Dunman High DSA

Dunman High DSA Tips

Dunman High is a good school that has a very good school culture. It is strong in several CCAs (Co-curricular activities). Its Chinese Orchestra is exceptionally good (and large in terms of numbers), in fact most likely the top in Singapore among Secondary Schools, throughout the history of Singapore.

DSA Interview May be Conducted in Mandarin

According to reliable sources in Kiasuparents.com, Dunman High may well conduct the DSA Interview in Chinese, as a surprise, to test how the child reacts. This is also in line with the strong Chinese culture in Dunman High.

Quote 1: Hi All, congrad (sic) to all parents who have already got confirm CO. For those who are still going through the interviews just wanted to give a heads up to DD that are interviewing for SAP schools. My DD went to interview at DHS for sport and was asked to do the interview in Mandarin which caught her off guard. Unfortunately, she was only able to converse 50% of the interview in Mandarin but we were proud that she persisted instead of freezing up ..”
Source: Kiasuparents

Quote 2: “Yes, Dino.

Dunman High interview for DSA both Western music and Chinese music section, were conducted in Mandarin. I shared this at DHS website

https://www.kiasuparents.com/kiasu/foru … start=3990

My friend’s child is a Singapore citizen. Luckily, child could converse in Mandarin fluently. On that day for music interview, other candidates were very nervous. One interviewee asked politely, if others can go first, before his (her) turn, because he (she) was so nervous, wasn’t ready. He (she) was still flipping through and reading his (her) interview notes.

Come to think of it, how about the other way round ? Not sure if interviewers at DHS interview candidate in English, ie. the other way round instead, if the DSA applicant (interviewee) happen to be a foreigner, from China, just to test and assess their level of proficiency in English Oral conversation ?

Hence, the conclusion is that the student needs to brush up more on Chinese / Mandarin skills (possibly reading some idioms or poetry) in order to prepare well for the Dunman High DSA Interview.

A favorite DSA Question may be to ask “What is your favorite Chinese book?“. It is good to make sure that your child has read at least one Chinese book and can conduct a decent conversation about it.

Related Sites

Since Dunman High can conduct its DSA Interview in Chinese/Mandarin, it is reasonable to expect that many SAP schools with strong Chinese culture may well do the same. The key idea may be to surprise the child so as to take him/her out of any home-prepared preparation, and make it more natural as opposed to memorizing a pre-determined script written by the parents.

For instance, some of the SAP schools with strong Chinese culture are:

  • Singapore Chinese Girls’ School (IP) DSA
  • Catholic High School 公教中学 DSA
  • Chung Cheng High School (Main) 中正中学 (总校) DSA
  • Hwa Chong Institution 华侨中学 DSA
  • Nan Chiau High School 南侨中学 DSA
  • Nan Hua High School 南华中学 DSA
  • Nanyang Girls’ High School 南洋女子中学校 DSA
  • River Valley High School 立化中学 DSA

The above schools are all good schools that either already have DSA or may be soon in line to adopt a DSA (Direct School Admission) program.

Hence, for the above schools, it is wise to prepare and practice the DSA Interview in both languages — English and Chinese.

Bad News for Purely English-Educated Kids

This is another bad news for purely English-speaking kids who are not good in Chinese (Mother Tongue), since they may be disadvantaged in the DSA Interview which is conducted in Chinese/Mandarin.

Under the new PSLE System, we have already analyzed that the most disadvantaged students are the English-Educated Kid and the Math/Science Whiz.

It may not be too late though, to brush up on one’s Chinese. Usually children can pick up languages very fast compared to adults. The preparation may need to start at least several years before the DSA Interview.

Tip for SST Selection Camp

SST (School of Science and Technology) is a relatively new secondary school (established in 2010) that offers an alternative approach to the usual MOE secondary schools. It is not very well known at the moment and I wouldn’t be surprised if majority of Singaporeans did not hear of it or know its existence. It does seem like a good school though.

According to Kiasuparents, majority of parents (53%) are concerned that SST does not have a good track record yet. However, there are students who are very keen to enter SST, and it is not that easy given its limited enrollment. They have to attend some selection camp similar to NUS High School. (SST admits 100% of the students through DSA exercise, so there is no way to get in via PSLE score alone.)

Also check out: NUS High Selection Test (DSA). Most probably students applying for SST are also considering NUS High School as their alternative choice.

SST Selection Camp Review

Came across an “insider tip” for the School of Science and Technology selection camp at Kiasuparents. Quite impressive actually that a secondary student can write so well.


