In what was deemed “the biggest revamp” to the PSLE scoring system that has been around for 5 decades, the “T-score” will now be replaced by eight Achievement Levels (AL) starting from 2021.

This move was aimed at reducing “excessive competition to chase that last point” by removing the bell curve, where students were graded relative to how well his/her peers did.

But does this new PSLE score system really reduce competition?

Here’s what the internet thought:


marvin v2

ian tan

It’s quite clear not everyone is on the same page and for all we know, it’s way too early to tell. That said, here’s what we think might go down:

90 is the new 100

Although not grading students against their peers is a good move, kiasu parents aren’t going to back down.

In fact, 90 is the new 100.

For parents gunning to make sure their children are enrolled into what they deem “top schools in Singapore”, the difference of 1 mark (between 89 and 90) might mean the difference between a PSLE score of 4 and 5 and might throw their plans off balance.

This might make even more tiger parents spiral downwards and ply their unwilling offspring with even more tuition/supplementary/enrichment classes to make sure they hit 90 marks across the board.

tiger mum


Being an all-rounder is better

In this new system, being an all-rounder is actually better than being strong only in certain subjects.

This is great for students who excel in all subjects but bad news for students who might be good at say English, Math and Science but fares badly in Chinese and has typically relied on the grades of the former to help pull up his/her T-score.

That said, it also boils down to the difficulty of the exam papers. Sue Ong, a mother of 6 who we interviewed, shared her thoughts:

Now, my contention is that the entire test is set too difficult. How does that help with the stress levels of the kids? Now they are not pitted against each other but against a wall that is set too high for many of them to climb.

Will being just an all-rounder be enough? Time will tell.

Old system:

Paul: 95/100 +95/100 + 95/100 + 89/100 = 374 marks out of 400 (higher priority when choosing schools)

Betty: 90/100 + 90/100 + 90/100+ 90/100 = 360 marks out of 400

New system:

Paul: 95/100 +95/100 + 95/100 + 89/100 = 5 points

Betty 90/100 + 90/100 + 90/100+ 90/100 = 4 points (higher priority when choosing schools)

Strategy matters

Strategising, masterminding and having a game plan when it comes to choosing schools? You bet!

This holds especially true for students who do not achieve the perfect score but have above average grades and still want a spot in top schools.

Parents would then have to carefully deliberate on whether it’s worth the “risk” choosing schools that their child might not make the cut off for as this might mean they would get a lower priority in balloting for schools further down their preference list.

Hopefully this will force parents to make more informed choices based off their child’s ability as well as consider the various schools’ niches.

game face on


Whichever way you view the changes to the PSLE scoring system, one thing is for sure – the Singapore education system can be a stressful one IF parents choose to make it so.

Despite the rigours of the system, the onus very much falls on parents to help their children cultivate a love for learning and develop holistically instead of pursuing pure academic excellence.

With the ever changing and dynamic global ecosystem, it would do well for parents to realise that academia alone is not enough and that real world skills are the new differentiating factor to help their kids thrive in future.




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