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Insider’s Story on Direct School Admission (DSA): 

Part 3  Direct School Admission Interview Top Secret 

The DSA interview may seem daunting at first, but with preparation and confidence, your child should be able to ace it.

Q1. Does every school require interviews?

  • Not all schools will require interviews. There are other means of assessing your child’s suitability, such as admission tests and camps.
  • There are two types of interviews: the solo interview and the group interview.

Q2. What are some interview questions to expect?

  • You can expect routine questions
    • the applicant’s strengths, weaknesses, personality
    • the applicant’s portfolio/academic track record/achievements
    • the applicant’s potential to contribute to the DSA school based on applicant’s experience and opinions
    • the school’s programmes and motivation for choosing the school
  • Non-routine questions
  • the applicant’s reasoning process
  • the applicant’s ability to think on the spot and handle surprise
  • General knowledge, current affairs question
  • Questions about general knowledge and whether applicant can apply them
  • Questions about social issues and current affairs
  • (For group interviews) Interviewers also look out for the interactions between the applicants and problem-solving skills.

Q3. If my child applied DSA based on his or her exceptional talent in mathematics, will there be math theory related interview questions?

  • This would depend on the school. Some applicants were asked math-related interview questions. However, some were asked about current affairs issues that were not related to math.

Q4. What do interviewers expect from their applicants?

  • Interviewers may be looking out for: strong communication skills, confidence, ability to adapt to unexpected events and whether applicant can value-add to the domain he or she specialises in.
  • Body language is also important: your child should sit up straight, maintain the right posture and maintain eye contact with interviewer.

Q5. In a group interview, how vocal/outspoken my child should be?

  • when it is your child’s turn, he or she should answer with confidence.
  • When it is not your child’s turn, do not attempt to answer the question unless the student cannot handle the question and the interviewer has indicated the rest of the students in the room can answer.
  • Being overly aggressive may create the impression that your child is not a team player.

Q6. How can we prepare our child for the interview?

  • For routine questions:
    • Draft a short pitch and get your child to memorise.
    • Keep practicing until it becomes natural.
    • Don’t focus on something too cliché or common. For example, many applicants do play the piano or have activities such swimming. Instead of providing too much details about your general achievements, you should highlight something unique about you to distinguish yourself from others.
    • For non-routine questions:
    • Exposure to current affairs is crucial. You can engage your child in current affairs by having light conversations over dinner or reading newspaper articles with them.

Q7. Do we need to enrol our child for any special DSA preparation programmes found in the tuition centres?

Gifted and Talented Education offers programmes such as Classroom to Boardroom which focuses on communication skills and critical reasoning process. We also conduct DSA interview camps to help students manage the interview process effectively.  The DSA Interview is likely to be the first interview in your child’s life.  Sufficient preparation and warm up exercises will make a huge difference.

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The DSA interview may seem daunting at first, but with preparation and confidence, your child should be able to ace it.

Q1. Does every school require interviews?

  • Not all schools will require interviews. There are other means of assessing your child’s suitability, such as admission tests and camps.
  • There are two types of interviews: the solo interview and the group interview.

Q2. What are some interview questions to expect?

– You can expect routine questions

    • the applicant’s strengths, weaknesses, personality
    • the applicant’s portfolio/academic track record/achievements
    • the applicant’s potential to contribute to the DSA school based on applicant’s experience and opinions
    • the school’s programmes and motivation for choosing the school

– Non-routine questions

      • the applicant’s reasoning process
      • the applicant’s ability to think on the spot and handle surprise
      • General knowledge, current affairs question
      • Questions about general knowledge and whether applicant can apply them
      • Questions about social issues and current affairs
      • (For group interviews) Interviewers also look out for the interactions between the applicants and problem-solving skills.

Q3. If my child applied DSA based on his or her exceptional talent in mathematics, will there be math theory related interview questions?

  • This would depend on the school. Some applicants were asked math-related interview questions. However, some were asked about current affairs issues that were not related to math.

Q4. What do interviewers expect from their applicants?

  • Interviewers may be looking out for: strong communication skills, confidence, ability to adapt to unexpected events and whether applicant can value-add to the domain he or she specialises in.
  • Body language is also important: your child should sit up straight, maintain the right posture and maintain eye contact with interviewer.

Q5. In a group interview, how vocal/outspoken my child should be?

  • when it is your child’s turn, he or she should answer with confidence.
  • When it is not your child’s turn, do not attempt to answer the question unless the student cannot handle the question and the interviewer has indicated the rest of the students in the room can answer.
  • Being overly aggressive may create the impression that your child is not a team player.

