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What is the selection process for GEP? Is it reliable? If my child has a high IQ, will he/she pass the test? What can parents do to prepare their children for the test? Any past year papers?
Blog: The Story of GEP (Part 1)
The Gifted Education Programme (GEP) was started in 1984 in order to have a differentiated curriculum for gifted students and create an environment suitable for teaching gifted students. Since then it has caused much anxiety in parents who have many queries about this program. Here are some of the most frequent questions regarding the GEP:
What is the selection process for GEP?
Screening assessment for gifted elementary students is conducted by the Ministry of Education. The GEP selection consists of two rounds of stringent tests. All primary three students are invited to take the first round of tests which are typically held in August. The second selection test will be held in October for pupils who managed to clear the first round.
The first round assesses the child’s
- English language skills which involves a high level of general knowledge and critical reading skills
- Mathematical Reasoning which tests the child problem solving skills and ability to solve novel problems.
The second round assesses the child’s suitability for the GEP. The child will need to display exemplary English and Mathematical abilities. For English, the test questions cover areas such as verbal relationships, sensitivity towards words, analogies, etc. For Mathematics, the child’s spatial, visual and logical skills will be tested.
Is the GEP selection process reliable?
The two rounds of tests are designed to identify intellectually gifted students who are suitable for the gifted program and are considered very reliable based on our experience.
My child has undergone a psychometric test and has a very high IQ. What are his or her chances of getting into the GEP?
The GEP selection process is multi-faceted and is NOT the same as an IQ test. IQ is just one indicator. There is no guarantee that your child will be able to get into the GEP just because he or she has a high IQ. The GEP tests are crafted to also suss out other factors such as your child’s self-learning capability, English ability and whether he or she is the right `fit’ for the program. IQ and strong academic results are no guarantee of being selected for the GEP.
Who then, might be intellectually gifted but unable to qualify for the GEP?
As English language testing forms a component of the GEP selection process, pupils with poor English skills may not qualify. This is seen in students who may have no problems with gifted math but who may struggle with English because it is not their first language.
If IQ is not the be all and end all of getting into GEP, what types of pupils are able to get into the GEP?
GATE has looked into the profiles of pupils who have managed to qualify for GEP and identified two groups.
The first group consists of high achievers who display excellence in all domains of their lives. They are driven, highly-intellectual and able to succeed in school, be it academically, or otherwise.
The second group is what we call the dreamers. This group of pupils may have inconsistent or average results but display exceptional proficiency in the areas they are passionate about. Perhaps they are gifted in visual spatial reasoning, voracious readers, dabble in number theories or are highly creative and innovative.
If my child’s academic performance is always average in class, does he have a chance to get into the GEP?
Some students may not be the top academic scorers in their schools but may be chosen for the GEP. Why is this so? Because some intellectually gifted children are not interested in topping their school exams. They see the pursuit of knowledge as an end in itself and not the means for obtaining good test results.
What can parents do to prepare their children for the GEP selection tests?
This answer may come as a surprise, but in short, the answer is: nobody can prepare a student to pass the GEP test if the child is not intellectually gifted.
What do we mean? Well, there is a misconception regarding the GEP selection test. The test is designed to identify the top 1% intellectually gifted children. Parents believe that the child can prepare for the selection process. However, the test is highly reliable and accurately identifies this group of children. If your child is exceptionally gifted, one thing that needs to be done is to ‘unlock’ the child’s potential through a differentiated curriculum that maximizes your child’s exposure to cognitive and reasoning skills. Early exposure to a differentiated curriculum will unleash the potential of a gifted child to the fullest.
There must be some way for us to prepare our child for the test. Do you have any suggestions?
Exposure is the key. An extensive vocabulary and critical reading skills such as predicting and inferring can be built up by getting your child immersed in the world of books. Spatial-visual exercises also improve your child’s logical reasoning. The daily activities that the child does at home are not exactly preparation for any examinations or enrolment tests but part of a long process of learning. Therefore making your child enjoy learning every day is paramount to his or her success. An enrichment programme which is catered to high ability learners with a focus on critical reasoning skills can be beneficial to the gifted children.
