7 Tips to Ace Your PSLE Science Paper

The PSLE Science paper is known to be one of the more difficult papers of the annual national examinations held in Singapore. The incorporation of “Creative” questions and theoretical study in the recent revision of the syllabus by SEAB in 2014, has only added to the complexity of the course. Senseless memorization of conventional textbook contents has been rendered a thing of the past, encouraging students to approach Science through a more analytical perspective. The examination now demands students to determine outcomes of scenarios through critically investigating the concepts they have learnt. This update has resulted in polarizing response from students – some express preference to this approach which they say incites enjoyment and fascination in the Science of all things, while others criticize the complexity of the of the course stating that it made them feel discouraged and disinterested.

The scope of Science encompasses all aspects of our lives. To understand the laws that govern our daily matters and our interactions with the environment, our youth needs to explore this field with a creative outlook and learn to shape daily matters – their causes and effects – through the knowledge they gain. We should guide students to approach the course in a way that it can appeal to their interests rather than let them be consumed by the complexity and in turn develop fear. This article provides 7 of the most effective study tricks and tips that we have gathered from our top PSLE Science 1-to-1 home tutors to allow students to do just that and perform well in their paper.

1. Master the Complex and Diverse PSLE Science Content

One of the first things to familiarize yourself with before beginning your preparation is the correct MOE syllabus (last revised in 2014). You should know the content that will be covered and the skills you will be acquiring throughout the course. This will help you in creating a roadmap for how you will study the contents and will be important in tackling examination questions.

Being familiar with the basics of the content is necessary for answering any of the questions from the Science examination. Science provides an explanation of all scenarios that we may encounter in our life. For this reason, it has very diverse and complex content, which is made even more difficult by the fact that this it is covered through a span of only four out of the six years of primary education (being introduced in Primary 3). It is necessary to have a good grasp of the content to answer the random scenarios that may come in the paper. Students should be acquainted with the concepts enough to indulge themselves in the “why’s” and “how’s” of the given scenarios while managing their time.

Students who may find the contents or workload daunting may find it helpful employing a private PSLE Science home tutor. This will grant them the privilege of being able to ask questions outside of class, within and outside of the textbook’s contents. A home tutor will also be able to clarify any ambiguity in the concepts and pique the student’s interest in the subject.

2. Familiarize and Prepare Using the PSLE Science Exam Format

Apart from the syllabus, it is essential for students to be familiar with the PSLE Science exam format. Students have 1 Hour 45 Minutes to attempt 2 booklets:

  • Booklet A: Multiple-Choice Questions
    28 questions carrying 2 marks each, totalling the score to 56.

  • Booklet B: Open-Ended Questions

12-13 open-ended questions carrying 2-5 marks each, totalling the score to 44.

Student should be well accustomed to the exam format before taking the examination. Many schools across Singapore provide past end-of-year papers for students to prepare for their examinations. Since Science questions of the same topic can come in any format depending on the teacher that set them, students can benefit from attempting these past papers set by the different teachers from several schools. It is recommended to practice using the ten-year series to familiarize yourself with any repetitive questions or consistent question types, as chances are that they may also occur in your examination. PSLE home tutors with FamilyTutor understand the importance of preparing with the help of these past papers and incorporate them in their lessons.

Throughout the 4 years the PSLE content is covered students should understand the importance of a lesson plan. After completing a topic, students should clarify their concepts and incorporate a series of worksheets, and monthly or weekly quizzes for further assurance that they have a complete understanding of the concepts. Topics covered previously should also be revised often to keep students from forgetting them as they had been covered some time ago. Practice is proven to be a better mechanism for understanding concepts rather than rote memorisation. Students should come out of the habit of highlighting lines in textbooks and activate their muscle and mental memory through practice. It is not without a doubt that the content must be memorised also as a requirement of the PSLE course from primary 1 to 6, so here are some ways to help with easy memorisation of content!

Consistent practice and revision are key to performing well in your PSLE Science examination, as these two aspects, although difficult to keep up, will help to quell common mistakes and errors.

