There has been much debate about the Direct School Admission (DSA) exercise over the years.
Last year, the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced that from 2018 onwards, schools will no longer use tests that evaluate general academic ability for the DSA. This means that schools will pay more attention to students' talents in sports and the arts rather than just considering academic grades.
If you have a Primary 6 child this year, we know you may be anxious about your child's DSA preparation, especially when it pertains to the DSA interviews.
In this article, we will be looking at the Direct School Admission – Secondary (DSA-Sec) exercise and five effective tips your child can use to craft impressive answers and responses at his or her DSA interview(s).
Understanding how The DSA programme works
The DSA-Sec programme offers successful applicants the chance to secure a place in secondary school ahead of the Secondary One posting on the basis of talents and achievements that may not be reflected in the outcome of the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).
Once the application period is over, schools will proceed to the selection process, where applicants who have been shortlisted may be asked to attend camps or interviews at the DSA-Sec school. Much like how companies conduct job interviews, schools use these camps and interviews to get to know candidates better and determine if they are suitable for the school.
After all, every school wants students who can value-add to their niche areas. It is thus paramount that your child uses these interviews to make a lasting impression that distinguishes him or her from the rest of the candidates.
For most 12-year-olds, the DSA interview would possibly be the very first formal interview experience. It can be intimidating and that's why your support is critical.
One of the best ways to get your child ready for the interview is by going through common interview questions with him or her. Ample practice will help your child to be more confident.
The types of DSA interview questions are endless but we have broken down the more commonly asked questions into three main sections:
i. Questions about self
ii. Questions about the school and programme
iii. Questions about one’s academic track record
To help your child breeze through some of the tough questions that he or she might encounter during the DSA interview, Ms Eunice Fu, English teacher at The Learning Lab, recommends five useful pointers below.
1. Organise Your Answers
For questions about self, your child's interviewer may begin with introductory ones such as, "How do you spend your free time?" or a harder question like, "What sets you apart from other applicants?"
When sharing about his or her past times and favourite activities, your child may have a number of things to share. It is therefore important for your child to organise his or her thoughts because a well-structured answer reflects coherence and composure.
Your child may want to try giving responses like, “I like spending my free time playing real-time strategy games because I think these games are both informative and fun. Real-time strategy games teach me the importance of strategising my resources and setting my priorities. In addition, I am exposed to risk management as I have to be able to manage and take risks in order to be successful in such a game.”
What makes the above response great is the level of maturity your child showcases. The answer demonstrates your child's ability to:
i. see that even a fun activity such as video games can be productive in honing a real skill
ii. analyse the benefits of playing games and why it value adds to his or her character
Additional tip: Avoid rambling answers or responses that are too brief!
When your child gives a long, unstructured answer, it may signal to the interviewer that he or she does not have a clear train of thought. On the other hand, giving answers that are too brief may give the impression that your child has not think through his or her answers or is unable to substantiate his or her point.
2. Share Personal Experiences
One way your child can captivate interviewers is by boosting his or her answer with personal anecdotes. Remember to encourage your child to let his or her personality shine!
Your child's thoughts, feelings and opinions are unique. When he or she shares personal stories and experiences, it makes him or her more memorable to the interviewer and shows originality.
Based on her experience, Ms Fu shares, "I once had a student who shared about his love for swimming during his free time. He shared that he found this activity particularly enjoyable not only because it was a relaxing breather from hitting the books but also because it was a constant reminder of how he had faced his irrational fear of there being a shark in the water.
Three years have passed and I still remember this boy fondly — a boy who struggled with and overcame a fear I once struggled with too, and I am sure I am not alone in this!"
3. Give Honest Responses
Tackling questions about the school your child has applied for and the programmes the school offers can be tricky.
Interviewers may ask your child questions ranging from, "Why do you want to enrol into our school?" to the sweat-inducing, "Have you applied to other schools? If so, why are you applying to our school?"
When responding to such questions, it is important for your child to be honest. Your child need not worry about sounding indecisive or uncertain about his or her interest if his or her answer is a "Yes, I have applied to other schools" for the latter question.
Your child should further support his or her answer with a reason such as, “In addition to applying to your school, I did apply to School Y as well. I applied to School Y because it has a strong robotics team and apart from my passion in sport Z, a niche sport in your school, robotics is another interest that I would be keen to develop further.”
More often than not, interviewers are aware of such cases and appreciate an honest answer — your child will be not be penalised for applying to other schools. What is more important is the way your child communicates the reason behind his or her decision and why the schools are valuable to him or her in each of their own ways.
4. Provide Clear Explanations
In some cases, a student's reason for applying to more than one school may be similar. If your child faces this situation, he or she may be anxious about how to respond in a convincing and honest manner.
In this situation, your child should focus on giving an answer that clearly substantiates why he or she is as keen or even more interested in entering the school he or she is being interviewed for.
Your child could respond as such, “Yes, in addition to applying to your school, I did apply to School Y as well. I applied to School Y because it also has a strong team in sport Z. However, I have a friend who was from your school and he always shared positive experiences of his time in his team, having enthused over and over again about the nurturing coaches he had during his school days. Convinced by the rewarding experiences that my friend has gained, I am sure about my decision in entering your school.”
Such an answer clearly shows your child's reasons for applying to the school. In fact, what makes the answer above noteworthy is the positive impression it creates of your child: the interviewer will be able to see your child's genuine interest in the school as he or has taken the effort to really find out about the school's sport team — about its coach and the type of experiences he or she could gain from being on the school's team.
5. Be Confident
Last but not least, interviewers may pose various questions to delve further into the your child's personality traits and achievements.
The questions in this section tend to include those along the lines of, "Other than your academic record, what have you done to demonstrate your strengths?"
With these types of questions, interviewers look out for confident answers where students express their thoughts and opinions in an articulate manner. Your child should not be shy about sharing how well he or she has done in school and showcase his or her drive and tenacity to improve in multiple areas (academic and non-academic).
If your child has strong leadership capabilities, records of his or her holding key leadership positions, like Head Prefect, should be highlighted during the interview. Your child can share testimonials from his or her school and even submit recommendation letters from teachers to boost his or her chances of being accepted into the desired school.
Is your child feel ready for the DSA?
Tackling the DSA interview is just one part of your child's DSA journey.
To help ensure that your child is on the right track, we have put together a simple and useful DSA checklist for you and your child. Click here or the link below to download our DSA checklist for your child!
We've got a community of readers who would love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to share tips on the DSA and your own experience with fellow parents in the comments section below.
If you have any enquiries about our programmes, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 6733 8711 and we will be happy to assist you.