Help your child with PSLE oral – 3 step guide by a tutor

The road to straight As in PSLE is long and arduous. Parents often ask me how they can be more involved on top of opting for endless tuition. Well, there are actually certain assessments where parental aid can trump long hours of tuition.


PSLE Oral is one such assessment.


You, as a parent, spend more time with your children than any tutor. By tweaking your day-to-day conversation, you can help to massively improve your children’s exam eloquence.


With regards to PSLE English oral, there are two sections- Reading aloud, and Stimulus Based Conversation (SBC). This article will share a few tips on how to help your child develop Stimulus Based Conversation (SBC) skills.

What is the SBC in PSLE English Oral?

The SBC requires your child to study a visual stimulus for a short time before responding to three main prompts by the examiner.


The visual stimulus is usually a poster or advertisement. The information presented often requires the candidate to make a choice and reason coherently. The candidate’s responses are then graded on two components- Language (10m) and Content (10m)


In this pdf, we are going to focus on how to help your child develop content for SBC, particularly the first prompt.


Case studies and analysis

Parents often have this idea that students must appear positive by supporting vehemently the message posed in the picture.


When asked “Would you want to participate in this activity?” It is somehow better to say “Yes! I would like to because XXXXX”. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Parents worry that if their child says “No”, they would somehow appear negative or uninterested and penalized.


On the contrary, saying “No” is often the superior choice because it opens up the conversation for constructive rejection. This is an oral assessment. The examiners are not here to assess whether the candidate is a Goody Two Shoes. The trick is to offer polite and coherent reasons for saying “No”. There is a huge difference between negativity and constructive rejection. For a better understanding, study the three responses below.

Visual Stimulus

An image depicting a Sport Day poster used for english oral exams

Opening prompt: Would you like to take part in this event?
Candidate 1: Yvette the “Yes” girl Candidate 2: Negative Nicholas Candidate 3: Constructive rejection Chloe
Yes. I would like to participate in the Sports day. This activity looks like a lot of fun. Being an athletic person, I think I stand a good chance to win a medal like the girls in the centre of the poster. I am sure it is going to be a fun filled day running and screaming with all my friends. Because the events featured do not look too formal, we can attempt silly maneuvers in the telematches for funny photo moments. My parents are also very sporting people and I am sure that they would be there to support me as well as participate. This is a rare opportunity to break away from the mundane school schedule so yes, I would definitely join this annual sports day. No, I would not. This event is stupid. I hate my dumb classmates and I would never want to be fifty meters near them if I had a choice. Being locked with them in the classroom seven hours a day is bad enough. To be forced to run around and do retarded things with them on the field makes it twenty times more insufferable. I would rather just stand at a corner and snigger while they make a fool of themselves. My classmates’ parents will be there as well. I hate to play the fool for the amusement of adults. The only purpose of this sports day is for me to skip school and play video games at home on a legit school day. (This candidate is just foul and he runs the risk of being lowly graded.) No. I probably would not consider participating in the events shown in this poster. I am by nature not an outdoor person and I am not athletic. If you look at my complexion, you can surmise that the sun and I are not the best of friends. I much prefer sedentary activities such as video gaming and snacking on the couch. If I were to take part in the team activities, I may jeopardise my team’s victory because I am such a slow runner. The other telematches also do not seem too suitable for my participation because I am a little lacking in psychomotor instincts. Perhaps the best I could do in this sports day is to cheer my friends on and take photos for them. That will be pretty fun too.

All three candidates have a similar lexical proficiency. However, most examiners would be more impressed with Chloe who expresses constructive rejection. The candidate displays realistic observations of the world while expressing her unique character quirks. At some point of her response, the examiner might even chuckle at her candidness. When the examiners respond with amusement, it is a good sign that they are genuinely engaged with the candidate.


Phi Learning’s 3-step formula for constructive rejection 

Step 1 – Proffer an innate flaw and explain how it hinders participation

Help your child understand that no one is perfect. It is OK to admit that stinginess, laziness, procrastination are part and parcel of their life. Sometimes, they cannot get things done because of such qualities. 

Prompt: Do you want to take part in this holiday course?

Example: No, I would not like to take part in this holiday art class. I have little talent in artistic endeavors. It takes much effort for me to draw a simple stick man figure without having to erase multiple times. (continued below)


Step 2 – Consider other limitations such resources and parental permission

They want to do/attempt something but they lack the necessary tools. This may include time and money. Parents such as yourself may not grant them permission to participate.

Example: Also, this is my PSLE year. I am laden with supplementary classes during the holidays and after school. It is unlikely that I would not be able to squeeze out two hours a week for this activity. My parents, being the typical kiasu Singaporeans, put overwhelmingly more focus on my grades than artistic talents. They would likely not grant me the permission to sign up for this even if I asked. (continued below)


Step 3- Exhibit strong individuality and preference

Help your child understand that he is who he is. Everyone has likes and dislikes. If your child does not like vegetables, he is free to say that he would not adopt a healthy diet programme because he is addicted to the taste of MSG.

Example: Even if I do have the time to sign up for a holiday course, it would be something computer-related. This is the one subject matter that my parents and I agree will be inherently useful in the future.



As we teach many kids that go on to top secondary schools and IP schools, it is not enough to simply be “booksmart”. All of Phi Learning’s students are taught the importance of open discussion and logical debate. Teach them to say ‘No’ based on their imperfections, limitations, and preferences.


Here are some conversation prompts to practice with your children. Remember, the idea of the practice is to say “No” coherently.


  1. Look at this assessment book. Do you want me to buy it for you?
  2. Do you want to try this ice cream?
  3. Are you interested to read this news article?
  4. Do you think this advertisement is effective?
  5. Do you like home cooked food?
  6. Do you think “Jack and the beanstalk” (or any other story of your choice) is a good fairy-tale story to tell children?
  7. Do you think teamwork is important?
  8. Would you like Mummy/Daddy to send you and pick you up from school every day?
  9. Do you think this is a good present for XXX?
  10. Do you think this shirt/pants will look good on XXX?

Continue to part 2 of this article to learn more about expanding the “No” response further.

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