I’m a student is currently studying in SST, while the teachers do look for prospective students, they look out for those with the ability to think on the spot, work well with others and conquer unexpected challenges. The school wants those with the passion for science and technology, but also those who have the desire to do well. In my personal experience, just be yourself, do not try to “fake” your way through, because our teachers can see through the smoke… Erm, let’s say, they deal with it a lot, especially during humanities. Be yourself; the teachers do look for one thing, the most important thing, which is respect and honesty.

The DSA Phase II for our school will have the students split up into groups of 4/5, in which group interviews are carried out, but do note, in these interviews, respect your other interviewees, or they usually won’t accept you. After the group interviews, they would have you go through a challenge. In 2015 they had my team design and built a parachute, which had various requirements and restrictions, which will hinder prospective students, in a right way. This is a part of the process to see what prospective students can achieve via creative and critical thinking.

For those going for the Phase 2 next week, CONGRATULATIONS AND GOOD LUCK!
I hope to see you for the “A Day @ SST” and/or in school next year!

An SST Student

Basically, I think SST is looking for a creative student that is genuinely interested in science and technology (i.e. not being forced by their parents). Personality traits matter too, at the minimum the student should be able to coexist peacefully with his/her fellow students. Good teamwork is definitely a plus point.

According to the official Selection Criteria, these are the factors that will give you better admission chances to SST:

Selection Criteria

Academic and Cognitive Abilities

Applicants are assessed on both academic achievements and cognitive abilities based on academic track records and other accomplishments, as well as the outcome of the General Ability Test (GAT) and Comprehension Reasoning Test (CRT).

Aptitude for Applied Learning

SST aims to engage our students through Applied Learning approaches. Shortlisted candidates will thus have to participate in a selection activity and be assessed for their suitability  to work and learn in the fast-paced and rigorous environment of the school.

Interests and Motivation

Candidates’ proclivity and passion for areas related to mathematics, science and technology may be gauged through their CCA involvement, student portfolios, teachers’ recommendations and personal statements. Students who have done well in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) competitions may be considered favourably for admission.

Hint: Math Olympiad may be useful here. Check out our post on Math Olympiad.

(For admission into Secondary 3, particular emphasis will be placed on personal leadership, academic strength and consistent performance.)

DSA Interview Questions

Interviews can be intimidating even for adults, let alone 12 year olds. However, the DSA interview is a very important aspect, especially since many would have the same qualifications / test results. Familiarizing with some of the questions can be useful, but not overtraining to the extent of being unnatural or memorizing a script written by mommy or daddy, which can be easily detected by the interviewing committee.

Frankly speaking, at age 12, it is very rare for a child, unprepared, to naturally just perform well in an interview. Most children at that age would be well-versed in games/cartoons but not in current news or social issues. Hence, some preparation, like preparing for PSLE English oral, would be useful and even necessary.

Some DSA Interview questions are compiled below. Clearly, developing good spoken English language is a foundational step that has to be addressed too. Judging from the questions, knowledge of the school history, culture and values would help too. Knowledge of current affairs like basic Singapore news would be of use too.

I Can Ace My College Interview: A step-by-step guide based on an Admissions Officer’s experience evaluating applicants

This book (though in a college context, since in Western countries they don’t interview children as young as 12 years old) provides some tips to ace school admission interviews. DSA interviews do ask very mature questions like “What are your weaknesses” that even adults struggle to answer properly. Hence this book is still very relevant.

Speakers’ Club: Public Speaking for Young People

Another useful book is the above. Public speaking involves the same skills as interview, just that it is delivered to a larger audience.

Different schools asked different DSA interview questions, even within the same school, the questions are different. Some examples of questions, for my DS and his friends are:
(1) Why did you DSA to this school?
(2) Did you DSA to another school? If both offer you a place, which would you choose?
(3) How did you think you can contribute to this school?
(4) If you have the chance to have dinner with a public figure, who will it be and why?
(5) What do you think is the most important colour in the world? Why?
(6) If there is something you can change in your primary school, what will it be and why?