3. Develop Effective Exam Taking Strategies

A common difficulty faced by students who attempt the PSLE Science examination is understanding the question and what it is asking. PSLE Science questions are infamous for their trickiness and often lay traps for students. Those unaware students who fall into these traps end up answering the question by blindly stating facts that they had senselessly memorised and in essence end up leaving the question unanswered.

“Read Carefully” is a mantra often stated by Science private tutors to their children. It is important to read and understand the question before attempting to provide an answer. Some questions are simple and can be easily answered while some are designed to trick students and cause them to consume a lot of time. While reading a question students should make it a habit to identify ‘spoof’ words as found in the phrases: ” “which of the below reasons is NOT” and “which of the options are ALWAYS”, these words can cause students to lose marks due to careless mistakes as they are not easily noticed.

In Booklet B, oftentimes the phrasing of an answer is the important factor rather than the concept keywords included. Students must understand the way they should structure an answer depending on the instructional keyword used i.e. Name, Describe, Explain. Some examples of these keywords can be found here. These keywords not only indicate the format of the response required but also the depth of analysis that should be included in your answer. Students should also learn to identify and utilize extra information such as graphs, charts, tables, data, and figures as whenever they are included their aid is necessary in your answer and should not be left out.

Understanding the demand of the question not only in terms of the concepts to be utilized but also the structure and format of the response is immensely crucial to scoring well in your PSLE Science examination!

4. Understand the Correct Applications of Exam Techniques

The marking procedure for the PSLE Science booklet B is rather detailed and direct and hence the system is intangible and stern to its given set of instructions. Considering the previous information, it is necessary that students seek help on how to answer the open-ended questions as effectively as possible. No matter what examinations you appear in, there are firm standing rules on how to answer the questions given, an example of which could be to include key words which best fit the context of the problem and making sure that all information written relates to the question asked. However, most students are weak in this area, they do obtain marks but those however are only partial due to their incomplete answers. Furthermore, even with having all the answers, some students are still receiving low scores due to their inability to use effective answering techniques.

However, to solve the previous problem, FamilyTutor has realized the main reason why students fail to answer open ended questions as efficiently as possible is the lack of control over the English language. Oftentimes students do not even understand what the question is asking whereas other times, the student cannot fully express his answer. In order to solve this problem, a strong command over the English language is very important. This way, students can easily recognize the context and demand of the question as well as how to answer as concisely and clearly as possible. If you feel as if you are encountering the same problem, click on this link to find out more.

Due to the inability to voice their opinions in their second language, the answers that students give are mostly vague and in a simple form. An example of this could be using words of comparison such as “than” when differentiating between two things could be a better way to answer the question rather than to just list each of the object’s states. Furthermore, another example could be to differentiate between common words which have a deeper meaning than envisioned such as describe vs explain. While describe means to briefly discuss a particular object whereas explain links to the deeper analysis of the said object.

As a result, to obtain proper marks, your answer should contain both significant scientific terms as well as the proper answering technique in order to effectively ace the PSLE exam.

5. Tackle Questions Strategically

Since we have cleared up the importance of understanding questions and using answering techniques, another crucial aspect of performing well in the PSLE Science paper is to tackle it strategically. Exam strategies teach you what is considered the most efficient method/technique used when taking an exam.

First and foremost, students should always move towards questions they are most confident in and answer those first. Panic breaks and mental blocks are common. Students however are advised to remain calm and collected throughout the exam. If they do encounter a question they can’t seem to answer, they can either skip it and come back to it in the end or they can think with a clear head, visualize any scientific techniques that could be applied and continue answering. However, skipping tough and complicated questions is more encouraged due to the limited time given to students.

Another tip given to students is to divide their time amongst the questions, setting particular limits to each question can motivate students to work faster and decrease the stress of a possible insufficient time to finish the rest of their paper. An example of this could be an MCQ paper, where 2 minutes should be allocated to each question.

