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PSLE English Tips | Oral: Types of Questions in Stimulus-Based Conversation

OralLily ChewComment

Yesterday, I gave an outline of how to prepare for stimulus-based conversation during the 5-minute preparation time and during the actual examination. Interestingly, while carrying out oral practice with one of my P6 children this week, she mentioned to me how she envied the Primary 4 children in school who had the questions written beneath the picture so that they can prepare for those questions. I explained to her how the school is trying to ease the younger children into this component by aiding them with questions and knowing what to expect definitely helps.

Although there are infinite possibilities to the questions that can be tested during an oral examination, in my opinion, I think there are a few types of questions which are likely to appear. I am going to try and list them out according to what I feel is possible and hopefully, learning about these questions can help children who are sitting for their oral examination to set a purpose and prepare themselves while looking at the picture. 

Directly-linked Questions

This is usually the first question that will be asked and is based largely as a response to the picture. These are a bit more predictable than broadly-linked questions and I have identified two types of question that are typically asked below. Remember, the "why" that follows (or not) should be anticipated during preparation time. Candidates should therefore be picking up details from the picture and be ready to support their answers with them.


1. Choice

Will you attend this event? Why? (For poster/ brochure on events like a fair, camp, movie etc.)

Will you buy this product? Why? (For advertisements or descriptions of products)

Which one will you choose? Why? (Catalogues, pictures with a variety of choices)

2. Function and Purpose

Where do you think you will see this? Why do you say so (i.e. the function)? (For signages, instructions, advisory boards)

What do you think this is used for? Who will find it useful? (Descriptions of products)


Broadly-linked Questions

Broadly-linked questions typically follow after the first or second question have been answered. There is a larger variety to the kinds of questions that can be asked and honestly, not all of them are easy to predict. However, categories of questions like "favourites", "prior experiences" and "People Questions" are possible to anticipate and prepare for. Even if those questions are not asked, they will be useful for you to introduce as new ideas which will be touched on after this.


1. Favourites

What is your favourite _______________, why? (e.g. favourite sport, dish, movie?)

2. Prior experiences

Have you attended _______________ before?

Tell me about a time when you _______________ (e.g. visited a place of interest in Singapore, went for a camp, took part in a competition?). 

3. People Questions

If you can bring someone along, who will it be and why? (e.g. for a vacation to Hawaii, to take part in a competition?)

If you are to give this to someone... (e.g. the brochure to someone, an item chosen from the brochure)

If you are to introduce this to someone... (e.g. an activity or a promotion)

* Remember to think of and describe the personality of the person you have chosen and reflect that as a reason for your choice in your answer. (e.g. I would give this travel fair brochure to my aunt as out of all my close ones, she loves travelling the most. In fact, every year, she will...)

4. Reflection and Opinion

Why do you think it is important to  _______________ ? (e.g. recycle, practise water safety?)

What advice would you give... (e.g. to your brother about water safety in the swimming pool?)

What can you do to _______________ ? (e.g. help recycle? spread the message of recycling to those around your?)

Do you think  _______________ is possible in the future? Why? (e.g. travelling into space?)


"Reflection and opinion" questions are slightly harder to grasp and require children to react quickly with good reasoning. Do not panic but tell yourself to give about two to three points to support your reflection or opinion. Prepare for them by asking yourself such questions on a regular basis and discuss with your family or friends. 

Brainstorming New Points to Support your Answers

Assessment objectives from SEAB.

Assessment objectives from SEAB.

As mentioned in the previous post, it is clear from the objectives listed by SEAB that the ability to express personal opinion and introduce new ideas are an important criteria for success in this component. 

This applies to both directly-linked and broadly-linked questions. After responding to the examiner's question, you should not just stop there. Value-add to your responses by sharing a new idea which can be a related story, news, video/ movie or opinion on that matter. Here are some questions to help you brainstorm on new points:

You may see some overlaps with the list of possible broadly-linked questions above. As mentioned, this means that if the question prepared was not tested, candidates can still use them to support their answers accordingly and demonstrate initiative. Think in terms of the three common domains of family, friends, familiar social settings e.g. church. In addition, if it is a topic which is hard for you to have experienced e.g. travelling to outer space, try and recall any books, movies or video clips that are related to the topic.

One important point to note is the power of changing the negative to a positive. This means that if you do not have any related experiences (e.g. you have never kept a pet or travelled overseas before), change it into the positive by saying, "Even though I had never _______________, I wish I can/ if I have a choice, I will..." This demonstrate flexibility in your thinking and  your ability to adapt to a conversation topic.

I hope the questions brainstormed above are helpful in helping you set a purpose while looking at the stimulus. Practise asking yourself these questions and answering them as you are bound to get better as you do it more. All the best for the first paper of the Prelims!

Here is a short quiz on the use of Singlish and English. Try it and see whether you are able to spot the English answers that should be used in the scenarios provided. Other than being fun, this quiz helps to highlight certain common Singlish sentences that children (and adults) tend to use and they need to be avoided in speaking and writing during an examination. As much as Singlish is very much a part of our unique Singaporean identity, do remember that in an examination setting, formal English is essential. Enjoy and please give us feedback on how you find the little quiz.

*Update - Quiz has been closed.

*Survey closed on 13/08/2015. Thank you for taking part in our survey! (: