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Primary 5 Math – Everything You Need to Know

Primary 5 marks the beginning of a 2-year journey towards PSLE and many parents start preparing early. It’s not so much a matter of being kiasu, but rather, you want to reduce the amount of stress that you might be facing just 2 or 3 months before the PSLE.

That’s a smart choice!

This guide is written especially for first-time Primary 5 parents to let you know what to expect.


The Smartest & Most Relaxed Parent Plans Ahead.

After reading this guide, you’ll be better informed as a parent and save yourself lots of time, money and unwanted stress. 

We’re going to take you through: 

1. Important Dates Every P5 Parent Must Know (2019)

Here’s the 2019 school year calendar for Primary Schools.

Use it to plan for taking leaves to coach your child or plan a family trip for bonding with your child.

School Term Calendar
Wed 2 Jan to Fri 15 Mar
Mon 25 Mar to Fri 31 May
Mon 1 Jul to Fri 6 Sep
Mon 16 Sep to Fri 15 Nov
School Holidays Calendar
Sat 16 Mar to Sun 24 Mar (1-wk)
Sat 1 Jun to Sun 30 Jun (1-mth)
Sat 7 Sep to Sun 15 Sep (1-wk)
Sat 16 Nov to 31 Dec (1.5-mth)


The school year generally consists of 4 terms – roughly 3 months per term and each term consists of 10 weeks.

The major exams of the year, SA1 and SA2, take place in Term 2 and Term 4 and usually falls on the 8th week.

2. Overview of Topics Covered in the P5 Syllabus

The topics that are covered in the P5 Maths Syllabus include the following:


Whole-Numbers  Fractions  Rate  Decimals  Percentage

Ratio  Triangle  Volume  Angles  Average

See the entire Primary 5 Math Syllabus for a more detailed breakdown.

Having a rough idea of the syllabus is handy so that you know what to look out for when picking the right assessment books or learning resources for your child.

In addition, if you are looking for a tutor, it helps you determine how well they know their stuff too!

3. What Your Child’s Grades are Actually Telling You

Unlike the banding system in Primary 4 where you see numbers for your child’s grades, the grading system in Primary 5 follows the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) with a wider variety of grades.

Grade Mark Range How to Interpret It
A* 91 and above Has Strong Understanding of Subject
A 75 – 90 Has Good Understanding of Subject
B 60 – 74 Has Fair Understanding of Subject
C 50 – 59 Has Shaky Foundation
D 35 – 49 Advisable to Re-learn Subject
E 20 – 34 Advisable to Re-learn Subject
U Below 20 Need to Work On Foundation

It is important to note that if your child is not hitting a minimum of 70 at the end of P5 SA2, it is a cause for concern. Why SA2 and not SA1? We’ll find out in the next section.

If you are planning ahead for PSLE and wondering what’s a good grade to have in order to have a sufficiently wide selection of secondary schools, the safe goal will be a high A for all 4 subjects. That translates to about 85 marks per subject (give and take according to your strengths in the 4 subjects).

4. The Infamous Dip – Every P5 parents’ nightmare


No, we’re not talking about a cookie dip, but the well-known huge dip in results from P4 to P5.

A common experience that Primary 5 parents share is the shock that they get when they receive their child’s SA1 results for the first time. Ask any parent who has gone through this and most of them will share about that moment when they discovered the huge, scary drop in their child’s results. It’s tough to be cool when your heart is in jitters.

How drastic can it be? Does it really happen to all P5 children?

Well, we’re definitely not talking about a drop of 3 – 5 marks, but rather, 10 marks or more.

(In the worst case scenario, we’ve heard parents share the sense of loss when they saw a dip of 55 marks.)

With such a significant drop in results, parents are naturally apprehensive, especially if their child has been doing fine in Primary 4. Not only does it affect parents, but the children are also taken aback too.

That’s why we said previously that you shouldn’t really judge your child’s performance based on their SA1 results. That drop is, in fact, PERFECTLY NORMAL. We see it happening to most P5 children in school year after year. However, P5 parents who are unaware of this are worried and it’s totally understandable. Are there exceptions to this?

Yes, there are. If your child has been scoring 90+ in Primary 4, it’s likely that they are the lucky ones who will be spared from this scare.

As for the rest of the students, why is there a drop in results?

