There has always been a certain urge to be able to read people’s minds; to find out exactly what they want, how they react, and why they react a certain way. This fantasy holds true for many kinds of people, parents to children (and vice versa), employees to employers (again a mutual want) and finally, applicants to interviewers. Consequently, through our extensive experience and research, we have compile five fantastic tips for you to fufill this fantasy, and be a dream applicant to the interviewer holding the key to your dream school.

  1. YOU

It may seem obvious, but often what happens is that an applicant will simply list out a list of achievements, hobbies and various community involvements and hope that this will impress the interviewer. But what is important is how what you are saying (or listing) is testament to you as a person: your character, your values and your goals.

For example, instead of saying “I was the captain of the school team”, try phrasing it as “As the captain of the school team, it taught me the importance of being accountable as a leader, the value of teamwork and friendship, and also the ability to manage my time effectively as a captain and a student”.

A personal statement is merely a piece of paper with black ink on it, but what will bring the ink to life, what will make that blackness blossom, is y-o-u.

You put meaning into those words, so do not simply list out what an interviewer can take 5 minutes reading.

  1. Balance

Managing your time effectively was mentioned in the previous point, and this balance is something which will stand you in good stead with the interviewer. It is not about how brilliant your academic results are, or how excellent your CCA record is, or even how commendable your personal qualities may be. Rather it is the management of all three components which will give you the edge. It is no longer about how good you are at doing one thing, but multiple things. And most importantly, it is how you as a student and person are able to transfer and transmute lessons learnt from one part of your life to another.

  1. Confidence

The secret of presenting yourself: it is not about what you say, but the way you say it. Confidence is key to building a good impression and most pertinently,  it is one thing to sound confident when you are speaking about your numerous achievements and qualities as a person, but it is another to continue to sound and appear confident when faced with a difficult question such as “What are your weaknesses?”

Confidence therefore, not content, nor charm will be the key.

  1. Potential

No, we are not simply talking about academic potential, but simply, the potential for growth as a person. Your weaknesses, for example, should not be stumbling blocks but stepping stones in your journey as a student and as an individual. Interviewers will be looking not for students whose flame is burning brightly now, but for students whose flame will continue to burn, even get brighter over the course of the next few years. After all, getting into a secondary school of your choice is not a one-time acceptance, but a 4-year journey. And it is the journey, not the joining that counts.

  1. Your file

This may seem a little left-field, but the way your file with all your certificates is arranged when you present it to the interviewer does say quite a lot about you. For that matter, that bag which you take that file out of also counts. A neat, crumple-free file and bag shows effort, and also is reflective of you as a student and person. It would be a shame to deliver a brilliant interview only to be let down by your mediocre dossier. The small, seemingly insignificant things count as well.

From the obvious, to the obscure, this is just a little sneak peek into what goes on in the minds of  interviewers. In conclusion though, do not think too much about what they want, because it would seem robotic and scripted. Rather, after you have understood their requirements, it is about working on yourself, and delivering the best snippets of who you are within the time allocated to you. And if you do manage to keep the interviewers back even longer, then all the better for you!



We believe that anyone who applies for a Direct School Admissions (DSA) place has the ability to go all the way, but unfortunately, there are so many more worthy applicants than available places. Thus, it will not be down to the major things, such as achievements, attitude, or even attire, that will be the difference, but your words. And we are not talking about descriptions, stories, or even phrases. Rather single, specific but significant words that could make or break your DSA Interview.

1. Challenge vs Obstacle

A good applicant would phrase his weaker points positively so that it will show his potential to learn, to grow and to change. However, in describing this particular this particular area of improvement that you wish to point out as a “challenge” rather than an “obstacle” can make a definite difference. Challenge has a more positive connotation, indicating that this is a problem you acknowledge but you are willing to face head on, a personal challenge so to speak. Obstacle, however, tends to have a more negative connotation, much like meeting a wall, or a stumbling block, something are still figuring how best to face. Thus, be careful with your choice of words, and in this case, the word “challenge” will be a much better way to describe your potential areas for improvement rather than “obstacle”. At this level, it is the minor things that will have the most major impact.

2. “…of course I have”

During the interview, your interviewer might ask you if you have done any extra curricular activities or participated in any community involvement programmes, to which you might answer with apparent pride…”of course I have”. Unfortunately, that pride could be the point where it all starts to go wrong, as these four words suggest that the interviewer was wasting his or her breath asking you that question, and that it may seem belittling. If you make the interviewer feel this way, chances are it will not reflect well on you as a person, where pride turns to arrogance and cockiness. In this situation, it would be far more appropriate to answer with a simple “Yes” and go on to list your undertakings and what you have learnt from them. Just remember this, there is a fine line to taking pride that others know what you have achieved, and taking pride in making sure  others  know what you have achieved.

