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How to ace the DSA Interview

Parents in Singapore are well familiar with the DSA Interview in Primary 6. The DSA Interview may be the first time our children experience an interview. As parents, how do we prepare our children for the DSA Interview, and most importantly, how do we set them up for success?

Through my experience as an Interview Skills Coach, I have coached many children and youths for their interviews. I share a few tips for parents and children who are considering the DSA-Secondary route and who want to know how they can ace the DSA Interview and obtain entry into the Secondary school of choice in Singapore.

What interview questions should I prepare for?

While the interview questions may differ for each talent area, there are five key areas which you can help your child think about prior to the interview.

(a) Questions about you

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Describe yourself using one word
  • How would your friends describe you?

(b) Knowledge about the school

  • Why do you want to join our school?
  • What do you think about our curriculum / program?
  • Are we your top choice?

(c) Current affairs

  • What current news in the world has caught your attention and why?
  • If you could solve one social problem in Singapore, what would it be?
  • What do you think about the issue of our aging population in Singapore?

(d) Skills

  • Tell me more about your leadership experience in your CCA?
  • What was the most difficult part about this project and why?
  • Could you describe how you contributed to this project?

(e) Behavioral/situational

  • Could you share with us a time when you failed to achieve your goals?
  • Do you get stressed?
  • How do you deal with team members who disagree with you?

Encourage your child to have a think about how they would answer such questions, but be mindful that practicing using the right technique is important. We cover more of this point in our tips later. Also, contrary to popular belief, doing well at interviews is not determined by whether you know the questions. While preparing for the questions does of course contribute towards overall preparedness, other factors, both emotional and mental, have an important impact on how well the child performs during an interview.

How can we get our child ready for their DSA Interview?

Tip 1: Encourage an interest in current affairs

Knowledge of current affairs as well as general knowledge is a common aspect which interviewers use to differentiate a candidate. Candidates that demonstrate an interest in the world around them, and have an ability to provide their viewpoints on a variety of topics in a clear, rational manner will have an advantage in becoming more memorable to the interviewer.

Encourage your child to take an interest in the world, and you will reap rewards way beyond the DSA Interview.

Tip 2: Brainstorm beyond the talent area of choice

Being shortlisted for the interview means that your child’s achievements in their chosen talent area has already been acknowledged. It also means that other shortlisted candidates have shown similar levels of excellence in the same talent area.

Help your child build a holistic picture of who they are, what motivates them, what interests them and what drives them. Look at activities and hobbies that they do outside of school that provides them with other experiences outside of their talent area.

Talk to your child and brainstorm together with them on the things they have done in recent years. While it sounds like a superficial activity, the benefit of doing this brainstorming activity is highly underestimated. This is a neuro-linguistic programming technique I use which has great outcomes for the clients.

Tip 3: Reduce the unknown

The interview is generally nerve wracking for most children, and one of the things that helps to manage their nerves is for them to know as much as possible about the interview. Try to find out what you can about the interview and talk them through what to expect. Where possible, determine the interview structure (digital or physical), number of interviewers, name of the interviewers, number of interviewees, location of the interview etc.

With the information you have, help them visualize the interview in their mind and remove as many unknowns as possible, leaving them to focus on doing their best at answering the questions.

Tip 4: Focus on the long term

Children who do well in high stress situations such as the DSA Interview, are usually able to see beyond the moment. Encourage them to see that their preparation for this DSA Interview is valuable to them regardless of the outcome. Having an early experience of taking on an interview and its challenges is a significant step in being able to handle future interviews that they will face as part of their development.

Focusing strictly on the DSA Interview can create tensions that places the child on a shaky footing before he/she even commences the interview. Do remember that this interview may be the first, but it is definitely not the last in their lives.

Tip 5: Practicing the right way

While we all know the old adage of “practice makes perfect”, it is essential to understand that practice does not make perfect if you are practicing it wrong. Also, it is important to recognize the uniqueness in every child, and therefore there is no perfect answer for anyone to memorize. Many candidates practice hard for their interviews, but how they practice may not be ideal. Here are some of the common mistakes:

  • Memorizing answers from Google
  • Practicing by writing or typing and not by speaking
  • Regurgitating “perfect” answers instead of speaking with sincerity

Candidates who practice by memorizing their lines tend to spend their time during an interview regurgitating these lines. Regurgitation removes social awareness, and it creates a candidate who talks to him/herself instead of focusing on developing good rapport with the interviewer.

In addition, reliance on rote-learning tends to cause a high degree of stress for the candidate during the actual interview, as they are likely to receive questions that are different from what they have prepped for. The real interview situation which requires them to think on their feet and showcase critical reasoning is not sufficiently practiced if they focus on rote-learning.

How to ace the DSA Interview

The interview is a niche situation, so having proper practice, coaching and feedback for your child’s interview skills can make the entire process a much more valuable learning experience and more focused for success, and not just for this particular DSA interview, but for all future interviews they will encounter.

Interview skills encompasses many important life skills that they will need in their academic and career path, including communication skills, self-confidence, ability to manage your nerves, situational aptitude, critical thinking and more.

At Discovering Potential, we specialize in coaching on a 1-on-1 basis as well as conducting workshops. We coach each child from the inside out, starting with understanding and respecting their individual personality types.

We augment our interview and communication skills with our expertise in neuro-linguistic programming and behavioral consulting which allows us to observe and coach the child on both non-verbal and verbal communication skills including small nuances such as their facial responses, non-verbal habits and reactions.

We empower them with interview skills and techniques to take on any type of question, building self-awareness and confidence along the way so that they can build on the coaching to achieve a greater level of interview skills for their future.

Siew Ling Hwang

Written by: Siew Ling Hwang, Founder and Principal Interview Coach, Discovering Potential

Ms Siew Ling Hwang has extensive experience providing interview skills training. She specialises in conducting 1-on-1 training and workshops for those seeking to improve their interview skills for school interviews as well as for job interviews. She is an Interview Skills and Communications Skills Coach, a Certified Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and NLP Coaching, as well as a Certified Advanced Behavioural Analyst and Career Coach. Her unique skillset in combining real world practices, NLP Coaching techniques and personality and behavioural expertise provides clients with an effective session to achieve real improvements that carry them beyond the interview they are preparing for.

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