What is the school interview like?

Each school handles the assessments differently. They usually range from 1) playgroups with two to 8 children where teachers observe children at play or doing structured activities, to 2) individual visits between a child and Head Teacher/Vice Principal where test-like activities are given. In almost every case, your child will be asked to separate from you and go off with a group of children or a teacher. Schools are looking for a child that can separate from their parents, who can go in and play a variety of games with other children.

During the assessment, a child will sit with a teacher, who will ask straightforward questions like “What’s your name,” “Where do you go to school, “What’s your dad’s name,” and “What does your dad do.” The questions sometimes get more specific. For example, if an interview is taking place on a Monday, the child could be asked, “What did you do this weekend?” A teacher might be looking to see if the child can recall specific events or details that happened.

The teacher may also play verbal games that highlight analogies or patterns. A child is presented a group of pictures that are arranged randomly, and would be expected to put them in the correct order. From this activity, a child would be evaluated on their ability to put the images in the right sequence, verbal skills, and ability to communicate an accompanying story.

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Teachers will also ask “Wh” questions — such as, “Why do we brush our teeth?” “Why do we go to school?”, “Where do we live?”, “What food do you usually eat for breakfast”? “Where do you live?”

Overall, a typical admission assessment will consist of a snapshot of academic skills that most often involve some type of literacy and numeracy measure, and a measure of cognitive ability is also tested.

What can we do to prepare our child for a school interview?

While there is not much you can do to get a child ready for the assessment itself, you can do a lot to ease the anxiety your child will feel when being placed in an unfamiliar situation.

Explain that you’re going to be visiting “big boy” (or “big girl”) schools to find the one that she will go to when she’s older. Explain that other children will be there and she will need to play nicely with the children and be friendly to teacher and respond with politeness.

Make sure you contact each school in advance to find out exactly what will happen at each separate interview so that you can explain to your child what to expect every time in a very concrete way.

Make sure that your child is healthy, well rested, and fed before the interview. Both you and your child should dress in a way that is consistent with how other children and parents dress at the school you are visiting. If it is a uniform school, dress more formally.

If your child has a hard time separating from mommy, but will more easily separate from daddy, then let him bring your child. Pace yourself so that you arrive at school close to interview time. You don’t want to sit around too long with an impatient child, and you also don’t want to rush. Bring a book for your child to read while she’s waiting. Toys should probably be avoided.

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When you do separate from your child at her interview, tell her that you’ll be talking with the teachers and waiting for her when she is finished. Tell her to just go off and have fun. Smile, encourage her, and try not to show any anxiety on your part, even if you feel it.

Any other advice?

Be cordial to everyone you meet, from the time you enter the school until you leave. Make sure you have cleared your calendar so you won’t be watching the clock while you are there. Don’t bring samples of your child’s work. Turn off your cell phone. Also it’s important to remember that you should not anticipate your child’s behavior during a school interview or assume she will respond in the same way that you have observed in the past.

Finally, do what you can to make this process as easy on your child as possible.


Anne Murphy and her team of education consultants at ITS Education Asia, advise parents on every aspect of school admissions — choosing schools, applications, testing, and interviewing — nursery through high school. For more information, visit www.itseducation.asia.

Need more information about school assessments, application process, waitlists and school choices, purchase the Unique Asia Schools Guide E-Book.

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