Blog Students Exam Tips 10 Common Mistakes to Avoid in the PSLE English Comprehension Exam

10 Common Mistakes to Avoid in the PSLE English Comprehension Exam

Is your child having trouble acing his or her English comprehension practice tests? Or do you want to improve his scores on this section of the exams? If the answer is yes, there are several ways to get past the common mistakes made in this part of the English exam.

If you are not certain which areas your child tend to make mistakes on or maybe you want to know how to get past the common trick questions in this section of PSLE English exam, here are 10 of the most common mistakes that your kid can inadvertently make.

Read on and we also listed a few tips on how your child can improve in these areas.

Answering From Memory

Many students tend to make a mistake when it comes to answering questions based on what you know about the topic.

While this strategy is good in certain questions, you may be unable to focus on handling other questions that may appear throughout the section of the test.

To prevent making a mistake in the test, you should treat the test as an open book test where you can use the reading as a guide to help you find the right answers for the test. You should also try to anticipate the information that you will need in the rest of the exam. This will also reduce the chances of you making a wrong answer.

So while having a good memory is excellent, your child should refrain from making his own assumptions until he completes reading the passage.

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Getting The Main Plot Wrong

It is a common mistake for some students to just skip the passage and go directly to the questions below. However, this causes them to get the main idea wrong and their answers reflect something else outside the passage’s scope.

Before you look at the questions, read the passage and the questions carefully and determine the main idea being presented. You should try to anticipate what answers you will end up writing for these questions. Eliminate the wrong answers if they don’t fit the passage you just read.

Here are some tips to increase better reading.

Incomplete Answers

It is not uncommon for us to think that we answered a certain question completely, but, there are times we may have only answered a part of the question. The answer may even be vague to the point it doesn’t say much about the topic.

When you answer a question, ask yourself whether the answer you gave is short and filled with the right information the question is asking. If you think the answer you gave is not enough, you need to expand further.

They must also prevent using vague words such as ‘how’, ‘something’ or ‘somewhere’ because it will cost them a lot of points because their teachers may misinterpret their answer.

Not Using Details from The Passage

Reading comprehension challenges the child’s capability to understand texts and be able to answer the right questions with the key information they got from the text. This will further test their critical thinking. 

However, many students tend to write down what they remember about this information and use their own words when they answer questions. While this is ok, there is a possibility that their answer no longer has the same meaning as it is written in the text.

For this mistake, the student must analyse the question and determine if it is a question that requires them to answer using their own words or if they have to use the details given in the text and expound further.

Too Much Re-Reading

You will definitely find yourself getting confused in some parts of the exam because you tend to focus on the minor details rather than the main ones. You can correct this habit by skimming key parts of the passage and skip if the information you need isn’t in the main idea.

Too much re-reading will have you doubting yourself during exams and here’s how not to do that. 

Look for keywords that emphasise a position or opinion. If you see words like “for instance”, “Additionally”, “moreover” and others, you should skim them quickly because they aren’t that important to the bigger picture. Just go back to these minor points when you need them in certain questions.

Not Watching Your Time

Some students tend to make the mistake of taking a long time in one passage, which prevents them from answering the rest of the exam.

Take three to four minutes to read a passage and make margin notes about the key information you may need to use in certain questions before continuing your reading.

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Always check the first sentence of every paragraph and the keywords it has to determine which parts you need to remember. Practice past papers in a mock exam setting so you can improve your time allocation in each exam section.

Copy Complete Sentences

Some children tend to copy a complete paragraph or sentence when they answer questions. There are questions which will require the student to quote the passage to answer the question. However, some do not expound further and only use the paragraph in question as their only answer.

To correct this mistake, you should reorganise the passage and expound more on the passage. You also do not need to rewrite the entire passage. You must also learn how to use synonyms to sort out your answers.

Unclear Pronouns

Pronouns are often used to replace nouns in sentences. Sometimes, the answer can be confusing if there is no noun before a pronoun.

To correct this error, always have a noun first before you use a pronoun. But, if there is a noun mentioned, you can use a pronoun to replace it in the next passage.

Skipping Sentences

Some students tend to skip certain passages to shorten the time they use to read a passage. However, this decision can be costly as they may miss certain ideas that they need to take note to answer certain questions.

There are also those who don’t read the conclusion because they think it will not be important for the test. In this case, you should learn how to pick up keywords which will tell you which parts to focus on and go back to the minor details when it is needed. You can practise this when you are doing your revision. 

You should also make it a point to take notes as you read so you can just look at the notes rather than lose precious time to read the passage again if you need to refresh your mind for a certain question.

Unable to determine if the question is a Literal and Inference question

The questions in your PSLE English Comprehension Exam can be divided into two types: ‘inferential’ and ‘literal’ questions. Literal questions involve questions that can be answered with the help of the passage itself.

Meanwhile, inferential questions involve getting clues from the passage and use it to answer the question. This means you will think of the answers through logic but it is not directly found in the passage. These questions can also have phrases like ‘how do you know’ or ‘why do you think’.

Students must be able to differentiate these questions so that they can answer the questions correctly. Before answering a question, read the question first and know what type of question it is before.

One way to develop logical thinking in your child is to use word problems.

Our Secret Tips on how to Score in English Comprehension

  1. First, read instructions carefully. This should be the first thing you do before you attempt any exam questions.
  2. Glance through the entire passage the first time to get the gist of the story.
  3. Read each questions carefully and reference back to where you seen the answers vaguely in the passage. Underline or highlight it. After that, reread the passage carefully to match your answers.
  4. You’ll notice that comprehension questions mostly follow the sequence of the story flow. The questions hardly jump from place to place in the passage.
  5. If the question requires 2 or more answers from you, clearly label and separate the answers so that the examiner will not miss out your answers.
  6. The marks besides the questions will indicate how difficult the question is and how detailed it is required you to answer.
  7. Practice, practice and more practice is the key to perfecting comprehension. Call us if your child needs more help!


It is very easy to make mistakes in your English Comprehension exam if you do not realise where you can make these errors. Before your exam, review these 10 common mistakes we listed and take them into heart. You should also read the instructions carefully because they are there to help you score better and answer them correctly. Once you do answer these questions, always reread them and make sure they make sense.

If you need help, you can also engage experienced English tutors to help you with English Listening Comprehension.

For further assistance in improving your child’s PSLE results, here are the important articles to read:

How To Write The Perfect PSLE English Composition
How To Prepare For PSLE Listening Comprehension Examination

Rum Tan

Rum Tan is the founder of SmileTutor and he believes that every child deserves a smile. Motivated by this belief and passion, he works hard day & night with his team to maintain the most trustworthy source of home tutors in Singapore. In his free time, he writes articles hoping to educate, enlighten, and empower parents, students, and tutors. You may try out his free home tutoring services via or by calling 6266 4475 directly today.