Q6. How can we prepare our child for the interview?

– For routine questions:

    • Draft a short pitch and get your child to memorise.
    • Keep practicing until it becomes natural.
    • Don’t focus on something too cliché or common. For example, many applicants do play the piano or have activities such swimming. Instead of providing too much details about your general achievements, you should highlight something unique about you to distinguish yourself from others.

– For non-routine questions:

    • Exposure to current affairs is crucial. You can engage your child in current affairs by having light conversations over dinner or reading newspaper articles with them.

Q7. Do we need to enrol our child for any special DSA preparation programmes found in the tuition centres?

Gifted and Talented Education offers programmes such as Classroom to Boardroom which focuses on communication skills and critical reasoning process. We also conduct DSA interview camps to help students manage the interview process effectively.  The DSA Interview is likely to be the first interview in your child’s life.  Sufficient preparation and warm up exercises will make a huge difference.

DSA interview Question bank

Group A questions 

Routine questions about the applicant’s strengths, weaknesses, personality, related to the profile of the applicant

  • What is one of your best characteristics? 
  • Why are you special? 
  • Describe yourself. 
  • What are your hobbies?  
  • What was the last book you read? 

 The applicant’s portfolio/academic track record/achievements 

  • What is the achievement that you are most proud of? 
  • What projects have you done in primary school, and which one are you proud of? 

 The applicant’s potential to contribute to the DSA school based on applicant’s experience and opinions  

  • How do you think our school can support your interests? 
  • How do you manage your time if you have frequent school trainings (for sports/music DSA)? 
  • Would you compromise on your interests or passion because of a busy study schedule? 
  • What is the math theory which interest you the most (for Mathematics DSA)? 
  • What are the changes would you like to see to the science curriculum? (for Science DSA)? 
  • Are there any events or people you remember the most during your 3 to 6 years of CCA? 
  • The school’s programmes and motivation for choosing the school 
  • Why should we choose you for DSA? 
  • Why do you like to play Badminton/tennis…? (for Sports DSA) 

Group B Questions 

Non-routine questions about the applicant’s reasoning process and the applicant’s ability to think on the spot and handle surprise 

  • If you are the Prime Minister of Singapore, what will you do to make this country better? 
  • If you are only allowed to bring one item to Mars, what will you bring? 
  • Which part of a car would you like to be and why? 
  • Look around the room and find something that best describes you.  

Group C Questions 

General knowledge, current affairs questions; Questions about general knowledge and whether applicant can apply them 

Questions about social issues and currents affairs  

  • Is there any discrimination in Singapore? If you are the Prime Minister what will you do to prevent discrimination? 
  • What do you think about education system in Singapore? 
  • What makes you proud of living in Singapore? 
  • How do you look at the news of MRT breakdowns? 

(For group interviews) Questions related to teamwork. Interviewers also look out for the interactions between the applicants and problem-solving skills. 

  • Who should we choose out of all the applicants in this room? 
  • Is your primary school the best? 

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Background information on Direct School Admission (DSA)

Started in 2004, the Direct School Admission (DSA) is a process allowing students to apply for admission to secondary schools of their choice. This is an entirely discretionary process based on the admission criteria of the school that your child has applied for.

The domains targeted for DSA are sports, music, languages and humanities, leadership, academic talent, visual arts, design and media.

What are the IP schools?

Most parents will only target the top Integrated Program (IP) schools for DSA, though there are many other secondary schools that offer DSA.

IP schools offer a 6-years through train programme, bypassing O’levels. By the end of the 6th year, students will either take the A’levels or International Baccalaureate (IB), depending on what their school offers them. In NUS High School of Maths and Science, students will receive a high school diploma.

What are the top choices of DSA schools?

These are some of the DSA schools:

SchoolJCQualification Attained
Hwa Chong Institution
Nanyang Girls’ High School
Hwa Chong InstitutionA-Level
NUS High SchoolNUS High SchoolNUS High School Diploma
Methodist Girls’ School
Anglo Chinese School (Independent)
Anglo Chinese School (Independent)International Baccalaureate Diploma (Dual Track Offered)
Dunman High SchoolDunman High SchoolA-Level
Cedar Girls’ Secondary School
Victoria School
Victoria Junior CollegeA-Level (Dual Track Offered)
National Junior CollegeNational Junior CollegeA-Level
River Valley High SchoolRiver Valley High SchoolA-Level
Temasek Junior College
Temasek Junior CollegeA-Level
St Joseph’s InstitutionSt Joseph’s InstitutionInternational Baccalaureate Diploma (Dual Track Offered)
DSA Quota increased?

