Your Essential Guide To PSLE Oral Excellence

[TLL PSLE e-Book] Chapter 3: Your Essential Guide To PSLE Oral Excellence

Posted by Denise Lee on July 18, 2018

This chapter focuses on the first major PSLE hurdle that takes place in August — the PSLE oral exam.

An Introduction

In this chapter, you will learn about what examiners look out for and how to help your child secure an excellent grade for the PSLE English oral examination.

Read insights from our academic specialists and learn how you can help your child hone key reading and speaking skills in the lead-up to the exam.

At The Learning Lab, we want to empower your child to seek PSLE success in meaningful, relevant and effective ways. As you and your child gear up for the PSLE, know that we are here to help in any way we can.

Contents Page

  • Section 1 — The PSLE Oral Examination

What exactly does the PSLE oral exam entail?
What do examiners look out for?

Section 2 —  General Preparation 

What are the common problems students face?
Overcoming anxiety to become calm and confident
Dealing with mental blocks to be quick-thinking and genuine
Organising one’s thoughts to express clear and logical responses

Section 3 —  Honing The Right Skills For Each Section

Reading Aloud:
Work on articulation
Practise perfect pacing
Build familiarity with expressiveness

Stimulus-based Conversation:
Use the PEEP format
Employ the rule of three
Craft a strong conclusion

Section 1 —  The PSLE Oral Examination

What exactly does the PSLE oral exam entail?

The oral examination accounts for 15% of your child’s PSLE English grade.

This component accounts for a sizeable portion of the overall marks and thus, the oral examination is a great opportunity for your child to secure crucial marks.

Part 1 Part 2
Reading aloud (10 marks) Stimulus-based conversation (20 marks)

During the oral examination, students are first required to read from a short passage.In the second part of the exam, they will be tasked with verbalising their views on a given stimuli (usually an image) and responding to questions posed by the examiner. 

Each candidate is given about 5 minutes to prepare before meeting with the examiners. While the format of the examination seems straightforward, the pressure of examination conditions can prove to be intimidating for students. 

Read on to find out how to help your child identify the key skills on which they will be assessed. 

What do examiners look out for? 

During the PSLE oral exam, your child will be assessed on these following criteria: 

For Reading Aloud For Stimulus-based Conversation
•  Fluency and pronunciation

•  Articulation (of thoughts)

•  Appropriate expression(s) and sense of rhythm
  • •  Ability to provide a personal response to the stimulus

  • •  Ability to engage in relevant conversation

Section 2 — General Preparation for the PSLE Oral 

What are the common problems students face? 

It is not realistic to expect your child to communicate clearly and confidently overnight. Students are often unsure of how to speak in front of an examiner and may feel self-conscious.

Coupled with the stress of the oral exam, the pressure to speak clearly in front of an examiner can make the situation seem intense! Three main issues your child may face are anxiety, mental blocks and inability to organise his or her answers. 

In the section below, read about TLL’s recommended solutions to each of these three common problems. Conquering these issues will help your child develop key traits of a confident and eloquent speaker and reader. 

Overcoming anxiety to become calm and confident 

Some students balk at the thought of having to speak in front of a stranger, let alone an examiner. Hesitation and anxiety towards public speaking is not an uncommon occurrence, especially in a society that seems to prefer texting over verbal communication. 

Often, students may find it unnerving to voice their thoughts and opinions in front of others for fear of being ignored or ridiculed. 

TLL’s Solution: Get Ample Practice

The more familiar your child is with reading aloud, responding verbally and sharing ideas, the easier it will be for him or her to communicate ideas with confidence. 

At home, encourage your child to share his or her thoughts on events of the day or about his or her interests. Another way to promote eloquent speaking is to encourage a love of reading.


Be it a newspaper, educational magazine or story book, frequent reading helps your child to familiarise himself or herself with key elements of reading aloud and speaking: pace and intonation. 

Dealing with mental blocks to be quick-thinking and genuine
Students may encounter mental blocks when they are faced with a particularly tough question during the stimulus-based conversation (PSLE).

When asked to provide a personal example or anecdote to substantiate a point during the examination, some students may find it hard to draw examples from their memory banks.

TLL’s Solution: Prepare Anecdotes In Advance

Your child may take the time to think of people, places, objects and memories who/which are significant to him or her. Teachers also help students to think of ways to describe the emotions and insights related to these people, places, objects and things.

 Such anecdotes and examples, which have emotional resonance, are often easier for your child to recall and express sincerely during an exam. 

Organising one’s thoughts to express clear and logical responses 


When flustered, students may begin to develop one thought but fail to explain it clearly before moving on to another idea. This may lead the examiner to penalise your child for not engaging in a coherent and relevant conversation. 

