Choosing the right assessment books for your child in primary school

Every parent would think of buying assessment books for their children, but it is not so much the buying but rather the choosing that makes the difference. Choosing the right assessment books at the beginning of the year can help your child get ready for the school year ahead. There are good and not-so-good assessment books out there, but even among the good ones, there are some that will meet your child’s needs better than others. Here are some tips to choosing the good, and the right ones when you walk into a bookshop and see shelves full of them. You also don’t want to buy all the assessment books just to be ‘safe’, since your child will probably not have the time to do all of them, and doing more doesn’t always mean better. Instead, choosing the right books will help your child improve more!


First, let’s talk about how to look for a quality assessment book, since you would want your child to be learning and practising from a book that will actually help, and not mislead him or her.  When choosing quality assessment books, look out for whether the contents inside are actually consistent with the current syllabus. Look out for terms like ‘Based on the latest syllabus’ with the given year. You can also double check by looking at the topics, such as in Mathematics and Science assessment books. The way practices are designed should also reflect the ones in examinations, so that children don’t get confused when they see that practices in the assessment book is very different from the ones they see in school. And if you are looking for any assessment book with questions, make sure they actually have answers for self-evaluation.


Now that we know what a quality assessment book looks like, let’s talk about the kind of assessment books your child may need. Assessment books out there have a plethora of titles, and for good reason. They are designed for students with different learning needs! So before choosing them, you may want to ask yourself what it is that your child needs assistance in when it comes to learning a particular subject. You should, of course, ask your child as well, and look through his or her school assignments for clues. Does he/she seem to make careless mistakes all the time? Is he/she struggling to even understand the concepts in school? Does he/she always run out of time during tests? Is there just one topic he/she doesn’t get? After asking these questions, you can now look at the different types of assessment books to help address these learning obstacles that your child may face.


1.     Topical Practices

Topical practices are organised by topics, and are useful for most children because they can have additional practice on top of the worksheets they do in school. Moreover, topical practices are designed to help students focus on topics that they are less proficient in, and you can then track their improvement in particular topics over time. Again, it cannot be overemphasised that looking out for practices that are similar to the ones your kids see in school and examination papers is really important, although you can also look for practices with a slightly higher level of difficulty to stretch your child just a little further.


2.     Skills-Based Practices

Skills-based practices have the added premium of targeting skills rather than content. Skills are important for all subjects, such as reading skills in languages, answering skills in science and mathematics. This will be useful for children who seem to understand the concepts, but are penalised when they present their answers wrongly. For this kind of assessment books, look out for those with clear and detailed explanations of the skills involved. It will also be helpful if the book has examples of how the skills are applied before providing the practices. A good tip is to read one page of it and ask yourself if it is easy to understand, and let your child read it too. After all, the assessment book is almost like a teacher ‘speaking’ to your child and explaining how to apply the skills, so your child has to be comfortable with the language and the way skills are being explained.


3.     Topical Summary and Explanation

If your child is struggling with memorising mathematical and scientific concepts in school, it could be because he or she is not really learning well from the school’s textbooks. Perhaps, he or she needs another explanation or the content to be presented in a different way. This kind of assessment books then come in handy. They can also be helpful for quick revision right before examinations as textbooks tend to be thicker and with more lengthy explanations, taking more time to revise. For this kind of assessment books, ensure that the syllabus of the book is current and accurate. And, as with the skills-based practices, let your child have a feel of whether he or she likes the way the book presents information.


4.     Mock Examination Papers

This is what every student will find useful in the run-up and preparation for examinations, once they feel that they have a good understanding of most skills and content. Mock examination papers help to check for areas of weaknesses, and thus have a more evaluative purpose. They can also help your child to be more familiar with the examination format, and thus reduce anxiety before the actual examination. Again, check that the mock examination papers are at a standard that is similar to or slightly higher than the actual standard so that your child is practising effectively. And to maximise the practice, time your child’s attempt, and review areas that need clarification, extra attention or practice.


In conclusion, every child can benefit from one or more assessment books to enhance learning. Working on these assessment books should not feel like a burden to your child, since they should help him or her to become more confident in learning. Thus spending the time to truly understand the right kind of assessment books your child needs will be the most important thing you can do before buying them, not just because every other parent is doing it.