Each secondary school is mandated to have a minimum quota of students admitted through DSA. This makes sure that the MOE is not merely paying lip-service to the idea of allowing students admission to secondary schools based on their non-academic merits. However, DSA to the top schools is getting more and more competitive. While the number of DSA spots has increased for all secondary schools, intake via DSA to the top schools has faced a declining trend.

What are the different domains that can be used for DSA?

The DSA focuses on the child’s talents in a specific domain, or area of achievements.

Broadly, there are three fields:
1) Sports, music and art
2) Leadership
3) Academic talent

How hard is it for students to get to the top schools via DSA?

The top schools are really tough.  For the sports domain, the child needs to be in his or her school team at a competitive level, have demonstrated great success and ideally have attained a national ranking.

For the music domain, students who play popular instruments such as violin and piano may face more competition. This is because more students who play these instruments will apply for DSA compared to less common instruments such as cello. If there are no vacancies, the child may not be successful in his or her application. Performances at the school orchestra or national level are highly valued as well.

What is Academic Talent? School Results?

For the academic domain, academic talent does not refer to scoring well in examinations or doing well in PSLE. For Maths and Science, schools are looking for students who demonstrated exceeding potential to do well in Secondary school and have achievements in Maths or Science Olympiads.

Some schools also look for bilingual talents who can speak and use two languages with native competency. For English, students may need to have achievements such as doing well in debate and writing competitions.

Some students may be talented in the STEM field, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. With achievements in robotics and engineering projects, these students might stand a chance as well.

What are the pros and cons of DSA?
Pros:
  • Students with middling academic results can have an opportunity to attend some of the best secondary schools in Singapore through DSA. This is especially so for students who are very talented in one domain (such as sports), but weak at others (such as languages).
  • There is less pressure for PSLE, since the students who are successful in their DSA application need to only qualify for the Express Stream.
  • Late developers with special talents but just can’t do well for PSLE can benefit from DSA. For example, they may not do well in the structured PSLE science examination but yet do extremely well for NUS High School’s admission test. This is because the PSLE science examination places emphasis on memorisation of key words and phrases, which require drill and practice.
Cons:
  • DSA is a long-term commitment, once they have enrolled in the school, they are not allowed to change schools. For example, once they are admitted to Raffles Institution, they are not allowed to change to Hwa Chong Institution by the end of their 4th year and have to continue at Raffles Junior College.
  • For students who got in through sports, music or art, they are not allowed to change their CCAs.
  • Some students who go in through sports, music or art, may lag further behind academically as they are not able to cope of the academic demands of their schools.
  • Students may become complacent if they receive a confirmed offer and as a result. Constant supervision and monitoring from parents may be required as some children may think that since they are going to the schools of their choice, they do not have to study anymore.
  • For children who get rejected or are not able to get into the school of their choice, they may become very disheartened and feel that their talents are not being recognized.

In the next blog post, we will delve into the DSA selection process and share the top DSA interview tips.  More information on building the portfolio of your child and how to prepare for DSA will be given.

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“Since gifted children are so smart, they can succeed without help”.

This is just one of the many myths surrounding gifted children. You’d be surprised by the number of mistaken and prejudiced views that still exist today about intellectually gifted children and their needs.

So let’s take a look at some of these myths and misconceptions and tackle them one by one:

Myth 1: Since gifted children are already so smart, they can surely succeed without help.

Ironically, it’s the opposite that is true.

According to an article in Psychology Today, giftedness does not guarantee success; in fact, the world is full of gifted failures (Taylor, 2009, para. 1).

Firstly, if your gifted child achieves success at an early age, and is not taught to work hard for his success, he will not be able to connect effort with outcome, and thus cannot take pride in his success. He may also develop the mistaken and dangerous belief that he will always succeed in the future without putting in effort (Taylor, 2009, para. 3).

Talented athletes still need proper coaching to maximize their potential. Joseph Schooling showed great aptitude for swimming. But he would not have won the Olympic goal if he hadn’t trained with skilled coaches.

In the same way, your gifted child will need guidance from well-trained teachers who can challenge and support him to fully develop his abilities.

If your gifted child is not coached and guided in the principles of hard work, patience and discipline, he will be in for a rude shock later on in life when he reaches a level of learning where everyone in his class is equally gifted (for example, in an Ivy League University or an advanced research programme).   At this point, he will find his giftedness is no longer sufficient to be successful.   What separates a child who is gifted from another who is gifted and successful is whether he possesses the perseverance and disciplinary skills to maximize his gifts (Taylor, 2009, para. 5 & 6).

