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Solve It Right the First Time: Common Mistakes to Avoid in PSLE Maths

January 30, 2023
StudySmart Team
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In recent times, the mathematics section of the recent PSLE has generated some controversy. Memes have been written about them because of how challenging they are, and they continue to baffle adults and frighten young students. But there's more to passing the PSLE Maths paper than lots of practice. A firm grasp of the material is equally important. And StudySmart can do it all for you kid! We can help your child understand the subject and tackle it the right way.

You've heard the maths teacher tell parents that their child could have done better on an exam if they had paid closer attention to detail and avoided making apparent mistakes. However, despite covering all of the primary school maths curriculum material and doing an extensive review, many students still need help to avoid making simple mistakes that cost them valuable points on tests.

Common Errors Students Make in PSLE Maths and Ways to Prevent Them

Many students fail their maths exams because they lack proper attention or focus. This article describes some common mathematical blunders students make during the PSLE exams due to a lack of preparation and ways to avoid them. Regardless of how well they know Math, all students are prone to carelessness if they don't carefully check through their steps. So, here are the ideal ways to keep things in check.

How to prevent making this error:

  • Students should verify answers twice and check their work for accuracy before copying answers onto the answer sheet. This is crucial when transferring MCQ answers to the OAS. Validate that the responses are consistent with the questions.
  • Students should check their calculations using a calculator at least three times. It would help if they did this to check that the answer has been calculated correctly.

1. Using an incorrect formula

In the course of their education, students will encounter numerous formulas. Selecting the best option for each question is essential. When working under time pressure, students are more likely to make mistakes with critical formulas, which can have repercussions for multiple questions.

How to prevent making this error:

  • Students must make a summary of the formulas to avoid confusion.
  • They should organise and personalise the formula sheet by noting all the essential formulas, especially the complex ones, before beginning the exam paper.
  • If necessary, they must rewrite the formulas next to the relevant question.
  • Making sure they understand everything before proceeding will give them more confidence to tackle challenging questions.

2. Cutting Corners

A great way to save time on the exam is by using shortcuts. But there's this thing about shortcuts: they are only sometimes useful! Shortcut methods are sometimes used only on specific questions. Students should avoid using a shortcut they have never used unless they have tried and tested it on multiple questions and found that it ALWAYS works.

How to prevent making this error:

  • One way to ensure that they don't fall victim to this error is to solve the problem the traditional way, recording all of the steps that led them to the solution. If they demonstrate their work and understanding, they won't lose any marks. If they get the final answer wrong, they may get "error carried forward" marks.

3. Ill-Managed Time

Most students will have developed a strategy for dealing with time constraints in a real exam by the sixth grade. However, students may spend too much time on one question and not give the rest the attention they need if they are nervous or for any other reason. The result is that the student may need more time during the exam to complete the questions she could have completed in her spare time.

How to prevent making this error:

Avoid this common blunder by allotting at least 1 minute per 1 mark for each question, especially for word problems; thus, a 2-mark question should take no more than 2 minutes of your time, while a 5-mark problem sum could take more than 5 minutes (especially on Paper 2, it could mean up to 6 – 8 minutes). However, in most cases, your child can answer the questions from Paper 1 in less time. This is done so the child can take a second look at the paper and ensure everything is correct before turning it in (of a check-through).

4. Accidental Incorrect Number-Writing

Bringing forward an incorrect number is another common mistake students make on the PSLE maths exam. This occurs when the student needs more confidence in their ability to complete the exam or is running out of time. For instance, if a student rushes to finish the paper, they might need clarification on the numbers 16 and 19 or 15 and 51. It's bad enough when your kid makes a simple calculation error and still gets the wrong answer, but it's much worse when they could have gotten it right.

Also Read : What to Look For in Secondary Schools After PSLE Exam

How to prevent making this error:

To avoid making this typical error, it is essential to double-check the answer until your kid is satisfied with it and can move on to the next question with complete confidence.

Asian boy with mathematical doodles in the background.

5. Failure to Read the Question Carefully

Since the pressure and stress of an exam setting can make students more likely to make careless assumptions, they might assume that the question is the same as others they've seen in practice tests or previous exams. That's why applying the solution to a different question on the exam is not out of the question.

How to prevent making this error:

Teachers always stress the importance of rereading material and highlighting key phrases to help students avoid this error. Students should feel free to raise their hand and double-check with the PSLE invigilator if they notice anything about the question.

6. Inadequate or Muddled Illustrations

The modelling concept is perhaps the most well-known aspect of Singapore PSLE mathematics. It encouraged using models and other visual aids to help with mathematical problem-solving, so do that! Positively, visual aids help solve and understand problems, so these illustrations can help students better grasp the question. In an effort to "save time," some students may forgo the model drawing or illustrations altogether, while others may draw an illustration without proper labelling.

How to prevent making this error:

  • Students must refrain from relying on memorisation or assumptions to avoid a common pitfall.
  • In other words, students should rely on something other than rote memorisation. It's not a good idea to guess the question's intent.
  • If a question contains multiple choices or seems particularly complex, it's essential to stay focused on the task and read it over carefully before answering.
  • To get a handle on the question, students should try paraphrasing or extracting the issue it raises.

Learn To Accept Your Child's Limitations

Each kid is one of a kind and has their own set of skills and abilities. Taking the time to learn about your child's abilities and challenges is crucial. You can help them succeed on the PSLE Maths test by giving them access to a wealth of online study materials, stressing the importance of good study habits and giving them a comprehensive study aid like Studysmart to fill in any gaps in their learning.

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