PSLE Oral Stimulus-Based Conversation Tips

Comprehensive Tips For PSLE Oral Stimulus-Based Conversation

1. Assessment Objectives

There are two sections in the PSLE English Oral Examination – Reading Aloud and Stimulus-Based Conversation. The Reading Aloud section carries a 5% weightage in the overall examination while the Stimulus-Based Conversation section carries a 10% weightage. For PSLE Oral Stimulus-Based Conversation, candidates are assessed on their ability to give a personal response to a visual stimulus and engage in a conversation on a relevant topic. In this post, we will be presenting an in-depth discussion on what makes a good conversation with the examiners, along with a plethora of examples to demonstrate good language use in conversation. The tips and instructions that we present in this post can be applied to all kinds of PSLE oral topics and themes that we have compiled in our full module.

We have another post on PSLE oral exam tips targeted at the Reading Aloud section. In this post, we share lessons on improving one’s pronunciation, enunciation, intonation, expression of emotions in dialogues and more. Coupled with our online module with 36 Reading Aloud Passages, a student will be more than prepared to score exceptionally well in the Reading Aloud section.

2. Language Use In PSLE Oral Stimulus-Based Conversation

For this component, students are graded as follows:

Demonstrates StronglyStudent speaks fluently and with grammatical accuracy, using a range of appropriate vocabulary and structures.
Demonstrates AdequatelyStudent uses an adequate range of appropriate vocabulary and accurate structures.
Demonstrates To Some ExtentStudent uses basic but limited and mostly inappropriate vocabulary and incomplete structures.
Needs ImprovementStudent uses very limited vocabulary and gives mostly one-word or short-phrase responses.

(a) Grammatical Accuracy

Grammatical accuracy must be demonstrated. This encompasses all grammar components like tenses, subject-verb agreement, prepositions, conjunctions etc. The topic on grammar is just too wide to go through here. A student has to be well-acquainted with the rules of grammar to be able to write or converse with perfect grammar. It takes time and consistent practice to achieve this.

For a start, let’s talk about using the correct tenses during a conversation. An error in tenses might be more obvious than other types of grammatical errors. It will also confuse the examiner if present tense is used to narrate an event which already happened and vice versa.

When talking about a fact, an action which occurs regularly or something in the instantaneous present, present tense should be used. Here are some examples:

Using Present Tense
(Correct)
Using Past Tense
(Incorrect)
FactThe skin is the largest organ of the human body.The skin was the largest organ of the human body.
FactEagles have powerful talons which help them hunt.Eagles had powerful talons which helped them hunt.
FactThe Earth revolves around the Sun.The Earth revolved around the Sun.
FactSolar panels enable us to convert sunlight into electrical energy.Solar panels enabled us to convert sunlight into electrical energy.
Action which occurs regularlyMy family goes to the park every Sunday morning to exercise.My family went to the park every Sunday morning to exercise.
Action which occurs regularlyMy mother cooks dinner every day.My mother cooked dinner every day.
Action which occurs regularlyI often get hungry before reaching home.I often got hungry before reaching home.
Action which occurs regularlyMy uncle usually delivers fresh vegetables to us on Sundays.My uncle usually delivered fresh vegetables to us on Sundays.
Referring to something in the instantaneous presentThere are ten stalls in my school canteen.There were ten stalls in my school canteen.
Referring to something in the instantaneous presentI am twelve years old.I was twelve years old.
Referring to something in the instantaneous presentI have no interest in music.I had no interest in music.
Referring to something in the instantaneous presentLisa wants to sing her favourite song on stage.Lisa wanted to sing her favourite song on stage.

When sharing an experience or narrating a story which happened in the past, past tense should be used. Here are some examples:

Using Past Tense
(Correct)
Using Present Tense
(Incorrect)
Experience/ Story which happened in the pastI had an unforgettable adventure last December in the nature reserve.I have an unforgettable adventure last December in the nature reserve.
Experience/ Story which happened in the pastOn my tenth birthday, my parents brought us to a goat farm where we had the opportunity to watch the milking process.On my tenth birthday, my parents bring us to a goat farm where we have the opportunity to watch the milking process.
Experience/ Story which happened in the pastThe chocolate cake was irresistibly rich and creamy, so I asked for a second serving.The chocolate cake is irresistibly rich and creamy, so I ask for a second serving.

