National examinations like PSLE and O Level are imperative milestones in one's academic journey and the Chinese subject is often the most common subject which students struggle with. Through decades of experience in tutoring, publishing and consulting, our star tutors from Yanzi Mandarin provide their insights on how to excel in the Chinese national examinations.
Learning Is Hard
Parents need to recognize that learning Chinese is not a pain-free process whereby it is all fun and games as engagement alone is not sufficient for learning. Substituting discipline, perseverance and intense effort with fun enrichment activities and ‘play to learn’ pedagogy is simply not going to cut it beyond one’s preschool years. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. Consistent practice and learning are key to achieving excellence. Homework, assignments and practice tests are still the necessary parts of the success equation. Yes, learning is tedious, but it is also rewarding at the same time.
Avoid Targeted Approach
There is a misconception that to score well for Chinese examinations, preparation can be segregated into targeted segments such as composition, comprehension and cloze passages. Unlike technical subjects like Science and math, Chinese itself is a language subject and acquiring knowledge in Chinese should not siloed into various components. Students should focus on employing a holistic approach to studying and enhancing their overall Chinese language ability.
Consistency And Starting Early
Preparing for national examinations such as PSLE Chinese and O Level Chinese is a marathon, not a sprint. Parents need to bear in mind that there is huge step up in the difficulty of Chinese subject when students transition to upper primary or upper secondary. Hence, it is imperative for students and parents alike to start as early as possible. The first step would be to consult with the school teacher to identify the underlying problems and weaknesses and craft a weekly plan with achievable goals and visible timeline to attain them.
Focus on Techniques, Not Memorization & Regurgitation
Students need to have a firm grasp of what the question is asking as well as the answers exam markers are looking for. Many Chinese tutors and Chinese tuition centres have encouraged their students to memorize model compositions, resulting in students just blindly memorizing and regurgitating content to force fit to examination question, causing them to fail terribly. Students need to focus on key examination techniques and utilize situational awareness and common sense with regards to the usage of key words or good phrases. Scattering good phrases here and there in an overall subpar composition will not score points with the examiner.
Think In Terms of Chinese, Not English
Many students in Singapore grew up in English-speaking households, hence they tend to rationalize their thought processes in English. Hence, many of them are inclined to translate Chinese texts to English in order to understand them. However, Chinese and English are two very distinct subjects with very different syntax and sentence structures. Furthermore, some Chinese words do not have direct English translations, hence learning Chinese through English translation can certainly lead to instances of vocabulary misuse, illogical flow of ideas and awkward sentence structures.
Create A Conducive Environment
English is the official working language of Singapore and many children grew up in a monolingual household whereby the predominant language of communication is English. Hence, the learning and usage of Chinese for most children is usually confined within the compounds of an educational institution. Chinese language should be integrated as a part and parcel of everyday life. If possible, parents should set aside a few days of a week to try their best to communicate everyday things and happenings in Mandarin Chinese.
Read According To One’s Ability
Reading builds the foundation of one’s language ability, hence it is no surprise that many teachers encourage their students to read extensively. However, not all reading materials are created equal. Especially for children, newspapers and scholarly articles are not recommended reading materials as they meant for adult readers who already possess a high level of business proficiency or native proficiency in Mandarin Chinese. Reading materials should be tailored to one’s Chinese ability as well as interests and they should be easy enough to digest so that students are motivated to continue reading.
"Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome"