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Getting Ready for Secondary 1: Key Differences between Primary and Secondary English


With the PSLE Exams out of the way, parents and students face a new challenge ahead: Secondary School.


For many students, this upcoming journey can be daunting, because of the many ‘unknowns’ that await. For parents of a graduating PSLE student, there are even more reasons to be anxious.


“What is Secondary School life like, and can my child cope?”


“How do I prepare my child for the new syllabus and new subjects (Geography, History, Literature)?


“Will my child feel too stressed out?”


The truth is: Doing well at the PSLE does not guarantee doing well in Secondary 1.

While we cannot address everything in one article, we hope to shed some light on the Secondary 1 English Syllabus and how it is different from Primary English.



Here is a summary of the key differences that your child can expect:

1) No More MCQs (Multiple Choice Questions)

In Primary School, the MCQs are known as “opportunities” for students to secure marks in. These segments are removed completely in the Secondary School Syllabus. Instead, questions are open-ended and most answers must be written in full sentences (with the exception of Editing)


This table sums up the various written segments in Secondary English:

For a full breakdown and the complete assessment criteria, click here.



2) Questions are More Challenging

Naturally, you can expect the difficulty to increase as your child progresses through the Primary and Secondary levels. However, this jump between Primary 6 and Secondary 1 is extremely huge.


This table shows you the key changes in various components across Paper 1 and 2.



3) The Dreaded ‘Summary Writing’

Summary Writing is notoriously known as one of the hardest segment in Secondary English.


For starters, this component is completely new. In addition, students are tested extensively on their Vocabulary skills because they are required to write answers in their own words.


To top it off, Summary Writing is worth 15 marks on its own, which means students who wish to do well, cannot afford to stumble in this segment.


(Sample Extract of a 'Summary Writing' Question)


4) Strong Language Fundamentals are a ‘Pre-requisite’

As mentioned above, questions in the Secondary English Syllabus are open-ended and require students to write in complete sentences. A firm understanding of language rules such as subject-verb agreement, sentence structures, is essential to excel. Knowledge gaps and poor grasp of Vocabulary will lead to loss of unnecessary marks.



Minimize the “Adaptation Period” by building familiarity

Help your child transit smoothly into Secondary 1, by giving them an overview of what to expect for Secondary 1 English.


At Ace Clinic Education, we run a Headstart Program every year, to expose students to the challenges that lie ahead and teach them the techniques to write 'exam-grade' answers.


Over two short sessions, equip your child with the skills and knowledge to step into Secondary 1 with confidence! 🚀


Don't miss out on the Secondary 1 English Headstart Program happening in late Nov/Early Dec.

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