TLL’s Solution: Use Key Phrases 

Logical thinking can help your child to ensure that his or her response is not only organised but also relevant to the question. Using key words of the question in his or her answer can help to show the examiner that he or she is exhibiting clarity in thought and expression. 

Another way to provide a logical response is to use numbering cues such as “Firstly . . . secondly . . . thirdly”. This helps your child to organise his or her answer as a list, creating the impression of a clear, substantiated conversation point or response. 

Section 3— Honing The Right Skills For Each Section 

Now that we have identified the key areas which your child will be assessed in, it is important for you to know how you can help your child develop those skills. 

For Part 1, Reading Aloud 


Pronunciation, enunciation, pacing and intonation are just some essential parts of eloquent speaking and reading aloud.

Work on articulation 

Your child should put in effort to pronounce each word clearly: pay attention to ending consonant sounds like the “t” sound in “fit” or the “d” sound in “climbed”. 

Enunciate each sound: do not shorten vowel sounds or misread consonant digraphs. 

For example, when your child reads out the word “develop”, the first vowel sound “e” should not be shortened to an “i” sound. An incorrect enunciation would result in the word sounding like “divelop” rather than “develop”. 

Practise perfect pacing 

Vary the speed at which the passage is being read. Your child should increase or decrease the pace of reading in order to match the mood of the sentence.

For example, the pace when reading the phrase “she rushed to the scene, sprinting through the mall” should be much quicker than when reading the phrase “he took his time to stroll through the park.”

Build familiarity with expressiveness 

Use the right variation in tones to convey the right emotions. For example, if the passage is about a character who is worried, your child should not use a joyful or an angry tone.

Encourage your child to look out for key words that signal emotions such as verbs (action words), adjectives (describing words) or adverbs (a word that modifies a verb).

For example, consider the two sentences below. Think about how Sentence 2 would be read aloud in a more expressive manner. 

Sentence 1:

She walked to the supermarket, went to the back shelf and reached for the bag of flour on the shelf. 

Sentence 2:

She walked hurriedly to the supermarket, went to the back shelf in the far end of the supermarket and stretched to reach for the bag of flour on the topmost shelf. 

You can download the full version of our special Guide To PSLE Oral Exam Excellence (Reading Aloud), including more relevant examples and interesting tips on how to avoid committing common errors when reading specific words and sounds. 

Click Here to Download Our Guide to Excellence in Reading Aloud

For Part 2, Stimulus-based Conversation 

Following a structure to the examiner’s question will not only help your child to develop a thoughtful answer, but also help him or her to avoid appearing disorganised or confused.

There are two possible structures that your response can take — PEEP and the Rule of Three.

Use the PEEP format

PEEP is best used for questions that require your child to explain a stand.

To illustrate this, let us consider a scenario where the examiner has asked your child for the reason behind his or her choice to adopt a dog at a pet adoption drive.

See how the PEEP format can be used below:

  What to do Example
Point Start off with a topic sentence, or the main point of your response. Dogs are useful pets.
Explanation Provide an elaboration to the point you have made. Dogs are useful as they can keep my family safe.
Example(s) Support your topic sentence by giving one or more specific examples. A dog can keep my family safe by barking loudly to warn the family when a stranger attempts to trespass.
Personal Opinion Talk about your personal feelings and thoughts on the subject. I greatly value the unwavering loyalty dogs have towards their owners and will be over the moon should I have the opportunity to have a dog as an additional member of the family.

Employ the rule of three

The rule of three structure is most useful when answering questions that require your child to explain how he or she would achieve something.

It requires your child to list three main points and round them up with a concluding statement.When using this structure, it is important to use conjunctions or introductory phrases to link the points and conclusion.

Some examples your child can use include:

•  First/First and foremost

•  Second/Additionally/Moreover/Next/In addition

•  Third/Last/Last but not least

•  In a nutshell/n conclusion/In summary/To sum up

Craft a strong conclusion

After your child has expressed his or her views, it is important to end the stimulus-based conversation with a conclusion. The simplest way to do so would be to reiterate his or her topic sentences and sum up the main idea of their responses.

In addition, your child may want to include a reflection and a lesson learnt if applicable in his or her conclusion.Some introductory phrases your child may make use of include:

•  All in all …

•  In conclusion …

•  To sum up …

The Right Resources To Help Your Child 

If your child is preparing for the PSLE or you have a primary 5 child who is just beginning the PSLE journey, we hope you find these articles and materials helpful.

In Case You Missed It:
PSLE e-book Chapter 1:  A Parent's Guidebook to The PSLE
PSLE e-book Chapter 2:Putting in Place An Effective Revision Strategy

You might also enjoy these resources:
Related Article : How Do I Motivate My Child?
Related Article : 5 Useful Tips For Revision
Related Article:  Tips To Excel In The Oral Exams

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Topics: PSLE