5. Potential Pitfalls

– Know Where the Holes in the Ground Are

There are many reasons for the dip in P5 results. Let’s learn more about them and find out what you can do to prevent them from happening. The key reasons are as follow:

Changes in Exam Format

Time Management



5.1 Adapting to Changes in the Exam Format

The requirements of Primary 4 Math to Primary 5 Math are different and most Primary 5 children will need some time to get used to the new format in P5.

Primary 4

When children are in Primary 4, they only have to deal with 1 Math paper with 2 booklets. The questions are fairly simple and straight forward. The duration of the entire paper is 1 h 45 minutes.

Paper 1
Booklet A 20 MCQs 2 Marks / Question 40%
Booklet B 20 Short-Answer Questions 2 Marks / Question 40%
5 Long-Answer Questions 3-4 Marks / Question 20%
Total 100 Marks 100%

Booklet A contains questions that test basic knowledge and recall, and also a range of competencies and skills, including problem-solving proficiency.

Booklet B tests basic knowledge and a range of competencies and skills including problem-solving proficiency. However, the Long-Answer Questions (also known as Problem Sums) can be quite challenging.

You can see an example of the types of questions below:

Example of a P4 MCQ in Booklet A:

Round off 88 244 to the nearest hundred.

(1) 88 200

(2) 88 240

(3) 88 300

(4) 89 200

Example of a P4 Short-Answer question in Booklet B:

George has some chocolate bars. He kept 9 for himself and gave 5 to each of his 3 friends. How many chocolate bars does he have?

Example of a P4 Long-Answer question in Booklet B:

Grandma packed an equal number of curry puffs into 10 boxes and had 140 curry puffs left. If she packed the same equal number of curry puffs into 6 boxes, she would have 600 curry puffs left. How many curry puffs did Grandma have?

Primary 5

In Primary 5, schools start to prepare their students for the eventual and dreaded PSLE. Therefore, the format of the exam paper is often similar to that of the PSLE paper. Not only do they need to deal with more questions, the difficulty level of the questions has also increased with a greater focus on problem sums.

Your child will be sitting for 2 Math Papers in Primary 5 – Paper 1 and Paper 2, with Paper 1 being split into 2 booklets. The duration for Paper 1 is 1 h and the duration of Paper 2 is 1 h 30 minutes. Hence, the entire Primary 5 Math paper is 2 h 30 minutes. You can the format of the papers as well as an example of the types of questions below:

Paper 1
Booklet A 10 MCQ 1 Marks / Question 10%
5 MCQ 2 Marks / Question 10%
Booklet B 5 Short-Answer Questions 1 Marks / Question 5%
10 Short-Answer Questions 2 Marks / Question 20%
Total 45 Marks 45%
Paper 2 (Calculators are allowed)

See List of PSLE-approved calculators by SEAB.

5 Short-Answer Questions 2 Marks / Question 10%
12 Long-Answer Questions 3-5 Marks / Question 45%
Total 55 Marks 55%
Example of a P5 MCQ in Paper 1 Booklet A:

The amount of money raised during a charity drive was $54 600 when rounded to the nearest hundred dollars. What could be the actual amount raised?

(1) $54 509

(2) $54 540

(3) $54 629

(4) $54 660

Example of a P5 Short-Answer question in Paper 1 Booklet B:

Mrs Lee has some sweets to give to her students. If she gives each student 3 sweets, she will have 15 sweets left. If she gives each student 5 sweets, she will need another 7 sweets. How many sweets does Mrs Lee have?

Example of a P5 Long-Answer question in Paper 2:

Winnie started a savings plan by putting 2 coins in her coin box every day. Each coin was either a 20-cent or 50-cent coin. Her father also put in a $1 coin in the box every 7 days. The total value of the coins after 126 days was $92.40. How many 50-cent coins were there in Winnie’s coin box?

You might have realized that although similar, the questions asked are more indirect and require more thinking skills. The heavier weightage on problem sums (20% in P4 vs 45% in P5) also means that students need to be good at problem solving.

How well your child is able to problem-solve can make a huge impact on their paper. It is a fact that most students struggle with the longer, more complex problem sums in Primary 5 (Some parents do, too).

5.2 How well does your child manage time?

As we have seen earlier, due to the increase in the number and complexity of the questions, P5 students need to be very focused when they are doing their paper. However, some P5 students are unaware of that and stick to their previous pace of doing things, which results in them not having enough time to finish their paper, or having the need to rush through their papers.


