Crunch time: How do I ramp up my PSLE revision?

The Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) has long been a rite of passage for students in Singapore. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, presents unprecedented challenges for this year’s graduating cohort, who must also contend with a new scoring system.

Nonetheless, there are ways to help students – and their parents – ride out these disruptions. Dr Sandra Wu, a lecturer in policy, curriculum and leadership at the National Institute of Education, and Ms Fa’izah Ahmad, head of Early Literacy Programmes and Exhibitions at the National Library Board (NLB), discussed PSLE revision strategies during the school holidays with Straits Times correspondent Venessa Lee at the askST@NLB talk (May 28).

Identify learning style

Revising for the PSLE – or an exam in general – requires more than just studying hard; it is also about studying effectively. It has been proven that strategies such as summarising one’s learning in point form, regularly attempting practice questions and using mnemonics to aid with information retention can ease the learning process.

However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to learning. Generally, people fall under four different learning styles: visual, auditory, kinesthetics or reading/writing. The most important thing is to understand your child, identify his or her learning style and together, come up with a suitable revision plan that would best fit his or her needs.

Empower your child

Planning a revision schedule together not only boosts productivity, but also motivates students by giving them a stake in their own learning. It encourages them to take ownership of their studies by framing it as beneficial to their own knowledge rather than to just please their parents.

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Make time for rest

As much as productivity and motivation are important, students will not be able make it to the PSLE finish line if they suffer burnout. The key to a successful revision is balance.

Parents should avoid overloading their children by using a timetable to allocate time for work, rest and meals. This ensures that children are learning at a measured pace and are given ample time to recharge.

If your child is studying on the computer, they should also rest their eyes after every 1.5 hours, said Dr Wu. Other relaxation techniques such as listening to music and stretching have also proven to be helpful.

Read to relieve stress

Another good way to relieve stress is by reading. Citing a study by Britain’s University of Sussex, Ms Fa’izah noted how reading for pleasure for as short as six minutes can reduce stress by up to 68 per cent.

Parents can encourage good reading habits by allowing their children to explore their reading interests. Whether it involves fairies, animals or motorcycles, children are more likely to stay engaged if they are allowed to select their own books.

Parents should also avoid using reading as a form of punishment. Refrain from saying things such as ‘since you made a mistake, read two chapters of this book’. Doing so leads children to associate reading with negative emotions, which can prove counterproductive.

Ultimately, preparing for any major exam takes work and planning.

Check out these e-resources that can help you and your child devise a more efficient revision strategy.

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1. How to Study (2016)

By Ron Fry

E-book available at:

First published in 1989, the book offers techniques that have since been adopted by millions around the world. This latest edition includes information especially relevant to home-based learning, such as how to create a conducive environment and conduct online research.


2. Accelerated Learning Techniques for Beginners (2014)

By Dale Blake

E-book available at: 

An essential weapon in the “study smarter, not harder” arsenal, this guide offers ground-breaking strategies to enhance information processing and memory retention. These will give your children a leg up against those who seem to absorb new information and ace their exams with little effort.


3. The Power of Making Thinking Visible (2020)

By Ron Ritchhart and Mark Church

E-book available at:

This invaluable guide for educators by Harvard University’s Project Zero educational research group builds on the success of its predecessor. It introduces 18 new “thinking routines” – learning practices to prompt and promote students’ thinking by engaging and empowering them.


4. Relieve Stress: 5-Minute First Aid for the Mind (2016)

By Katrin Schubert

E-book available at:

Learn 20 stress-busting techniques based on science that can be executed in five minutes or less. These include acupressure, breathing exercises and guided imagery, which can be incorporated easily into daily life – perfect for students (and parents) caught in the PSLE pressure cooker.


5. The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques (2008)

By Margaret Wehrenberg

E-book available at:

First published in 2008, this critically acclaimed guidebook comes with handy exercises, worksheets, tips and tools to guide your child through the de-stressing process.

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6. Organizing Your Day (2009)

By Sandra Felton and Marsha Sims

E-book available at:

A good revision strategy entails good organisational skills. As experts in the organising business, authors Sandra Felton and Marsha Sims share professional advice on how to optimise your daily life. From setting goals and to-do lists to scheduling daily routines, Organising Your Day is perfect for parents and students who want to seize more from their days.


7. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (2016)

By Stephen R. Covey

E-book available at:

This best-selling self-help guide, which was first published in 1989, claims to have transformed the lives of not just presidents and CEOs, but also educators, parents and students. In its latest iteration, billed as an infographics edition, author Stephen Covey shares seven important lessons about the habits of successful people in a highly readable and easy-to-understand format.


8. The Good, the Bad and the PSLE (2013)

By Monica Lim

E-book available at:

Guiding your child to score well for PSLE is no easy task. Such is the experience of Ling – a typical Singaporean mum helping her children with school. In this hilarious, yet thought-provoking novel, hear about the entertaining experiences of a mother helping her children survive Singapore’s education system.


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