The PSLE English Oral Exam: Expert Tips to Help Your Child Prepare

June 29, 2020

PSLE oral exams are an important component of your child’s PSLE journey, as they make up 25% of his/her overall score in the subject. Also known as Paper 4, the English oral exam lasts for 10 minutes – five minutes for preparation and five minutes for the actual oral exam.

The PSLE English Oral exam is made up of two sections, namely Reading Aloud and Stimulus-Based Conversation.

Here, our PSLE English curriculum specialists share the following tips to help you and your child revise and prepare for the PSLE English Oral.


PSLE English Oral Exam: Reading Aloud


psle english oral exam

The first section of the PSLE English Oral exam is Reading Aloud, in which your child is required to read out a passage to the examiner.

Your child will be assessed on the following oral skills:


Pronunciation and Articulation


As your child reads the passage, he/she will need to be mindful of demonstrating good pronunciation and clear articulation of words.


Rhythm and Fluency


Your child’s reading experience should be anything but monotonous. The examiner will be observing how well your child uses appropriate rhythm and stress to achieve a well-paced, fluent reading of the passage.




The passage set for the PSLE English Oral exam is bound to feature elements that convey information, ideas and feelings. Here, your child will be assessed on how well he/she reads with appropriate variation of pitch and tone to best express the passage’s various elements.


PSLE English Oral Exam: Things to Note for the Reading Aloud Section


According to our PSLE English curriculum team, the Reading Aloud section of the PSLE English Oral exam is regarded as the easier of the two sections to score points on.

You can boost your child’s confidence to meet the requirements of this section by noting the variables for which marks are awarded and applying good practices to prepare for the PSLE English Oral exam.


1. Use the preparation time wisely


Before the start of the PSLE English Oral exam, your child will be given 5 minutes to get ready.

Besides using this time to settle down, it is good practice to have a quick glance and read-through of the passage. While going through the passage, your child should also identify words that he/she finds challenging to pronounce. Use this time to say the words out softly and decide on the proper pronunciation.


2. Read in clusters


While it is important to pronounce each word clearly, do remind your child to read in clusters of words instead of one word at a time. Not only will this show the examiner that your child has the pronunciation aspect down pat, but also demonstrate your child’s clear articulation of the words.

Above all, your child should aim to maintain a steady pace throughout the reading process.


3. Pause at the relevant places


Reading non-stop can derail the entire oral exam by causing your child to lose marks for sounding too monotonous. So do encourage him/her to take a break and pause at all the right places while reading the passage.

Look out for punctuation marks to determine whether a short or long pause should be made. For example, the comma, colon and semicolon call for a short pause, while the full stop, exclamation mark and the start of a new paragraph indicate a long pause.

Applying the right type of pause helps to breathe life into the story and allows your child to paint a picture of the story’s setting in his/her mind.


4. Apply the right tone and pitch to convey emotions


Some passages come with dialogues that add life to a story and reveal the emotions of the characters.

As your child reads the passage, he/she should take extra care to convey the relevant emotions in the dialogue lines by changing his/her tone and pitch. The key is to intonate while reading to avoid sounding too monotonous.


5. Break up words that are difficult to pronounce


Now, this is where the 5-minute preparation time before the start of the oral exam really comes in handy!

Get your child to scan the passage for words that are difficult to pronounce and try saying them out softly. One way to do this is by breaking up the word into syllables instead of reading it as a whole.

During the oral exam, remind your child not to pause or hesitate, but to say the words confidently as he/she reads the passage.


6. Same yet different ways of pronouncing words


While it is great that your child feels confident about reading the words in a passage, do remind him/her to look out for words that have different ways of being pronounced. A common example (and mistake) is how the word “the” is pronounced differently when it comes before a vowel sound.

As your child reads out the passage, emphasise that he/she should articulate the words clearly (e.g. words that end with ‘d’, ‘s’, ‘t’, ‘k’ and ‘th’) and sound out the correct syllables. As simple as this may seem, your child could also lose marks unnecessarily should his/her pronunciation of words be less than perfect.

