Mistakes to Avoid in Your PSLE English Comprehension Exam

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The PSLE or Primary School Leaving examination, is a nationwide examination taken by students who will proceed from primary to secondary school. It is a part of the curriculum and is one obstacle students must face in order to reach higher education.

There are various subjects to be tested in the annual PSLE, out of which this article will explain the common mistakes a student should avoid during their English PSLE comprehension exam. Do note that each subject has its own fair share of common mistakes and difficulties and that you should still study all the other subjects in order to get high marks on the day they will announce the results.

The English comprehension exam can be a real challenge, especially if an individual has not yet mastered the English language. Pair this up with the fact that comprehension is often one of the most difficult aspects to master in the English language, and an individual will surely run into a roadblock when taking the said exam. However, this article is dedicated to discuss the common mistakes students must avoid during their PSLE English comprehension exam. 

Why students make mistakes

Before we discuss on the common mistakes that each individual should avoid, it is first of great importance to find out why individuals make mistakes. By addressing the root of the situation, an individual will make fewer mistakes and have a better experience when answering the PSLE English exam.

Lack of preparation

The first and most obvious cause of mistakes is the lack of preparation for the upcoming exam. One cannot blame external factors which may have hampered his ability to answer the questions when he himself is not aware of the correct response. Lack of preparation should be the first issue on must address if one wants to score high in the PSLE exams.


The second cause for mistakes is the innate nature of human beings to feel nervousness or unease when in a stressful situation. The heavy atmosphere of the exam hall and the constant pressure an individual experiences when taking the PSLE will surely be enough to cause almost anyone cold feet (figuratively and literally).

Nervousness causes an individual to freeze up and sometimes even make them forget the things they studied. This is a really unfortunate thing to happen, especially during an exam. So, take a few deep breaths every time you feel you are getting nervous to calm yourself down a bit.


The next factor that may affect the number of mistakes an individual will commit is the opposite of nervousness, which is overconfidence. Confidence is often a positive trait to have for an individual. However, once overdone, can also lead to one’s downfall.

Overconfidence refers to the overestimation of one’s abilities and knowledge, which often leads an individual to make rash decisions and not review the answers he made on a whim.


The next cause for the errors one commits during their PSLE exams is carelessness. When taking an exam, one must be vigilant of the answers they make and ensure that each one, or at least majority, of the answers they made are correct. However, carelessness can often lead to instances where the answer given was not the intended answer. 

10 mistakes you should avoid

Now that we have discussed the common causes of the mistakes committed during a PSLE exam, it is now high time to discuss what these common mistakes are so that you will know such mistakes and be able to avoid them.

Answering before finishing the passage

More often than not, each question in the English comprehension exam has some sort of passage that you must first read in order to derive the correct answer. And the first mistake one must know is answering the questions before even finishing the passage. 

This will lead to facts that an individual may miss, which could have played a large part in the following questions. Yes, it may save an individual a few seconds by skipping a few sentences; however, the cost of these few seconds saved is getting a few questions wrong. 

Not paying attention to the main plot

They made the English comprehension exam to test an individual’s comprehension abilities. And one of the best ways to do so is by making them read a passage and then asking questions about the passage to measure the level of understanding that individual has to the passage.

It is of great importance to pay attention to the plot of the passage (if it has any) to get yourself ready for answering the questions that will come after you have read the passage. Be sure to drill the events of the passage in your mind so that you may derive the correct response later on.

Incomplete answers

During primary school, the teacher stresses to answer questions in complete sentences to avoid missing out on any details. Students should carry this on even when you take the PSLE English comprehension exam, as it will still be a relevant technique in secondary school.

One must answer the questions completely so that there will be no missing details or facts. An answer does not need to be three sentences long, just enough to cover up and address the entire question asked.

Not including details from the passage

When answering the English comprehension exam, an individual will most likely encounter questions that will require them to recall specific parts of the passage they read. And if they try to answer it from memory, they will most probably get a few things wrong.

Relying on your memory is not necessarily a bad thing, however be sure to also include some details from the passage to make sure you have evidence for your answers and not just make baseless claims just to get past a tough question.  

Being too hesitant

Constantly thinking of getting every answer correct will drive an individual to strive for perfection; however, once overdone, can also be their downfall. Being too worried about getting every question right may lead to hesitance to answer the questions and indecisiveness. 

This will waste an individual’s time and may even affect their scores, as they can no longer answer the following questions because they got stuck on one “trick” question.

Incorrect spelling

Spelling words incorrectly is a mistake which is the product of carelessness. There will often be words included in the passage which you may not be familiar with, which makes spelling the word rather difficult to accomplish. It may not sound like much, but a misspelled word can sometimes be the deciding factor in getting an A or getting a B.

Keep the spelling of the words in your answer sheet correct, as one incorrectly spelled word could mean getting a number wrong even when all the other parts of the answer were correct. 

Focusing too much on a difficult question

Every exam has at least 10 hard questions mixed in with other not so troublesome questions in order to determine the good from the excellent students. When one encounters a difficult question, this may often lead them to stay in the question for too long and wreak havoc to their rhythm of answering questions.

It is best to skip these difficult questions first and answer the easier ones to ensure you have a large supply of correct answers. After you finish with the simple questions, return to the difficult questions if you still have time to get even more points. These questions often have the same corresponding points regardless of the level of difficulty, so it is wiser to leave the difficult ones for later.

Not knowing whether a question is literal or inferential

We can divide almost every question in the PSLE English comprehension exam into two types: literal or inferential. Literal, as the name suggests, is answered by reading the passage and the answer is literally in the passage, no trickery involved.

Inferential refers to questions that logic can answer or reasoning. These questions can often be answered by inferring what will happen next in the passage or why a character did a specific action.

Knowing the type of question asked will lead you to make the right course of action and answer the question based on what is asked. So, be sure to determine whether a question is literal or inferential first before you proceed to the formulation of the answer you will write.


We all make mistakes from time to time as we are not perfect beings. However, we can do our best to limit the chances of us making mistakes at important parts of our lives. It is up to our own determination and persistence to make sure we do not commit mistakes that could have been avoided if we were just more careful and prepared.

If you want to make even fewer mistakes, you can always hire a tutor which will help guide you through what you need to know and do in order to ace you PSLE English comprehension exam. And what better place to look for a tutor than at Singapore’s leading home and online based tutoring agency: FamilyTutor?

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Carelle is a teacher who has been through the ups and downs of the teacher and learner life. She wishes for every learner to gain educational satisfaction that will help embody the people they want to be in the future.

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