Changes to PSLE Scoring & S1 Posting

Hi parents and students! The new PSLE scoring system will be implemented by MOE in 2021. Hence, we have created this post to help you to better understand the changes. This post includes an overview of the rationale and the details of the changes.


Changes to the PSLE Scoring & S1 Posting System

Nurturing different aspects of our children

The changes to the PSLE scoring are meant to reduce over-emphasis on academic results by:

  • Reducing fine differentiation at a young age

  • Recognising a student’s level of achievement, regardless of how his peers have done

Reducing fine differentiation

Prior to 2021

The T-score system differentiates students very finely. A student who has a T-score Aggregate of 231 and another student who scores 230 may be equally ready for secondary school.

From 2021 onwards

Each Achievement Level (AL) spans a range of marks. With ALs replacing the subject T-score, students who perform similarly will be grouped in the same AL.

Scores will better reflect student's own performance, instead of comparing him to his peers

Prior to 2021

The T-score shows how a student has performed relative to his cohort. A student may do well in a subject, but if most of the cohort performs better than him, he will get a low T-score.

From 2021 onwards

Once a student meets the professionally set standard expected at a certain AL, he will receive the AL regardless of how his peers have performed. We hope more parents will think of the children’s all-round development in primary school, reducing the excessive focus on academic results.

The changes will not affect the curriculum and the subjects tested at PSLE

However, MOE does review the curriculum regularly to ensure that it is relevant and up-to-date. This will continue as per current practice.


PSLE remains as a useful checkpoint

  • Primary school is a time when students develop foundation skills in literacy and numeracy, and acquire habits and skills that will help them learn in the future.

  • The PSLE is a useful checkpoint at the end of primary school to help students, parents and teachers determine where each child’s academic strengths lie. It gauges a student’s understanding of key concepts and academic strengths, and guides his future learning in secondary school. This in turn guides the child to a suitable academic programme in secondary school – one that best suit his learning needs. In this way, students can learn and progress at a comfortable pace.

  • The PSLE result also serves as a fair and transparent mechanism to determine secondary school posting.

  • While there are suggestions to remove PSLE entirely, we recognise that this would only transfer stress elsewhere, such as at Primary One registration.

  • We acknowledge that the PSLE is unable to assess many other attributes that are also important for work and life. This is why the new scoring system aims to reduce excessive focus on academic results.


Partnering parents to bring out the best in our children

  • As a system, the changes to the PSLE scoring and S1 posting system aim to encourage students to focus on their own learning through reducing differentiation and comparison among students.

  • This system shift can only achieve its purpose with the help of parents and teachers, who play an important role to help our children make learning, not marks, their key focus.

  • Teachers can partner parents to look beyond academic performance by:

  1. Encouraging them to recognise that every child has different strengths and abilities. With our increasingly diverse secondary school landscape, there will be a variety of good schools and programmes to develop each child’s strengths and interest areas, no matter what the child’s PSLE Score is.

  2. Guiding our children to find the right balance between doing their best academically and pursuing other interests, which develop different aspects of their character.



From T-score to wider scoring bands

Reflects a student's individual level of achievement

  • Unlike the current T-score, students’ AL for each subject will reflect their level of achievement, rather than how they have performed relative to their peers.

Reduces fine differentiation of students

  • The T-score will be replaced by wider scoring bands, measured in Achievement Levels (ALs), where students in the same band are similar academically.

Students’ scores are differentiated finely. Students can have a T-score aggregate of less than 80 to more than 280, which gives more than 200 possible different T-score aggregates.

Students will be placed in fewer groups of PSLE Scores. Students’ PSLE scores (the sum of the AL for each subject) will range from 4 to 32, which gives 29 possible different scores.

Foundation level subject grades to be less finely differentiated

  • Under the new AL system, Foundation subject grades will be graded in 3 scoring bands from AL A to C.

  • Like Standard subject ALs, the Foundation subject ALs will reflect a student’s own level of achievement, rather than how they have performed relative to their peers.

  • For the purpose of S1 posting, Foundation level AL A to AL C will be mapped to AL 6 to AL 8 of Standard level subjects respectively, to derive a student’s overall PSLE Score.

  • Similar to the current PSLE scoring system, this mapping is based on the learning and assessment load of the subjects, and informs students of their readiness to access the curriculum at the secondary level.


