PSLE Oral examination tips

The PSLE oral examination will be held this week on Aug. 15 and 16. It takes up 15 percent of the English paper and finishes in around 11 minutes.  Compared to the written components, it should be the easier segment to ace.

We will advise you how to ace your oral examination here.

Tip #1 Look good

Always create a good first impression.

It seems like blasphemy to say this, but always remember teachers are humans too. They may not mean to judge but subconsciously, if you look like a Grade A student, they may overlook some mistakes you made.

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1. Have a good haircut before the exams, look like a good student.
2. Don’t play football before the exams and get yourself all sweaty and smelly.
3. Wear a well-pressed uniform and clean white shoes.
4. Make sure your breath doesn’t stink; eat a mint before the exams if it does.
5. Smile and greet the teachers when it’s your turn.
6. Ask for permission to sit out of courtesy.
7. Look confident.

These points may not seem to tackle the oral exams itself but trust me, looking the part of a good candidate is half the battle won.

Tip 2: Know the Game

Before you can score, know what your examiners are looking for and you can focus on what they want.

 photo 2.jpgThere are three segments to the oral exams.

a. Reading Aloud (10m)

Pupils are assessed on their ability to pronounce and articulate words clearly, as well as their ability to read fluently with appropriate expression and rhythm.

b. Picture Discussion (10m)

Pupils are assessed on their ability to interpret the situation in the picture, using correct grammar and appropriate vocabulary.

c. Conversation (10m)

The examiner will engage the pupil in a conversation on a given topic.

Here are the objectives:

• read a passage with good pronunciation and clear articulation
• use appropriate rhythm and stress to achieve a well-paced, fluent reading of a passage
• read with appropriate variation of pitch and tone in order to convey the information, ideas and feelings in a passage
• interpret the situation in a given picture
• use a range of appropriate vocabulary and structures
• give a personal response
• express oneself clearly and interact with the examiner

(Source: MOE)

Tip #3 Prepping up for the Stage

 photo 1-6.jpg1. REMEMBER to bring your entry proof.
2. Just before the exams, you may be waiting for your turn a while longer than expected. Do not get frustrated or panic. Just stay calm. It’s just a while more.
-If you have some guide books, just read them while waiting.
Read them out (without disturbing your classmates) to warm up your tongue.
3. When it’s your turn to standby, you will be given the short story and picture for preparation for about *five* minutes.

****This is the crucial part of the examinations****

– Read through the story once to get a gist of what the story is about.
– After reading in your mind once, read it out (in a small whisper so no one else hears you)- it is important to read it out so you know how you will sound like/react when you are with the examiners.

– OK now- move on to the picture. Ask yourself this: in one sentence, what is the picture about?
– Very calmly, try to describe the picture in your mind from the middle (where the action is) to the rest of the picture
– Think of the vocabulary that you could use in the conversation.

– Hopefully, you still have some time left. Go back to the passage. Read it again in a whisper.
– Note the tough words and try to pronounce it.
– Note the parts where it’s like a tongue twister to you- read through that part again to make sure you can ace it
– Note the full-stops, commas- so you know where you can catch your breath
– Repeat the passage another time in a whisper and in the pace that you would in front of the examiners. Practice makes perfect.

– Which item are you less confident with? Go back to the passage or picture and practise how you are going to say it or read it.
– NEVER, EVER idle and look around and just daydream. This is precious time- focus on the passage/picture- that’s the most important thing in your life NOW.
– Repeat reading or repeat explaining the picture to yourself till you are called for your turn.


It’s show time.

Smile, hold your head tall and walk forward.

Tip #4: Reading aloud

Let’s remind ourselves what the examiner is looking for:

– Pupils are assessed on their ability to PRONOUNCE and ARTICULATE WORDS CLEARLY, as well as their ability to read FLUENTLY with appropriate EXPRESSION and RHYTHM.

Things to do:

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1. To pronounce, open your mouth widely when you speak. It helps to articulate your words.

2. Speak slowly and steadily. If you rush, you are more likely to slur.

3. Pause where there are commas and full-stops.

4. Don’t just read the words. Understand the story and read it like you are telling a story to your friend.

5. If you accidentally stumble on words, don’t panic. Just continue reading as though you have done nothing wrong.

Same if you meet a word you don’t know how to read. Attempt to read it like it’s accurate and continue the story.

NEVER EVER stop there and wonder what to do next.

6. Be confident. Sometimes, that takes the exam chills away and the examiner may take you as a strong candidate simply because you are so sure of yourself.


Tip #5: Picture Discussion

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1. Always use present tense for oral exams

2. The teacher will probably ask a generic question like “what are they doing here?” Answer the question and continue with that.

3. Do not point at the picture. Instead, use your words to describe. For instance “The man at the bar in the top left of the picture is xxx”

4. We describe the picture systematically- easier for you to interpret and easier for the teacher to understand.

We can start with what’s happening in the a) centre of the picture and b) continue into the background.

5. What’s simpler than talking about people. There can be loads of things to describe them. Pretend you are a reporter at a gossip magazine and answer all the questions the readers want to know.

– What are they doing?

– How are they feeling?

– What is the relationship between the people?

– What do you think will happen later?


1. Remember: The teacher has heard about the description of the same picture a thousand times.

2. What’s different is your personal experience to this whole picture?

*Treat your teacher like a friend (with respect), speak candidly to him (without Singlish)



In 2012’s English oral, the picture was of a boy crying because his balloon burst and a student gave another to him.


Talk about an experience when you saw a boy cry in the mall too and his balloon flew away. Out of kindness you gave yours to him because you adore kids so much and can’t bear to see them cry. You are the eldest in the family and you are used to taking care of your siblings.

– Don’t have such an experience? MAKE IT UP! It’s an oral exam, not a lie detector. Of course, don’t go overboard and go out of point.


– A teacher once advised me not to stop unless I am told to. This may be a bit extreme for some students and there’s a risk you may go out of point. Just make sure you have said enough before you end the discussion.

– During the five-minute standby, you should already have prepared your train of thoughts and the vocabulary that you want to use. Use them now.

– Remember to have eye contact with the teachers

– End with something clever or philosophical if you can. Back to the earlier example, you can say something like “What goes around comes around. I believe in doing good deeds.”

Tip #6 Conversation

Without using Singlish, start chatting with the teacher based on the topic given.

1. This is all about confidence.

Be confident- imagine you are friends with the examiner. How would you chat with your best friend?
2. Look at the teacher throughout the session. Keep eye contact and give him/her your most beautiful smile. Charm the examiner.

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3. The teacher will ask a question. NEVER reply with a YES or NO answer. Say more- keep the conversation open-ended.
– If you didn’t get the question, don’t be shy to ask the teacher to repeat himself. It’s better to clarify than to go out of point because you didn’t hear the question correctly

4. Use your personal experience to make the conversation interesting.
5. Don’t stop until the teacher asks you to.

6. If you are pausing for things to say, you can stall with words like “If I remember correctly,” “That reminds me of an incident,” “If that is the case.”

7. Remember to go back to the topic in your conclusion.

Doesn’t sound easy? It is! Let us try last year’s PSLE conversation topic.

Example: Tell me about your happiest moment.

-Think of something your friends won’t say. Many of them probably talk about their trip to the Universal Studio.

-ALWAYS remember- the way to differentiate yourself from another student is to use personal experience, so you are more real, more natural and could potentially touch the examiner.

I would talk about the day my baby brother was born.

– I was always lonely as an only child. No one would play with me and I would envy my friends who had siblings, because they could share their joy and sorrow together.
– Relate how elated I was when my mother told me I am getting a younger brother. I was jumping for joy. (Note: I tried to use variations of the word happy.) I imagined how fun it would be to be able to have another person in the house and how I would dote on my brother so much.
– Describe the day my mother brought my baby brother home from the hospital. Describe how excited I was when I waited and tears of joys rolled down my cheeks when I saw the new life enter our cosy household.
-Describe the baby. How innocent he looks and how I am sure he will be an angel.
– Conclude saying that’s the happiest day of my life to-date. I am truly blessed to be best friends with my brother. (Note how I go back to the topic i.e. the happiest moment is to be with my brother.)
These six tips are what I used to help myself score for oral in the past. Hope they would be useful to you too.

Best of luck. Let me know how you did. :)


6 thoughts on “PSLE Oral examination tips

  • Do you need to maintain eye contact with the teacher when you are reading the passage? Do you think that they will take away many marks if you read two-three words wrong?

  • Indeed Useful!!! Thanks for these tips:-)
    Btw, is there any words that is good to use like ‘in my opinion ‘, ‘ on the contrary ‘,etc. Please reply ASAP! tks alot:-)

  • I knew this before but you gave some tips that was interesting and out of the box!
    Today was my MTL Oral; i did outstanding… But hope i’ll do better for tomorrow’s EL oral

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