2018 PSLE Science Paper ~ The Prickly Adaptation Question


Adaptations is one of the more challenging topics in PSLE Science. In school, students are taught characteristics of selected organisms as examples, and thereafter expected to distil some broad principles from those examples and apply that knowledge in a wide variety of situations.

Ask your P6 child to try the question below.

Which of the following feature(s) would most likely be found in plants growing in a hot and dry place?

A swollen stems

B short roots

C broad leaves

(1) A only

(2) B only

(3) A and C only

(4) B and C only

Mention "hot and dry place" and "plant", and desert and cactus immediately comes to mind. The logical next step then would be to check off the listed features against our mental image of a cactus.

A. Do they have swollen stems?

Yes, cacti are almost always corpulent. Even if students did not know that the stems are swollen because they store water, they can infer that it must an adaptation for surviving in a hot and dry place because it is a feature common to cacti.

Check.

B. Do they have short roots?

Unless you are a botanist, you're unlikely to have seen the roots of a cactus. Students do know however, that the function of roots is to absorb water, and that short roots is as helpful to a cactus as short legs are to a basketballer.

Cross.

Do they have broad leaves?

Now, this question would probably get some students scratching their heads. Where are the leaves on a cactus?! Unless they have been taught this in school or read it somewhere, few would have guessed that the 'spines' are actually the modified leaves of a cactus. In fact, it is not uncommon for students to mistake the stems (which are broad and green) as leaves.

For those who did not already know this, they would have to apply their knowledge regarding evaporation from the topic Water). They would have to recall, that amongst other factors, exposed surface area affects the rate of evaporation. From this, they can deduce that broad leaves will have a higher rate of evaporation and lose more water than narrow leaves.

Cross.

So the answer is 1.

What is the lesson here?

Reading widely (or beyond the scope of PSLE Science) is helpful for the topic of adaptation! Students who have read widely would have knowledge would come in handy for questions like these, and would not have to, during the exam, make certain assumptions or try to infer conclusions purely from information given in the question.

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