Standard of 2021 PSLE math paper 'comparable' to past years': S'pore Examinations & Assessment Board

SEAB's chief executive added that the math paper was aligned to the syllabus taught in schools.

Low Jia Ying | October 07, 2021, 12:07 PM

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Despite complaints from parents and students that this year's Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) math paper was too difficult, the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) said "the standard of the examination paper as a whole is comparable to past years".

Yue Lip Sin, chief executive of SEAB, wrote this in a forum letter published by The Straits Times (ST) on Oct. 7 in response to a parent's earlier forum letter that this year's math paper was "more difficult" than average.

Yue: Overall standard of paper not determined by one or two questions

Yue wrote that the PSLE math examination is "aligned to the primary mathematics syllabus taught in schools", and refuted claims that it was more difficult than average.

He shared how SEAB goes about setting its exams:

"In setting examination questions, a panel of test developers, comprising assessment specialists from the SEAB and curriculum specialists from the Ministry of Education, adheres to a test blueprint and well-established test development protocol that ensures this.

The overall standard of any examination paper is determined by all questions as a whole, instead of one or two questions."

Pupils not expected to solve all questions

Yue added that all papers, including the 2021 PSLE math paper, has an "appropriate balance" of easy, moderate and challenging questions to cater to students of different abilities.

He said that challenging questions are broken down into smaller parts to help "most pupils" attempt them.

But he added that not all pupils are expected to solve all questions in the exam and credit will still be given to those who did not complete the question but "demonstrate the relevant knowledge and skills".

Differentiating students on subject mastery still necessary

The parent who wrote the forum letter noted that the new PSLE scoring system that kicks in this year aims to remove the focus of students' relative performance to their peers, and questioned why such challenging questions were still included in the exam.

In reply, Yue said that "a judicious level of differentiation" in the national exam is still needed to "endorse" students' understanding and mastery of the subject, which will be then mapped to different achievement levels.

"The PSLE is one checkpoint in a pupil's lifelong learning journey, and our education system caters for multiple pathways to allow every child to develop his strengths and interests to his fullest potential," Yue added.

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Top photos via MOE/FB and SEAB website