Primary School Oral Examination: Stimulus-Based Conversation

PSLE Oral Stimulus-Based Conversation

Objectives of the Stimulus-Based Conversation Component

According to the Ministry of Education, the Assessment Objectives (AO) of Stimulus-based Conversation in the Oral component of the English Language Examination seek to assess whether candidates are able to:

AO3: Express their personal opinions, ideas and experiences clearly and effectively in conversing with the examiner

AO4: Speak fluently and with grammatical accuracy, using a range of appropriate vocabulary and structures

Objective AO3: Express their personal opinions, ideas and experiences clearly and effectively

The ability to articulate one’s ideas and express one’s opinions are crucial life skills. It would help tremendously if parents could initiate conversations with their child on matters relating to their games, their friends and their activities in school or outside of their school.

Key questions that will help your child to develop and articulate his/her ideas and opinions include:

  • What do you mean by…? [Elaboration]
  • When did it happen? [Elaboration]
  • Why did your friend… ? [Elaboration]
  • Why do you think…? [Personal opinion]
  • How has it changed the situation/ friendship/ your opinion of…? [Personal opinion]

More often than not, students have difficulties with the personal opinion questions in the stimulus-based conversation. Help them to articulate by giving them the right vocabulary (adjectives) to label their feelings about a situation and/or behaviour, and then to prompt them to continue to elaborate by saying why they felt that way. Through constant practice, your child would have internalised the habit of elaborating his/her ideas.

Objective AO4: Speak fluently and with grammatical accuracy, using a range of appropriate vocabulary and structures

The use of Standard English is expected in the examinations. When speaking with your child, model to them complete grammatical sentences with accurate vocabulary. Point out to them instances when they have used Singlish like:

  • “finished already” (already finished)
  • “anything lor” (it doesn’t matter either way);
  • “the friend was like so bad…” (the friend was really mean);
  • “chope seat” (reserve the seat);
  • “also cannot” (cannot be done/ not acceptable);
  • “always liedat one” (he always behaves rudely), among others.

When a child hears and speaks Standard English, he/she will be more likely to speak and write in Standard English. Also, as children read and write less, they are less attuned to Standard English, and this will affect their speaking and writing in the examinations. Therefore, encourage your child to speak Standard English where possible, and when they are able to do that, they will be able to code-switch when the situation arises.

You might want to listen to an American high school student speak about her dilemma with code-switching because she had thought that by code-switching, she would lose her culture and values (link below). The topic of her speech is about the necessity of code-switching to survive in a new environment. More importantly, you cannot help but notice how confident she is because, as she states about the First Eight Rule, “People often judge you within the first 8 feet, 8 seconds and 8 words that come out of your mouth.” Also, she has code- switched to using Standard English in her speech, instead of using the African-American vernacular language. For the purpose of the Oral Exam, students need to code-switch to a formal style of speaking using Standard English, even if they have been using the vernacular form of Singlish at home and in school.

How Can I Help My Child?

For the stimulus-based conversation component, you can help your child by asking him/her questions about topics that s/he has experiences about, and knowledge of.

Common topics include:

  • Public transport (road safety);
  • Hobbies;
  • Spending family time;
  • School and CCA;
  • Community Involvement activities/ projects (outreach to welfare organisations);
  • Environmental conservation;
  • Internet and technology;
  • Hobbies;
  • Health and fitness

Past Years’ PSLE Oral Stimulus-Based Conversation Topics

  • PSLE 2017 Topic: Day 1: Teachers’ Day Celebration – showing appreciation by writing a poem (birthdays, festivals and special occasions); Day 2: Class Cleaning Competition.
  • PSLE 2018 Topic: Day 1: Choice of Secondary School; Day 2: Speech Contest (oral presentation).
  • PSLE 2019: Day 1: Reading (Poster shows 3 different genres of books); Day 2: Poster in a computer lab encouraging students to switch off the computer, check they’ve not left their belongings behind, and to clean up the workspace.
  • PSLE 2020: Day 1: “Neighbourhood Breakfast Time Talk” (Poster shows residents gathered around communal tables spread with delicacies, and the date and time of the event).

