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DSA Interviews: What to Do If It Has Gone Online?

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The Direct School Admission (DSA) is a yearly exercise which provides students with the chance for admission into a secondary school or Junior College (JC) based on the achievements and talents they possess, beyond their performance at the National Examinations in Singapore.

Interviews and trials for DSA are usually held in person, but due to the Covid-19 situation in 2020, DSA for the year 2020 has gone online. The Ministry of Education (MOE) is working closely with schools to conduct online interviews at the applicant’s primary or secondary schools. 

However, this temporary change to the DSA interview and selection process has created some new concerns regarding its accuracy and fairness. The first worry raised is that schools may focus more on students’ past achievements and records with the use of online interviews, which results in the disadvantaging of students with little or no prior training or formal certification. The second point of contention is that schools may not be able to accurately assess students’ talents and potential without face-to-face trials and actual physical auditions, given the suspension of the important National School Games (NSG), Singapore Youth Festival (SYF) Arts Presentation and CCAs.

Fortunately, these issues are adequately addressed. The shifting of the DSA interviews and selections to the virtual world does not mean that teachers and school leaders will no longer adopt the holistic approach that they have always been using when choosing students. Focusing on past achievements, training or acquired certifications have never been and will never be a method that is solely used to shortlist students. Similarly, rest assured that schools do not singularly rely on in-person assessments and national events participation to assess students; it is but a small part of the entire holistic range of criteria considered!

So instead of worrying about what we can’t control, let’s properly brace ourselves for the ‘unknown’ – an online interview! 

Preparation

Just like a physical interview, it is not any less important to prepare for an online interview. For interviews pertaining to your skills and talents, you should go through common pointers like why this particular skill is something you enjoy, memorable experiences you’ve had as well as takeaways from participating in it. You should also not fail to consider questions relating to the school/organisation you are intending to join. Do some research on the history of the school/organisation, especially familiarising yourself with their mottos, values and pedagogies. These are particularly necessary because you don’t want your interviewers to think that you aren’t making sound decisions. Since DSA is going to be a commitment to the school of your choice, you might want to make sure you like the school and show it!

Apart from it being a norm to prepare for physical interviews, I must stress that it is even more so necessary for an online interview if you are doing it for the first few times. Being stunned by the new style of interviewing, it is only wise to ensure that you got all the information you want to tell the interviewers at the tip of your fingers. Just in case your mind goes blank out of fear, you are still able to articulate your responses professionally! (Though let’s certainly hope your mind doesn’t go blank)

Expression

Words can influence how people view you but in interviews, how one expresses those words matter even more. You want to stay true to yourself and also catch the attention of your interviewers so it is a must to strike a balance between being expressive and being real. You don’t want to seem too overly dramatic but you also do not want to bore your interviewers with the lack of tone as well. It is not the same for everyone, so it might be a good idea to face a mirror and practise answering questions to yourself! Gauging whether you’re engaging but also honest will be easier this way.

So because online interviews aren’t as ‘personal’, you actually need to be slightly more expressive to seem expressive on the screens of the interviewers. Bigger hand actions might help interviewers gain more clarity in your flow of answers and maintaining eye contact by looking at the web camera will definitely help in letting them know that you are focused! Try not to look away that much and also, a smile expresses a lot about you! Try to feel comfortable and your expressions will naturally show!

Communication

It is also essential to be able to communicate well with your audience. Even with preparation and proper expression, you might not necessarily be able to communicate your ideas clearly. So how do we communicate? One thing worth taking note about would be communicating succinctly – getting to the point yet not leaving out anything necessary. Also, you should not over-elaborate on things that aren’t the main point so that your interviewers know your emphasis clearly.

A key feature in effective communication stems from confidence within oneself. Confidence can’t be built up in one day; it is a journey with yourself where you explore your strengths and develop a sense of self identity. Take some time to think about what you are confident about, and what you like about yourself. This will help to boost your confidence as well (not arrogance!), as we all love a confident interviewee!

So that’s 3 keywords worth considering when preparing for an interview (and maybe especially an online one!): Preparation, Expression and Communication. FamilyTutor sincerely wishes you all the best for your DSA application or any other applications you might be applying for!

By the way, the ‘Simply Advice’ series conveniently gives you information that is useful any day any time. It aims to shed some light on pertinent topics and provide you with the best advice!

Zoe

Zoe

Zoe is an undergraduate student in Singapore who loves thinking deeply and translating them into writing. She hopes her reflective opinions and sound advice weaved into relevant articles will be useful for you in one way or another!

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