Recently, the Ministry of Education announced new changes to the PSLE marking scheme which will be implemented in 2021. With the introduction of Achievement Levels (ALs), it will be easier for children to achieve the required score to enter into the school of their choice.

The drawback to the new scheme is that more students will eventually achieve the required AL score for entry into the popular schools which can result in a case of demand exceeding supply. This fear may push more parents to embark on the Direct School Admissions route thus increasing competition in this area.

Starting from 2017, there will be drastic changes in the domains offered for DSA. General Academic domain will be taken away with more emphasis on talent, sports and niche areas. This year, we have seen some changes taking place with various IP schools.

Moving forward, these are some steps parents must be prepared to take in order to help their children get a confirm offer from 2017 onwards:

Enrollment in Communication courses.

This is a life skill that will come in handy in many ways. The final stage of DSA is the interview. Being able to express oneself succinctly is crucial when it comes to impressing the interviewers. Students must not only answer interview questions but also be able to hold their own during discussions on current affairs topics and even debate on issues if needed. (When enrolling for a communication course, make sure that the certificate received is recognized internationally and by MOE. Trinity College Communication Skills Graded Examination is highly recommended).

Practise expository writing

More schools requires students to write a piece of essay responding to a question given as part of the selection process. Most primary schools teach narrative writing but never expository essays. The purpose of the expository essay is to explain a topic in a logical and straightforward manner. Some past questions given by some of the IP schools are as follows:

  • What do you think of PSLE? What changes would you recommend?
  • Write an essay about the importance of values.
  • What is your idea of an ideal secondary school?
  • “Academic achievements guarantee success. Do you agree?”

Practise comprehension reasoning

If your child has time to focus on only one segment of the English paper, it has to be reading comprehension. As for the types of questions they must learn to answer, it is definitely inference questions. More schools require students to take an English test and it is always a comprehension test.

Attend Maths Olympiad courses or practise math reasoning worksheets

For some of the IP schools, a strong foundation in Maths reasoning is crucial. Maths reasoning test is a requirement for some of the IP schools.


  • Practise non-verbal reasoning worksheets. You can find these on the internet or purchase some IQ books that has such questions. GAT test is compulsory for many IP schools. This year some of the schools even insisted that GEP students take the test.


  • Take up a sport CCA, performing arts CCA or develop a talent (dance, music, visual arts, public speaking, debate, etc)


  • Participate in as many academic or non-academic competitions – International, National, Zonal and school-base.


  • Take up a leadership position in school. (class monitor, Head-prefect, Vice-head prefect, prefect, school counselor and CCA chair or vice-chair) Such leadership positions always gets you to the front of the queue when it comes to DSA.


  • Value in Action hours. Volunteering and helping out in school will go a long way in helping your child beef up his/her portfolio.


  • Awards, Awards and more Awards. Every opportunity your child has to acquire an award through school or outside of school will go a long way to attracting the IP school’s attention. At the end of the day, the more you can contribute to the success of the school, the more they want you.


One final word of advice, don’t wait till you child is in Primary 6 to check out IP schools. Start doing your research when your child is in Primary 3 or 4 as that will give you 2 to 3 years to get them ready for DSA.

If all of this seems too tedious and time consuming, there is always the PSLE option which means your child can just focus on academics and there is really nothing wrong with that.