New PSLE scoring system: MOE releases cut-off points for Singapore's secondary schools

Under the new scoring system, each standard-level PSLE subject will be scored using eight bands known as Achievement Levels.
Under the new scoring system, each standard-level PSLE subject will be scored using eight bands known as Achievement Levels.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Primary 6 pupils will not need to achieve perfect scores to get into top secondary schools when the new PSLE scoring system takes effect this year, based on entry scores for 139 secondary schools released on Tuesday (April 27) by the Education Ministry.

The indicative cut-off scores are based on the new Primary School Leaving Examination (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 (AL). Each pupil will be given AL scores from 1 to 8 for each subject, instead of grades like A* to E.

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

The entry scores released on Tuesday 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 School range from 4 to 10, and 6 to 11 for Crescent Girls' School.

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

The MOE, in a virtual briefing, said it generated the scores based on the 2020 cohort's PSLE results and school choice patterns. It simulated each pupil's individual subject score in AL terms and added the scores for each subject to form the total PSLE score.

The ministry then simulated each pupil's posting outcome based on the new posting system.

If two pupils with the same score vie for the last spot in a school, tie-breakers will come into play. The first tie-breaker will be based on citizenship. Singaporeans will get priority over Singapore permanent residents and international pupils.

The next tie-breaker is 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.

The newly released indicative PSLE score ranges reflect the score of the first and last pupils who would be posted to each school under the AL scoring system.

The PSLE score of the last pupil posted to a school in the previous year is referred to as the school's cut-off point (COP).

Under the simulation this year, the cut-off point ranged from 6 to 30.

Like the old T-score system, the score ranges are likely to vary from year to year depending on a cohort's PSLE results. However, the MOE said the indicative PSLE score ranges have remained largely stable in recent years and fluctuations would typically be by 1 AL.

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 other pupils.

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 the 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.

The 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, which is 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."

The new system is part of the shift away from the overemphasis on examination results and chasing the last point, he added.

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.

Schools such as the School of the Arts Singapore, Singapore Sports School and NUS High School of Math and Science have separate admission processes and do not have indicative entry scores because they will not be participating in the 2021 Secondary 1 posting exercise.

Housewife Tammie Wong, 42, whose daughter is taking the PSLE this year at CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School (Primary), said her daughter is hoping to continue with the affiliated secondary school and opt for either the O-Level or integrated programme track, depending on her score.

However, she added that if her daughter had a score that allowed her to choose between another school's integrated programme, or  join the Express stream at CHIJ St Nicholas, she would choose the latter because the familiar school culture is a priority for her and her daughter.

Ms Wong added that for the other school choices, the distance from their home in Thomson Road would likely play a factor as well.

She said: "School culture is very important, my daughter is very comfortable where she is so she will look for an environment that is similar to what she has now."

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