Some of the tougher questions in this year's Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) were set differently to better test the pupils' understanding and guide them in arriving at an answer, the Ministry of Education revealed on Friday.
This came as schools celebrated a stellar performance, with a record 66.7 per cent of the 2013 cohort making it to the Express stream in secondary school.
In the last five years, the percentage of pupils qualifying for the Express stream has ranged from 62 per cent to 63.6 per cent. Last year, it was 63.1 per cent.
Of the 43,047 pupils who took the PSLE this year, 97.5 per cent of them passed the exam, marginally lower than last year's 97.6 per cent. Close to 20 per cent made it to the Normal (Academic) stream and 10.9 per cent to the Normal (Technical) course.
One reason for the better performance could be the change in how some PSLE questions are set.
Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who congratulated the pupils on their performance in a Facebook post on Friday, revealed that his ministry had tweaked the way it sets the more "challenging" questions.
"One small refinement we've made is to craft the more challenging exam questions in a way that lets our children show what they've learnt, while keeping the PSLE standard high," he said.
These questions were broken down into several parts to guide the pupils in arriving at an answer. And even if a pupil does not get the right final answer, but gets the first few parts right, he will be awarded some marks.
Mr Heng noted the positive feedback from students - that the exams gave them a chance to do well, and they felt confident about their learning. "This is exactly what we want - to bring everyone's focus back from chasing points to really learning," he said.
Following the practice last year, the Ministry did not name the top pupils and the schools they came from. In fact, it went one step further by not even listing the highest and lowest PSLE scores in pupils' result slips.