Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

New PSLE English Composition Format

The new PSLE English composition format was introduced in 2015.  Students taking PSLE that year were the first batch to be assessed using the Revised PSLE English examination format. This is also the same batch of students who started Primary 1 with the STELLAR approach of learning English.

Some parents might still be confused or clueless about the new composition format.





These are the main differences between the old and the new format:

PSLE English Composition (Old Format)

Students were given 2 choices:

1. A scenario based question, where pupils are given a scenario and asked to continue with the story.

2. A picture based question, where pupils are given 4 sequential pictures (or 3 sequential pictures with a question mark for the 4th) and asked to write a story according to the pictures. This type of question is usually narrative.

PSLE English Composition (2015, New Format)

In the new PSLE English composition format (2015), there is now ONE topic with THREE different supporting pictures.  The three pictures are not sequential.  They might not even be related.  The pictures are given to help students generate ideas for the topic.

Students have to interpret and write their stories based on the topic and at least one of those three pictures. They have the choice of using ONETWO or all THREE of the pictures provided. They also have the freedom to write in any appropriate text type, although most primary schools teach their students to write only narratives.

Here is an example of a Composition question based on the new 2015 format.

Continuous Writing (40 marks)

Write a composition of at least 150 words about a memorable celebration.

The pictures (not in sequence) are provided to help you think about this topic.

psle composition format

Your composition should be based on onetwo or all of the pictures. Consider the following points when writing your composition:

  • What was the celebration?
  • Why was it memorable?

You may use the points in any order or include other relevant points as well.

What Does This Mean For Students?

As you can see, the new composition format gives pupils more room for creativity and story development.

What we like about this revised format is that students now have the freedom to be original in their content.  They do not have to be limited to the old format of 3 or 4 sequential pictures, where the entire story plot was based on the pictures given.

On the other hand, this also means that the ‘popular’ method of memorising model compositions (which is a method we personally dislike) might not work!

For the above example, students can develop their composition in countless ways, based on the given topic “a memorable celebration”. They could write a composition about a birthday celebration, a wedding anniversary party with popping champagne, a graduation party, a celebration after winning a competition, a year-end party, something exciting or memorable that took place in a party, something touching that happened during a celebration, something that happened at a celebration that has taught the character an important lesson… the options are almost endless!

How To Write A Composition Based On The PSLE Format?

The basics of writing English composition are still the same in the new format. Students still need to know various writing techniques such as character development and show, not tell.  They also need to understand the basic structure of a composition – the introduction, rising action, climax, resolution and conclusion.

The challenging part is, weaker students can no longer depend on the 3 or 4 sequential pictures to plan and write their story plot.  They now have to draft and create a piece of writing from scratch, based on their own ideas, imagination and creativity! That does sound daunting, even for adults.

Challenges Of The PSLE Composition Format

One of the key difficulties of this format is writing out of point.  Many students are used to being guided in their writing based on sequential pictures.  As a result, some might still choose to write their stories using all of the three pictures.  That might not be a wise choice as the pictures might not be related and it would be a challenge to link them into a logical and coherent composition.

Moreover, the time limit of 50 minutes might not be enough for students to come up with a solid plot based on all three pictures.

To ensure that students do not write out of point, they should study the topic and choose one picture that they can use to generate ideas for the topic.

How can students prepare for the PSLE English composition format?

1. Expose your child to a variety of books, stories and texts.

2. Let your child learn the various writing techniques, such as character development, show, not tell, setting descriptions and development of story plot.

3. Teach your child ways to plan their stories, such as the use of mind maps and drafting.

4. Teach your child ways to make their stories interesting and full of action.

5. Practise, practise and practise. (That means write, write and write!)

We believe that every child can write, one step at a time!

The key to good writing is to write, get feedback and rewrite or edit based on the feedback given. In this way, students are better able to improve and develop their writing skills.

Writers are made, not born.
Good writing comes with regular practice!

Download our FREE Resources for primary school English composition, including FREE PSLE Model Composition for students!