5 Things to Know About MOE's Announcement on Changes to School Exams

Posted by Denise Lee on October 01, 2018

What are the key changes that MOE has announced and how do they affect your child?

The Learning Lab provides a quick breakdown on the recently announced changes to school examinations by MOE and shares about how you and your child can be prepared for the new landscape in 2019 and beyond.

In this article, we speak with Justin Leow, Head of the Teaching Network and Juliana Cheong, Subject Head for English in Upper Primary.

Key Changes to School Exams in 2019

On Friday, 28 September, MOE announced a series of changes that will affect students in Primary 1 and 2 (in 2019) and those in key transitional years like Primary 3, Primary 5, Secondary 1 and Secondary (from 2019 onward).

1. What Are the Key Changes?

Fewer examinations gives students more time to learn and practise new skills, as well as more time to enjoy the learning process. Find out if your child will be directly affected by these changes.

Find a quick summary of the changes below:

Key Change Who Does it Affect? When Will This Change be Implemented?
No more weighted assessments or exams in Primary 1 and Primary 2 Students in:
 No more mid-year examinations for Secondary 1 Students in:
 No more mid-year examinations for Primary 3, Primary 5 and Secondary 3  Students in:

Click here or the link below for a one-click glance at the key changes announced by MOE.



2. What Does It Mean for My Lower Primary Child in 2019 ?

With the removal of examinations for Primary 1 and 2 students, some parents may be worried about understanding how well their child is managing school work in these early primary years.

Justin Leow, Head of Teaching Network, The Learning Lab emphasises that in the early primary school years, it’s important that Primary 1 and 2 students have “opportunities to learn how to communicate with their peers or to gain more independence in their day-to-day lives”.

 “While our students learn how to manage new components for each subject, they should, more importantly, be enjoying their learning journey by learning about new people, places, concepts."

-Justin Leow, Head of Teaching Network

This means that as your child builds the right skills and knowledge to manage new components in school, there’s more time to keep practising and fine-tuning these skills.

There’s also more time for other aspects of deep learning like nurturing curiosity and making strong links between the lesson and daily experiences. In this way, we get to focus on developing the whole child — in preparing them for life beyond the classroom, not just to tackle school-based tasks.

Related Article: Key 2021 PSLE Changes and Your Lower Primary Child
Related Article: Manage the K2 to P1 Transition

3. What Does It Mean for my Secondary 1 Child in 2019?

Parents whose children are wrapping up the PSLE journey in 2018 may be glad to know that their child will not have mid-year examinations in 2019.

With more subjects to cover in school and more complex curricula to learn in secondary school, this change can signal less emphasis on grades and leave a little more time to truly enjoy the new academic journey ahead.

Formal assessments at the secondary school level often involve a greater need for precise answers and a strong grasp of content knowledge. With the  plans to remove  mid-year examinations for Secondary 1 and 3, students will have more time to learn deeply — asking questions to clarify doubts, reflecting on areas of weakness and honing areas of strength.

In TLL lessons, workshop-based modules help students to learn the required new skills in a systematic way and teachers offer direct, immediate and specific guidance to help new Secondary 1 students move up the curve.

Crucially, it’s all about building your child’s confidence to manage the new academic landscape in secondary school by building a familiarity with new components and helping him or her nurture an interest in the new topics and themes of the syllabus.

Related Article: Overcome These 3 Common Secondary School Challenges

4. Key Transitional Years: What Can My Child Expect?

When students move into upper primary, Secondary 1 or upper secondary, they have to tackle more subjects and a more complex syllabus. At times, when parents see a drop in the absolute grades of their children, there is a concern about just how well their child is coping in school.

With the gradual removal of mid-year examinations for Primary 3, Primary 5 and Secondary 1 from 2019 to 2021, some parents and members of the public have voiced concerns about having adequate checkpoints to assess if their child is learning well.

We spoke with Juliana Cheong, Subject Head for English at TLL United Square about how this affects Primary 5 students and parents:

Q: How do the proposed future changes affect Primary 5 students and parents?

Juliana's response: 
Some parents may be concerned about how their children are faring through the P5 year. At TLL, we ensure that students are prepared to manage components they may have problems tackling like comprehension open ended and composition (which account for a higher proportion of the total exam marks) or situational writing(which is a new component for P5).

We place a strong emphasis on helping our students develop skills for these components, especially with workshop modules. For orals, our weekly class discussions on current affairs and general knowledge help students develop the confidence to structure and express their opinions or thoughts.

Parents of students in key transitional years can expect that schools will look at using 'exam time' to give students more practice in honing specific skills and to dive deeper into building strong content knowledge.

5. Changes to Report Cards and the Edusave Merit Bursary 

On Friday, the Government also announced that report cards will no longer reflect elements such as level position or class position and failed subjects will not be underlined or indicated in a different colour. In addition, grades will no longer show decimal points, but be rounded up to the nearest whole value.

These changes encourage a shift away from a purely grades-centric focus and will help to shape the mindset that learning is a continuous journey in which we help our students continue to build a growth mindset — one where they believe that progress can be made.

It was also announced that the criteria for Edusave Merit Bursary awards and Good Progress Awards for lower primary will now shift from an academic focus to one that champions “diligence, curiosity, collaboration and enthusiasm”. This change is aligned to the removal of formal examinations for Primary 1 and 2 students in 2019.

All these changes resonate with The Learning Lab’s student-centric approach to develop the whole child and to prepare students for life beyond the classroom, not just for exams.

“[W]e hope this is a meaningful step to really go a lot deeper for us to soul-search as parents and students and educators (on) what really is a more optimum way of teaching our children, for the joy of learning, to cultivate and nurture curiosity. Because they will really need it for the rest of their lives.”

 Education Minister Ong Ye Kung

Indeed, helping our students to nurture a love of learning is as important as helping them to achieve academic success. When it comes to developing the right skills and attitudes that empowers students to succeed in school, it is important to realise that these skills are transferable to life beyond the classroom.

Head of the Teaching Network, Justin Leow, shares his take on how taking a whole-child approach can benefit your child, especially when it comes to building skills that help your child be ready for school and for life.

“Our lessons involve presentation sessions, oral conversation practices and a lot of spoken interaction — we believe in helping our students be confident communicators who are able to express their ideas coherently.

Does this help them during oral exams? Yes. But more than that, it helps them to relate better to others, it helps them to speak up for the values they believe in. It helps them to be ready for life beyond exams, beyond the classroom.”

-Justin Leow, Head of Teaching Network

A Whole-student approach for Success in School and in life

At The Learning Lab, we believe in giving students learning experiences that empower them.

We are here to support parents in developing the whole child: not just academic abilities. For us, it’s about deep and meaningful learning that students can enjoy. 

We'd love to welcome your child to our classes.

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If you have any questions about our programmes, please email us at or call us at 6733 8711 and we will be happy to assist you.

Topics: exams, primary school, secondary school, lower primary, primary 5, secondary 1