Useful Tips for PSLE Math Paper 1

Useful Tips for PSLE Math Paper 1

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Time is trickling away faster than the brain
can churn out answers for the questions in
the PSLE Math Paper 1. Without the use of a
calculator, the only way that your child can
beat the odds to attain a perfect score is by
being fast and accurate in his or her
mental calculation. Of course, the ability to
calculate swiftly is not the only factor
at play here, although it is a major one.

In PSLE Math Paper 1, we try to secure as many marks as possible since it consists of simpler questions that test the child’s foundational knowledge. Before any examination, your child needs to be familiar with the formulas and the rules governing the laws of Math. With that in the bag, let us read on to see how your child can do better to secure that perfect score for his or her Paper 1.


psle math paper 1

1. Time management – 1 minute per mark

Keep a watchful eye on the clock, or better still, train your child to have a good gauge of time. It is vital that you adhere to a strict rule of not allocating more than a minute to a 1-mark question. A child may be able to solve every single question correctly, but if he or she fails to complete all the questions in Paper 1, it is as good as not knowing how to solve them. It is a race against the clock and by spending one minute on a 1-mark question, and two minutes on a 2-mark question, it leaves your child with 15 minutes to check his or her work and attempt any question that was skipped previously.

Every point counts in an examination. Your child needs to secure each and every point in the paper and thus, he or she cannot afford to spend all day trying to get a 1-mark question correct. It is a fight or flight and with enough practice, your child will know when he or she should abandon the question and move on to the next one.

Practice comes from having sufficient timed assignments before the examination. Train your child to keep within the time limit and you will see a greater improvement in speed and accuracy.

A good way to train your child is by breaking down the segments of PSLE Math Paper 1 into mini timed assignments. Below is a table that would give you a good guide on the amount of time your child should spend completing the various questions.

Booklet  Questions Time allocated
A 1 – 10 10 minutes
  11 – 15 10 minutes
B 16 – 20 5 minutes
  21 – 30 20 minutes

Your child should attempt to complete every question in Booklet A in 20 minutes, before moving on to answering questions in Booklet B. Of course, if your child is stuck in a question, move on! Come back to the question after your child has completed the rest.


Before you continue, have you downloaded our “10 Tricky PSLE Math Questions”? These are short but tricky questions, modified from past PSLE Math papers. To download for FREE, click the button below.

tricky psle math questions

Click here to Download

2. Pick your battles

There are certain topics that may be easier for some, and more difficult for others. Your child should pick his or her battle and attempt the questions that he or she is most familiar with first. Aside from building up confidence, it would help your child to get some extra time on his or her side when he or she can quickly solve questions that are easier.

As much as possible, your child should tackle the questions in order, but should not view the act of skipping questions as a failure. Rather, it could be a strategy to get time on his or her side.


3. Elimination Method

Thank goodness we have multiple-choice questions! This would be where some students would consider rolling a die to decide if the answer is 1, 2, 3, or 4, and stand a 25% chance of getting it right. However, there is a better method to tackle MCQs. 

Called the elimination method, this method gives you better odds than rolling a die in the examinations! This method involves guessing intelligently and this is also a great way to get more time on your side.


Elimination method involves reading the question, and cross out ridiculous options immediately. Your child now has a 50% chance of picking the correct answer based on the 2 seemingly correct options left.

This is a similar example of a question that came up in a PSLE Math Paper 1.

Example 1

What is the length of a whiteboard in a classroom?

  1. psle math paper 13 cm
  2. 30 cm
  3. 3 m
  4. 30 m

This tests your child on how well he or she knows units of measurements. It also tests them on their logical thinking, or in this case, common sense. Estimation and elimination skills are required for such a question.

What are the ridiculous answers that you would cross out right away? A child’s pinky finger might be the length of 3 cm. Is it possible that the length of a whiteboard be that short? Therefore, 3 cm is eliminated as an option.

The width and length of a usual classroom may vary from 6 to 10 metres. It is likely that 3 buses end to end would add up to 30 metres. Do you think a whiteboard of that length would fit into a standard classroom? Of course not! Hence we would eliminate 30 m as an option.

A typical long ruler measures 30 cm. Would a whiteboard used in a classroom be of that length? That would perhaps be good for writing only one letter. Thus, the most logical answer would be option 3. The length of a whiteboard in a classroom averages 3 m.

This type of questions could also test your child on mass like the weight of a $1 coin etc. Your child needs to have a good understanding of the units of measurement before he or she can logically eliminate answers and pick out the correct one.

