MOE offers glimpse into impact of new PSLE scoring

Data suggests pupils will not need perfect scores to get into a top secondary school

The Ministry of Education (MOE) yesterday offered a glimpse into how secondary school admissions will play out when the new Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) scoring system takes effect this year, based on entry scores for 139 secondary schools released yesterday.

The choice of schools will play a key role, while Primary 6 pupils will not need to achieve perfect scores to get into a top secondary school, the data suggests.

The indicative cut-off scores are based on the new PSLE scoring system, which will be used for the first time by this year's Primary 6 cohort to gain entry into secondary schools next year.

Under the new scoring system, first announced in 2016, each standard-level PSLE subject will be scored using eight bands known as Achievement Levels (ALs). Each pupil will be given AL scores from 1 to 8 for each subject.

A pupil's total PSLE score will be the sum of the ALs of the four subjects, with the best possible total score being 4.

Under the simulation this year, the cut-off point (COP) - the PSLE score of the last student posted to a school - ranged from 6 to 30.

The entry scores show that top schools such as Raffles Institution and Raffles Girls' School (Secondary) have entry scores ranging from 4 to 6, while entry scores for other popular schools such as Anderson Secondary range from 4 to 10, and from 6 to 11 for Crescent Girls' School.

The new system of broader bands is meant to be less stressful than the old T-score system, as pupils do not have to chase the last mark to outperform their peers.

Under the new scoring system, if two pupils with the same score vie for the last spot in a school, tie-breakers will come into play, MOE said in a virtual briefing. The first tie-breaker will be based on citizenship. Singaporeans will get priority over Singapore permanent residents and international pupils.

Next will be the pupil's list of school choices, where a pupil who puts the school higher on the list of choices will get priority. If the tie still cannot be broken, computerised balloting will be used.

Like the old T-score system, the score ranges are likely to vary from year to year depending on a cohort's PSLE results.

Pupils who pass Higher Chinese Language (HCL) will continue to receive a posting advantage for admission to Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools. If pupils with the same PSLE score are vying for limited places in the same SAP school, those with better HCL grades - in the order of distinction, merit and pass - will be allocated a place ahead of others. This posting advantage applies before the tie-breakers.

With PSLE scores less finely differentiated under the AL scoring system, there are now only 29 possible scores, compared with more than 200 possible aggregates under the previous system.

Schools will therefore be less differentiated by COPs, which means that pupils would have a wider range of secondary schools to choose from, said MOE.

Given that school choices will be a factor in tie-breakers, parents and pupils should consider carefully how they list the six school choices, the ministry said. It added that parents and pupils can consider at least two to three schools where the pupil's PSLE score is better than the school's COP.

MOE said it expects that about nine in 10 pupils will not need to undergo balloting, and that the vast majority of pupils will likely be successfully allocated one of their six school choices, comparable to that under the T-score system.

MOE director-general of education Wong Siew Hoong said that despite the new scoring system, the PSLE itself as an examination has not changed.

He said: "There is a certain stability within the schools' indicated PSLE score ranges, and the system has not been turned topsy-turvy."

Mr Wong said parents and pupils may want to look beyond the COP when choosing a school, and consider the pupil's learning needs, interests, school culture and ethos, and co-curricular activities, as well as distance between school and home, among other factors.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2021, with the headline MOE offers glimpse into impact of new PSLE scoring. Subscribe