Recently, I was admitted to the school I wanted to go to in England for next year. I applied for Sixth Form Entry (Year 12/Junior Year). The admissions process consisted of a few things: Entrance Exams, Interviews and a critical thinking test. It was especially nerve racking because on the day of the entrance exams, some thousand kids showed up, and we were all herded into a large room (enormous) where we were just routinely seated side by side. I think there were 50 rows of 25 kids each. You could see anyone and everyone. Then, the top 20% of performances on the entrance exams were invited for an interview and were asked to sit the TSA (Critical Thinking Exam). Of that top 20%, the top 25% of applicants were admitted – it was an anxiety inducing process, to say the least.
I’d like to think that I prepared well for it, and I hope that by telling you what I did right, or what I feel I would’ve changed next time you can learn something.
For the entrance exams: I got in touch with pupils at the school, former pupils at the school, and scoured online student forums. All I needed was information about what exactly the exam was testing, so I could prepare. The vast majority of people I asked gave me bland responses like: “The entry exams are meant to test natural thinking ability, you can’t prepare for them.”. I suggest whenever you hear something of this sort, simply ignore it. From what I saw, you can prepare for everything. Once I was told they tend to ask you about the GCSE syllabus and ask some questions about unfamiliar topics in the A level syllabus so they can see how well you react to new scenarios, I immediately chalked out a plan of action. I finish the GCSE syllabus for the subjects I was taking so that I had a strong foundation. Then, I studied a lot of the A level syllabus so I got accustomed to thinking analytically like they wanted me to. I did a lot of past entrance papers, including the entrance papers from other schools in England (I was sure they couldn’t be too different). I knew the material very well, I think that helped a lot and it made me more comfortable showing up for the examinations.
For the interviews: So the preparation was simple for the interviews. Learn a lot about the school (Wikipedia, the school website, local press etc.), its history, famous alumni, important things that go on there, famous traditions etc.. This way when you’re being interviewed you can ask intelligent questions about the school, and can also refer to information about the school you could only know through research, the interviewer will be quite impressed. Also, if you’re shy – make sure to do some practice interviews with parents, teachers or friends. Obviously, try make it as realistic as possible. Put yourself in difficult situations with awkward questions to see how you would react. The most important thing, however, is to make sure that you are relaxed and just being yourself on the day of the interview – that’s who the interviewer wants to see, don’t make their life any more difficult.
For the critical thinking test: I simply did all the past papers, did papers more difficult than the one I was to sit, which helped. Get in the rhythm of it by doing logic puzzles, and reviewing your mistakes and solutions to the past papers carefully.
As you can see, preparation is king. As (the king himself) Conor McGregor says, “It’s a beautiful moment when preparation meets opportunity”. Prepare better than everyone, but on the day – forget everything and act natural, your hard work will instinctively come into play. Hope this helps.