Chance of getting into preferred school better now

SINGAPORE - With a record 66.7 per cent of Primary 6 pupils making it to the Express stream after this year's Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), several parents are asking if there are more top scorers this time.

But some parents are also confused that despite more doing well, this year's top score, leaked on Internet forum websites as being 275, could be lower than last year's 285.

As to whether there are more top-scoring pupils, the Ministry of Education (MOE) would reveal only that just like in previous years, those scoring 250 and above fall into the top 10 per cent range of the cohort.

This is likely the cut-off for entry into the sought-after Integrated Programme schools, such as St Joseph's Institution and CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School.

The eventual cut-offs depend on demand patterns and cohort size, MOE added.

Regarding the possible fall in the highest T-score, which stands for transformed score, what some parents do not realise is that this is not the same as the raw marks that a pupil attains in his four subjects.

In fact, the formula behind the T-score takes into account how well a pupil has performed relative to his peers.

So if more do better, there may be a smaller gap between the top scorer and other pupils, resulting in a fall in the highest score.

Last Friday, when results were released and schools celebrated the stellar overall performance, Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat revealed that tougher PSLE questions have been set differently this year.

To better test the pupils' understanding, the questions guide pupils to arrive at an answer.

With the change, a pupil could still earn some marks even when the final answer is wrong, the minister explained.

Another common query from parents is whether their children should apply for a secondary school with an entry score that they fall short of slightly.

Will their children be penalised when it comes to their second-choice secondary school, if they fail to get a place in the school on the top of their list?

During the admission exercise, all pupils are ranked according to their detailed T-score, down to the decimal points. The higher the pupil is up the ranking, the earlier the system will consider the pupil's picks.

If there are no more vacancies at a pupil's first-choice school, the system will allocate the second choice. And if that is filled up, then the third pick and so on, down the pupil's list of six choices.

Then it will be the turn of the pupil next up in the ranking.

So if parents believe a school is the best fit for their child, despite having a slightly higher entry score, they should go for it.

This is because if they just miss out on their first choice, the pupil still stands a good chance of getting into the school second on the list.

Another thing to note is that the 43,047 pupils who took the PSLE this year make up a considerably smaller batch than last year's Dragon Year cohort of 48,333.

That means children should stand a better chance of getting into their preferred secondary school.

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