A gifted student who does not receive proper guidance can get bored, frustrated and develop poor discipline and study habits.

Myth 2; All children are gifted

All children are gifts but not all children are gifted in an intellectual sense. Most will be on the same level academically as their peers. To be considered intellectually gifted, your child will have to have the advanced capability to learn and then apply what she knows at a level way beyond her years.

This advanced capacity requires modifications to the regular curriculum to ensure she is challenged in education and gets to learn new material at a pace that will match her ability. Gifted does not imply good or better; it is a term that allows students to be identified for educational programmes that meet their unique learning needs.

In the next blog post, we will discuss on more myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings about gifted kids. Subscribe to our mailing list for more blogs about gifted education!

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Written by Gifted and Talented Education Pte Ltd
www.gifted-school.com
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Should you send your child for an IQ test?

If you feel the need for another unbiased opinion regarding your child’s ability, you can opt to send him or her for a professional assessment. Or if you suspect your child has behavioural concerns or a learning problem, you should take him or her to see a qualified psychologist. Your child may be twice exceptional; gifted but has a learning issue with social development.

Before sending your child for testing, do keep the following pointers in mind:

  1. Make sure it is a registered clinical psychologist or educational psychologist that is administering the IQ evaluation.
  2. IQ tests together with their accompanying psychological reports are quite costly, around the range of $600 to $1,000 (Singapore dollars).
  3. IQ scores can change. The score you get at a certain point of time is just a `snapshot’ and moving target. Over time, if properly nurtured and with more exposure, IQ can grow by more than ten points!
  4. While a child as young as two years six months can be tested, the best gauge of IQ is between five and nine years of age. When the child is too young, he may not be cooperative and it may result in a higher error.
  5. As the tests are almost always conducted in English, your child will be disadvantaged if English is not his or her first language.

Can you prepare your child for an IQ test?

You cannot prepare your child in the sense of studying for a test or doing past year papers. You can, however, develop your child’s potential. Provide him with as many books as he asks for. Take him to the library. Send him to classes that will improve his visual-spatial reasoning and analytical skills. Remember, IQ is not static but fluid. Given proper nurturing and exposure, it is possible for a child’s IQ to grow by 10 to 20 points!

This possible rise in IQ is called the Flynn Effect and named after James Flynn, an intelligence researcher from New Zealand who discovered that there has been an increase in each successive generation’s average IQ test scores (Flynn, 1987).

Flynn’s research data was gathered from 20 countries including China, Britain and the United States. The results were consistent. IQ test scores were seen to increase over time in all countries without exception! There was an average 10 point increase with each subsequent generation. And this without any form of deliberate intervention.

So imagine the potential increase in IQ for your child if you began nurturing him from young.

 

How useful is an IQ report?

IQ tests can be useful for several reasons. Firstly, it can help you understand your child better. And if you understand your child better, you can make more focussed plans for her education so as to maximise her potential.

Secondly, if the report discovers or confirms some form of learning concern or special need, it gives you the opportunity to arrange for therapy and early intervention. The earlier the issue is discovered, the better the chance your child has to cope and overcome it.

A word of caution: Some parents think an IQ report is a `passport’ or a guaranteed entry to a gifted programme. No, it isn’t. Most international gifted education programmes run their own assessment tests (which cover more than pure IQ) rather than depend solely on IQ reports. IQ is not equal to how well your child will perform during the assessment test.

 

What other ways are there to spot giftedness?

While an IQ evaluation is useful in confirming giftedness, there are other ways to spot giftedness. At the end of the day, an IQ score is just a snapshot of your child’s intelligence at that particular point of time. It can be influenced by subjective factors like your child’s mood during the time of the test, the timing, the place and even his feelings towards the psychologist!

That’s why experts have determined that the most accurate method of spotting giftedness is this: Observation and Experience

 

Observation and Experience by educators

Traits of giftedness in a child are often noticed by teachers, especially those trained in gifted education. Many a parent has said that he was made aware of his child’s giftedness through the teachers of the preschool that his child attends.

The teachers will give feedback on how quickly the child finishes assignments and how they have to give more challenging work so the child doesn’t get bored or how the child is reading a few levels ahead of his classmates or maybe even how the child can seem disruptive but will have completely understood the lesson when questioned.

If you receive such feedback, it may be a sign that your child is gifted.


