My P5 Problem Sums Proven Exam Strategies For My Girls

To my girls,

As your father, I would never know if I’m still around tomorrow.

Like my own father who had passed on when I was very young, I always wanted to have my knowledge to be available in books (and now websites) so that they can serve you well whenever you need them.

What you’re about to read is compiled based on the thousands of students and parents our team had coached and helped in our Problem Sums Mastery programme.

To start off, I want to share with you a very important skill. This is the goal for you. Not just in school. But also in your life.

You need to study smarter. That’s by learning and mastering Concepts, Processes and Skills. (C.P.S)

Read on for your more detailed study smart plan. 🙂

Your Master Study Plan for January and February (just before your CA1)

Normally in the beginning of January, this is the your more relaxed period.

It’s the period when you and many of your friends are getting used to the new stage of life.

Take 1-2 weeks to get use to school, your new class and your fellow classmates. After which, you must start to revise all your P4’s math content.

Why Do This When You’re Already Now in P5?

Because you will soon be tested in how well you can integrate and apply P4 content in this upcoming P5 CA1. (Your P4 math knowledge is your P5’s math foundation.)

Here’s what you should do at this stage (in steps).

#1: Retrieve your P4 math CA1, SA1, CA2 and SA2 papers.

#2: Go through all the short-answer questions (SAQ) and problem sums diligently.

#3: For all those right questions, skim through them while identifying the concept.

For example, “What is the remainder when 1928 is divided by 6?”

Yes, it’s important to know how to solve it.

However, for the fact you have gotten it right before, you know how to find the answer.

What’s even more important now is to ask yourself

  • How will you solve similar questions (if you ever see them again)?
  • What is the key step to start off with for long division?
  • How do you know if your remainder is the correct one?

#4: Get a paper notebook. Record all these sample questions together with the key concepts and methodology.

You just need one sample question for every concept.

This Is The Power Of Learning By Concepts.

You just need to read and learn one to be able to answer all.

This paper notebook is going to be your personal P4 summary book.

Once it’s compiled with all the sample questions of all the exams, you just need this ONE book just before your P5 CA1 to revise your P4 math content.

This is going to save you from many late nights.

Here’s A Story About Securing A-star. (Plus The Effective Study Tips You Must Remember)

A P6 girl once asked me how she could get and maintain her A-star grade. We worked out a plan and she diligently followed every step.

(Yes, she got her A-star for Prelim and PSLE.)

  • Get a paper note/ exercise book.
  • Record those questions that they couldn’t get right.
  • Write the solutions. Make key notes on the key concepts/ steps.
  • Do for all the questions.

From our experience of having coached thousands of students, the amount of effort your child put in is proportional to the marks she will get.

High achievers normally use different smart learning/ study strategies to achieve phenomenal results.

Eventually their effort paid off. =)

#5: For all those wrong P4 exam questions, I strongly urge you to cover your corrections, redo them with a fresh perspective.

The common mistake of having done corrections is this.

It’s to assume you have fully understood it and can solve the same question if it ever appears again.

Anyway, it won’t take long if you think you have really understood them. Don’t skip any of this.

Because how well you do for your P5 depends on your P4 math foundation.

#6: Now, prepare another paper notebook. You’re going to summarize what’s being taught in P5.

As the term has just started and the teaching pace is generally slower at the beginning of the year, you should have time to do a quick and concise summary for the topic covered.

#7: Riding on #6, pick up the other schools’ past years exam papers that you may have. Don’t attempt to complete the exam paper at one go. (This is what most others will do.)

What you should do differently is to identify the questions that are testing you on the current topic you are taught.

Next, write the title of the topic next to the question number and highlight the key components of the questions. They could be key numbers or words. (This also tells you that not every word in a question is important.)

After you have solve the question, write down the key concepts/ steps in any space next to the questions.

This part is crucial because first, it refrains you from jumping to the next question without recapping what you have done and second, it trains you to see the purpose of setting math questions as testing you concepts. “So do you know what concept is being tested for this or that?”

Use different colored pens. But stick to your system of solving a problem sum. (Yes, even problem solving process comes with a system and you should follow this strictly. It gives you the results you want. That is right answer with correct and fast solving method.)

