“PSLE Science is so interesting!”
“Science is my best subject at which I scored a B!”
“Science is easier than Math and English”
These are the common responses of students when asked about their opinions on the Science subject.
Upon hearing their responses, I will ask the following question:
“Since Science is a subject which you like and you find it easy, what’s stopping you from achieving an A or A* for examinations? “
“The questions are too confusing!”
“I don’t understand what the question is asking for!”
“I don’t know why – my answer is correct, but I get zero for the question!”
PASSING SCIENCE IS EASY! SCORING WELL IS NOT!
Over the years, the focus of the Singapore primary science exams has increasingly shifted from theory-based questions to application-based questions. Mere memorisation of the facts is no longer sufficient for students to score well in exams.
This is especially so with the introduction of the new PSLE Science syllabus in 2014 where the emphasis is in on high-order thinking skills involving the application of scientific knowledge in everyday life.
What are high-order thinking skills?
The best description is offered by Bloom Taxonomy, (created in 1956 under the leadership of educational psychologist Dr Benjamin Bloom). Skills are ordered under the following six categories:
Remembering and understanding are lower-level skills which are concerned with basic understanding and memorisation of information. The higher-level skills are concerned with the usage of information (Analyse) and justification of a stand (Evaluation).
Mastering the lower level skills, which demonstrate the students’ understanding of the scientific facts, principles and concepts, will probably enable the students to just pass their exams.
The ability to answer high-order thinking skill questions, which requires them to apply the principles and concepts, will give them the extra leverage to score an A or higher.
Are high-order thinking skill questions too difficult for our students to handle?
The content tested are pegged to the Primary School level. Regardless of how the questions are formulated, they will not deviate from the Primary School Science Curriculum.
What’s stopping my child for getting A for his or her science exams?
First and foremost, your child MUST know his science facts, concepts and principles.
Then, being aware of and eliminating the common mistakes made by students will help your child in securing higher marks for his science exam.
What are the 7 common mistakes made by students when answering PSLE science questions?
In this section, we will split the common mistakes made by students into 2 parts – Section A (MCQ) and Section B (Open-Ended).
Section A (MCQ)
Let’s take a look at some of the examples made by students in Section A first before I elaborate on the common mistakes.
In a nutshell, from the examples, we can conclude that the common mistakes made by students in Section A MCQ are as follows:
- Not reading the questions carefully.
Most science questions are take up one page. They are mini-comprehension passages. In their haste to finish the question, students lose focus and skim through the question. They go into an “auto-pilot” mode where they pick up a few scientific keywords and assume that the question is asking about a certain concept. They do not read clearly what was given or asked. As a result, they miss out vital information and fail to answer the question correctly.
- Not reading the answer options given carefully.
The same mistakes (making assumptions and/or jumping to conclusions) occur when choosing the right answer in Multiple Choice Questions. The answers given can be deceptive and misleading. A simple non-scientific term or a less precise word could make the answer invalid. Make sure your child checks every single option available!
- Not paying attention to diagrams/graph/table
Students focus only on the keywords in the question and overlook information from the diagrams/graph/table given. This is a costly omission as the diagram often provides additional information which can lead the students to find the correct answer. Do not just read the question without analysing the diagrams, graph or tables!
Now let’s move on to Section B of the PSLE Science Paper.
Section B, opened-ended has always been the “killer” portion of the PSLE Science examination. Most of the time, even students who perform well in Section A, do not do as well in Section B.
Let’s take a look at some of the common mistakes made by students in Section B.
From the examples, the common mistakes made by students in the open-ended section can be boiled down to the following:
- Highlighting too many words and not highlighting keywords.
There are two main types of students:
- Students who highlight or underline almost every word given in the question except for words such as “the”, “a”.
- Students who submit a perfectly clean paper, no underlining, no highlights of the keywords.
When the students over highlight/underline or choose not to highlight the keyword, there is a tendency that they will lose focus on what the question is asking for. Hence, they will give the wrong answer
- Not identifying the right keywords for the questions
Our students are taught keywords in school. School teachers have drilled them on scientific keywords and process skills keywords. As a result, the students often associate keywords with only scientific words or process skill words.
However, the keyword which gives hints to the concept tested might not be a scientific word or process skill word. (In Example 5, the core keyword in the question is the qualifier – “not”.) Your child may be omitting such keywords.
- Not relating the questions to the right concepts/principles/facts/topics
Identical to the mistake made in MCQ, in OEQ, some students do not read their questions carefully. They skim through information. This is a dangerous habit as the students often overlook key words which hint at scientific concept or principles tested. Because of this omission, your child may give the ‘right’ answer, but lose marks as it does not relate back to the concept being tested.
- Not answering using the correct techniques and keywords
The process skills keywords provide the student with the guideline to their answers structure. High-order thinking skill questions often asked the students to “Explain”, which your child needs to apply the concept and relate it to the questions given.
Often, the answers students give are too general and not specific. (E.g. using “air” instead of “oxygen”.)
Understanding these common mistakes is the cornerstone for future improvement. Once your child can identify his or her weaknesses, then we can proceed with helping your child to minimise such mistakes and improve their PSLE Science results.
This article is written by:
Centre Manager – Kovan Branch
Grade Solution Learning Centre
Ms Stephanie will be conducting a 3 days PSLE Science Intensive Course this Sep holidays. Click here to find out more >>> https://gradesolution.com.sg/psle-intensive-holiday-courses
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