Most importantly, do all you can to encourage your child to read confidently and audibly.

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


PSLE English Oral Exam: Stimulus-based Conversation


psle english oral exam

In the past, this section used to be a conversation between your child and the examiner that revolved around a picture of a scene (e.g. an airport or supermarket). It has now been revamped to feature pictures that may come in the form of brochures, instructions manuals, posters or signages, all of which act as conversation starters.

In the beginning, your child will be asked questions that are directly linked to the picture. This will then be followed up with questions that are related to the topic of the picture.

In this section, your child will be assessed on the following aspects:


Personal Response


Whether your child is responding to a directly or broadly linked question, the examiner will be assessing your child’s ability to develop his/her personal responses.

This include qualities such as:

  • How well your child initiates and introduces new points and supplements these with stories, facts and news
  • How well your child brings in his/her opinions or makes a stand


Clarity of Expression


How well can your child express himself/herself while engaging in a conversation with others?

The examiner will be listening for cues during the conversation to assess how your child explains why he/she feels a certain way. Your child may choose to give as many details as possible and/or share his/her personal experiences.


Engagement in Conversation


A large part of the stimulus-based conversation will focus on how well your child interacts with the examiner and responds to the questions without appearing nervous or dull.

To help you support your child in this aspect, our English curriculum team has shared a list of tips below.


PSLE English Oral Exam: How to Impress During the Stimulus-based Conversation


Here are some things your child can work on for an engaging and smooth-sailing conversation during the PSLE English Oral exam.


1. Study the picture with a purpose


During the preparation time, your child should take some time to study the picture carefully.

For pictures that come in the form of brochures or posters with some words, get your child to read through them thoroughly instead of merely skimming through. He/she should pay attention to the minute details as this will give your child an idea of some possible questions that will be asked later and how he/she can respond to them.

Your child should apply the same degree of attention to pictures with minimal words, such as signages.


2. What stories can you bring in?


When responding to the examiner’s question about the picture, your child can supplement this by bringing in related stories to give the conversation an interesting spin.

Most students would tap on their own experiences or that of their friends and family. But other than personal anecdotes, your child can also mention relevant facts, news or TV programmes and movies that he/she has recently come across in his/her answer.

Now’s the time for your child to dig out everything he/she knows about the topic!


3. Mind your language


Although this section is meant to be conversational, it does not mean that your child can let everything go and start using informal language.

Highlight to him/her the importance of using formal English while being mindful of pronunciation and sentence structure. Your child can also tap on a wide range of appropriate vocabulary to bring the conversation to life.

But above all, do remind your child to maintain eye contact with the examiner once in a while, as this is a good way to show that your child is focused on the conversation and actually listening to what the examiner has to say.


4. Is it acceptable to pause midway through?


For this, it really depends on the purpose of the pause.

Contrary to what most people think, it is alright for your child to take a few seconds to think before answering the examiner.

Your child can work around this by repeating the question before answering (e.g. “If I could choose the most ideal holiday destination, I would go to…”.

Your child can also use fillers (e.g. “Well….”, “I would say…”, “I think…”) to buy some time and keep the momentum of the conversation going while he/she ponders and structures his/her answers.

However, if your child finds that the examiner’s question was not quite clear, he/she should not panic and keep quiet for too long while trying to think of an answer. Remind your child to stay calm and ask politely for the examiner to repeat the question.

Read also: Tips to Help Your Child Plan His/Her PSLE Study Schedule

The PSLE English Oral exam does not have to be a daunting experience for your child. He/she can think of it as sharing a great story and having an insightful conversation on a given topic with someone he/she just got to know.

We hope that these PSLE English Oral exam tips will be helpful as you prepare your child for the oral exam!


Does Your P5 Child Need Extra Help As He/She Prepares for PSLE?

Boost your child’s confidence in the topics covered in school as he/she works towards the goals set for PSLE.

Find out more about our PSLE Success programme and register now for the next term!



Written by Justina Goh