New PSLE scoring system and cut-off points for secondary schools: 7 key questions answered

Pupils will be given Achievement Levels one to eight for each subject, instead of grades like A* to E.
Pupils will be given Achievement Levels one to eight for each subject, instead of grades like A* to E.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) entry scores for 139 secondary schools under a new scoring system were released by the Ministry of Education (MOE) on Tuesday (April 27).

The new system takes effect when this year's Primary 6 cohort applies to get into secondary schools next year.

Pupils will be given Achievement Levels (AL) 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.

MOE addressed some frequently asked questions.

1. How were the indicative PSLE score ranges for individual schools simulated?

The PSLE score ranges for the individual schools were simulated using the 2020 P6 cohort's PSLE results and school choices.

MOE first simulated each pupil's individual subject score in AL terms, based on their raw subject scores. It then added the AL scores for each PSLE subject to form a pupil's total PSLE score.

Using these simulated PSLE scores and pupils' school choices from 2020, MOE simulated their posting outcomes based on the new Secondary 1 Posting System and its tie-breakers - in the order of citizenship, choice order of schools and computerised balloting.

The indicative PSLE score ranges for individual secondary schools were then generated based on the PSLE scores of the first and the last pupil who would have been posted into the school under the simulation.

As the 2020 PSLE cohort had their results in T-score terms, the PSLE score ranges are indicative only as they were simulated using the 2020 PSLE cohort results and pupils' school choices in that same year.

The actual PSLE score range for a school for a particular year is not pre-determined, and may vary from year to year, depending on the PSLE results and school choice patterns of each P6 cohort.

2. Will there be an increased likelihood of balloting, since there are fewer possible PSLE scores and more schools at every score?

Pupils will continue to be posted based on academic merit, which means that the pupil with the better PSLE score will be admitted ahead of a student with a poorer PSLE score.

If there is more than one pupil with the same PSLE score vying for the last available place in a school, tie-breakers will be applied in the following order:

• First, citizenship: A Singapore citizen has the highest priority, then a Singapore permanent resident, and lastly an international student;

• Second, school choice order: First choice over second choice, and so on;

• If citizenship status and school choice order are the same, then computerised balloting will be used to determine who to be admitted.

Hence, citizenship status will be the first tie-breaker, followed by school choice order.

Pupils will only be balloted when those vying for the last place in the same school have the same PSLE score, citizenship and choice order of schools.

MOE expects that about nine in 10 pupils will not need to undergo balloting.

In addition, the vast majority of pupils will likely be successfully allocated to one of their six school choices, which is comparable under the T-score system.

Parents and pupils should give careful thought to the choices that they indicate since choice order of schools will be a tie-breaker, after citizenship.

MOE said it encourages parents and pupils to look beyond schools' PSLE score ranges when choosing a secondary school, and to consider schools that would be a good fit for the student's overall learning needs.

This includes finding out about various schools' programmes or initiatives, co-curricular activities (CCAs), ethos and culture as well as home-school distance.

3. If my child meets the school's indicative cut-off point (COP), does that guarantee my child's admission into the school?

Meeting the school's indicative COP does not guarantee a child's admission into the secondary school. The indicative COP is the PSLE score of the last pupil admitted into the school, based on the PSLE scores and school choice patterns of the 2020 PSLE cohort.

Actual COPs are not pre-determined before the posting and may vary from year to year depending on pupils' PSLE results and their school choices for that particular year's Secondary 1 Posting Exercise.

In addition, if there are two or more pupils with the same PSLE score vying for the last place in the school, pupils will be placed according to the tie-breakers, in the order of citizenship, school choice order and computerised balloting.

Given this, it is possible for pupils with the school's COP score to be placed according to a tie-breaker.

4. Based on the indicative PSLE score ranges, why is there no school with an indicative COP of 4 or 5?

The PSLE score range shows the PSLE score of the first and last pupil admitted into a particular school and course in the previous year via the Secondary 1 Posting Exercise.

The PSLE score of the last pupil admitted to the school forms the indicative COP.

The indicative PSLE score ranges were generated based on the pupils' PSLE results and school choice patterns at the most recent 2020 Secondary 1 Posting Exercise.

Based on our simulations, there were no schools where the last pupil admitted had a PSLE score of 4 or 5, and therefore no schools with COP of 4 or 5.

The simulation is indicative and the actual PSLE score ranges for a particular year is not pre-determined, and may vary from year to year, depending on the previous year's pupils' results and choices in the Secondary 1 Posting Exercise.

5. What does MOE mean by 'students have a range of schools to choose from at each PSLE score'?

Based on the indicative PSLE score ranges generated from the 2020 Secondary 1 Posting Exercise, there is a good spread of schools with COPs at every PSLE score from 6 to 30.

This means that pupils would have a range of school options at each PSLE score and could also consider schools with COPs that do not correspond exactly to their PSLE scores. For example, a pupil with a PSLE score of 6 could choose schools with a COP of 6, 7 or higher.

MOE said it encourages parents and pupils to look beyond the schools' COPs when choosing a secondary school, and to consider schools that would be a good fit for the pupil's overall learning needs.

This includes choosing schools based on their programmes or initiatives, CCAs, ethos and culture as well as home-school distance.

6. Why do several schools have the same indicative COP? How do parents make school choices when the indicative COPs for many schools are the same?

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

As a result, schools would be less differentiated by COPs. This means that pupils would generally have a wider range of secondary schools to consider when choosing schools.

Similar to the T-score system, schools' COPs for that year are not pre-determined, and may vary from year to year, depending on the previous year's cohort's PSLE results and their school choices in the Secondary 1 Posting Exercise.

MOE said that it encourages parents and pupils to look beyond the schools' COPs when choosing a secondary school, and to consider schools that would be a good fit for the pupil's overall learning needs.

They should consider the pupil's learning needs, interests, strengths and aspirations, and how the school's culture, environment, ethos, and programmes can support the pupil's development.

Parents are also encouraged to find out more about the schools' Applied Learning Programme, Learning for Life Programme, CCAs, culture and proximity to their home when making their school choices.

Parents should tap the available resources such as the schools' websites or MOE's platforms, including the PSLE-FSBB microsite and SchoolFinder online portal, for more details.

As choice order of schools will be a tie-breaker under the new Secondary 1 Posting System, MOE encourages parents and pupils to give careful consideration to the choices that they indicate on the Secondary 1 Option Form and choose schools that are a good fit for the learning needs of the student.

They are also advised to consider at least two to three schools where the pupil's PSLE score is better than the school's COP.

Schools will continue to strengthen education and career guidance efforts to guide parents and pupils in making informed school choices.

7. How will the new scoring system affect those applying to affiliated schools or Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools?

For affiliated schools, the new entry scores will have additional information on the score range for pupils who are coming from affiliated primary schools.

This is similar to the practice under the T-score system.

For SAP schools, the entry score range will include the pupils' Higher Mother Tongue grade in brackets, if applicable.

Find out more about the cut-off scores of all secondary schools here.