Another very important tip could be analysing how much to write for each question according to the marks allocated. In order to score full marks, students decide how much should be written to best answer the question. A common mistake is writing too much. Most often, students believe that the more they write, the more marks they are given. This is obviously quite wrong as writing too much for a low-scoring question can result into them wasting time which could have been better utilized for other questions having a higher number of marks. Questions such as “describe”, “list”, and “name”, which are of 1 – 2 marks, show students that only a couple of lines are necessary, and the answer should be to the point and precise. Furthermore, questions such as “discuss” and “explain” could be of higher marks and hence these require greater detail maybe even 2-3 parts of the answer.

The above given tips can greatly determine the marks allocated to students and hence the smallest attention to detail matters. However, practice is very important especially one that is prior to the official exam. This practice will ensure the student can test out all tips mentioned according to a set time, only then would the student understand how to cleverly attempt his official paper.

Furthermore, if you still feel stressed out and panicked, other relevant and helpful tips for the PSLE exam are provided here.

6. Carefully Check Through Your Answers

A diligent practice for every exam is to complete the paper at least ten minutes prior to the end-time. These ten minutes can allow you to check through your answers to make sure that your handwriting is neat and legible to accommodate the markers in reading and understand your answers. The points written can be checked for any omissions or discrepancies and whether there any spelling mistakes. A common mistake in the MCQ-based booklet A is the incorrect shading of answers in the Optical Answer Sheet (OAS), often a reason for some students losing marks despite knowing the answers.

Furthermore, PSLE Science private tutors always advice to always attempt every question whether you know the answer or not. Often in MCQ papers you can guess the right answer, and in Booklet B simple definitions or statements could give you a chance to score at least a mark or two. After all a chance for a single mark is better than a definite zero right? Re-checking your paper before submitting it can save you from many careless mistakes that you might make while attempting the paper and can definitely be a factor in helping you to score better in you PSLE Science paper.

7. Understanding and Learning By Doing

This last approach suggested by the 1-to-1 home tutors here at FamilyTutor is possibly the most enjoyable one – to observe the concepts practically by performing Science experiments. It has been recommended by many studies to indulge students in more hands-on activities as they have a positive impact on children’s studies, especially for kinaesthetic learners at the primary level. Science experiments are an interesting and captivating approach to pique students interests and visualize concepts that they would otherwise only read about. Simple experiments such as the use of magnets to explain materials and magnetism can be done in the safety of your home, fun and risk-free (other home experiment examples can be found here)!

Seeing the Science concepts in person will allow for a separate perspective to arise in students and aid in further comprehending topics they would have difficulty in understanding, allowing them to be able to critically analyse the different concepts as is required in the PSLE examination. It would further serve the purpose of allowing students to remain more active in their studies as rather than sitting on their desks all day senselessly memorising concept after concept they can actually observe the concepts they read about. DIY Science experiments could be performed during home tuitions just as they are in school Science labs and they are undeniably an excellent method of learning the PSLE Science syllabus.


FamilyTutor aims to assist students in achieving their maximum academic potential alongside promoting interest in learning Science for students of the primary level. Hiring a private home tutor in Singapore can definitely provide your child with everything they need to incorporate the above tips and skills in their study routine to allow them to reach academic excellence in the PSLE Science examination. Our science tutors in Singapore will be able to provide clarification after the completion of every topic and understand your child’s needs and difficulties. They will be able to produce weekly assessments and quizzes, topical notes as well as occasional practice through past examination papers, making sure that your child does not fall behind in their preparation. Our private tutors will be able to attentively tune in on your child’s specific learning pace for their PSLE Science course throughout the primary level i.e. P3 to P6 and instil a sense of critical analysis and thinking outside of the box when they deem the child is able to do so.

1-to-1 home tuition in Singapore is even more essential nearing the stressful PSLE period when your child will require the most assistance. The home tutor will be there to clarify any last-minute confusions and help your child to revise and polish the entire course through a specially designed lesson plan. Extra lessons can be arranged should your child be in need of extra help. Apart from the academic support the 1-to-1 private tutor can be there to assure your child that they are prepared and encourage them every step of the way. Good Luck!

Want more PSLE guides? Explore FamilyTutor’s PSLE Tuition blog section now!



Zoe is an undergraduate student in Singapore who loves thinking deeply and translating them into writing. She hopes her reflective opinions and sound advice weaved into relevant articles will be useful for you in one way or another!

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