Are there any past year questions or papers that we can let our child attempt before going for the selection tests?
The questions in the selection tests are not released to the public. Test information is strictly confidential.
As mentioned, there are ways to build the critical reasoning skills in your children through a structured and well-planned curriculum. As the child develops intellectually and his or her thirst for knowledge is quenched, he or she will naturally excel academically. We believe that every gifted child can be nurtured for success. However, it should not be through hothousing preparatory classes and overloading them with information.
Should I let my child learn more advanced maths topics for upper primary students or do more vocabulary worksheets to prepare for the GEP selection process?
The GEP tests only require knowledge of mathematics topics found in the primary 3 math syllabus. Knowledge of advanced maths topics will not aid your child in the selection process. The test focuses on complex problem-solving skills. Vocabulary worksheets that you will normally find in assessment books will not be especially useful for the test as pupils are expected to be able to understand vocabulary used in context and display critical reading skills.
My child passed the first test but did not clear the second test. What can I do for my child since he or she failed to get into the GEP?
If your child did not make it for the GEP, it does not mean that your child is not bright or lack any intellectual ability. Your child is still in the top 2% to 10% category of high ability learners which require differentiated curriculum. There are many other options available to your child.
For high ability children, they can join high-ability classes in schools (many primary schools have high ability classes, or subject-based high ability classes). There are also ample opportunities for your child to study a subject at a high level. Don’t be disappointed or lose hope as your child will still be exposed to the curriculum he or she needs.
Other burning questions that you might have:
Are there pupils who managed to qualify for the GEP, but do not enrol in the end?
Every year, there are parents who choose to not let their child enrol in the GEP for a number of reasons.
For many years, students who enrol in the GEP need not depend solely on PSLE scores to go to secondary school. However, in recent years, many GEP students need their PSLE scores for admission to their dream secondary school. As a result, some parents feel that there is no difference between the GEP and mainstream program and choose to let them continue in a mainstream school. At GATE, we do not think it is a wise decision to link the GEP to PSLE. The GEP is a special education programme to stimulate and inspire gifted learners. It should not be treated as the shortcut to a top secondary school.
Others may worry that their child may not be able to adapt to a new school environment. Some feel that the GEP schools are too far away from their houses.
What are the percentage of students who manage to qualify for the GEP?
Every year, only 1% or less than 1% of students qualify. In our opinion, this is one of the most challenging tests in the world.
What is the male to female ratio in the GEP?
Based on our observations over the years and not on any official statistics, there are approximately 3 males for every 2 females. This does not mean that males are naturally more intellectually gifted than females. The tests rewards males who are risk takers when encountering novel problems. Male students at the age of 9 are more willing to try and guess, and therefore this is reflected in the male to female ratio of students.
My child managed to qualify for gifted programmes overseas, such as in Australia or USA. Why did my child not qualify for the GEP?
Compared to the Australian and USA tests, the GEP selection process is even more stringent. Only 1 percent of students in the primary cohort will be selected. Some gifted education programmes overseas are subject-based gifted programmes, while the GEP requires high aptitude in both Mathematics and English. The passing rate is much higher than the Singapore GEP. We have students who were enrolled in the Australian gifted programme or USA gifted programme. However, they were unable to get admission to Singapore GEP. It is common that every country, or even every school, to set its own standard for the admission to gifted programme.
Can we prepare for the GEP tests? How to nurture your high ability kids to optimize his performance? Is GEP an elitist course? Follow our blogs for more exciting stories as we give you more insights on GEP and gifted education.
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DSA Story 2: Question Bank for Direct School Admission (DSA) Interview – Collected from real case studies
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?
In the next blog post, we will discuss on the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) selection test, how to prepare your child for it and also address other frequently asked questions.JOIN OUR DSA HOLIDAY CAMP!
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:
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
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?
- 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.
- 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.