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In order to help our students be prepared for the type of word problems they are going to encounter in PSLE, we breakdown the question types from the top school exam papers every year.

Though these were 2012 papers, they were the closest match to PSLE math papers. Our rationale is that the teachers will most probably be required to follow certain guidelines with the types of required question. Our rationale may be incorrect but by tabulating how the last 50-mark questions were set for 5 top random schools, it will give us a clearer picture of the more popular type of questions set.

Source: The school papers were from ACS, Catholic High, Nanyang, Pei Chun and RGS.

Some basic info while you are trying to figure out the table:

1. The topics shown below every school are those topics set for that particular question. For instance, under ACS, “Percentage” is set for P2. Q7.

2. The marks next to the question is the mark allocated for that question. For example, 3 marks are allocated for Q7 P2 of ACS – “Percentage” question.

3. The lower half of the table shown 7 most popular topics. The popularity groupings are “High”, “Medium” and “Low”

For “High“, 4 out of the 5 schools had set these questions and their marks range from around 10 to 16 marks.
For “Medium“, 2 out of 5 schools had set these questions and their mark range from 3 to 9 marks.
For “Low“, 1 out of 5 schools had set these questions and some schools have even excluded them. (maybe it’s not important? hehe.)

4. “Marks at stake” means that if the question related to the topic is answered wrongly, these marks will be gone – forever! For example, the “Fraction” question under ACS P2, Q8 is worth 8 marks because there are 2 questions testing the student on this topic. So imagine if the child’s foundation for this topic is weak, he can say bye-bye to these 8 marks. So this is what I meant “marks at stake”.

Our findings are:

1. Word problems related to “Ratio” and “Fractions” are going to be tested (these are always hot topics and these are what make the word problems so challenging) and they are worth many marks. Sometimes, their marks take up about 15% of the paper 2 (not including other short answer questions that are related to these two topics)

2. Word problems related to “Percentage” and “Numbers” are the next most popular topics. So if your child wants to get his ‘A’ or even a ‘B’, his foundation in these two topics plus the two other topics mentioned in Number 1 must be above average so as to get at least 75% of these marks.

Marks for these topics can go to as high as 30 marks as shown in Catholic High P2. So at least 25 marks must be secured for your child to get his ‘A’, assuming he does well for P1 too.

Conclusion ( a very short one ):

Even though most students find that such word problems to be tough and may want to give up, looking at the marks that they carry, giving up is definitely not the best option.

While PSLE is still over 200 days away, now there is still time for your child to first (if he has difficulties in this area) is to:

1. Fill the gaps and rebuild his foundation

For example, before you can deal with word problems related to fractions, you must first know how to perform division, multiplication, addition and subtraction. Some children may have no problem adding and subtracting but will find dividing and multiplication hard. So get your child to work on the latter before working on the harder word problems. Most parents have the plan reversed! Make it right this time around!

2. Learn new strategies – This is a MUST!

There are many more effective learning strategies besides working on exam papers, reading textbooks and attending tuition and other lessons. As shown in my “P6 Math Secrets? 10% Concept; 90% Strategy“, there is a fixed way of working on long answer word problems regardless of the nature of the topics. It’s about letting your child getting used to these better techniques and refining them so that your child can really do well for any word problem.

I’m anticipating a number of questions or comments from this post. So please be patient for my response while I get some rest. It’s been a long night putting up these datas for you. But I love it! If someone asks a question and you know the answer or have something to say, please don’t be shy.

Cheers!