PSLE Oral Tips: Stimulus-Based Conversation


by Mrs Elaine Loh

The PSLE Oral Examination is the first language component your child will be tested on as part of the English Language paper. Hence, I have written this article to help you guide your child as he prepares for it. The PSLE Oral component has two parts: the reading component and the Stimulus Based Oral (SBO) conversation component. This is the part of the examination that most children find daunting for one or more of the following reasons:

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  •  Speaking to a complete stranger about something is not a natural thing your child does
  • Sharing his opinion and ideas is not something your introverted child enjoys doing
  • Organising his thought process is something your child is having difficulty with
  • The open-ended nature of the stimulus based oral conversation creates anxiety in your child because he does not know what to expect

Let’s talk about the Stimulus Based Oral conversation (SBO) and get a clear idea of what it is about so that you can work at home with your child to help him prepare for it.

Stimulus based oral conversation… what’s that?

The stimulus based oral (SBO)conversation at the PSLE Oral Examination requires your child to have a conversation with the examiner, using the picture (stimulus) as a conversation starter. Based on the stimulus, your child will be asked a question that is directly linked to the picture (usually the first question) followed by a broad-based question that is linked to the theme or general topic of the picture.

To do well in this section, your child needs to show the examiner that he can share his thoughts, opinions, values and experiences confidently in relation to the stimulus (usually a picture, brochure, article or flyer, although the examination board is technically allowed to use physical objects as a stimulus for conversation). Examiners are looking to see if your child can hold a natural and meaningful conversation based on a theme or topic that is related to the stimulus.

Many parents think the SBO is something their child cannot prepare for. This is totally untrue. While you cannot predict with any accuracy what the stimulus (picture) will be, you can prepare your child by reminding him about what he needs to do during the 3-minute preparation time.

Children who attend our regular lessons have been taught this four-step method that you can reinforce and practise with your child at home.


The first question is always directly related to the picture. When your child first studies the picture, he needs to do some brainstorming as preparation. He can do this by asking himself:

What are some possible questions that can be asked based on the stimulus?

E.g. Would you like to take part in this activity? Whom do you think will be attracted to such an activity? What do you like about this article/activity?

What is the theme of the stimulus? (this is useful for the second broad-based question that will be asked)

E.g. kindness/ community work/ sports and leisure/ heritage

What are other ideas related to the stimulus?

If the stimulus is an article or a brochure, your child needs to read the words carefully. Your child needs to ask himself:

What is the purpose of the article or brochure? What does it tell me? What do I want to know that is not featured in the article or brochure? What makes the article or brochure interesting?


There is always a ‘why’ question that follows the first question. Your child needs to explain the point he is making. He needs to explain whatever point he has made by looking closely at the details in the stimulus (picture/brochure/flyer/article)!

Your child should use as many details from the stimulus to support what he says.

E.g. A flyer/ an advertisement about a junior marathon in which the first 1000 sign ups receive a free gift. Your child can use this information as a reason why he would want to register early with a friend or in what way the gift would entice him to take part in the marathon.


Here’s a useful tip. The topic for the broad-based conversation question is usually linked to the reading passage and stimulus. If the reading passage is about sports people play, the broad-based conversation topic is usually somewhat linked to this. E.g. topic on sports/ leisure and recreation/ things people do to keep fit/ the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle/ benefits of exercise/ hobbies etc.


Your child can use the preparation time to think about personal experiences he can share based on the theme of the passage and stimulus. If for example the theme seems to be about sports and your child is not one who enjoys participating in sports, he can answer the question, then go on to share his experience about why he does not enjoy sports. Your child may also draw on things he has read or heard about from friends that are related to the topic.

However, always remind your child to answer the question that was asked before sharing his own personal opinions and experiences.


By following the 4 basic steps I have outlined above, you can help your child be better prepared by knowing what to expect for the PSLE Oral paper. By doing this, you are providing the structure he needs to practise at home as well as to make full use of the 3-minute oral exam preparation time (2 minutes for reading preparation and 3 minutes for SBO conversation preparation)

If you liked the above tips, do share it with a friend or tell us what you think! In my next post, I will be giving you tips on how you can help your child structure what he wants to say in order to get his ideas across clearly. I will be sharing a downloadable template which I use during our oral lessons at RGC Futureschool so that you can help your child get down to practising oral conversation clearly and confidently with you. See you then!