The grammar rule for subject-verb agreement must be strictly adhered to during conversations too. If a subject is singular, its verb must also be singular. If a subject is plural, its verb must also be plural. A lot of students are well aware of how subject-verb agreement works when they practise on MCQs or write an essay. However, some students might find it convenient, or even tempting, to disregard subject-verb agreement when they speak. Do remember that examiners (English teachers in general) are trained to pick up even slight differences in pronunciation, for example “swim” and “swims”, and will penalise a student for the incorrect subject-verb agreement during a conversation. Here are some examples in which the correct subject-verb agreement is used.

Using The Correct Subject-Verb AgreementNotes
The principal enjoys the performance very much.Singular subject: principal
Singular verb: enjoys
More animals will be endangered unless someone thinks of an ingenious plan to protect them.Singular subject: someone
Singular verb: thinks
A bouquet of flowers comprising roses and lilies was handed over to the bride in the church just now.Singular subject: bouquet
Singular verb: was
My chances of passing the music test are slim.Plural subject: chances
Plural verb: are
Neither Amy nor her friends enjoy surfing.For such sentences, the verb always agrees with the subject nearest to it. Since the subject ‘friends’ is in the plural form, the verb must also be in the plural form.

(b) Complete Sentences

A student must speak in complete sentences when engaging in a conversation with the examiners. Single-word and short-phrase responses are not acceptable. Here are some examples:

QuestionInstead of sayingA student should say
What is your favourite food?Chicken riceMy favourite food is chicken rice.
Have you tried rock climbing before?NeverI haven’t tried rock climbing before.
How many siblings do you have?TwoI have two siblings.
How would you feel in the same situation?AngryI would feel angry in the same situation.
Which countries have you visited before?Malaysia and TaiwanI have visited Malaysia and Taiwan before.
What is one suggestion you would give to encourage students to participate in the activity?Lucky drawI would suggest a lucky draw to encourage students to participate in the activity.
Would you prefer being a performer onstage or helping out backstage?BackstageI would prefer helping out backstage.

(c) Variety Of Sentence Structures

The examiner is also looking out for a variety of sentence structures in a student’s response. A mixture of short and long sentences should be used. A simple way to come up with long sentences is to use connectors to join sentences. Here are some examples:

ConnectorExample
andI got dressed and had my breakfast.
orWe had nothing to eat or drink on the island.
butThere were many challenges but we did not give up.
becauseWe did not visit the museum because my mother had another plan.
althoughAlthough it rained a lot, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the resort.
whileI saw a big lizard on the wall while my parents were talking to our neighbours.
unlessMy sister does not eat fast food unless she is in a rush for time.
yetI had always wanted to try skydiving, yet I could not muster up the courage.
despiteMy brother wanted to give it a shot despite knowing that he would probably fail.
whereasI love fried rice, whereas my mother prefers porridge.

Another way by which sentence structures can be varied is to have appropriate sentence starters. Here are some examples:

Sentence StarterExample
howeverI tried very hard to convince my mother. However, she would not budge.
neverthelessMy muscles were so sore that I could barely walk. Nevertheless, I went to school as usual.
on the other handKeith is obese. On the other hand, his twin brother, Sam, is tall and lanky.
on the contraryThe problem has not been solved. On the contrary, it seems to be getting worse.
similarlyThe cost of food has gone up due to inflation. Similarly, the cost of fuel has also skyrocketed in recent months.
as a resultI spent too much money on the new pair of shoes. As a result, I had to tighten my belt for the rest of the month.
as a consequenceHarry did not revise hard for his Science test. As a consequence, he failed the test.
furthermoreJoseph is lazy. Furthermore, he has no sense of responsibility.
thereforeSarah sprained her ankle. Therefore, she could not participate in the tournament.
in factMr. Tan looks young. In fact, he is already 60 years old!

Important Note
Some students join sentences using “and then” repeatedly, which is not recommended. This may sometimes be due to anxiety or an inability to use appropriate sentence starters. It takes a lot of practice to link ideas up quickly and translate them into fluent and coherent sentences. Not to worry! Our advice is to start by generating ideas from a topic and then have a mindmap to link them up before crafting sentences to elaborate on the ideas. Practice makes perfect!

