How To Answer OEQ (Open-Ended Questions) in Primary School Science

The open-ended questions (OEQ) in the science paper carry a weightage of 44 marks. It is common for our children to be scared of doing OEQs because they do not know what to write. Hence, they typically put all hope in the multiple-choice questions, hoping to score at least 52 out of 56 marks to pass the entire paper.

One reason why many students are scared, is because they falsely believe that scoring well for OEQs is all about memorising.

Keywords, facts, you name it.

“Actually if my child can memorise, my child can score”, one parent once told me ruefully.

But OEQs are actually not just about memorising. It is much more than that, and below, I will share what your child needs to do or avoid when answering an open-ended science question.

What your child needs to do, is to follow through on the ABC thinking process, something we teach in a primary school science tuition session at Eton.

  1. Analyse
  2. Bring evidence/facts forward
  3. Conclude

Additionally, the answer needs to be mindful of

  1. Context
  2. Specific
  3. Concise

Here is an example of how you can answer an open-ended primary school science question.

 

Question Example

Andy wanted to find out if plastic is an insulator of electricity. Using the same set-up above, he replaced metal pedal with a plastic pedal and use a bigger bumper car. When the bumper car did not move, he concluded that plastic is an insulator of electricity.

Question: His teacher stated that the experiment is not a fair one. Do you agree? Explain fully.

Answer:
Yes, I agree. The size of the bumper car will affect whether the bumper car can move.
So, only the pedal should be changed to plastic.

Let us take a look at the ABC thinking process behind the answer:

Analyse
Concepts tested:

  1. Plastic is an insulator of electricity
  2. Science experiments comparisons are done by only changing one variable each time.

Bring evidence/facts forward
Evidence/facts are found within the question.

Variables to be kept the same:
– same metal wire mesh
– same metal floor
– same metal rod with plate
– same wheel

Variables tested:
– different material of pedal (changed metal to plastic)
– different size of car (bigger car)

Conclude
Conclude this question by first making a choice:
Yes, I agree. 

Then support the answer with facts, by highlighting that only one variable is to be tested:
The size of the bumper car may also affect whether the bumper car could move.
Hence, only the pedal should be changed to plastic for the experiment to be fair.

 

Challenges when answering a primary school science open-ended question

  1. Not understanding the question in its appropriate context, this leads to an answer that is out of context.
    All variables must be kept the same except the plastic pedal.
  2. Giving an answer that is too general and not specific, for example, giving only generic statements.
    It is unfair because many things changed.
  3. Giving an incomplete answer.
    Yes, I agree. The size of the bumper car will affect whether the bumper car can move.
  4. Giving too much unnecessary information in the answer and causing the marker to “pick and choose” the correct answer out of all that was written.
    Yes, I agree. When the circuit is closed and the power is turned on, electricity flows around the closed circuit and causes the bumper car to move. Metal is a good conductor of electricity so it helps the bumper car to move. The size of the bumper car will affect whether the bumper car can move. So, only the pedal should be changed to plastic
  5. Stating what is given in the question (observation) without mentioning the scientific concept. For example; The lid is covered instead of “air cannot enter the box”, the towel is open instead of “it has a greater exposed surface area”. Such answers are seen as merely restating and not interpreting the data.
    Yes, I agree. Metal is a good conductor of electricity so the car is able to move when the electrical power is turned on. So, when Andy changed the pedal to plastic, it cannot move.

This is a glimpse of what we teach in our primary school science tuition. You can sign your child up for our trial classes here or contact us for more information. If this is the PSLE year for your child, now is not too late for PSLE science tuition.