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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.

LEARN MORE ABOUT DSA PROGRAMMES

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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? 

Contact us to find out more!

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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.

Contact us to find out more!

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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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