2021 Changes to the PSLE Scoring System

March 31, 2020

As announced by the Ministry of Education (MOE) in July 2019, the PSLE scoring system will be revamped starting from 2021. This will affect the current primary 5 students in 2020. After the new changes for the 2021 PSLE scoring system, your child will be graded with wider bands and the scores will reflect his/her individual performance – instead of grading your child’s performance relative to that of his/her peers.

So, what do these new changes mean for you and your child – and how does this affect the Secondary 1 posting?

Here, we break down the details of this new scoring system.

Read also: How to Help Your Child Gear Up for PSLE

Wider scoring bands to reduce fine differentiation

The current PSLE T-score will be replaced by wider scoring bands, whereby each subject will be scored using 8 bands known as Achievement Levels (AL). The ALs reflect your child’s level of achievement in the subject, with AL 1 being the best score and AL 8 the lowest score.

The total PSLE score will be the sum of the four subject scores, and this will range from 4 (best) to 32. There are 29 possible PSLE scores, compared to approximately 200 different T-score variations today.

The new changes to the PSLE scoring system will reduce the excessively fine differentiation of students at a young age.


psle scoring system 2021
Achievement Levels under the new PSLE Scoring System
(Source: MOE)

Scoring for foundation level subjects

Under the new AL scoring system, Foundation subject scores will be graded in 3 scoring bands from AL A to C. Similar to Standard subject ALs, the Foundation subject ALs will reflect a student’s level of achievement, rather than how he/she has performed in relation to his/her peers.

psle scoring system 2021
PSLE ALs for Foundation subjects under the new scoring system
(Source: MOE)

For the purpose of Secondary 1 posting, Foundation level AL A to AL C will be mapped to AL 6 to AL 8 of Standard level subjects respectively to derive your child’s overall PSLE score.

Similar to the current PSLE scoring system, this mapping is based on the learning and assessment load of the subject and reflects your child’s readiness to access the curriculum at the secondary level. Your child’s PSLE score will be the sum of all the four AL scores across his/her Standard and Foundational level subjects.

If your child is taking Foundation level subjects, he/she are eligible for Express course, as long as he/she meets the course placement criteria.

New PSLE scoring system to reflect individual performance

Once your child shows a level of achievement that meets the learning objectives of the curriculum that is expected at a certain AL, he/she will receive the AL regardless of how his/her peers perform. This is to shift the emphasis on how well pupils have learnt, and not how well they have done compared to others.

Ultimately, the objective is to get your child to focus on his/her own learning instead of trying to outdo others.

Presentation of results in Achievement Levels (ALs)

To help students and parents familiarise themselves with the new AL scoring system, the batch of P5 and P6 students in 2020 will have their school-based examination results in ALs.

Eligibility for Secondary School Higher Mother Tongue (HTML)

To qualify for HTML in secondary school, your child would need to meet the following requirements:

  • To achieve a PSLE score of 8 or better; OR
  • To achieve a PSLE score of 9 to 14 inclusive, and achieving AL 1 or AL2 in MTL, or Distinction or Merit in HTML

The eligibility criteria for taking HTML is set in this way to ensure that your child can cope with the higher academic load and takes reference from the current criteria.

For students who do not meet the criteria, secondary schools will continue to have the flexibility to offer HTML to students if they are assessed to have high ability and interest in MTL and are able to take HTML without affecting their performance in other subjects.

Indicative Achievement Level (AL) Cut-off Points (COP)

To support parents and their students in making the right secondary school choices, MOE will provide information on each secondary school’s indicative COP in AL terms in the first half of 2021. These AL COPs will be based on the PSLE scores and choice patterns of 2020 Secondary 1 posting exercise.

With these measures, the 2021 PSLE students will have ample time to make their secondary school choices and apply for Direct School Admission – Secondary (DSA-Sec), if needed.

To find out how this new scoring system will affect Sec 1 subject levels from 2024, do check out this article.