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Bridging the gap from A to A* in P6 Science
October 7, 2019
Many parents of academically gifted children are often perplexed by their inability to secure an A* for Science, especially if their child is already doing exceedingly well in other subjects such as Mathematics, which also requires higher order thinking. Based on my experience from training such students, as well as my personal experience, I can offer some insight into this matter.
1) Primary level Science, unlike Mathematics, follow a strict marking scheme with a range of keywords. Mathematics on the other hand, accept a wide array of solving techniques, even if they are of a more advanced nature. (i.e. using simultaneous equations to solve problem sums is a valid technique, even if it involves competencies which are taught in Lower Secondary maths) A strong Maths student at P6 may find themselves knowledgable on Science, but unable to be a high achiever because their phrasing is not within the acceptable parameters of the P6 Examination. A very knowledgable student in Science can still fail to get A* if they do not use the correct terminology. Drilling of keywords is necessary, but can be memory intensive and inefficient. It is important to teach them that there are a set of keywords instead of just one acceptable answer, so their thinking is nimble, and able to adapt to different questions. It is also less taxing on their memory.
2) Carelessness in MCQ. Even after the changes to MCQ section, moving from 30 questions to 28 questions, the MCQ still forms the bulk of the grades in the PSLE. Securing near full marks in MCQ is vital to securing A*. As a parent, you must understand that almost every year without fail, there will be an extremely challenging or creative section B question which most students cannot handle. In order to hedge against the scenario that your child might be unable to get the question right, you must have near perfect MCQ grades. That marginal difference in MCQ means that carelessness cannot be tolerated, and MCQ techniques or skills have to be properly taught to them, and it has to be taught early. Last minute preparation will not serve you well.
3) Overanswering in section B may cost you more than you think. Parents, students, or even some teachers, may have the mentality that overanswering is the way to go, and better be safe than sorry. This tactic will not serve you well if you are aiming for A*. Overwriting often leads to less time allocated to reading long questions and understanding complex diagrams. This is costly as the students might find themselves misinterpreting the question and going out of point. It is much more efficient to learn how to interpret certain prompts(state, explain, describe) in the questions and answer accordingly. (i.e. not all 2 marks questions must have lengthy answer, and not all 1 mark questions are that straightforward. The specific wording used in the question will determine the depth of your answer)
4) Last but not least, a healthy interest in the pursuit of Science is important. A driven and motivated child will be well read, and in turn, that makes the child very resilient to challenging questions which involve scenarios that test heavily on external knowledge. It is not surprising that many of my students who eventually made it into specialist science schools (SST, NUS High) have a deep interest in the sciences, and are very well read or engaged(perhaps even more knowledgable than myself in certain aspects, which is a very impressive feat). Providing them with an environment which encourages the pursuit of science beyond grades alone, will actually improve their grades in the long run.
I hope this guide provides parents with enough insight so they can understand and assist their child. For parents who are interested in signing up under my A* specialist classes, you are always welcome to drop me a text.
Mr Y.S. Pang, B.Eng(hons) National University of Singapore, former IP and SAP student, Full time tutor and partner at Concept Learning and Singapore Learner