Updated: May 5
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Are Free Test Papers From Top Schools Really Beneficial To Students?
The response from our team of writers and editors at PhD Education is a resounding YES… as well as a resounding NO.
Before you think all seventeen of us are sitting on the fence, do take some time to hear us out. We might seem undecided, but there are certainly compelling reasons for us to encourage the use of free test papers found online, and at the same time, urge caution in using them.
Much like a routine, many parents download these papers from the Internet every year and print them in the comfort of their homes or their offices (undoubtedly an open secret of colleagues who are parents). Some other parents prefer to purchase them from sellers outside shopping malls, lugging huge stacks of hardcopies home.
Before going through all the tears and sweat with your child to conquer those massive stacks of test papers before the examinations, it is of paramount importance for parents to recognise the possible benefits that can be reaped and also, the possible disservice that can be done from the use of such papers.
Our educators at PhD Education feel that it is time to offer some of their insights into this long-standing “tradition” of using free test papers found online to serve as a guarantee of better results. Their viewpoints are presented below.
1. Top school exam papers are set by qualified and experienced MOE teachers
The education system in Singapore earns regular global commendations. Undoubtedly, Singapore has an excellent selection of schools, featuring competent school leaders and educators, as well as facilities that are some of the best worldwide. As seen by BBC news in 2016, we have the highest-achieving primary and secondary students in international education exams in science and maths.
Every one of these achievements would not have been achievable without the efforts of educators to tailor their teachings to the learning needs of pupils, and their inventiveness to craft tough examination questions to draw out the potential in their students for maximum results.
These teachers do set the bar high. In actuality, certain parents have encountered such difficult exam questions that they have made it to the news.
Based on the reasons stated above, our educators at PhD Education encourage students – be it P5 or P6 students to practise leading school PSLE examination papers for one to have an understanding of the standards and hopefully attain a competitive edge over other candidates in national examinations.
2. Develop time-management skills for major exams
Working through a full test paper is great for a student who has completed the revision of all chapters and topics just prior to the exams. It is, however, not greatly beneficial for a student, such as a Primary 5 student, who is doing topical revision. We will explain further in the next section.
By attempting a full paper within the given time, students can gain an understanding of how they fare in time-management. It is vital for students to recognise that time is a scarcity, and the most important thing to do during an exam is to score as many marks as possible.
Working through the questions while facing time constraints can be extremely stressful to many students. Therefore, students will not only learn how to excel in time management while practising on a complete paper, she or he will also be able to master stress management!
1. SA1 and SA2 papers are not arranged according to topics
Imagine all sorts of beans, ranging from kidney beans, red beans, soybeans, green beans and coffee beans mixed up in a huge sack. But, then comes the issue – you’re only looking to cook green bean soup.
It is the same exact scenario when it comes to free PSLE exam papers downloaded from the Internet. The massive pile of exam papers is not the most optimal choice for a student, such as a Primary 5 student, who desires to revise for a topic that she or he has just learnt. Attempting to select exam questions of a particular topic calls for the same effort used in choosing just green beans from the huge sack. While possible, time wastage will surely occur when students spend their time picking out the questions.
When it comes to topical revisions, content which is arranged by topics is still the most ideal. In this case, we recommend topical assessment books. Usually, questions of a topic are arranged based on their difficulty levels, so pupils are able to solve them progressively. Our test papers will keep your P5 or P6 child prepared – be sure to download our sample chapters to learn more.
2. Wrong/ inaccurate solutions and absence of explanations
Our team of writers and editors is made up of full-time tutors, ex-MOE teachers and current MOE teachers. The following statements are some of their views:
Many solutions found in such test papers are not presented in the way that examiners deem acceptable. Some solutions are also not written in the way that teachers teach in schools. Over the years, many wrong and inaccurate solutions across all subjects have been spotted.
Since these are top school exam questions, shouldn’t the solutions be top-notch too?
Obviously, not every one of the solutions provided in these kinds of free exam papers is from qualified teachers – in fact, it may come from anyone.
Moreover, since the examination questions are crafted by officially trained MOE educators, what’s the point if the solutions found are incorrect?
Hence, that is the reason why PhD Education advises both parents and students to be wary whenever looking through the solutions provided – it can be risky to follow the solutions heedlessly.
Below are some examples to illustrate our point.
Let us read Question 14 carefully and understand the question. Next, spend some time reading the solutions provided. Does the solution make any sense at all – where do the numbers ‘20’ and ‘5’ come from? Can a student understand how to solve this question even after scrutinizing and poring over this working for an hour?
Let us attempt to solve Question 14 using the conventional way, a.k.a. the way that is taught in schools.
May we all agree that the working we present above is much much better than the one from the free test papers?
Another question (Question 7) is presented below. Clearly, the solution uses algebra to solve for the unknown ‘u’. Many students at the primary 6 level still do not have an in-depth understanding of how algebra can be used to solve maths problems. After all, algebra is meant to be introduced at the secondary level. An average student might not understand the solution presented here because it is not what they typically learn in classrooms.
Again, let us attempt to solve Question 7 using the conventional way, a.k.a. the way that is taught in schools.
Solving problem sums with models has always been a preferred method at primary levels simply because models aid in visualisation and understanding. A model is so helpful because it allows the student to decipher between the WHO and the WHAT in a word problem, and visually “see” the information provided in the question and what they are looking for.
Let us give one last example to show how some solutions in online free test papers are inadequate. This next problem sum actually involves some steps. We are simply unimpressed by how unsatisfactory the given solution is – how does the writer of this solution think students will be able to know how to solve this question by looking at two slipshod lines of working?
Let us present our workings for Question 15 below.
For a student to be able to fully comprehend the solution and appreciate the flow, short statements such as “Number of units of postcards = ” must be written for each step. It can be baffling for a student to see just numbers being thrown around without reference to any quantities.
Over the years, there have been numerous errors and inaccurate solutions spotted by our writers and editors during their careers as teachers and tutors. Therefore, we urge parents and students to be mindful that solutions provided in such free test papers are not free of errors.
In summary, do exercise caution and do not follow blindly when using such free exam papers downloaded from the Internet or those purchased from vendors.
3. Past years exam papers can be outdated due to changes in syllabus
MOE reviews the syllabuses for all subjects every 6 years. Hence, parents and students have to take note of the year in which a syllabus change takes place.
For example, the last change in syllabus for PSLE English was in 2015. There are major format changes in several sections of Paper 2, including the Visual Text Comprehension section and the Comprehension Open-ended section. Students who wish to use exam papers set in the years 2014 and earlier will not be able to reap the full benefits. In such cases, we recommend that students purchase assessment books of the latest syllabus instead.
Below are some examples of how major the changes in the PSLE English syllabus are:
Hope the above content has been useful!
Do visit the product pages of our exam packages to learn more on what we can offer. Our exam packages are modelled after top school exam papers and edited by current MOE teachers. You will find detailed step-by-step workings with full explanatory notes in our solutions, which can be immensely useful for your child's revision.