By Marcus Goh and Adrian Kuek
Earlier this month, students sat for the GEP Screening Exercise. Those who qualified for the first round of tests will receive a letter inviting them to attend the GEP Selection Exercise on 19 and 20 October this year, although the letter may be released by schools as late as a week before the test date itself.
While the two tests may sound similar, the GEP Selection Exercise includes one component that the GEP Screening Exercise doesn’t — the General Ability Assessment — in addition to the English Language and Mathematics papers. The best analogy for the General Ability component is that it’s similar to an IQ test, where students have to identify patterns and solve non-standard puzzles that don’t fall neatly under standard English or Mathematics.
We’ve covered reasons why students who intend to take the test should prepare for it. After all, if you intend to go for any sort of assessment, academic or otherwise, you should make an effort to prepare for it. It’s akin to going for a health assessment. Nobody in their right mind would go for a seafood and ice cream buffet the night before a blood test. Similarly, students who intend to accept the invitation to go for the GEP Screening Exercise should make an effort to prepare for it.
So here’s what you can do before going for the test.
1. Practise Maths Olympiad questions
The GEP Screening Exercise questions have, so far, been similar in scope and complexity with Maths Olympiad questions. The only thing to take note is to restrict yourselves to questions that do not go beyond the P1-P3 syllabus. Parents can look for such questions online for students to practise. This will expose them to a variety of concepts that they may not have seen before and prepare them for the multitude of ways questions can be phrased. This familiarity will help boost their confidence during the test, which is crucial since they’ll be working against a ticking clock.
GEP tests aside, practising such questions will also place them in good stead for their upper primary learning journey.
2. Learn words from Primary 4-5 vocabulary books
Check out the English section of any assessment book store and you’ll find plenty of vocabulary guides and aids for all levels. Students should pick the Primary 4 or higher level books, and learn as many words as possible.
This will help them in the English Language and General Ability components of the GEP Screening Test. For the English Language Paper, having a large vocabulary will directly translate into greater success for the Vocabulary MCQ portion. For the General Ability Paper, knowing more words is necessary in answering the verbal or language type of General Ability questions.
3. Complete the Vocabulary and Cloze sections of the English Language Paper first, and do the Comprehension section last
In terms of time spent and marks earned, the Comprehension section requires the most amount of time per mark. Therefore, it makes sense to grab the low hanging fruit and complete the Vocabulary and Cloze sections first, which require less time per allocated mark.
If the student were to complete the Comprehension section first and run out of time, they would be forfeiting many marks by leaving the Vocabulary and Cloze sections undone (which takes less time to complete than the Comprehension). For students who have trouble completing the paper, this time-management strategy could improve scores by at least 10%.
4. Don’t spend more than 5 minutes on an MCQ question
Students are not penalised for wrong answers, and some MCQ questions can be rather tricky. Each MCQ question should not take up more than 5 minutes of a student’s time.
If a student is unsure, he or she should circle the question, then hazard a guess and shade the OAS first. If time permits, he or she can come back to the question later to solve it. If a student is struggling with an MCQ question, the easiest method is to simply substitute each option into the question and see if the equations work out. This, however, is time-consuming and should be used only as a last resort.
Students should not leave an MCQ blank for any reason, even if they do not know the answer. If they shade an answer on the OAS, they will at least have a chance of scoring that mark; but if they do not shade an answer, they will earn zero marks straightaway.
5. Don’t get stuck on open-ended questions
Unlike MCQ questions, open-ended Mathematics problem sums can take comparatively longer to solve. In addition, there’s no way to “guess” the answer.
If a student cannot figure out the method to solve an open-ended question, they should circle it and come back to it last. They should solve problem sums which they are familiar with first, then come back to the more challenging ones later if time permits. Again, this minimises the amount of time spent for the number of marks earned.
6. Think of the GEP Selection Exercise as a fun challenge, rather than a major exam
A student’s mentality to the GEP Selection Exercise is perhaps the most important factor in preparing for it. The GEP Selection Exercise takes place very close to the exam period, so students already have to study for exams. If they treat the GEP Selection Exercise as yet another exam to prepare for, students might be burdened with undue stress.
Instead, students should think of it as a fun challenge (like solving a crossword puzzle, for example), rather than yet another academic test. As with tackling any challenging problem, a clear head and a level mind unleashes a person’s full creative potential which will enable him or her to surmount it.
Last but not least, students should remember to drink enough water, get a good night’s rest the day before, and bring spare stationery for the GEP Screening Exercise!
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Grade Expectations is a weekly feature on education in Singapore. Expect fun activities, useful tips and insightful news on learning. It’s not just about your child’s grades — it’s about raising a great child!
Adrian Kuek runs Joyous Learning, an enrichment centre that specialises in English, Mathematics, Science and Creative Writing for Primary. He previously served as the academic director of one of Singapore’s largest enrichment centre chains for over seven years.
Marcus Goh runs Write-Handed, a creative writing studio. At the same time, he teaches English at The Write Connection. He has been a specialist tutor for English and Literature (Secondary) since 2005.
To get in touch with me, send an email!