PSLE Comprehension | Tips to Achieve Maximum Marks for the 3 New Table-form Questions!

We are on the last lap now! All of your efforts for the past few months (or years even!) come down to this ― the final completion of the race. As jittery as you may be, we are also all pumped up to sprint ahead and cross the finishing line with a bang.

The PSLE format is ever so dynamic, and once in a while, MOE may just surprise us with new question types in the Comprehension open-ended (COE) component. In this blog entry, I would like to share with you some useful tips to clinch MAXIMUM MARKS for the 3 new table-form question types that had appeared in the COE section from 2016 to 2018. Let’s go!

PSLE Comprehension | Tips to Achieve Maximum Marks for the 3 New Table-form Questions!


1. Choosing of Emotion

Choosing of Emotion. Comprehension

This question type first appeared in 2016 and again, in 2017. As we can see, it requires students to tick the feeling words that accurately describe how a character (in the passage) felt at a particular part of the passage (e.g. lines 41- 44).

While it may seem like a breeze, since all they have to do is tick two boxes, pupils can easily lose the marks if they are not careful. Here are some tips to help you clinch success in answering this question type.

Tip 1: Highlight all question requirements

Fulfilling the question requirement is a must for any comprehension question. For this question type, there will usually be 2 requirements that we have to look out for.

Tip 1: Highlight all question requirements. Comprehension

A. The character whose feelings we have to find out

Some passages may involve more than one character. Hence, it is crucial for us to be absolutely sure of whom we have to analyse.

Looking at the 2017 question, we will highlight the requirement,“how Meng felt”. Hence, we are certain that we need to look out for Meng’s feelings.

B. Line number/ Paragraph

This is extremely important! We should only peruse the lines or paragraph(s) stated in the question when we look for the answer. In this case, we should only look at lines 41-44. Answers which seem logical but are not supported by evidence found in the specified portion of the passage will not be accepted.

Additionally, we have to take note of the instruction to not tick more than two boxes. Once three boxes or more are ticked, even if they contain the correct answers, the question will be awarded 0 marks.

Tip 2: One clue for one answer

Remember, if the question requires you to pick 2 answers, you will definitely have to look for 2 different sets of clues. Each emotion comes with a clue of its own. Here are the types of clues you can look out for:

A. Feeling words/ phrases

A. Feeling words/ phrases. Comprehension

There may be feeling words/phrases in the specified part of the passage that describe the character’s feelings. These expressions aid us tremendously in knowing how the character felt. Some keywords you can discern would be “felt” and “experienced”.

B. Actions

Often, a character’s actions will be able to tell us how he/she felt. Hence, we should also pay attention to the actions taken by the character, in order to determine his/her emotions. In some other passages, you may see that the character “walked with a spring in his step”. This action showed that the character was happy or confident.

Based on the clues we have picked out, we can then think of some feelings that could have possibly been experienced by the particular character.

Bonus Tip: If there are words in the list that you are unfamiliar with, use the elimination method to get rid of words that you know for sure are incorrect. This way, you should be able to narrow down your options and make a sounder choice.

2) Vocabulary in a Table 

Fill in the following table by identifying the correct word(s) from the passage. [3m]

2) Vocabulary in a Table. Comprehension

As we can see from this PSLE 2018 question, students may be presented with 2-3 vocabulary-based questions in a table form. These questions would usually begin with “Which word(s) from _______ shows that…” Simply speaking, pupils are required to source for the word(s) from the passage that would fulfil the question requirements.

The common pitfall is that children may assume that one word is required per box as that may be what they are used to doing in other vocabulary questions. Hence, reading the instructions and understanding the question requirement is key.

Tip 1: Highlight all question requirements

Different questions may demand different things. It is crucial for us to highlight all the requirements in a question before sourcing for the answer. For this question, the requirements we have to bear in mind would be as such:

Tip 1: Highlight all question requirements

A. Line number/ Paragraph

Here, we know that we should look at the first paragraph for Q(a), and the second paragraph for Q(b). Extra information may also be given to you, such as the words being found in separate sentences.

B. Number of words

For Q(a), we ought to only hunt for one word, while Q(b) requires us to look for two separate words (i.e. not a two-word phrase!). We should not seek phrases at all.