5.3 Being over-reliant on Calculators

Yes, we’ve all seen the gleam in the eyes of children when they hear that they can use their calculators in the exams. To them, it’s like a dream come through! However, being able to do that does not make the exam any easier. Some students get carried away with the idea of using their calculators and end up using it even for the simplest calculation. This leads to a potential waste of time.


5.4 Primary 4 Foundation is not strong

Many P5 topics are built on P4 topics. If your child’s Primary 4 foundation is weak, it will be hard for them to grasp concepts as quickly in P5 as the gap widens. As teachers, all too often have we seen cases where students’ problems snowball into avalanches and become non-recoverable. It is crucial that we detect the weakness early and nip the problem in the bud.


6. What Parents can Do to Help

6.1 Give them an idea of How to Start Problem-Solving


Save yourself the nightmare and give your children the confidence to do problem sums better.

Good problem-solving skills can make a tremendous difference to your child’s overall results

(Think pass vs fail, 90 marks vs 70 marks).

As P5 problem sums are more complicated and require many more steps to solve, one way to help would be to focus on teaching your child a variety of Problem solving techniques and Heuristics. Having these useful tools at their fingertips lets them have a better idea of where to start.


Teach them flexibility by exposing them to different methods to solve the same problem and let them pick what works for them. One of the most common methods that help children visualize and understand problem sums better is the model method, and we highly recommend learning this if your child is a visual learner.

6.2 Train Good Time Management Skills


Remember what we said about the difficulty and complexity of the paper?

In order to complete the paper on time and leave ample room for checking, it is important to train your child to solve questions quickly and accurately. Do this as early as possible and your child won’t have a problem with this.

Need a rough guideline to how much time should be spent on each type of question? Here’s one for you.

Paper 1
Booklet A 10 MCQ 1 Min / Question
5 MCQ 2 Min / Question
Booklet B 5 Short-Answer Questions 1 Min / Question
10 Short-Answer Questions 2 Min / Question
Checking: 15 Min
Paper 2
5 Short-Answer Questions 2 Min / Question
12 Long-Answer Questions 5-6 Min / Question
Checking: 15 Min

You can always adjust that according to your child’s comfort level.

During an exam, your child doesn’t have to check the time after every question. You can teach your child to use checkpoints instead. For example, you can teach your child that after doing the 5th MCQ, check that the time is 5 minutes or less, then check again after the last MCQ, and so on and so forth.

However, are you going to time your child everytime they practice Math from now on? That would be too stressful for you and your child.

If you want to do it though, there’s an option to do it in a more relaxing way. Simply let your child do Math questions on Practicle and let us help you track the amount of time your child is taking to solve questions as opposed to their peers. We’re always here to help parents who want to know how well your child is coping.

6.3 Instill Good Calculator Etiquettes


We’ve all experienced the advantages of using a calculator. It saves time, it’s easy, and it’s addictive because the calculator completely removes our need to think.

Despite all that goodness, we need to be mindful about how we teach our children to use calculators.

Instead of automatically punching numbers to seek for the answers, let’s encourage our children to do mental calculation first and use the calculator as a tool to check their answers only when needed. This will greatly reduce the automatic reflex of our children to reach for the calculator as and when they need it and turns them into independent thinkers.

6.4 Building a Good Foundation Goes a Long Way


There are many new topics in P5 that are built upon your child’s foundation in Primary 4: Fractions. Percentage, Ratio, and Decimals, just to name a few.

To increase the depth of understanding of each topic, parents can guide their children along to understand the relationship between these topics. This not only helps them apply what they have learnt across the topics but also increases their flexibility in solving Math questions.

If you are looking for a good way to set a solid foundation for your P5 child, the best advice we have is to let them do short but frequent Math practice.


Practicle takes care of that for you.

We learn about your child’s strengths and weaknesses as they solve questions on our system, and tailor their practice and learning according to their unique individual needs. It is a fact that children have different capabilities in different parts of the same subject, and these differences are difficult to detect and act upon even by the best human teachers.

On top of that, we also make use of retrieval practice to help make memory stick for children. As they learn, we ensure a good balance between exposure to different kinds of Math questions and resurface weak areas using different contexts to reinforce learning over time as well as to ensure true understanding.


“You don’t know what you don’t know. But if you know what you should know early, you have the power to prevent it from happening. ”

We hope this guide has been useful to you.

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