While there is a standard format for the national exam, there is no hard...
While the PSLE is a national level examination where students attempt the same paper, each school has their own approach to teaching the syllabus.
This is especially true for English, where unlike Mathematics or Science, there are no clear-cut topics and order in which to cover them. There is in fact no official English textbook for PSLE English. The Ministry of Education website lists practice workbooks but not a textbook for Primary 6 English. This follows on to secondary school where schools have the autonomy to select textbooks or teaching aids they feel best suit the needs of their students as a whole.
This means that students who master national level assessment books might not necessarily be good at their own school’s exam papers!
If your child is able to score consistently well in assessment book practices but does significantly worse for school examinations, there might be a mismatch in their understanding of how to attempt questions vs what their school’s proscribed marking scheme is.
“PSLE is a national exam, so the results of the school paper don’t matter right?”
Again, this very much depends on the personality of your child. If your child is one of the blessed few that is always brimming with confidence (backed up by genuine ability of course!) and is immune to setbacks, then he/she will probably be fine. Most children, however, react negatively to getting poor scores in their school exams, especially if they feel like they’ve put in a good effort preparing for it. That is perfectly normal and in line with human nature. The danger is when that negativity seeds a worm of doubt in them, which could lead to second guessing and choice paralysis leading up to and during the national examinations.
The importance of “Exam Confidence”
If the national examinations are the final goal for your child’s primary and secondary journeys, then school exams are important milestones along the way. Scoring well in school examinations builds confidence, which is an invaluable trait when it comes to performing under the immense stress of national exams.
Over the years, we’ve had multiple students from schools nearby such as Tao Nan, CHIJ Katong, Ngee Ann, Tanjong Katong, Kong Hwa, Maha Bodhi, and many others. As such, we have become intimately familiar with the individual quirks and requirements of their exam marking schemes so we can mentor each student individually to handle their school’s grading system.
Ultimately, all students are taking the same national exam, but by training students to handle their own internal school examinations first, we aim to build self-confidence and alleviate some of the stress these poor children are going through.