Singapore's Ministry of Education is keen on maintaining a consistent standard of difficulty level in PSLE Exams. On July 15th, 2022, the Director General of the MOE, Ms. Liew Wei Li, explained why 15% of the questions are classified as challenging to maintain the exam's difficulty level. Read on for further details.

What Does The MOE Say About the 15% Difficulty Cap?

As per the post on LinkedIn and MOE's Schoolbag website, Ms Liew Wei Li, MOE’s Director General of Education states that the PSLE has been kept at a consistent level of difficulty for decades. To maintain this standard, the proportion of questions categorized as "challenging" is capped at 15 percent each year. This means that the PSLE tough questions will comprise 15 marks of the total marks for each paper.

In recent years, some specific PSLE Math problems have been the focus of public debate and discussion. Concerning this discussion, Ms.Liew stated that the overall standard of any examination paper depends on the mix of questions, not just on the ‘Helen and Ivan’ question. Apparently, she was referring to a PSLE question from the Math exam last year that left pupils in tears because it was so challenging.

PSLE is designed to cater to students of different abilities, and most of the PSLE questions are accessible to most students, explained Ms. Liew, who took on the position of MOE Director-General in April. She also felt that a small number of challenging questions would allow academically stronger students to demonstrate their mastery of the subject.

A happy Asian girl seated inside a classroom is writing in a notebook.

The MOE's Take On PSLE's New Scoring System

Explaining the new scoring system, Ms. Liew said that each student's marks reflect his or her mastery of the subject since there is no quota for each Achievement Level (AL).

The new scoring system, which has been in practice since last year, assigns Achievement Levels based on bands 1-8 for each of the four subjects. The sum of the four scores is the final PSLE score. In Liew's opinion, since most students find PSLE manageable, their scores tend to be higher, with nearly half achieving 75 marks or more across all subjects.

The PSLE results provide important information on the types of educational choices that would be suitable for children, based on their current abilities, aside from cohort performance. She added that at the end of the day, every parent wants options for their child. Children rely on their PSLE scores to make appropriate choices of secondary school and subject level, she further said.

Also Read : How Cheat Sheets Help Solving PSLE Math Challenges

Prioritise Progress, Not Perfection 

Ms. Liew has served in the field of education for more than 25 years and is familiar with parents taking time off from work to help their children with PSLE revision and students taking up extra coaching during their free time. She also understands some parents' anxiety about not being able to help their children as others do.

According to Ms. Liew, the PSLE is one of the most stressful national examinations, but neither teachers nor exam-makers aim to impose stress. Ultimately, no parent ever wants to see their child disappointed in the pursuit of their goals.

The Director-General's post goes on to explain that although PSLE is an important checkpoint for Primary students, they should not let it overwhelm them, or it will become a problem of frightening proportions. Children will build resilience by learning from the right perspectives and attitudes shown by schools, teachers, and parents as they approach such milestones, she concluded.

According to Ms. Liew, students will have many more opportunities to blossom and grow at their own pace throughout their education journey when Full Subject-Based Banding and multiple post-secondary pathways are implemented in secondary schools in 2024.

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