Top exam tips for the PSLE composition exam

How to excel in the Singapore PSLE composition exam

To excel in the Singapore PSLE composition exam , it is vital that the storyline fulfills the exam requirements. In this post, we list the top tips for writing an excellent PSLE composition. Model compositions written by our pupils are also included to illustrate the provided tips.

Exam tip 1 : Emphasize the title

The given title must be emphasized in the composition.  Pupils can do so by :

A) Inserting the title in the main event

It is often necessary for pupils to create additional content so that the title can be inserted appropriately into the composition. This can be done either using appropriate speech or actions.

Pupils must note to avoid inserting the title as many times as they can in the composition. This makes the story sound rather contrived.

B) Inserting the title in the conclusion paragraph

This is the basic requirement for pupils taking the PSLE composition exam. The title should be inserted in a part of the conclusion paragraph to lend emphasis to the title.

For a better understanding of how to emphasize the title in various sections of a composition, do refer to our model composition on “Teamwork “.

Exam tip 2 : Make sure your story flows

When writing a composition for the PSLE exam, many pupils are aware of the certain composition writing rules such as a main conflict (problem) and an additional complication are required for every story.

However, it is common that pupils insert in seemingly unrelated events to fulfill the writing rules. They simply explain the writing rules by using sentence starters like “Suddenly” and “Out of the blue” to imply the happening of unexpected events. Although not entirely wrong, such writing does not create a smooth story flow.

To create a story that flows well, the chain of events in a story should be clearly interconnected. This means one main event serves as the cause for the next main scene.

It is important to note that although markers do not clearly articulate the need for a smooth story flow, pupils who are able to write a composition with a logical chain of events will be firmly rewarded in the content section of the PSLE composition exam.

Exam tip 3 : Decide on a moral or life lesson before writing

As explained in one of our earlier posts , it is crucial to understand the title and decide on the moral or life lesson that the reader can learn after reading the story.

To excel in the PSLE composition exam, pupils should strive to write a composition which fully reflects the title and leads to a strong moral or life lesson.

Do refer to our model composition on “An act of mischief ” which illustrates how the given title leads to a valuable life lesson.

Exam tip 4 : Writing more is not always better

Pupils often believe that the more they write, the higher their composition mark. This is untrue. There are many pupils who fill their compositions with unnecessary content in order to write a composition with maximum number of pages. It is important to note that markers can recognise when a story is unnecessarily lengthy. Ultimately, this will only pull down the marks for the content section.  

For instance, a pupil who wrote an eight-page composition may only score 28 marks. Conversely another pupil who wrote three pages scored 33 marks.

It is also noteworthy that most pupils who scored excellently in composition exam (36 marks and above) generally do not exceed 5 pages in total length. Therefore, pupils should always focus on quality over quantity to excel in the PSLE composition exam.

Exam tip 5 : Refrain from writing an overly-dramatic storyline

Pupils should avoid writing storylines which read like an episode of a television drama. They can be overly-sensational for a composition which makes the story sound unrealistic. The storyline can also be too mature at times (example : focusing on a love triangle). It is important to note that such storylines are only deemed acceptable by specific markers.

Exam tip 6 : A strong conflict – avoid simple storylines

Writing a story with a simple storyline often results in a mediocre score. A well-written PSLE composition is one with a more complex storyline to show how a pupil has matured as a writer.

Some pupils mistakenly assume that a storyline which was given a good score at the younger levels (example Primary 4 or Primary 5) will produce a similarly good score for the PSLE composition exam. This is untrue.

Exam tip 7 : Write an original story

It is common that pupils read model compositions. Then they try to copy what they think is the mark-scoring element of the model composition. However pupils commonly do not comprehend why the model composition is considered an excellent one.   Due to this reason, they can only replicate the most superficial elements of the model composition. For example the model composition has many lines of dialogue hence a pupil will simply write many lines of dialogue in his own composition.

Without true understanding of why a model composition is considered so, trying to use specific content or elements from a model composition can result in an awkwardly-written composition.

Our suggestion is to write an original story and not attempt a drastic change of writing style for the PSLE composition exam.

Should you have any questions about our PSLE or Primary 1 to Primary 5 composition classes in Singapore, feel free to get in touch with us.

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