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A Detailed Overview of the PSLE Scoring System

March 4, 2022
StudySmart Team
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Scoring System - words from wooden blocks with letters - Explaining the PSLE AL Scoring System.

What is PSLE & What is its Purpose?

In Singapore, the Primary School Leaving Examination wields as much fame as anything else that's grabbed international attention. So, what's the PSLE? It is an academic exam conducted every year for students facing their final year in primary school.

PSLE is mandatory for all school students in Singapore. The examination tests the students' academic abilities in four main subjects which are:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Mother Tongue Language (MTL)

It is a significant gateway that allows students to explore their options for a secondary school based on their scores.

If the PSLE is famous, so is its scoring system. The PSLE scores determine the most appropriate course and subject a student is worthy of undertaking at the secondary school level. Since the PSLE is conducted by Singapore's Ministry of Education, the scoring system is also drafted and implemented by the MoE.

Changes in the Scoring System

Since 2021, the MoE has bid goodbye to its long-practised T-scoring method for the Achievement Level (AL) Scoring System. The T-scoring system (short for Transformed score) is an adjusted score of all four subjects. The score shows how well a student has performed compared to their peers. Not surprisingly, this scoring method has long been criticised for pressurising students to compete and outdo each other to get a better score.

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Why is the MoE bringing changes to the PSLE scoring system? The answer is simple. Over the years, the government has been fine-tuning the education system to focus more on students' academic abilities rather than their academic results.

The PSLE new grading system aims to achieve this goal by:

  • Reducing the fine differentiation of students' examination results while still young.
  • Respecting children's abilities regardless of how they compare with their peers.

Aligning with these goals, the new AL scoring system is designed with broader scoring bands for each subject. The bands are marked from AL1 to AL8. These eight ALs are designed to reflect the students' understanding and mastery of the subject.

Consequently, the government hopes that lowering PSLE grading in 2023 will allow students to be free to follow their passions and abilities. The aim is also to reduce the unnecessary burden of academic expectations.

Under the AL scoring system, the scoring range for each Standard subject is as follows:

AL Mark Range
1 90 and above
2 85 to 89
3 80 to 84
4 75 to 79
5 65 to 74
6 45 to 64
7 20 to 44
8 19 and below

How AL Scoring System Works for Foundational Subjects

Under the PSLE curriculum, foundational subjects cater to students who require additional help. These subjects give students the confidence to learn at a pace and level suited to them. For these foundational subjects, the new scoring system grades them from AL A to AL C. For Secondary 1 posting purposes, AL A to AL C is mapped to a Standard subject to derive a student's overall PSLE score.

Based on the learning and assessment load of the subjects, the mapping determines whether a student is ready to access the secondary curriculum. That's because, a Foundation level subject is basically is a subset of a Standard level subject.

The mapping is shown as below:

Grades for Foundation subjects Foundation raw mark range Equivalent Standard level AL
A 75 -100 6
B 30 - 74 7
C <30 8

Also Read : PSLE Calendar 2022: List of Important Dates for PSLE

Indicative PSLE Score Ranges for Secondary Schools

A young primary schoolgirl writing in a notebook in the classroom.
One main highlight that makes the AL system far better than the T-scoring system is that the AL system has only 29 scores as opposed to the 200 possible aggregates in the T-scoring system.

The possibility of limited scores means two things:

  • Schools will be less differentiated based on Cut-Off Points (COP).
  • Students have a wider choice of schools to choose from.

These ranges indicate the first and last student to be placed into each school under the AL system. Of course, they are also based on the school's choice patterns and the 2020 cohort's PSLE results. The school's COP is derived from the PSLE score of the last student posted.

Thus, the schools' score ranges can differ yearly, depending on the PSLE results and the school preferences made in the S1 Posting Exercise. Based on their PSLE scores, students can opt for the following secondary school courses:

  • Express
  • Normal (Technical)
  • Normal ( Academic)

According to the MoE, the number of students qualifying for different courses can be broadly similar because the curriculum and standards remain unchanged.

Also, the grades awarded to candidates are not determined by the bell curves under the new AL system. The "bell curves' indicate the predetermined percentage of candidates for certain grades. Grading will now be done based on factors such as:

  • Question paper difficulty levels
  • Candidate's performance quality

This approach will help maintain the standards across the years.

Tie-Breakers for S1 Placement: a Quick Look

There is a high probability that more than one student will have the same PSLE score. If that's the case, how will it be handled? Well, the MoE has it all sorted out. If students with the same score compete for the last place in school, a tie-breaker will be the deciding factor. Here's a jist of the three tie-breakers:

  • The first tie-breaker is the citizenship status, where a Singapore citizen is given the first chance, followed by a permanent resident and then an international student.
  • If both students are Singapore citizens, the next tie-breaker is based on the school choice order. This means that the student who ranks the school higher is chosen first.
  • The final tie-breaker is decided by computerised balloting.

The Bottom Line

Thanks to the AL scoring system, students appearing for PSLE after 2021 will have something new to look forward to. Collectively, parents, students, and schools hope that the AL system will make primary education more meaningful. It will also help students focus more on the school's academic highlights and their own capabilities.

The bottom line here is that no matter the scoring system, the importance of PSLE remains the same. How students prepare for their PSLE is all that matters. StudySmart is an ideal AI-powered PSLE app for students to optimise their exam preparation and ace exams with flying colours. To know how our app can help your child, please contact our team immediately!

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