How to Approach the New PSLE Scoring System

The year 2020 was undoubtedly a stressful year for both parents and children, especially those who need to prepare and take the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). The exam preparation of many primary school students was affected by the school closures during the Circuit Breaker Phases and the need to switch to online learning in the middle of the year. With these abrupt changes, parents were worried if their children will be able to obtain good scores in order to enter the schools they aim for the Secondary level.

Fortunately, there are some major changes with the PSLE starting this year and here the things you and your child need to know: 

Changes in PSLE Scoring System in 2021 

The Ministry of Education (MOE) announced the revision of the PSLE’s scoring system on July 25, 2019. This new scoring system will apply to children entering Primary 5 in the school year 2020 and onwards. 

The ministry said that these changes aim to help the children (and parents) to focus on the learning process and not solely on academic results. This new scoring system will also help students to get more opportunities to explore the subjects they excel in and the other interests they want to pursue. 

Previously, the PSLE score computation of a student uses the obtained T-scores from the four subjects. A T-score, according to MOE, reflects how well students have done relative to their peers. With the old system, even if students have a good score in the subjects, they will still have a lower PSLE score if they obtained poor T-scores. Consequently, this system resulted in cultivating an unhealthy competition among students. 

Results in the 8 Achievement Levels 

With the new system, the schools will now evaluate and show the exam performance of P5 and P6 students through Achievement Levels (AL). These ALs have eight bands with AL 1 as the best score, and AL 8 as the lowest score. 

The 8 ALs are designed to present the levels more broadly so there will be no significant differences between a student who scores 85 and another student who scores 89. Yet, these ALs will still provide a distinction between a student who scores 85 and another who scores 75.   

Here is the new grading system under the AL system: 

AL1: 90+

AL2: 85-89

AL3: 80-84

AL4:75-79

AL5: 65-74

AL6: 45-64

AL7: 20-44

AL8: under 20

To compute the new PSLE score, the sum of the student’s test scores in four subjects will be used and it can range from 4 to 32. For example, if one student scores AL2 in all 4 subjects, their PSLE score will be 8. 

The lower one’s score is, the better. 

Grading for Foundation Level Subjects

For the Foundation Level Subjects, schools will use three score bands to grade the students, AL A, AL B and AL C. 

Similar to the system for Standard subjects, the ALs for Foundation subjects will show the student’s achievement level rather than their raw academic marks. 

The grading system is as follows: 

 

Grades for Foundation Foundation Raw Mark Range Equivalent Standard Level AL

AL A

75 – 100 6

AL B

30 -74 7

AL C

< 30 8

 

For Secondary 1, the AL A is equivalent to AL 6 while AL C is equivalent to AL 8 of the Standard subjects. Their PSLE score will therefore be the sum of both their Standard and Foundation subject scores. 

Any student who takes up Foundation subjects will be permitted to take the Express Course, given that they can meet the criteria set for the course. 

Also, schools will provide the AL exam results for P5 and P6 students to help them familiarise with the new scoring system. 

The Impact on Mother Tongue and Higher Chinese

For those who are taking Mother Tongue and Higher Chinese courses, students will have to score 8 or better in their PSLE. If one student has a PSLE score of 9-14, they can still take the course if they scored AL1 or AL2 in their Mother Tongue Language, or they received a distinction for Higher Mother Tongue in the exams. 

Schools can also determine at their discretion whether they will offer Higher Mother Tongue or Higher Chinese courses to students who did not achieve the score threshold. 

How PSLE New Scoring Will Affect Secondary School Posting Exercise

The new scoring system will change the secondary school posting procedure, especially when it comes to their choice of schools for tie-breaker scenarios. 

Until 2023, students will still continue to be placed based on their PSLE score. 

 

Placement Outcome

PSLE Score

EXPRESS

4 – 20

EXPRESS / 
N(A) OPTION

21 – 22

N(A)

23 – 24

N(A) / N(T) OPTION

25

N(T)

26 – 30, with AL7 or better in both English Language and Mathematics

 

In the event of a tie-breaker, the decision will be done based on:

  1. The student’s citizenship (Singaporean citizens are the priority, followed by the Permanent Residents then International Students)
  2. The order of schools chosen by the student (6 schools)
  3. Computerised balloting

To help students identify which secondary schools they could select and aim for based on their AL in the first half of the year, the MOE will release the Cut-Off Point (COP) for each secondary school. These COPs will be determined based on the PSLE scores of P6 students last year and their choice patterns for Secondary Schools. 

Having the COP list available will also help students to apply for Direct School Admission-Secondary (DSA-Sec) if they wish to use the program. 

Will the New System Reduce Unhealthy Competition?

The main goal of this new PSLE scoring system is to reduce unhealthy competition among children. Yet, it is still uncertain if this is enough to unroot the problem. To achieve this goal successfully, everyone should work out together, including the parents, the teachers and the schools.

With the move towards the right direction, MOE has acknowledged that it is more important to recognise children’s achievement level relative to their learning objectives instead of comparing them to their peers. They also revised a long-standing system to reduce fine differentiation at such a young age. The MOE has also taken other significant actions like removing exams in Primary 1 and 2 and mid-year exams in Primary 3 and 5 and Secondary 1 and 3, to shift the focus on aiming for higher grades and help students enjoy the learning experience. Hopefully, the country will continue to fine-tune the education system to encourage the spirit of active learning and curiosity. 

With all these changes, it is still vital to know that parents play a larger role in reducing competitiveness and stress on young children. Parents should avoid comparing their children with others since it increases the anxiety and pressure towards themselves and their studies. It can even lead to low self-esteem, resentment, envy, and low self-concept.

Watch out for this space or follow us on our Facebook page as we will discuss in-depth the differences between a healthy and unhealthy competition.