5 Things Your Child Can Do to Score Well for PSLE Situational Writing


This article was contributed by The Learning Lab’s Lead Subject Head of English, Juliana Cheong. Having taught English at The Learning Lab for close to ten years, she has seen multiple batches of Primary 6 students through their PSLE examinations. Through her years of teaching, she has seen first-hand the common mistakes made by students and is familiar with how students can avoid these common pitfalls. In this article, Juliana shares 5 tips on how your child can excel in Situational Writing.


As the new academic year approaches, some students will be moving to P5 and encountering the Situational Writing component for the first time, while students entering their PSLE year will be working to perfect it so they can acePSLE English Paper 1. What students may not realise is that the 15 marks awarded in Situational Writing during the PSLE are there for their taking if they are meticulous with details and mindful enough of their tone and context.

For the unversed, in the Situational Writing component, students are given a context and a visual stimulus, and they are expected to write a response to it. Some text types that may be tested in Situational Writing include letters, reports, and emails.

Let’s get into what situational writing is and how students should tackle this exam component that is considered one of the low-hanging fruits when it comes to doing well in PSLE English.


Tip #1: Break Down Key Information

In Situational Writing, ensure that all the key information that answers the question is included in your final work and presented clearly by:

1) Stating the Purpose of the Piece You Are Writing

- One of the most essential situational writing tips is to know what you are writing. Are you writing to report your schoolmates’ misbehaviour to your principal? Are you inviting your cousin to join you at a school fair?

- While it’s not compulsory to state the purpose at the start of the letter, you’re highly encouraged to do so in case you eventually forget to include it!

2) Identifying the Context and to Whom the Letter, Email or Report Will be Addressed

- This determines if it is a formal or informal setting, which influences the tone of the piece you are writing. For example, knowing you are writing “an invitation for a cousin” can help you to identify quickly: It’s a letter that should use the informal situational writing method, with the format of an informal letter.

- If the name or position of the recipient is given, ensure that you use it in your letter when addressing the recipient.

3) Understanding Your Identity

- Always keep an eye out for who you are writing as. If the instruction states, ‘Imagine you are the boy in the picture’, check the instructions and visual stimulus properly to see if the name is provided. If not, come up with one. Is it a letter that requires a formal situational writing format? If so, you will also have to come up with his last name too.

Tip #2: Formal Situational Writing vs Informal Situational Writing

Once you have identified the key information, the next step would be to consider the format. Mastering this writing section can be a lot easier if you are familiar with the formats to be used. As formal writing and informal writing have very distinctive differences, let’s take a look at a few situational writing tips that can help you better cater your writing style to the required task:

1) Tone of Voice

As mentioned above, you can identify the suitable tone of voice based on the task box description and decide how you should write.

- Formal situational writing: Ensure your writing is clear and maintains a respectful tone.

- Informal situational writing: Contractions (Words like ‘can’t’ and ‘don’t’) are fine. You can use a friendlier tone too.

2) Salutation

- Formal situational writing: Avoid exclamation points in greetings. No greetings like ‘How are you?’ should be used.

- Informal situational writing: You must include a warm greeting in your first line, and they can be more casual.

3) Sign-Offs

Not all sign-offs are created equal. 

- Formal situational writing: Use “Yours sincerely” if you know the recipient’s name and use “Yours faithfully” if you do not know the name of the person you are writing to. Make sure that the ‘s’ and ‘f’ in ‘sincerely’ and ‘faithfully’ respectively are not capitalised!

- Informal situational writing: Use more personal sign-offs like ‘Best regards’ as you are writing to someone you know well.

Tip #3: Do You Have All 6 Content Points?

When tackling Situational Writing, remember the marking rubric focuses on two main areas:

  • Task Fulfilment (worth 6 marks)
  • Language and Organisation (worth 9 marks)

So keep your eyes peeled as you scour the bullet points you must address — because there should always be 6 content points, no matter if it’s formal or informal situational writing! While they might only display 5 bullet points, an extra content point is hidden amongst them.

How do you ensure all 6 content points are included in your letter?

  1. Label the 6 content points you must address and highlight the keywords for each point.
  2. Match the details in the visual stimulus to these points. Remember to number each point once you’ve identified it in the visual stimulus so that you can check that you’ve found the necessary information for each point.
  3. Bonus: Some points need to be inferred and are not given directly in the passage. For example, content points such as ‘How did she feel as a result of the incident?’ may require students to look at the event as a whole and come up with a feeling (like disappointment or anger).
  4. Once you’ve completed your letter, please read through it and check that all 6 content points have been addressed. 

Tip #4: Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation (GSP) – Not As Easy as ABC

Aside from memorising the PSLE Situational Writing formats, good grammar, spelling and punctuation (GSP) are also very important, as making errors in any of these areas will cost you precious marks in the exam. Check your work twice to ensure you avoid mistakes.

Another important tip is to look out for phrasing errors. In your haste, you might have missed a word or repeated a word twice in a sentence, so be sure to look out for sentences that are overly lengthy, as there might be errors in the sentence structure. If you need a boost to pump up GSP standards, our PSLE English Tuition teachers are always ready to help.

Tip #5: Call-to-Action

Call to action is another vital part of Situational Writing, and it’s easy to come up with if you understand the purpose of writing well. Here’s what you should do:

  • Rethink your purpose of writing. For instance, if you are writing to complain about bad service, in your call-to-action at the end, ensure you do not demand that your recipient take action.
  • Instead, you can consider using positive language. Instead of demanding a fix, you could express hope that the recipient will look into the matter and implement changes to ensure a better customer experience in the future.

We understand that writing a good call-to-action is usually something students struggle with, but worry not! This is something that our TLL Situational Writing lessons will address.

Bonus Tip: Time Allocation

In the PSLE, students are given 1 hour 10 min (70 min) for PSLE English Paper 1, which consists of Situational Writing (15 marks) and Continuous Writing (40 marks). Keeping that in mind, students should ideally allocate approximately 20 minutes to the Situational Writing portion – 5 minutes to do the groundwork, 10 minutes to write the actual letter and 5 minutes to check.

For the next section of the exam on Continuous Writing, students can refer to our guide on How to Write an Impressive Composition.

Gear Up for the PSLE

The PSLE is a huge milestone in your child's academic life. Ensuring your child has everything they need in the lead-up to the major exams will allow them to focus on effective, efficient and productive learning. With a little practice and these helpful tips, they'll be well on their way to mastering English Paper 1! You can also look into our proprietary game plan that will gear your child up for PSLE success:

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