Proven System = Predictable Results

Next for color coding, green for key words and numbers, blue for topic title and purple for concept.

Rinse and repeat whenever a new topic is taught. Do not wait.

#8: You will have common/ class test. Do not take any class quiz or test lightly.

Of course, I want you to enjoy it.

What daddy really mean is treat every quiz/ test as an opportunity to help yourself better understand what you know/ how much you remember.

What about making mistakes?

It’s totally ok. Learn from it and move on. (This is the same thing I shared with all our students in our Math Programme.)

#9: So much has been covered but I haven’t covered the most important part.

Do you know the Difference between Short Topical Questions and Problem Sums (with Various Concepts)?

Short topical questions are direct questions with very straight forward answers. These are some examples.

Express 30 kg 36 g in grams.

Round off 785 435 to the nearest thousand.

Find the value of 6 x 8 + 60 – 7.

Problem sums are normally bonded by a concept or two. To tackle them, do not treat them as topics. Identify the key words to spot the primary concept/ problem sum type.

Then solve the problem sums using the main method.

For example…

“Lincoln has $165 worth of $5 notes and $2 notes. He has five more $5 notes than $2 notes. How many notes does Lincoln has?”

If you have no idea how to solve, I have prepared the below video for you.

Are you able to recognise that the key words are “five more” and the concept is “Grouping”?

Using the next problem sum as an example, are you able to recognise that it’s “Same difference”?

“Thila was 38 years old and her son was 5 years old 3 years ago. In how many years time from now will Thila be 4 times as old as her son?”

To find out how to solve, watch the video below.

As shown in my Problem Sums Guide for Parents, there are 11 basic problem sums types you must know by CA1. (Yah so many. Not much time left. That’s why you must start now.)

1. Remainder concept
2. Equal concept
3. One unchanged

4. Same difference
5. Total unchanged
6. Simultaneous

7. Guess and check
8. External unequal change
9. Working backwards

10. Number of units x value
11. Gap and difference

Make sure you can execute these 3 steps for every concept

  1.  Identify the key words
  2. Know the concept
  3. Use the primary fastest method

Watch this video on my 5-step process to solve any problem sum.

Here’s More You-Must-Always-Remember Tips

(as you enjoy new your school year)

Tip 1: It will be your first time to attempt a full PSLE paper in P5 CA1. You will see paper 1 (booklet A and B) and paper 2.

Give yourself some space and room to explore.

Though the format of the papers are different, the time you allocated to every question and to secure every single mark is the same.

A good way to gauge your own speed is to use this

1 mark = 1 minute

For example, for a 2-mark question, you can use 2 minutes.

What happens if you’re still stuck when the time is up?

Two choices. Move on to the next question.

Or spend at most another minute and after which, you MUST Move On.

Tip 2: Watch this video I had made for our students. Please avoid this mistake.

Do not compartmentalise what you have learnt.

Everything else is inter-related.

Tip 3: Take a note of the sample answers below and tell me which ones do you like the most.

Answer Sample A

Answer Sample B

Answer Sample C

Answer Sample D

Answer Sample E

Probably you have seen the distinct differences in how these right and wrong answers are presented.

Which one do you prefer to mark if you’re a teacher? (and you know you have over 200 exam papers to mark and submit in 5 days’ time)

So a few things here.

  1. Make your handwriting neat. (Teachers have hundreds of scripts to mark. So please make it easy for them to read and to award your marks.)
  2. Organised steps. (You realise from the answer samples that clear thinking process brings about clear steps. So if your steps look illegible/ disorganised/ confusing, it probably shows you are unclear of how to start or solve. So stay calm and clear the clutters off your head. Focus and your solutions will be neater.)

You probably had realised by now that solutions of students, who score high marks, look tidy and are easy to mark. (Their answers almost look like the model answers that many others can learn/ study from.)

I want you to learn from them. Observe what they’re doing. (Success leaves traces.)

Here’s a final study tip for you.

Make sure you show clear, concise steps even when doing home revision.

Treat all revision (be it in school or home) seriously.

I really believe you can do it. Most importantly, I want you to believe in yourself that you can do it too and you’re going to do your best.

Love you,


(John Yeo, founder and chief math trainer for LOB Math Programmes)