How to Use Past Year School Papers to Prepare Your Child for Her Exam – the Tutate Roundup

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The PSLE pretty much sets the standard and format for assessments in Singapore, so much so that from Primary 5 onwards, the formats for SA1 and SA2 are aligned to that of PSLE.

For those of us who have children in Primary 6, the SA1 is a good gauge to determine our child’s likely performance in the coming PSLE – the schools would have already covered most topics and there is still enough time after SA1 to focus on the areas your child might be weak in.  And there is no better way to prepare for the SA1 than going through specimen papers like past year school papers or those found in assessment books.

But with dozens of such papers available and limited time on our hands, we may not have the time go through every paper.  Some papers may also be set at too low or too high a standard for your child.  Why spend time on questions your child already understands? Or waste time on those that are too complicated for your child when time is better spent on him or her grasping the concepts or basics. Other papers may have a different emphasis on topics that may not be relevant to your child.

Ultimately, assessment, just like learning, should be tailored to the child.  That is why we came up with our Tutate Roundup in the hopes that you can get a quick overview of the various papers out there so you know where to focus your child’s valuable time on.

How does the Tutate Roundup Work?

The Tutate Roundup takes reference papers (both from schools and assessment books) and chews through them thoroughly to give you an elegant summary.  How do we do that?  With these 3 detailed steps:

1.  Categorise

We compare each question to the MoE’s curriculum and tag each question by its Topic (such as Measurements) and sub-topics (such as Area of Triangles, Length/Mass/Volume).  Check out this link to MOE to know more about this.

2.  Rate

We then look at the difficulty of the question by determining how the concept behind each topic is applied and the type of questions asked.  We also look at whether several topics are combined into the question to test the child’s applicational skills, one of the skills stressed by MoE in their 2013 syllabus.

3.  Analyse

Lastly, we run all this data through our algorithm  and analyse the results.  The algorithm takes into account these and other factors to provide a clear picture of each paper.

Show Me the Results Already!

Now that you know how it works, here’s our roundup!  The roundup is based on last year’s (2014) SA1 Primary 5 & 6 Maths school papers.  We broke down the results by Quality, Difficulty, Topical and Use of Modelling.

1. Overall Quality Papers

For the purpose of our readers, we define quality by how balanced the paper is in terms of range of difficulty and spread of topics. These papers demonstrate consistent standard in their questions.  So if you want an all-rounded practise or want to get a general feel of what SA1 will be like, these are the papers to try.  The values are a raw score, the closer to 100, the more well-balanced the paper.

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2. Most Difficult Papers

These are the papers that really test your child’s understanding of Mathematics.  If you want to give your child a challenge, look no further.  The score is out of 100, the higher the score, the more difficult.

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3.  Papers with the Most Cross-Topical Questions

Cross topical questions are ones which combine two or more topics into the question.  For example, if a question asks “What is the ratio of the shaded area to the unshaded area”, this combines Ratios and Areas.  Such questions push the child to apply their understanding of different concepts.

The scores are a raw score based on our own internal calculations, a score of 100 means no cross-topical content is present.  The higher the score, the more cross-topical content.  An interesting point to note here is that there is more cross-topical questions for P6 than in P5, as there are more topics to cramp into an exam for the higher standard.

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4.  Papers with the Most Use of Modelling

Modelling can be a child’s (and parent’s) worst nightmare.  But learnt and applied well, it can be a strong, fast tool to solve problems.  Remember, your child only has so much time to answer increasing complicated questions.  As modelling became prevalent, schools have started setting questions specifically with modelling in mind.  If you want your child to excel in their SA1, modelling should not be overlooked!  Here are the top 4 papers for each standard with the most modelling-based questions. The score of 29 means that 29% of the whole paper involves the use of models.

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How Do I Use These Results?

You can use the table below to get started:

Category Purpose

Quality of Balance

Best for general revision or final round of practice.

Difficulty

Best for instructional discussion when you have time to sit down with your child.

Cross-Topic

Best for testing the child's ability to apply concepts

Model

Best for training a child to be efficient during the exam.  Also good for getting a more visual and deeper understanding of the concept.

What topics should I focus on?

If you are pressed for time and want to focus on what’s important, take a look at the pie chart below.

Analysis of Topics in 2014 SA1 Primary 6 Maths School Papers

We only analysed this for Primary 6, since the topics covered are almost identical across schools.  This is unlike Primary 5 where the schools may differ more on what topics are covered for SA1.  This chart shows the weightage of each topic as defined in the MoE syllabus.  Note that the chart does not add up to 100% because some questions have more than 1 topic.  Based on the average of 10 papers, Measurements take up the largest percentage of questions – 24%, followed by Fractions with 16% and Ratios with 13%.  Data Analysis, Decimals and Algebra take up the lowest.

Of course, Measurements does cover a wide range of sub-topics, such as time, money, area and perimeters/circumferences.  Do note it is also possible that some schools may not have covered all topics equally.  So bear this in mind when you use this chart to schedule your child’s time during revision.

What else can I try?

We wanted to see how our assessment books measured up against the school papers, so we took a look at Shing Lee’s Pass With Distinction Book 6. The Pass With Distinction series is a well-crafted set of books aimed at setting the bar high for students. The book carries topical papers and several specimen papers.

Pass With Distinction Book 6 by Shing Lee Publishers

Pass With Distinction Book 6 by Shing Lee Publishers

Our analysis shows that The Pass With Distinction series has well-thought-out questions, plenty of cross-topical applications and a high standard.  They are also the most difficult, thus living up to its name.  Interesting, they achieved this without having a high use of models, showing that they push the use of concepts with methods that are part of the curriculum.

Pass With Distinction Book 6 was written with the PSLE in mind so it is a good book to get early in preparation for the final exams at the end of the year.  All books of Pass With Distinction series are available on Tutate.

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How can I track my child’s performance against the Tutate Roundup?

You can use Tutate if you want to see how your child does on these papers or simply want to find out his or her strength or weaknesses.  Tutate can be downloaded from the Apple store for free.  There are 8 past year papers you can try for free.  Just complete the paper and the Tutate analytics will be sent straight to your email.


So there you have it, the first Tutate Roundup for SA1 Primary 6 Maths.  If you like what Tutate Roundup has offered you, do give us a shoutout so we know if we should carry on for other levels and subjects!  Good luck and all the best in the coming round of exams!

Tutate is an iPad app where you can get the best Singapore assessment books, past year papers and other cool references!  Plus, we have our own qualified educators to guide your child and mark their work in real-time through the app.

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