Questions:

  1. Look at the picture. Would you want to attend this event? Tell me why, or why not?
  2. Look at the different types of foods shown in the picture. Tell me what you think about it.
  3. What do you think being a good neighbour is?
  4. What is there in your neighbourhood, and what would you suggest to improve it?

Day 2: P6 Graduation (Ticket to a graduation ceremony).

Questions:

  1. Who would you invite to your graduation?
  2. What special programme would you / your class put up?
  3. Would you prefer to be behind the scene or be a performer?
  4. Give an example of a performance that you’ve watched.

*Note: Questions may vary as they are given according to students’ recollections.

How Many Questions Will The Examiner Ask?

Generally, the examiners will ask three main questions in the stimulus-based conversation. Sometimes the examiner will ask prompt questions to elicit more elaborations and details from the candidate. However, if the candidate is able to elaborate by explaining her points and sharing relevant personal experiences, the candidate may end up with less questions being asked. The reason for this is due to the fact that the candidate has already covered the next question(s) on the examiner’s question paper.

What Are The Types of Questions?

The three main question types are: Picture-Specific, Community-Related, and Global.

Example Topic: Community Involvement Activities

More often than not, the first question in the stimulus-based conversation is specific to the picture. The candidate is required to study the picture carefully and use details in the picture to elaborate on their points, and relate back to personal experiences to support his/her answer

For example: “Would you take part in this activity (referring to the picture)? Why/ Why not?

*REMEMBER (first question): The candidate MUST use details from the stimulus to elaborate his/her response. And do not forget to give a recount or personal experience to illustrate his/her point [See PEEL below].

The second question is usually a Community-Related Question. The question will apply to a wider context including school and the neighbourhood.

For example: “What are some of the community involvement activities you have been involved in?

Or: “What has your school done to promote community involvement?

The third question is the Global Question which is related to the topic. This type of question entail personal opinions about the topic.

For example: “Do you think community involvement activities are important?

For each of the three questions, the candidate is expected to share his/ her personal experiences relating to the topic, and students should use the PEEL method to structure their answer to each question.

What Is The PEEL Method?

The PEEL method is a structured approach to answering expository questions. The stimulus-based conversation questions lend themselves to using the PEEL method to structure the answers. For example if the question is: “Have you witnessed any kind of bullying taking place in school or even outside?

Point= (answer the question). Yes, I have been a victim of cyberbullying (or I have witnessed an incident of cyberbullying at school).

Elaborate= (Who/ What/ How?) I was targeted by two classmates whom I used to be close with. They posted nasty remarks about me on Instagram. Sometimes they would take photos of me in the class without my knowledge and used the photos as memes to ridicule me.

Example (*Give a personal recount/story): It happened last year and I recall I was with my best friend in the canteen then, and these two girls were standing just behind us. Suddenly they said out loud that I was very ugly and fat and they laughed. I chose to ignore them. A few minutes later, my best friend tapped me on my shoulder and showed me an Instagram post of a meme with my face. It had a nasty caption.

(How did you deal with it?) I showed my form teacher the meme and she assured me that she would deal with the situation. I believe my teacher had dealt with the problem because the two classmates stopped their cyberbullying, but they were definitely more hostile towards me.

Link: Opinion – conclusion (restate your point and how you feel about it). Well, it has been quite a traumatic (feeling) period of time for me because (why?) those two classmates used to be my very good friends; however, through this episode, I’ve learnt to be brave and to tell myself that I am not what they make me out to be (how has it changed the situation?).

What Do I Do When I Cannot Remember the PEEL Structure During The Stimulus-Based Conversation?

This could just happen when you are very nervous. However, you must always ask “Why”, “What” or “How” after stating each sentence. For example if your response to the question is: “Yes, I have witnessed an incident of cyberbullying at school.” Then, what do I say next?

