The Oral Examination is something which every child in Singapore’s education system
has to undergo. Over the years, there has been a growing emphasis on the oral
component of the language examinations. Besides just excelling in the written
components of the examination, pupils are expected to be proficient speakers of
the languages they are studying. This is reflected in the allocation of marks
for English Language and Chinese Language in the PSLE examination, where the
oral component constitutes 15% and 25% respectively of the total assessment.
Thus, doing well in the oral examination is integral towards achieving a good
grade in the subject.
Let us look at the various components of the oral section
of the examination and see how one can excel in it.
first section is usually the reading passage. Pupils have about five minutes to
prepare for this. They should make ample use of this time.
For the English
Language oral examination, they can go through the passage to see when they
should pause, as well as when they should emphasise certain sections. If they
also encounter any unfamiliar words, this is the time when they should practise
the pronunciation. If pupils really do not know the pronunciation, they can
make an intelligent guess through the spelling of the word. It is good to read
aloud the passage at least twice so that they will be familiar with it. When
reading aloud to the examiner, do not be nervous. Read slowly and clearly. It is
important to pronounce the words as clearly as possible so that the pupil can
be understood even if the examiner does not have the passage in front of him or
Be confident in your delivery.
For the Chinese Language oral examination, grading of the reading
is based on 3 factors:
The key to scoring
well for this section requires the pupil to read the passage accurately and
fluently, with the right pitch.
Pupils who read the passage quickly seldom
score well. Why is this so?
Firstly, the accuracy of their pronunciation and
fluency of the language will be affected. Secondly, the examiner would not be
able to understand the pupil. Hence, it is important for pupils to read at the
right pace and pitch. However, some pupils still have the tendency to read the
passage at a fast pace. The main reason behind this could be their inability to
pronounce certain words in the passage. The common misunderstanding among
pupils is if they read fast enough, the examiner would not be able to spot the
mistakes they make in pronunciation.
However, the fact is, not only can the examiner spot the
mispronunciations, he or she can also possibly give you a lower score for the
lack of fluency and pitch in reading the passage. Thus, pupils should read the
passage in a clear tone even if they encounter words which they cannot
The next section is the picture discussion. Pupils will be
presented with a picture and asked to describe it. They will be given an initial
prompt as well as additional prompts if the pupils appear to have trouble
talking about the picture.
Pupils should first give a general description of
the entire scene, like the venue of the picture. They can move on to describe
the physical appearance of the characters in the foreground and their thoughts
and actions. Pupils can also give a reason behind why the characters are
performing certain actions. They are encouraged to present their personal
opinions as well.
For example, the character might be littering in a bus stop
while chasing after a bus. The pupil could make an assumption that the
character is chasing after a bus and thus committed the offence unknowingly.
However, it is wrong to litter in public regardless of the reason. They can then move on to the characters in
It will be good if pupils can link certain characters or things
in the picture together to give a more coherent discussion about the picture. Do
try to discuss the picture in a systematic manner like in a clockwise manner
instead of just talking about the characters in a haphazard manner. Try to talk
about everything that is given in the picture and do not ignore certain things
To do well in this section, pupils have to be organised in their
description and should be able to explain and interpret the various situations
in the picture. Pupils will also score well if they use a wide variety of
sentence structures with appropriate vocabulary.
this section, pupils will be given a topic to talk about. This topic is usually
related to the picture. Pupils will also receive additional prompts if they
appear to have difficulty talking about the topic. Pupils should treat this
section like they are having a conversation with someone familiar, like their
parents or elders. Do not think of it as a question-and-answer session with the
When you are asked about a topic, take a moment to organise your
thoughts. Try to answer all aspects of the topic in a comprehensive manner.
example, if you are asked about your favourite hobby, do not just give a
one-word answer. Explain to the examiner the reason why it is your favourite
hobby, how you got started on it as well as how often you spend time on it.
Pupils will do well if they elaborate their ideas with varied sentence
structures and respond confidently without much prompting from the examiner.
with the use of these pointers, pupils will be able to face the oral
examination more confidently and therefore do well in this section of the
by Adrian Lee and Eric Pang