PSLE Scoring Changes: What Parents Need to Know

The Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) is the first big national exam all schooling Singaporeans have to go through. For children, it is a major milestone six years of education have been leading up to; for parents, it can be a source of anxiety knowing their child’s academic future is at stake.

In 2016 the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced future changes in PSLE scoring as part of a shift to nurture well-rounded individuals rather than over-emphasizing academic results. The changes made to reduce the fine differentiation of students, accurately reflect a student’s level of achievement independent of his/her peers and encourage families to choose schools based on their suitability for children’s learning needs, not cut-off scores.

The changes have since been implemented since 2021 and will be the new standard for all Primary students going forward. So what are the changes exactly, and how does it affect your child?

New vs Old Scoring System: What’s Changed?

OLD SCORING SYSTEM NEW SCORING SYSTEM 
GradeMark RangeAchievement LevelMark Range
A*91 – 1001≥ 90
A75 – 90285 – 90
B60 – 74380 – 84
C50 – 59475 – 79
D35 – 49565 – 74
E20 – 34645 – 64
U< 20720 – 44
  8< 20

As you can see, students will now be scored via 8 Achievement Levels (AL) with AL1 being the best. A student’s overall PSLE score will now be determined by their AL rather than the sum of their grades.

What does the new AL system hope to achieve?

The new scoring system results in 29 possible PSLE scores compared to more than 200 possible aggregates under the previous system. MOE hopes that this change in scoring system will lead to less fine differentiation between students.

Under the new system, students who score within a similar range of each other will receive the same AL grade. For example, a student who scores 65 marks in all four subjects and a student who scores 74 marks in all four subjects will now both receive a total AL grade of 20 compared to previous scores of 260 and 296 respectively.

MOE director-general of education Wong Siew Hoong went on to state that despite the new scoring system, the PSLE examination itself has not changed. Instead, the new scoring system represents a shift away from the overemphasis of examination results and chasing the last point.

How Does the New Scoring System Affect Secondary 1 Postings?

In a press release by MOE, it states that it expects the proportion of students qualifying for different courses to be similar as curriculum and assessment standards have not changed. Primary school students will be placed in streams according to their AL score, and continue to have six choices of secondary schools to choose from. Posting into one of the six schools will depend on your child’s academic performance.

Placement OutcomeAL Score
Express4 – 20
Express / NA Option21 – 22
NA23 – 24
NA / NT Option25
NT26 – 30 with AL7 or better in both English and Mathematics

With the AL scoring system, how are the new cut-off points for Secondary schools calculated?

MOE released the indicative entry and cut-off points for all Secondary schools in April 2021. These scores represent the first and last student admitted into the school with the new AL scoring system. The new entry and cut-off scores were generated based on the PSLE results of the 2020 cohort and their school choice patterns.

Parents who are interested in looking up the scores for their desired school can find them at MOE school finder.

What happens if two students applying for the same school have the same AL score?

In the event of two students with the same score vying for the last place in a school, the following tiebreakers will be used in this order:

  1. Citizenship (Singaporean → Singapore Permanent Resident → International Student)
  2. Choice order of school
  3. Computerised balloting

MOE has stated that in their simulations, it expects 9 in 10 pupils will not need to undergo balloting and the vast majority of pupils will successfully be allocated one of their six school choices.

What is Subject-based Banding?

Subject-based banding is a newly implemented system that allows Normal Academic and Normal Technical stream students to take subjects at an express level from Secondary 1 if they score AL 5 or higher in the appropriate subject.

With More Schools Having the Same Entry Scores, How Do I Choose?

Parents and students are now encouraged to consider schools more holistically instead of focusing on cut-off points. Your child’s learning’s needs, interests, availability of co-curricular activities, school culture, location and travelling distance amongst others should be your primary considerations when choosing a school.

You can use MOE’s Schoolfinder to explore potential schools based on distance from your home, CCAs, subjects and programmes offered.

With the changes to the PSLE scoring system and an overall shift in Singaporean education from academic scores and rote memorization to more holistic development such as problem solving skills and character-building — students no longer need to regurgitate facts but must now apply reasoning and justification in their examinations.

That’s why at Learning Journey Education Centre we’ve tailored our teaching approach around cultivating independent study habits and thinking skills with small group learning of 4 to 6 students per class. Our students enjoy interactive lessons with plenty of opportunities to speak up, ask questions, interact with and learn from like-minded peers. Online PSLE classes are also available to help your child learn safely in the comfort of your own home.

Discover if small group size learning is right for your child!

Among the PSLE cohort enrolled with Learning Journey Education Centre, 74.5% of our students scored As and A*s and 20% of our students scored A* for their 2020 PSLE exams. Find out more about our classes and teaching methodology at www.learningjourney.edu.sg

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