As the upcoming PSLE draws near, all the steps learnt to handling the exam can get forgotten in a blur of urgent, last minute revisions. Ahead, we list 10 ways to establish positive routines and habits that will help your child tackle the upcoming exams.
1. Read more (and talk about it)
Research shows that students who read more do better in school, and we also know that a broad general knowledge helps students in both comprehension and composition. However, reading does tend to take a back seat during the PSLE year, so talking (not testing) with your child about their views on local and international stories can be useful.
2. Try a non-narrative continuous writing task
To write a truly standout narrative is a challenge, even for experienced writers. Despite the changes since 2015 in the options for continuous writing tasks, the majority of students we see still write a narrative. In some ways, exposition pieces, like an argumentative essay, are much easier to write well and students are more likely to stand out. The quality of these pieces depends on a regular structure and the development of ideas. As in tip 1, this is where parents can help by discussing issues with their children and broadening their perspectives.
3. Read and reflect on your teacher’s comments.
Ignore the grade (for now!). Grades are like spot checks, telling students where they are at a given point in a year but they don’t give any clues about how to actually improve. The quality of feedback is an important measure of effective teaching and if your child or you doesn’t understand the comments, take the time to approach the teacher to clarify and check understanding.
4. Revise written work
Let your child read through the teacher’s feedback and rewrite the pieces. As opposed to simply writing a new piece, editing a current work will not only allow them to strengthen their grammar skills, but expanding and refining original ideas will also make them much more polished and adaptable for future use. Even just reformulating a few sentences in line with the teacher’s comments, not necessarily the whole piece, can improve composition skills in the long term.
5. Avoid the fixed grade mindset
Students and parents tend to identify with certain bands. It is common to hear comments like ‘he’s a C student’ or ‘she’s an A’. Unfortunately, this can become a badge and an expectation for teachers, students and parents alike. As noted above, grades are spot checks not a permanent state. Everyone can and should improve.
6. Try a past paper
It might have been (more than) a few years since you sat the PSLE yourself. One way to really understand how your child feels is to try doing one yourself. Other than developing empathy for what your child is going through, having recently experienced a test will help you understand better the challenges that your child and teacher talk about. Furthermore, it will allow you to ask better and more helpful questions about what needs to be done.
7. Understand the exam tasks
The PSLE comprises many different question types and each kind requires a different set of understanding from the student. Low scores with certain questions at this stage of the year can be linked to simply not understanding the techniques involved. Extra practice can be effective but learning how to approach specific question types and what skills are being tested will go a much longer way.
8. Bring some cognitive science to improve your child’s study
Contrary to popular belief, repeating the same task over and over again doesn’t actually help your child learn faster – you might actually find your child switching off at the learning because of the droning on. As such, try combining different tasks and repeating that structure regularly. For example, start with a transformation exercise, then a grammar cloze, followed by a visual text, and repeat. Don’t expect your child to master tasks instantly, confidence (and better scores) will come through regular breaks and reviews.
9. Plan your PSLE year together
As adults, we may have already figured out the benefits of good time management, but don’t assume that your child is able to manage their time effectively. Negotiate a weekly and monthly timetable that includes rest periods, holidays, birthdays etc. will help spread the workload, reduce stress and give your child things to look forward to. The timetable will also be useful for parents as it will allow you to see when your child will be busiest and think of ways to support them.
10. Keep talking
Lastly, always let your child know that you are available to talk to whenever they are worried about their exams. Children who feel supported are more likely to let their parents know when there is a problem with any aspects of their studies. Exams are a very big deal for your little ones, so letting them know that you’re always around for them can save a lot of stress and worry in both the short and long term.
This article was contributed by Charlie Spiller from British Council for Singapore’s Child