Long-time educator reveals secrets on how parents can help their primary school kids score better in the upcoming mid-year science exam.

With the mid-year examinations just right around the corner, I noticed a lot of my students fussing over it. And of course, parents too.

Amongst all the fluster, parents and students are particularly worried about the math and science papers. Even our tutor confesses that learning science can be tricky.

Students, especially girls, lack self-confidence in maths and science problems, despite outperforming the boys in school. It’s an understandable phenomenon.

No matter male or female, their confidence get crushed when they feel like they don’t have control over what they should be studying.

Here’s a very simple example to if you can’t picture that—riding a bicycle. Kids get scared when they first started learning to ride a bicycle. Why? Because they can’t control the bike, and they’ll fall. But once they get the hang of it, riding a bicycle will only feel so natural, as though they were born to do it.

So here’s the one occurrence that bothers me greatly: parents are pushing their students to get the highest possible grades without a feasible plan to achieve them.  

If you’re a parent who’s constantly in touch with the school syllabus, it wouldn’t be a problem to guide your kids towards better grades.

Then, if the subject is completely alien to you, it’s not easy to do so. Parents will need to overcome the hurdle themselves before they can help their kid. Unless the parent teaches professionally, otherwise that’s really too much to ask for.

Here, we’ll be talking about the science exam paper and how you can help your primary school child in the last leg of science exam preparation. Read on for four of my best parent-friendly suggestions.

#1 Plan for open-ended question (OEQ) section

Other than understanding skills, the open-ended section in the science exam also test heavily on your kid’s writing techniques.

To score, your child needs to be able to include keywords appropriately to explain their understanding. In other words, short-and-sweet wins the game.

Not sure where to start? Look through past science exam questions.

Take note of each question and its model answer. Break these answers apart and highlight those keywords and the way they’re put together.

To get a clearer picture, develop a chart, a diagram or a mind map to organize these answers and their respective keywords. This is especially important for excelling in the science paper, and you’ll know why when you read on.

All of these preparation work leads to a stronger foundation so students can better structure the science open-ended answers.

#2 Know what questions they’re tackling

“The answer is not to the point”, “The concept is not present in the answer” and “The answer is not structured well”.

These are some of the most common remarks made for open-ended questions on your kid’s science exam paper. In many instances, children can’t fully and clearly express their understanding when answering questions.

The key here is knowing what they’re looking to answer with the correct keywords.

First thing to do? Identify the question type. Is it a “why”, “what”, “which”, “where” or “how” question?

Second, answer with the right format. Is it necessary to list out certain names or describe properties? Is your kid supposed to explain or compare observations? Does your child need to provide conclusion or suggestions?  

Lastly, use the correct keywords. Instead of “get bigger”, use “increases”. Instead of “smaller parts”, use “simpler substances”. Go back to the chart, diagram or mind map that you and your kid had developed earlier on to know exactly when to use these keywords.

Remember: questions doesn’t require lengthy answers. It just needs to be clear and concise.

#3 Practice

Really, practice is all students should focus on doing when time isn’t on their side. Right before the big exam, they’re probably too nervous to concentrate on anything new anyway.

Have them work on the questions repeatedly, look at model answers, and revise on why they know that particular answer is right. Take a look at the structure of the correct answer and how it relates to the question.

Remember that chart, diagram or mind map? Yes, it’s that important. If they’re confused over why the answers are correct, ask them to refer to those chart they’ve created.

On a last note

There is so much to be gained from taking the mid-year exam as seriously as we do to the PSLE. It really serves the purpose of providing footing to exams during the final year of their primary school education. But then again, back to the science subject: learning science should always be fun and inspiring.

Another thing that I’d like to emphasize is how we adults, parents or educators, often overlook the stress level of students. Yes, kid’s mental health is as important as their academic achievements.

Their confidence level is the most vulnerable when their stress level goes up the roof. And it can seriously affect their mental strength and how they rate themselves personally, for this upcoming mid-year exams and in future. We have the duty to support these kids during the exam period, and put in effort to help them when they’re struggling.

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