Screengrab from MOE's video on new grading system

Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) scoring to change from 2021

From 2021, students taking their Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) will be scored with Achievement Levels (ALs) of 1 to 8 in each of their four subjects. The sum of these ALs will make up students’ final scores, which will now be called the PSLE Score.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) first announced this changes in Parliament in April, with the intention of reducing an over-emphasis on academic results.

Changes to the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) scoring will be made as part of a larger shift to nurture well-rounded individuals and move away from an over-emphasis on academic results.

The changes are to be implemented starting from the 2021 PSLE cohort, the changes aim to:

  • Reduce fine differentiation of students
  • Reflect a student’s level of achievement regardless of how his peers have done
  • Encourage families to choose schools based on their suitability for the child’s learning needs, talents and interests.

Students in this year’s Primary 1 cohort will be first to be affected, as they take the PSLE in 2021, the ministry had said at the Committee of Supply debate.

In the new scoring system, an AL of 1 is the best score a student can achieve, with 8 being the worst. Possible aggregates of the ALs will range from the highest score of 4 to the lowest of 32.

MOE said, students will no longer be as finely differentiated with the new scoring system, since there will only be 29 possible PSLE scores, compared to more than 200 T-score aggregates under the current system.

Under the new scoring system, students will be graded based on their individual performance in the subjects. This is more educationally meaningful than the existing T-score system, which reflects how well students have done relative to their peers, MOE said.

Based on reference raw mark ranges provided by MOE, this means a student who scores 90 and above for a subject will be given an AL of 1, regardless of how other students perform in the same exam, this will allow students to focus on their own learning, rather than trying to outdo others.

Under the changes students, students will need a PSLE Score from 4 to 20 in order to qualify for the Express stream.

source : MOC/MOE
source : MOC News / MOE

Foundation level subjects, which cater to upper primary students who may not be able to cope with regular or Standard level subjects at the PSLE, will also be scored on Als.

Students with achievements in Higher Chinese looking to get into Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools will also be given a posting advantage in the new system, as also students looking to get into a secondary school that is affiliated to their primary school.


In the new system, The Secondary 1 posting system will also be tweaked with a new tie-breaker called “Choice Order of Schools” will be introduced. While the PSLE Score will remain the first criterion for posting, the order in which a student lists the school in his choices will come into play.

In the existing system, the T-score aggregate is the first criterion for posting, where students are posted to secondary schools based on the six schools of preference they indicate when making their choices. But the order in which a student lists the schools is not considered when deciding who will get a place.

For example, a Singaporean student who lists a particular school as his first choice would not get priority over a Singaporean student with the same T-score who lists the same school as his second choice. Tie-breakers like citizenship and computerised balloting are used to decide who gets a place in that school.

In order to guide families in their choices of secondary school, MOE said it will provide indicative cut-off points and information on each school’s unique programmes.

The New PSLE Scoring System:

  1. Currently, a pupil’s PSLE aggregate is the sum of the T-scores of all the four subjects he took. The T-scores indicate how well a pupil has performed relative to his peers in the subject. From 2021, pupils’ scores will not be benchmarked against their peers. Instead, they just have to do the best they can in each subject. Their marks will be converted according to the new scoring bands of Achievement Level (AL) 1- AL8.
  2. The breakdown of the AL grade:
    source: MOC/MOE
    source: MOC News / /MOE
  3. To get the best possible PSLE score, pupils need to score at least 90 marks in all four subjects (English, Maths, Science, Mother Tongue). This will give them the best PSLE score of four.
  4. From 2021, choice will matter when it comes to secondary school admissions. Pupils will get a choice of six schools, and have to rank these choices in order of their preference. If two pupils have the same PSLE score and have chosen the same school, the one who has put it down as a first choice will get priority over the one who has listed it as a second choice.
  5. Computerised balloting will be used as a tie-breaker if there are two pupils with the same PSLE score and citizenship status, vying for a place in a school which they have both listed in the same choice order.
  6. To get into the Express stream, pupils need to get a PSLE score of 22 or less, instead of a PSLE aggregate score of around 188 currently. For the Normal (Academic) stream, a score of 25 or less is needed, and for the Normal (Technical) stream, a score of 30 or less.
  7. Pupils need to score at least AL7 for English and Maths to join the Normal (Technical) stream. Scores of 31 and 32, where a pupil scores AL8 for English and/or maths would mean that he has to retake the PSLE . He can also choose to join the NorthLight and Assumption Pathway specialised schools.