## Students cried over “unbelievably hard” PSLE math paper

The recent Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) math paper, which most described as “unbelievably hard”, caused uproar among students and parents alike.

A number of students even cried after the paper. “Some of my friends cried shortly after the math paper ended,” Jamie Tan, a student who sat for PSLE this year, said.

Apparently, this year’s math paper was slightly difficult. “There are some new and unfamiliar questions in this year’s PSLE math paper,” James Ang, a local tutor, said. “Therefore, many students find these questions difficult to solve.”

Nevertheless, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Education (MOE) said that the number of questions, question types and syllabus were similar to that of the papers in earlier years.

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Despite the similarities mentioned by MOE, Ang said that there were many contributing factors to this year’s difficult PSLE math paper.

“I think one important reason is due to the use of calculators for PSLE math from 2009 onwards,” Ang said. ** **

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According to Channel NewsAsia, MOE said that the use of calculators is to better enhance the learning experience of students. “The introduction of the use of calculators does not have any bearing on the difficulty of paper,” a spokesperson said.

Jonathan Tan, father of Jamie Tan, however, has another idea of why the PSLE math paper is getting harder.

“PSLE need to have some killer questions so as to spread out the scores of the student,” Tan said. “But kiasu parents keep giving tuition to kids to make sure they can score these killers.”

“Then MOE will churn out more and more killers,” Tan said. “So the questions are getting more and more difficult.”

Rosalind Lim, who posted in the Straits Times forum, concurred.

“Primary 6 pupils are expected to tackle a much more difficult mathematics paper than 10 years ago,” Lim posted. “However, they are still given the same time to complete the paper.”

“As a former teacher and tutor, I have come across many capable pupils who are good at mathematics but cannot perform well because of over-challenging questions and an unrealistic time frame,” Lim posted.

Another possible reason is the not-so-straightforward phrasing used in these math questions. “It is important for students to understand the questions well before they can solve them,” Ang said.

On the hindsight, Ang said that many students will find the questions are now possible to solve quickly. “But it was not really the case while under the exam conditions faced by the primary six cohort of students this year,” Ang said.

More importantly, students should be given a more realistic and appropriate time frame. “The questions should be set within their ability to solve them,” Lim posted.

“Tremendous pressure will be on this year’s primary five students who will take PSLE next year,” Ang said. “I will have to prepare my primary five students early for that eventuality.”

“I expect the trend for future PSLE math exam questions to be of similar level of difficulty or higher, from now onwards,” Ang said.

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