Source: Kiasuparents

1.Tell me about yourself?
2.Why do you want to come to our school?
3.Why did you apply to our school / programme?
4.What are the things you like about our school that other schools do not include?
5.How many schools have you applied to and which school is your first choice?
6.Are you applying to this school because it is a branded/ elite school?
7.What is your definition of a good school?
8.Why should we accept you among all the great candidates /applicants who apply?
9.What are the problems of accepting students to a school based on their exam results?
10.Tell us what you enjoy doing when you are NOT attending school
11.Who is the greatest influence in your life or who do you admire the most?
12.What do you think about Steve Jobs and iPhone?
13.Tell us about an event that is significant in your life?
14.What is your goal for life?
15.What are your strengths?
16.What are your weaknesses? How do you overcome them?
17.What is your favourite subject?
18.How do you think you can help the CCA achieve greater heights?
19.Do you have any question about our school?
20.What questions would you like to ask us?

Source: Kiasuparents

There is even this website www.dsainterview.com dedicated to the DSA Interview. One point that they mentioned seems very important:

10. NEVER ANSWER WITH ‘my mommy said or my daddy said…’  

This is a very common occurrance. The student should always present HIS/HER opinions as his or hers. Even if the student got the opinion from a parent or a teacher, the student should just state his thoughts without mentioning who said it to him​.

Another tip is from http://smartification.net/how-to-handle-dsa-interview-questions/,

“Why do you want to come to our school or how many schools have you applied to and which school is your first choice?”

Interviewers ask these questions to determine how motivated students are about attending the school. The best way to tackle this question is to talk about the academic programs or CCA that the school offers. Visiting the open house and speaking to students, coaches and teachers will help students acquire valuable information. Looking through the school website will also provide more information about the school. Try to avoid common reasons such as ‘Your school is the best school in Singapore” or “My parents want me to attend your school because it can help me get into a top university in the future”. These answers are just too cliché.

As to which school is the first choice, the answer should be the school which the student is interviewing with at the moment. In most cases, schools who ask this question do it as a formality. Answering it with an “I don’t know or I have not decided” will give the impression the student is not serious about attending the school and the interviewers will feel like they have just wasted their time.

RGS DSA Interview Questions

–> In one sentence, introduce yourself.
–> Why do you wish to come to RGS?
–> What are the things you like about RGS that other school does not include?
–> Is it because RGS is a ‘branded’ school, you do not bother checking up on other schools?
–> What is a good school?
–> What are the problems of accepting students to a school only based on their exam results?
–> What are questions you would like to ask us?

Source: https://agirlwhowishestoliveinafantasy.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/rgs-dsa-interview-2/

Certain hot topics (like Singapore Olympic Games, news on Joseph Schooling / Feng Tian Wei) have a high chance to come out:

The application procedures were quite straightforward—online application, followed by GAT tests and interviews.  DD enjoyed the tests and interviews, though those were the very first interviews she ever had.  One of interviews was happened in the week when our table tennis team won first Bronze medal at London Olympic.  there were some questions during the interview:-

What news has she read?” 
She replied “Feng Tian Wei won Bronze medal for Singapore.”
“What is your goal for life?
She replied “To represent Singapore in Olympic.”

I guess she was in Olympic fever then.

Source: http://full-time-mothers.blogspot.sg/2012/08/our-journey-of-dsa.html


Interview of Michael Atiyah (aged 86!)

Source: https://www.quantamagazine.org/20160303-michael-atiyahs-mathematical-dreams/

Inspirational interview by Michael Atiyah, winner of both Fields Medal and Abel Prize, currently age 86!

Excerpt from the interview:

Is there one big question that has always guided you? 

I always want to try to understand why things work. I’m not interested in getting a formula without knowing what it means. I always try to dig behind the scenes, so if I have a formula, I understand why it’s there. And understanding is a very difficult notion.

People think mathematics begins when you write down a theorem followed by a proof. That’s not the beginning, that’s the end. For me the creative place in mathematics comes before you start to put things down on paper, before you try to write a formula. You picture various things, you turn them over in your mind. You’re trying to create, just as a musician is trying to create music, or a poet. There are no rules laid down. You have to do it your own way. But at the end, just as a composer has to put it down on paper, you have to write things down. But the most important stage is understanding. A proof by itself doesn’t give you understanding. You can have a long proof and no idea at the end of why it works. But to understand why it works, you have to have a kind of gut reaction to the thing. You’ve got to feel it.

Interesting comment that “A proof by itself doesn’t give you understanding. You can have a long proof and no idea at the end of why it works.”. Sometimes, intuitive understanding is needed, along with formal proof.

One example in high school mathematics is proving \displaystyle \sum_{i=1}^n i^2=\frac 16n(n+1)(2n+1). It is possible to prove it by induction without actually understanding how the formula comes about!