Although the elimination method might not work for every single multiple-choice question, it does work for a number of them.
It is a great time-saving and risk-reducing method that comes in handy!


Let’s look at another example. Look at the options before you read the question.

Example 2

A number consists of two digits. The digit in the tens place is twice the digit in the ones place. If 18 is subtracted from the number, the digits become reversed. The number is: ___________.

psle math paper 1

  1. 36
  2. 42
  3. 84
  4. 94


As you read the question, you would notice that the digit in the tens place is twice the digit in the one’s place. Hence, we can cross out options 1 and 4 straightaway. The next clue reveals that the digits become reversed when 18 is subtracted from it.

With some quick thinking, you would realise that subtracting a number less than 20 from a big number like 84 would not give you anything less than 64. Therefore, we are not even close to getting the digits reversed and arriving at 48 as the answer.

Thus, the only correct answer would be 42.

42 – 18 = 24

Without doing any detailed calculation for each option, we have once again arrived at the correct answer by using the elimination method.


4. How to avoid careless mistakes

It is only human to err, and what more could be expected from a child who has only a few years’ worth of experience in checking his or her work? Why are some adults more careful than others? The trait of carefulness could be innate, but it could also be developed. One can be trained to have a sharp eye,
no matter how careless the person might be. The earlier your child learns to spot his or her mistake, the sooner they benefit in life from being meticulous in his or her work.

Most students beat themselves up after falling short of a perfect score due to carelessness. Some students view it as a convenient reason to blame their imperfect score on. At Jimmy Maths, we train individuals who have a keen eye, take pride in, and take charge of their work.

It may not be easy to eliminate careless mistakes, but the number of careless mistakes can surely be reduced with some tips and tricks:

Do your due diligence

At the start of every examination, check diligently to ensure that the paper does not have missing questions or pages. Your child should note the last question of the paper so that he or she does not end up with the horror of having a blank page at the end of the paper, scrambling to complete the remaining questions.

Highlight keywords

When numbers and words combine to form a word problem, it might be easy to misread numbers. Always highlight the numbers in a prominent colour so that your eyes do not confuse it with the letters next to the number. You certainly do not want your child to start off on the wrong note by getting the first step of the working wrong, just because he or she cannot stop making transference errors. What a pity!

Get a good and bright highlighter for your child and help him or her to pay closer attention to information and eliminate transference errors.

Estimate the accuracy of your final answer

When it comes to the short-answer questions, applying the skill of approximation and estimation would aid your child in eliminating careless errors. Is the answer within the range of reasonable answers? Or could a careless calculation error along the way have rendered the answer illogical?

Does it make sense?

If your child ends up with an answer that states a human’s height as 5.92 m, your child might want to rework the sum again. Generally, answers would make physical sense and ridiculous answers that list a person’s height as 5.92 m should set off alarm bells in your child’s head.

The tallest person in the world ever only stood at 2.72 m!

Check for missing units!

In Booklet B, the units are sometimes given, and sometimes not. It is a good idea to put in units in all the answers during practice sessions. This would help your child to check that the units are always present and correct.

Inaccurate presentation

The misuse of the equal sign may cause precious marks to be lost. Especially when people indicate that a fraction 1/2 = a value ( 1/2 = $20). Only use equal signs when writing out the number statements that are factual (2 + 1 = 3). Aside from that, stick to using the arrow ( –> )!


5. Boost your mental ability

Since your child is not allowed to use the calculator, he or she has to train up his or her mental sums ability. There are some tips and tricks to save some time.

When multiplying decimals, students should leave out the decimal point and multiply as per normal. Upon reaching the final answer, students count the total number of decimal places they see in the numbers and add the decimal point accordingly.


Another trick involves multiply by tens, hundreds, and thousands quickly.


63 x 10 = 630

63 x 100 = 6, 300

63 x 1000 = 63, 000

Do you see a pattern there?


91,000 ÷ 10 = 9,100

91,000 ÷ 100 = 910

91,000 ÷ 1000 = 91

Trick: Count the number of zeroes and add or cancel zeroes.

Scoring well in the PSLE Math Paper 1 is a much easier way to pull up your child’s marks. We hope that these useful tips will help your child to grab these low-hanging fruits.

With a great routine that works for your child and consistent disciplined practice, you will surely see a marked improvement within a short span of time. Anyone can ace Math, and with these tips and tricks, your child will too!


Before you go, have you downloaded our “10 Tricky PSLE Math Questions”? These are short but tricky questions, modified from past PSLE Math papers. To download for FREE, click the button below.

tricky psle math questions

Click here to Download

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