Calculating PSLE Score

  • The PSLE Score replaces the T-score aggregate

  • The AL score assigned to each subject is based on the raw marks that the student has scored. For Foundation subjects, AL A, AL B and AL C correspond to AL6, AL7 and AL8 respectively. The PSLE score is obtained by adding the ALs of four subjects.

  • The PSLE Score ranges from 4 to 32, with 4 being the best.

  • Students will be placed in secondary school courses based on their PSLE score – Express, Normal (Academic) or Normal (Technical).

  • Students taking Foundation subjects are eligible for the Express Courses long as they meet the course placement criteria.

  • With Subject-based Banding in secondary schools, students may also take selected subjects at a more demanding level for those that they are strong in if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Find out more from these videos:


Subject-Based Banding (Primary)

  • Offering subjects at Foundation level is not a disadvantage to the students. It enables them to focus on building up strong fundamentals in these subjects and better prepares them for progression to secondary school.

  • Schools will continue to recommend the combination of standard and foundation subjects based on the following:

  1. Student’s aptitude, motivation and performance in each subject;

  2. Student’s ability to cope with a particular subject combination; and

  3. Whether the subject combination focuses sufficiently on literacy and numeracy, and facilitates the student’s articulation to secondary school and beyond.



Choice order of schools will matter more

  • Academic merit, i.e. the PSLE Score, remains the first criterion for secondary school posting.

  • If two students with the same PSLE Score vie for a place in a school, the following tie- breakers will be used in the following order:

  1. Citizenship

  2. Choice order of schools (New!)

  3. Computerised balloting


Advice to parents on choosing secondary schools for the child

  • Consider the child’s learning style, strengths and interests when making school choices in order to find a school that would help the child learn and thrive best.

  • Discuss the options with the child, with the following considerations:

  1. Values: What is the school’s culture and ethos?

  2. Learning environment: Is the school’s learning environment right for the child?

  3. Distinctive programmes and CCAs: Can the school support and develop the child’s

  4. Location: Is it too far from home? How will the child get to school? interests?

Resources for more information

  • MOE SchoolFinder tool

  • Open Houses - Secondary schools also hold open houses where you and your child can learn more about the school’s programmes, and speak with teachers and students.

  • Indicative cut-off points - To help parents choose schools in the first year under the new system, MOE will be providing indicative cut-off points for secondary schools in 1H/2021, based on the data from 2020 S1 posting exercise. The actual cut-off points may differ, depending on how students exercise their choices that year.

Preparing for S1 Posting Exercise

  1. Shortlist a few schools near their home that have programmes that the child is interested in. Visit these schools’ open houses or the schools’ websites with the child to find out more about their programmes and the school culture.

  2. During the S1 Posting Exercise, ensure that the child has identified six schools and uses all six options in the S1 Option Form.

  3. Include at least 2-3 schools with a cut-off point that is at least 2 ALs more than the child’s PSLE Score. This will increase the chances of being posted to a school of the child’s choice.



Eligibility for HMTL in Secondary schools

  • The eligibility criteria for taking HMTL is intended to ensure that students can cope with the higher academic load, and takes reference from the current criteria.

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


Use of HCL for admission into SAP schools


  • Higher Chinese Language (HCL) students will continue to receive a posting advantage for admission to SAP schools.

  • For example, if 2 students have a PSLE Score of 8, the student who has a Distinction in HCL will be allocated a place in a SAP school ahead of a student who has a Merit in HCL.

  • This posting advantage for admission to SAP schools applies before the tie-breakers for S1 Posting.


Scoring for MTL-exempt and AsL/FL students

  • For students who are exempted from MTL or take an AsL/FL in lieu of an official MTL, their PSLE result slip will only reflect the three subjects they have taken.

  • However, for the purposes of Secondary 1 posting, these students will need an assigned MTL score so that they have a PSLE score comprising four subjects. To determine the assigned MTL score, reference is made to MTL scores of other students who have achieved similar scores in English, Mathematics, and Science. This is the same approach taken in today’s T- score system.

  • In reviewing the score assignment for these students under the new PSLE scoring system, we needed to strike a balance between:

  1. Acknowledging that students have valid reasons for seeking MTL exemption or taking an AsL/FL, and

  2. Ensuring some parity between scoring for exemption, Foundation and Standard MTL.

  • Under the new scoring system, the assigned MTL score will :

  1. Take reference from peers with similar scores for English, Mathematics and Science;

  2. While maintaining parity of treatment with students who take Foundation MTL (who will score between AL 6 to 8).

  • Hence, students will receive an assigned MTL score between AL 6 to 8 in PSLE.


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