3. “…you know”

Some people will tell you that pause fillers are a no-no to ace your interviews, and although we largely agree, we feel that some pause fillers are much worse than others. While you perhaps may be excused with one or two “umms”, the pause filler “…you know” is probably one of the worst you could ever employ. It seems to happen almost casually, you spend a second longer than you would have liked thinking of your reply, so in an attempt to re-establish a connection between the interviewer and yourself, you say “Well, actually, you know…”

Unfortunately, those two words may make you lose that connection dramatically, especially if you use it more than once. As with point 2, using “you know” belittles the interviewer, and makes it appear that you know more than him or her, and this could create tension which you do not want, especially since the interviewer will probably be a senior teacher.

4. Singlish / Colloquialism vs Standard English

Although we feel that Singlish does have its place in our culture and society and should be embraced more than it currently is, the fact remains that Singlish’s place in our lives does not extend to interviews. The importance of using standard English in interviews cannot be re-emphasised. As a young individual, a true mark of your growth and maturity would be acquiring the ability to balance and tailor the use of English and Singlish based on different contexts and situations, and interviews are a great first step for you to do that.

5. Nice vs Stunning vs Pulchritudinous

An extensive vocabulary will earmark you as one to watch in the interviews. The word nice is just simply– a nice word, one that satisfies a lot of descriptive criteria but fails to dazzle or inspire. Thus, try not to use the word nice to describe a lesson or experience as it signals a lack of imagination or breadth. However, the tendency to take this extensive vocabulary too far, hence the word pulchritudinous, which is a flowery word for nice, could have an alienating rather than appreciative effect. Again, it is all about finding the balance of words, and although it is great that you have such a wide-reaching vocabulary, there is a time and place to showcase it.

In conclusion, no matter how dazzling your clothes are, it will only hold its beauty by the strength and choice of the weave of its threads. Similarly, no matter how greatly and confidently you present yourself at an interview, your image will always be supported by the words you use and how you use them.

In the ever-increasing competitiveness of the DSA arena, let not your chances be unraveled or torn by a careless stitch in your story.

Make A Statement Even Before the DSA Interview

Here are some simple and interesting tips to help you gain that extra edge for that big Direct School Admissions Interview!

  1. Arrive around half an hour before your timeslot. That way, you will have time to compose yourself and appear calm and composed, not sweaty and shaken once your interview begins.
  2.  Bring an interesting book or magazine to read while waiting, for books tell a great deal about a person and what their interests are.
  3.  Grooming is everything – make sure your hair is neat, fingernails are clean and your outfit and shoes look presentable.
  4.  Mints always come in handy just to ensure that you do not let your interviewers know what you had for lunch.
  5.  If you are bringing along your bag, make sure that its contents are neatly packed and filed (no crumpled papers and files everywhere), and that the exterior of your bag is clean too. This will make you appear organised rather than in dire need of organisation.

Gain an Extra Edge for an Exemplary DSA Interview

Nobody plans to fail, but most fail to plan.

How do you help your child prepare for the dreaded Direct Schools Admissions Interview? Read on to find out:

  1. Find out more about the respective schools’ background, values and ethos, especially pertaining to the areas you wish to apply for.
  2. Focus not on what why you want to join the school, but on why the school would want to have you join them.
  3. When you bring up your past leadership positions or awards and achievements, it is not how significant the position or achievement is, but how much significance it has had on your growth as a person.
  4. Show the school that you do not simply excel in your area of interest, but that you can balance it well with your studies as well.
  5. Ultimately, the key is being yourself – that you are more than simply the  dossier that you submitted for review, that the inky descriptions do not merely stay immobile on those placid pieces of paper.

Does it Pay to Send Your Child for Coaching?

Picture from MediaCorpp

MediaCorp Channel 8 and XinMSN ran a news report on coaching and training, which also covered the subject of Direct Schools Admissions.

Watch it at this here:

Article in Mandarin




Editor’s Note: We’ve received a great deal of requests for contacts of coaching providers.

Speak! Ventures is one of the most established companies in Singapore, specialising in Strategic Speaking Skills. They have been in the market providing DSA Interview Coaching Services since 2009 and have helped a great number of students succeed at schools such as RI, HCI, NYGH,  RGS and RVHS.

Get in touch with them on their website at http://www.speak-ventures.com