(d) Variety Of Appropriate Vocabulary

Examiners also look out for a variety of appropriate vocabulary and creative expressions during the conversation. Idioms can also be used to inject creativity and introduce powerful imagery. Here are some examples of phrases which will definitely impress the examiners:

Instead of sayingA student can say
I was very angry when I heard the news.I was exasperated beyond words upon hearing the news.
I cried when I heard John’s comment.John’s comment reduced me to tears.
It was a proud moment for my father as he watched my brother receive the award on stage.My father brimmed with pride as he watched my brother receive the award on stage.
When I saw the snake, I was very frightened.When I saw the snake, I was paralysed with fear.
I was frustrated because my mischievous brother disturbed me while I was thinking.I was frustrated because my mischievous brother interrupted my train of thought.
We were all very busy with preparations at home on the day before my grandfather’s 80th birthday celebration.Our whole house was a hive of activity on the day before my grandfather’s 80th birthday celebration.
My cousin irritated me by talking continuously so I had to ask him to stop talking.My cousin’s incessant chatter got on my nerves so I had to ask him to stop talking.
Tom kept persuading me to skip class but I did not go along with him.Tom kept persuading me to skip class but I stood my ground.

(e) No Singlish

Our daily conversations are usually peppered with Singlish as it is part of our national identity. However, a student should refrain from using “lah”, “leh”, “mah”, “hor” etc. during the oral examination. Improper sentence structures in Singlish must also be avoided.

Instead of sayingA student should say
My brother will act blur.My brother will pretend to be innocent/ feign innocence.
My friends and I will go to the canteen early to chope seats.My friends and I will go to the canteen early to reserve seats.
The laksa is very shiok.The laksa is fantastic/ very satisfying.
We felt so paiseh after the incident.We felt so embarrassed after the incident.
My friends always arrow me to be the team leader.My friends always choose me to be the team leader.

Similarly, internet acronyms and slangs like “lol”, “yolo”, “lit”, “tbt” etc. should be avoided. Senior examiners will likely not know what these mean while younger examiners may know their meanings but will deduct points nonetheless.

Always speak proper English in the correct sentence structures and forms.

(f) Clear Pronunciation

It would be a pity if a student has excellent ideas and interesting experiences to share with the examiners but does not possess the ability to communicate them well. The oral examination comprises both the Reading Aloud section and the Stimulus-Based Conversation section. Although the Reading Aloud section carries only 5% of the total marks, it can be regarded as a foundation on which good communication skills in Stimulus-Based Conversation are built upon. A fluent reader is likely to possess more confidence to speak and communicate with others than one who finds it difficult even to pronounce words and read sentences.

The ability of a student to articulate words well and speak fluently is essential. A student must pronounce words clearly and refrain from mumbling. To prepare students in this area, we have 36 PSLE Oral reading passages in our module to give students ample practice. Lessons on articulation, expression of emotions and intonation are also included in this module. Do also check out our free resource page for more PSLE Oral Exam tips on Reading Aloud.

3. Personal Responses To Prompts Given By Examiners In PSLE Oral Stimulus-Based Conversation

For this component, students are graded as follows:

Demonstrates StronglyStudent expresses personal opinions, ideas and experiences.
Demonstrates AdequatelyStudent expresses personal opinions, ideas and experiences with some prompting.
Demonstrates To Some ExtentStudent gives some personal responses with little development with extensive prompting.
Needs ImprovementStudents gives little or no personal response with no development despite extensive prompting.

Some people are naturally talkative or garrulous, so there is hardly any awkward silence whenever they are around. Others are more reserved and may not share their thoughts so readily. The difference lies in their personalities.

Regardless of a student’s personality, it is possible to do well in PSLE Oral Stimulus-Based Conversation as long as the format of response is adhered to. This section requires a student to analyse a picture and then share his or her response to given prompts. The way in which the student branches out ideas to include personal opinions and experiences will determine how well he or she will score.

We have dedicated a full section to this. Using our proprietary “The APRICOT Model”, a student will learn how to generate ideas and craft personal responses using clearly defined strategies.

4. Engagement With Examiners In PSLE Oral Stimulus-Based Conversation

For this component, students are graded as follows:

Demonstrates StronglyStudent interacts well and converses effectively with the examiners, maintaining good eye contact throughout the conversation.
Demonstrates AdequatelyStudent interacts reasonably well and has generally good eye contact with the examiners.
Demonstrates To Some ExtentStudent is able to interact but exhibits heavy dependence on the examiners for prompts, with little eye contact.
Needs ImprovementStudent is unable to interact and requires constant encouragement to engage in conversation, with little or no eye contact.

In summary, the points allocated to this portion are largely based on the examiners’ general impression of the student. Here are some tips. A student should:
– look confident
– sit up straight
– maintain eye contact with the examiners
– show keen interest in conversing with the examiners
– refrain from displaying any bad habits like shaking legs and fidgeting too much
– ask for the question to be repeated if he or she does not understand

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