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Are you smarter than a 5th Grader?

October 10, 2009
What really strike me today was parents’ complaint of how tough a PSLE exam was.

One of the Math questions read :

  • "Jim bought some chocolates and gave half of it to Ken. Ken bought some
    sweets and gave half of it to Jim. Jim ate 12 sweets and Ken ate 18
    chocolates. The ratio of Jim’s sweets to chocolates became 1:7 and the
    ratio of Ken’s sweets to chocolates became 1:4. How many sweets did Ken
    buy?"

When I read and re-read the question, I had a hard time understanding the question. After the third reading, I could not absorb the entire meaning of the question.  After the fourth reading, I still could not capture the main idea of it.  Then I asked myself : "How does a poor intimidated Primary Six pupil feel upon reading this question?"  I bet half of them were crying silently even before the exam ended.

I remember going to the PSLE my very first national exam many, many years ago.  I have to say I was nervous (but after that, I was never nervous at any exams, even the ones I failed, and never in a science or math exam).  But I had an attitude of an Ah Beng.  When I leave the exam hall, I said "To Hell" with whatever I scored, it’s over.  And most of all, my family never had a chance to see my school result.  My Primary School Report card was signed by my fourth (paternal) aunt who never seem to understand the A’s and B’s or F’s written on that card and readily signed them after only a few minor questions.  After that, I signed my owned report card because my grandmother (who’s after that is my guardian for my report card signature) didn’t know how to sign her name so I did it for her.  I never even consulted with her.  She liked to nagged "So when is your exam?"  And I will say, "Not yet!"  And I’ll go out and play and never study during exam time. And when the last day of exam is over and if she ever ask when is my exam again, I’ll tell her it was long over.

For that reason, I trivialize I my grades.  Even though any parents will be extremely proud to have a son that has my report card, my granny was never told of how well I did in school and deprived of knowing what I got in school (because she doesn’t know how to read).  She was only too happy if I ended my school after Secondary 3 or secondary 4 (like all her children) and go get a job!

Now back to the hoohas of the parents of those little innocent Singaporeans.  There’s really no need to fear.  All exams like PSLE are graded on a (bell shape) curve.  With students in the thousands, these are adjusted so that only so many can fail.  And A students still get their As because they are the top 10%.  (But you cannot say this to Kiasu Singaporeans.)  So they really have little to worry about.  But I still could sympathize with the trauma they had reading
"Jim bought some chocolates and gave…"

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2 Comments
  1. Vicky permalink

    This question is not so bad. Wait until you have the question where one side of a container is leaking at a certain rate and the tap is filling it at another rate, find the volume after 10 mins. I gave up on that during my two older boys\’ PSLE.

  2. Nabueh permalink

    Rates problem are easier to grasp. At least conceptually. This one, I feel, is too long and too long-winded.

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