How can we achieve AL1 grades in PSLE English Composition?

As the educational landscape evolves, so does the examination structure and grading system. The Ministry of Education (MOE) in Singapore has moved from a numerical scoring system to a system of Achievement Levels (ALs) for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). An AL1 grade, being the highest attainable, symbolizes a commendable mastery of the subject. In the context of PSLE English Composition, securing an AL1 grade involves a complex interplay of language proficiency, creativity, understanding of the question, and time management skills.

Language Proficiency and Vocabulary:

Firstly, the students’ command over English, both in terms of grammar and vocabulary, plays a significant role. Regular practice can help students in enhancing their language proficiency. It is not only about using big words, but using the right words at the right time. Techniques such as metaphors, similes, idioms, and powerful verbs can elevate the writing, making it more engaging and compelling.


Originality and creativity set apart an AL1 composition. Instead of following a cliched plot, students should experiment with different narrative styles, themes, and characters. Reading widely can assist in fueling creativity, thereby improving their storytelling skills.

Understanding the Question:

An AL1 composition directly answers the question asked. Often, students get carried away and deviate from the topic. Hence, understanding and sticking to the question is crucial. Underlining keywords in the question, brainstorming ideas around these keywords, and constructing a logical sequence of events can be of immense help.

Time Management:

Time management is another vital aspect. The PSLE English paper is designed according to the MOE syllabus’s recommended time allocation. Hence, planning the composition (10 mins), writing the first draft (30 mins), revising (15 mins), and proofreading (5 mins) within the time limit is essential to achieve an AL1 grade.

Practice and Feedback:

Lastly, practice makes perfect. Consistent writing practice and seeking feedback from teachers, peers, or family members could aid in identifying strengths and weaknesses. This iterative process of writing, receiving feedback, and refining the work can significantly enhance the overall quality of the composition. These are the suggestions, and not limited to get English AL1 in the PSLE Examinations:

Transitioning from AL3 to AL2:

  1. Enhance Vocabulary with Advanced Words: At the AL3 level, students demonstrate a solid understanding of basic vocabulary. To progress to AL2, students should aim to use more sophisticated words, expand their vocabulary through extensive reading, and practice using new words in their writing.
  2. Introduction of Varied Sentence Structures: While simple sentence structures are acceptable at the AL3 level, students at the AL2 level are expected to vary their sentence structures. This involves using a mix of simple, compound, and complex sentences to make their writing more engaging and fluid.
  3. Consistent Usage of Accurate Punctuation: Proper punctuation is critical for clear communication. Students should thoroughly understand the rules of punctuation, including the use of commas, periods, semicolons, and quotation marks, and consistently apply them in their writing.
  4. Rich Development of Plot and Characters: Students should work on developing their storylines and characters in a more detailed and nuanced manner. This involves exploring the characters’ motivations, feelings, and reactions, as well as developing a well-paced plot that maintains reader interest.
  5. Efficient Time Management: To perform well in the examination, students need to manage their time effectively. This involves planning their composition before starting to write, allocating sufficient time for each section of the composition, and leaving time for revision and editing.

Transitioning from AL2 to AL1:

  1. Superior Command of English Grammar: At the AL2 level, students are expected to have a strong command of English grammar. To achieve AL1, students need to demonstrate a superior understanding and usage of grammar rules.
  2. Creative Usage of Rich and Appropriate Vocabulary: Students at the AL1 level should use a rich and diverse vocabulary creatively and appropriately. They should aim to use words that precisely convey their intended meaning and create a vivid picture in the reader’s mind.
  3. Masterful Sentence Structures, Including Complex Sentences: Students should demonstrate a mastery of varied sentence structures, including the effective use of complex sentences. This contributes to a more sophisticated and mature writing style.
  4. Original, Engaging, and Comprehensive Plot Development: At the AL1 level, students are expected to write original and engaging stories with comprehensive plot development. This involves crafting a compelling beginning, developing a well-paced middle, and concluding with a satisfying end.
  5. Effective Use of Figurative Language, Imagery, and Tone: Students should use figurative language to express ideas in a creative and original way. They should also employ imagery to create vivid mental pictures and use tone to convey the mood and emotions in their composition.
  6. Excellent Time Management, Including Time for Revision and Proofreading: Time management is crucial at the AL1 level. Students should ensure they allocate enough time for planning, writing, and revising their composition. They should also allow time for proofreading to eliminate any errors and improve the overall quality of their writing.

Here’s the breakdown of suggestions:

Achievement LevelScoring RangeKey Improvement Strategies
AL375 – 841. Solid understanding of English grammar rules 2. Basic vocabulary usage 3. Coherent and organized writing 4. Addresses the question adequately 5. Simple sentence structures
AL285 – 891. Enhance vocabulary with advanced words 2. Introduction of varied sentence structures 3. Consistent usage of accurate punctuation 4. Rich development of plot and characters 5. Efficient time management
AL190 – 1001. Superior command of English grammar 2. Creative usage of rich and appropriate vocabulary 3. Masterful sentence structures, including complex sentences 4. Original, engaging and comprehensive plot development 5. Effective use of figurative language, imagery and tone 6. Excellent time management, including time for revision and proofreading

Each step up from AL3 to AL2, and from AL2 to AL1 involves improving and refining specific skills. Students should first master the skills required for AL3 before moving on to the more complex demands of AL2

Tips for Improvement to Next Level

Scoring LevelTips for Improvement to Next Level
AL31. Review and understand all the grammar rules and vocabulary. 2. Start practicing writing frequently. 3. Read widely to broaden your understanding and vocabulary. 4. Work on time management to ensure you can complete the paper efficiently.
AL21. Focus on enriching your vocabulary and using a variety of sentence structures. 2. Pay attention to the cohesion and coherence of your composition. 3. Aim to write creatively and innovatively, avoiding cliches. 4. Revise your work to eliminate grammatical and spelling errors.
AL11. Consistently apply wide-ranging and sophisticated vocabulary. 2. Show originality and depth in your compositions. 3. Display a clear understanding of the question and stick to the topic. 4. Perfect your time management to ensure time for review and refinement of your composition.


In conclusion, an AL1 grade in PSLE English Composition is achievable with a combination of well-honed writing skills, a comprehensive understanding of the exam format, meticulous preparation, and regular practice. The SEAB MOE English syllabus provides a solid foundation, and students who supplement this with self-study, practice, and feedback can indeed reach their goal.

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