Concerned that your child is unable to score well for his or her oral examinations?
Read on to learn more about why it is important for your child to speak confidently and how the oral examinations in school give your young learner ample opportunities to hone key communication skills.
Doing well in the oral examination contributes towards achieving a good overall grade in the subject — the oral examination component can comprise up to 16% (for Primary 1 to Primary 4 students) and 15% (for Primary 5 to Primary 6 students) of your child's overall exam grade.
That means your child's oral score can be the crucial factor between getting an A* or an A for his or her exams.
To help your child better prepare for the oral examinations, Hong Jiayi, Academic Director, Regine Ng, English Subject Head, Vanessa Scully and Beautrice Lee, English Teachers, from The Learning Lab, Choa Chu Kang and JEM, have put together a comprehensive list of tips to help him or her craft great responses and to excel in the oral exams.
Tackling The Reading Aloud Component
1. Pause At Punctuations
Some students get very nervous during their oral examination and tend to rush when reading the oral passages.
It is important for your child to identify punctuation marks in the passage — remind him or her to pause when he or she sees commas and fullstops. A simple rule of thumb is to stop for one beat at commas, two beats at full stops and three beats before the start of a new paragraph. For practice, get your child to clap each time there is a pause as he or she reads the passage.
Jiayi also highlights, “Your child can also tap his or her thumb or finger each time he encounters a punctuation to remind himself or herself to pause. This method is less intrusive and can even be used during exams.”
2. Pronounce Consonants Clearly
Many students struggle with consonant sounds like ‘th’ or ‘ed’ — if your child has difficulty in this area, you may have noticed that he or she tends to pronounce the ‘th’ sounds with ‘d’ or ‘t’ sounds.
To pronounce the ‘th’ sound correctly, one method we share with student in class is to:
i. Put their open hand in front of their mouth
ii. Put their tongue between their teeth and practise sounding out the word ‘the’
To help your child better visualise the right way to pronounce the 'th' sound, Beautrice uses the the following image to help students imagine and differentiate the tongue placements while reading words with the ‘th’ sound and words with the ‘d’ and ‘t’ sounds.
Notice how the tongue touches the roof of the mouth when pronouncing the ‘d’ and ‘t’ sound while the tongue is placed between the teeth when pronouncing the ‘th’ sound.
Bonus tip: Since air leaves the mouth through the gaps between the top row of teeth, if your child ends up with specks of saliva on his or her palm during this practice, he or she has most likely gotten the pronunciation of the ‘th’ sound correctly!
3. Use Varied Tones to Express Emotions
Students in the lower primary levels start off with the ‘music voice’ that teaches them about intonation.
Intonation refers to the variation of one’s tone when speaking or reading. It is important for your child to vary his or her tone to convey the right emotion(s) — it begins with teaching him or her to be sensitive to the context of the sentence or the passage.
Some questions your child may want to ask himself or herself before reading the passage aloud include:
• Is the passage expressing urgency or suspense?
• Is this sentence expressing a personal thought or dialogue?
• Are there any dialogue tags to hint at the emotions in the passage?
• Does the sentence end with a full stop, question mark or exclamation mark?
Placing emphasis or stress on specific syllables or words in a sentence is important in highlighting the main idea of the sentence. Once your child is able to comprehend the context of the passage, he or she will be able to read more fluently and may even be able to get into character where and when dialogue is involved. Vanessa Scully shares, “In the past years, the oral passages that have dialogue tags tend to vary them within a single piece. This means that students have to put themselves in the shoes of the characters to convey the appropriate emotions.”
Nailing The Stimulus-based Conversation Component
Students tend to struggle when it comes to engaging the examiner during the stimulus-based conversation.
Jiayi shares, “I have seen students experiencing mental blocks when faced with tough questions from the examiners. When asked to provide a personal example or anecdote to substantiate a point during the examination, they may also find it hard to draw examples from their memory banks.”
To help your child formulate more compelling conversation points, download our special oral exam guide to unlock seven tips on how to ace the stimulus-based conversation component. This guide will come in handy as your child prepares for any oral practice and as he or she hones reading and speaking skills to become a more articulate communicator.
Beyond primary school assessement, oral communication is an essential life skill that can be nurtured and practised. Being able to speak well and eloquently can:
1. Improve Your Child's Presentation Skills
Oratorical and presentation skills are essential and valuable throughout your child's education journey — from primary school to university. Presentations become a compulsory component of class assessments and your child's presentation skills may also be tested during student discussion in class.
As such, it is important for your child to constantly hone his or her oral skills through consistent practices so that he or she is able to put across ideas effectively and clearly.
2. Help Your Child Communicate with Others Confidently
Children can be trained to organise their thoughts and structure their ideas in a clear manner so they can be understood easily by their peers. From meeting a new friend to speaking in front of a crowd, your child should be empowered to feel confident when communicating his or her thoughts in everyday settings like school, work and the play arena. In addition, many student leadership positions require children to engage in public speaking; being proficient in speaking can open up doors to leadership opportunities for your child.
3. Boost Your Child's Performance During Future Interviews
Remaining calm and composed while being clear and coherent can be a difficult thing, even for many adults.
Oral practices and exams are effective in helping your child to develop a natural confidence in speaking with others. Being a confident and eloquent speaker can help your child in non-examination settings such as in interviews for leadership positions and for DSA interviews.
Oral practices at The Learning Lab are conducted four times within an academic year — twice before SA1 and twice before SA2. During these practices, teachers share tips, strategies and exam techniques to help students manage the oral examination.
Your child's oral practices also include exposing him or her to real world content — with a wider world view, your child will be able to engage the examiners with more interesting conversation points.
This is where the other aspects of our English lessons come into play:
• In Terms 1 and 4, students do individual presentations based on interesting topics like like ‘An Encounter with a Literary Kind’ and ‘Traveling to Mars’. Some of our students even give speeches on the necessity of school uniforms.
• Cloze passages and comprehension open-ended passages also serve as additional platforms to introduce new topics to your child. In class, your child will have the opportunity to discuss topics a wide range of themes. Some of these themes include:
- For Primary 1 and 2 students: Playground Designer and The Astounding Amazon
- For Primary 3 and 4 students: Zombie Fires and Mesmorising Tokyo
- For Primary 5 and 6 students: Rise of Scams and Generation Zoom
Find out more about our English programmes and how we nurture our primary school students into eloquent and confident speakers.