  • Ask yourself “When?”
  • It happened during a Social Studies lesson in the computer lab last year.”
  • Ask yourself “Who?”
  • A classmate who sat next to me was typing furiously on the keyboard.
  • Ask yourself “What did she do?”
  • She also giggled uncontrollably while staring at her monitor screen.
  • Ask yourself “What was my reaction?”
  • I was curious so I took a peek at her screen. [What did you see?] I could not believe my eyes when I saw a photo of another classmate magnified the full size of the screen with nasty words written across her photo.
  • Ask “How did I feel about it?”
  • I was really uncomfortable (feeling) with what I’d seen. [What did you do about it?] I did not want to cause any commotion if I were to confront her, so I reported the incident to my Social Studies teacher.
  • [Final thoughts] I was very shocked at what my classmate had done because I had not expected her to do such a thing. It was such a horrible thing she had done, because I cannot imagine myself as the victim. I’m glad I did the right thing by telling the teacher, and I hope this classmate of mine will learn from the incident.

Reminders:

Preparation time (5 mins):

  • Predict the three main questions and use the PEEL structure to answer them;
  • Use keywords to remember your points;

During the Exam:

  • Sit upright, smile and maintain eye contact;
  • Place your hands on your lap because you do not want to be seen fidgeting to ease your nervousness;
  • Share your personal experiences or experiences you’ve read or have heard about;
  • Ask the examiner politely to repeat the question if you did not hear the question clearly;
  • Above all, exude confidence because first impression counts. It always does.

All the best!

36 thoughts on “Primary School Oral Examination: Stimulus-Based Conversation”

    1. Hi,
      The EL Oral topic in 2017 for day 1 was “Showing Appreciation For Your Teachers on Teachers’ Day”; for day 2 it was “Class Cleaning Competition”.

      I’ve updated the blog post.

      Thanks for dropping by.

      Best regards,
      Elizabeth

    1. Hi Jason,

      My advice is to stay calm, listen carefully to the questions, and answer the questions with relevant elaboration and personal sharing.

      Thanks for dropping by and all the best!

      Best regards,
      Elizabeth Chua

  1. hi, I am yu Fong and I know it helpful,
    but at the same time you can also give more like the example for 2017 day 1 and state that which sentence is point ….

    1. Hi Rui Xin,

      I have provided a model answer in the post.

      For further practices, you may want to sign up for my S1 head start course which will be available in November.

      All the best!

      Best regards,
      Mrs. Elizabeth Chua

    1. Hi Jing Han,

      Being nervous is normal. I would feel nervous, too!

      However, use strategies that you know will help you to cope with the anxiety.

      For me closing my eyes and employing deep breathing really helps.

      Another strategy is humming my favourite tune.

      I hope my sharing helps.

      All the best!

      Best regards,
      Mrs. Chua

    1. Hi Elvina,

      I know it’s your first major exam, and it feels like you’re never fully prepared, does it?

      The key is doing your absolute best in the exam. That’s the only thing you’ll have to answer to yourself at the end of the day. You can’t do more than your very best, can you?

      I wish you all the best and may you have the clarity of mind to perform your best self.

      Best regards,
      Mrs. Elizabeth Chua

    1. Hi Sam,

      You are most welcome!

      Think of strategies to calm yourself down that would work for you . We all get nervous and anxious as well, but we need to know how to cope with the anxieties. Think of it as a positive challenge and your whole perspective may change!

      All the best!

      Best regards,
      Mrs. Elizabeth Chua

  2. Thank you for the tips. My PSLE Oral is in 2 days. I am nervous. With these tips, I have confidence that I can ace the exam!

  3. Hi, I will be having my PSLE oral on thursday. Thank you for these advice! I would like to ask what is the topic for PSLE 2020 Day 2?

    1. You’re most welcome!
      The PSLE 2020 Day 2 topic is included in the same blog post- Day 2: P6 Graduation (Ticket to a graduation ceremony).
      All the best for your exams tomorrow and the day after!

      Best regards,
      Elizabeth Chua

    1. Hi Yu Fong,

      Confidence is key to a good first impression. Smile and maintain eye contact with the examiner during the Stimulus-based Conversation.

      All the best! You can do it!

      Best regards,
      Elizabeth Chua

  4. It’s so helpful. I topped the class with my fantastic marks, thanks to you.
    I’m a P4 student Thanks!

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