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School Entrance Test Preparation

By Anne

Gaining a seat at a private international or independent school in Hong Kong is getting harder not only because of the long waitlists but when children are actually invited for an assessment they must perform exceptionally well and score high marks in their entrance test. The competition is fierce and every year more than 150 students compete for only 10 spots at some of the most popular international schools.

For the 2013-14 school year, Discovery College received 410 applications for Primary 1 and 80 applications for Year 7 with only 29 spaces were offered for Year 7 to outside applicants. That was more than double the number four years ago. Kellett School received over 400 applications for Reception for 115 spots across both campuses. German Swiss International had a 15% increase in applications this year with 1,300 received across three year groups; Kindergarten One (only 20 spots available), Kindergarten Two (only 20 spots available) and Primary One (only 12 spots available). Even at Kindergarten level, Kiangsu & Chekiang International Kindergarten received 350 applications this year, for 88 spots – but only 200 applicants were interviewed.

As far as the testing is concerned it is true……..informal interviews and picture comprehension tests are out, non-verbal reasoning and number coding are now used as entrance tests at some of the most sought-after schools. In January 2013, Hong Kong International School switched to the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) as a means of testing new applicants. The ISEE is an admission test that has three levels: The Lower Level is for students currently in grades 4 and 5 who are candidates for admission to grades 5 and 6. The Middle Level is for students in grades 6 and 7 who are candidates for grades 7 and 8. The Upper Level is for students in grades 8 through 11 who are candidates for grades 9 through 12. At all levels, the ISEE consists of three parts: (a) carefully constructed and standardized verbal and quantitative reasoning tests that measure a student’s capability for learning; (b) reading comprehension and mathematics achievement tests that provide specific information about a student’s strengths and weakness in those areas; and (c) an essay section.

Natalie Ottoman, 4 years old, spent an hour and a half each week for six months at ITS tutorial School, working on skills like spatial visualization and serial reasoning, which are part of the Non-verbal Ability Test at Harrow School.

“It is my philosophy that if you can get more help, why not?” Mrs. Newman said. She prepared her son the same way and he benefited, she said, scoring a Primary One place at Harrow International for 2013. She commented that all international and private schools are raising their standards. “The schools are raising their standards so that means we have to do more to prepare our children”.

One of our clients is Raj Patel, whose daughter Jade, 10, hopes to get a place at Chinese International School. “When my wife said we should be thinking about sending Jade for exam preparation courses, I thought, ‘really, she’s pretty bright and will probably do well and is also nominated under a debenture,” said Mr Patel. “I soon changed my mind when I discovered there were only 5 spots available and 25 children were being tested and 8 of which were nominated under a debenture also.

Parents will always do what they can for their children. And not all children who take preparation courses do well. Some tests require that 4-year-olds sit with a teacher for nearly 45 minutes — skills that extend beyond the scope of I.Q. or school readiness. More to the point, some parents have a fear – unjustified in most cases – that a lower-fee paying school is not as good as high-fee paying school – and their child would receive a better education at more expensive school.

The absolute minimum any parent should do, if they want to get their child into a selective school, is to buy some sample tests in reasoning, English and Maths, and ask the child to do a test once a week, according to the specified time allowance. Once the child has done each test, work through it with them and talk about time management and how much time to allow for each question, so as to avoid spending 15 minutes on a difficult question, when they could have been answering 10 easy ones.

At ITS Tutorial School, we start preparing students from year four. Students begin to study verbal and non-verbal reasoning, as well as specific maths and English questions required by the school of choice. One or two hours a week is the standard programme at this age. Our specialised tutors also focus on lifetime skills and interview skills, rather than just exam content.

Please feel free to book an appointment with one of our education consultants, to find out more about specific entrance tests.
Email: [email protected]
Tel: 852 2116 3565

Dulwich College Singapore

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