C. Key part of the question

Last but not least, we need to be clear of the key part of the question that we have to answer. Ultimately, the word(s) that we pick has to be able to show and prove that the key phrase is true.

For instance, for Q(a), the word that we find must be able to prove that “the duck enjoyed being in the Kims’ house”. Hence, we should find a word that suggests the duck’s sense of enjoyment or pleasure when it was in the Kims’ house.

Tip 2: Check -> Spelling, Punctuation and Answer

This step is vital ― we have to make sure to spell the answer correctly with the right capitalisation and word class. For example, if the word we sieved from the passage is [contentedly], spelt with a small ‘c’, we should replicate that and not capitalise the word out of our own accord. Furthermore, we should not change its word class, for e.g., changing it to contented or contentment. Lastly, we should also not include any other words (i.e. to form a phrase) in our answer!

3) Character Reaction

Based on lines 14-25 , fill in the blanks below to show how the clay kitten incident affected Meng. [3m]

3) Character Reaction. Comprehension

As seen from the PSLE 2017 English paper, students may also be assessed for their ability to perceive a character’s reaction to different events or contexts. After locating the right clues in the passage, they will then have to fit the answer into a given sentence that is incomplete. In other words, students will not be able to lift the answer from the passage directly, and some extent of rephrasing may be required.

At first glance, this question may seem daunting and challenging. However, it can be easily tackled if pupils make use of the right techniques.

3) Character Reaction. Comprehension


Again, we have to pay attention to the question requirements:

  • Refer to lines 14-25

  • Pay attention to how Meng was affected.

Now, we may begin fishing for the answer.

Tip 1: Look for the contexts in the passage and learn the character’s reaction

Even though the passage has been narrowed down, it is still important that we use the keywords in each given statement. We need to pore over lines 14-25 to look at where these keywords appear. From there, we should be able to find out Meng’s reaction to the 3 respective contexts.

Tip 2: Complete the given structure

Based on the passage, we can pick out the key idea of Meng’s reaction. Let’s use the second part of this question as an example. It was mentioned that:

Tip 2: Complete the given structure. Comprehension

The keywords from the statement (underlined) lead us to the reaction.

  • Meng’s teacher had to call his name a few times to catch his attention -> Meng lacked concentration or focus during lesson.

Now, we have a general idea of how Meng reacted during the lesson after recess. However, we can’t just copy and paste the entire chunk! With the given structure, we will have to find a way to phrase his reaction in such a way that fits nicely.

Let’s take a look again at the sentence we have to complete:

“he could not…”

Here, we know that the given sentence requires us to list something that Meng could not do during lesson, as a result of the clay kitten incident. Looking at the clues we have pointed out, it is apparent that Meng faced problems with concentrating. Hence, we should phrase this reaction in a way to show his inability to concentrate. In this case, we can phrase the answer as such:

Tip 2: Complete the given structure. Comprehension


Do note that there is no need for us to state that “he could not concentrate during lesson”, because the context, “during lesson”, is already given in the question box.

In addition, the sentence given may not always start with “he/she could not…” Other examples include:

  • he/she/they should…

  • he/she/they was/were…

  • he/she/they had to…

Hence, make sure that you complete the given sentence structure accurately!

To sum up…

After scrutinising the past year PSLE papers, we see that that are many different question types that could appear in a table form. Overall, when it comes to these confusing tables, we need to be very clear of 3 things:

  1. the question requirement

  2. the headings of the table and the relationship between the columns

  3. the steps to take in order to find the right answer.

With that, we have almost come to the end of this blog post. Do you feel more confident tackling the 3 new table-form questions now? I sure hope so!

Apart from these questions, we should equip ourselves with effective strategies to battle other comprehension question types too! Find out more here:

6 Steps to Tackle “Support-with-Evidence” 2-Part Questions

8 Types of Comprehension Questions

Comprehension | Questions in Table Form

Comprehension | What do I need to highlight?

That’s all I have for you today! I hope these tips will boost your confidence in handling different comprehension questions. Have faith, maintain your momentum and get ample rest to ready yourself for the final dash!

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