Observation and Experience by parents

It should come as no surprise because you (and also other caregivers) get to see and interact with your child day in day out, and are very likely to notice any unusual behaviour. In fact, according to Dr Linda Silverman, director of the Gifted Development Center in Colorado, 84% of 1000 children whose parents felt they exhibited three-quarters of the traits from the Characteristics of Giftedness Scale did actually turn out to be intellectually superior or gifted when tested (Silverman, 2012)!

What does this mean? If you suspect your child of being gifted because she has shown many of the traits from the list of characteristics that have been observed in gifted children, there is an 84% chance that she probably is!

In the next blog post, we will share about the myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings about gifted kids. Subscribe to our mailing list for more blogs about gifted education!

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Written by Gifted and Talented Education Pte Ltd
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Is IQ the only sure and tangible proof of intellectual giftedness?

Many parents think the best confirmation of giftedness is through IQ (Intelligence Quotient) tests. This, however, is not completely true. While IQ tests do give a number or score to the child’s intelligence, they are not the only way of spotting a gifted child. We will discuss other more well-rounded methods of determining giftedness in our next blog, but first, let’s take a look at an overview of IQ tests.

 

What is an IQ test like?

There are many different types of IQ tests including Stanford-Binet, Wechsler, Woodcock-Johnson, Raven’s, Kaufman’s and others. They are based on various scales and designed by different institutions. However, the two most internationally recognised tests for children are by Stanford-Binet, known as SB-5 and Wechsler, which goes by the acronym WISC-V or WPPSI-V, which is the version used for pre-schoolers.

 

Stanford-Binet (SB-5)

In 1906, Lewis M. Terman, a psychologist at Stanford University developed the Binet-Simon test (Human Intelligence, 2016). This test went through a series of revisions to eventually become the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales.   The latest version, the fifth, was revised in 2003 and is called SB-5 for short. The advisory panel for the SB5 included experts in the field of gifted education who helped design, test and eliminate or retain subtests.

The test measures five factors of cognitive ability and consists of both verbal and nonverbal subtests (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017):

  1. Fluid Reasoning
  2. Knowledge
  3. Quantitative Reasoning
  4. Visual-Spatial Processing
  5. Working Memory

Test results will show the Full-Scale IQ (FSIQ), nonverbal IQ (NVIQ) and verbal IQ (VIQ).

FSIQ measures general ability to reason, solve problems, and adapt to the cognitive demands of the environment. It reflects five major facets of intelligence, including reasoning, stored information, memory, visualisation, and the ability to solve original problems. The FSIQ is usually an effective predictor of long-term educational attainment, school-based achievement and vocational advancement.

Making sense of the psychologist’s report I

Here is an example (for illustration purpose) of the results of an SB-5 test done on a child, Sarah, age 4 years and 5 months:

Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale 5th Edition (SB-5)

Index scores for Sarah at 4 years and 5 months includes:

*Standard scores have a mean of 100 and standard deviation of 15.

*A percentile signifies the percentage of score expected to fall below the reported score.

*The 95% confidence interval indicates a 95 % likelihood that an individual’s true score falls within the band of score reported.

*It’s a fictional report for illustration purpose

As can be seen from the results, Sarah’s FSIQ of 134 puts her in the 99 percentile and the `Superior-Gifted’ range.

 

WISC-V or WPPSI-V

Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children or WISC-V for short is the other internationally recognised IQ test. It was developed by David Wechsler in 1949, and the latest version which was developed in 2014, is the fifth edition (hence the `V’).

Children ages two years and six months to seven years and seven months are tested with the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI) (Pearson, 2017).

Like SB-5, WISC-V also measures five factors:

  1. Verbal Comprehension Index (VCI)
  2. Visual Spatial Index (VSI)
  3. Fluid Reasoning Index (FRI)
  4. Working Memory Index (WMI)
  5. Processing Speed Index (PSI)

Each index above requires two subtests; thus, a total of 10 subtests are needed for all 5 indexes. And the Full-Scale IQ (FSIQ) is derived from 7 of the 10 subtests: Both Verbal Comprehension subtests, one Visual Spatial subtest, two Fluid Reasoning subtests, one Working Memory subtest, and one Processing Speed subtest.

In the next blog post, we will address concerns if there is a need to send your kid for an IQ test and how useful will the IQ report be. We will also be sharing some pointers you can look out for towards spotting giftedness in your kid!

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Written by Gifted and Talented Education Pte Ltd
www.gifted-school.com
Copyright © Gifted and Talented Education
All content is subjected to copyright and not to be reproduced or republished.
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