DSA is the Abbreviation for …?


Everything you wanted to know about DSA but didn’t know what to ask.

The New Year has come and gone in the blink of an eye. Our children are back in school and this year more than 39 000 students will attempt the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) in 2019. The race is heating up and parents and students have already begun the preparation. In fact, many of our own students started preparing during the second half of Primary 5 last year!

Why the rush some of you may wonder? Well for one, the PSLE results in 2018 turned out to be very good overall with many students achieving a high T-score. As a result, the same old rumour has already begun circulating.

You know the one where students claim that a school teacher or a tuition teacher say that PSLE is going to be more difficult in 2019 as MOE is going to set the paper at a higher level to reduce the number of high T-scores!

This may also explain why our June P5/P6 Oral Exam Workshops are already full and I have had to open up more workshops for June!

At this point, you may be wondering why I brought this up and how it concerns DSA 2019. Well, if parents and students are panicking over PSLE so early in the year, it is a premonition that the number of students who will attempt DSA this year is going to be even greater than last year. Couple with the new changes to the DSA registration process where it will be easier to submit an application and there will be no cost involved, competition is going to be tough.

So let me go ahead and answer some of the questions parents who are unfamiliar with DSA are constantly asking.

  • What does DSA stand for?

DSA is an abbreviation for Direct School Admissions and in the context of this article, I am referring to Direct School Admissions to Secondary 1.

  • When did Singapore introduce DSA?

Direct School Admission (DSA) is a program introduced in 2004 for students who are studying Primary 6 to be guaranteed a place in a secondary school. All secondary schools in Singapore are allowed to offer DSA. This includes Normal Academics, Express, IP and SIS schools.

  • Why are schools allowed to offer this option for admission?

MOE wants to allow secondary schools more autonomy in choosing their own students instead of accepting just students who have achieved the required T-score through PSLE. Students who participate in the DSA selection process may receive a “Confirmed Offer”, “Waiting List” or “Rejected” as an outcome. Students will be ranked base on their performance during the series of testing held by the school. “Testing” may involve, trials, auditions, half-day selection camps, written tests, and interviews. Schools are not required to give a reason why they “Waitlist” or “Reject” a student.

  • How does DSA works?

The first few number of students in the ranking determined by the school are given a confirmed offer. The student will then receive a School Preference Form from their primary school. The form will include the DSA-Sec Pin for you to log in online to submit your child’s preferences. This takes place in late October after PSLE. Once the form is submitted, your child will not participate in Secondary 1 Posting Exercise. However, eligibility will still be based on the T-Score achieved during PSLE. For SIS, IP and Express schools, students have to attain the lowest academic score to qualify for Express stream. For schools offering Normal (Academic), they have to attain the lowest score to qualify for Normal (Academic) and for schools that offer Normal (Technical), they have to attain the lowest score to qualify for Normal (Technical). If students do not achieve the minimum require scores they will lose the DSA offer and they will be returned to the Secondary 1 Posting exercise.

  • How do I apply for DSA?

From 2019, students and parents will submit their applications via a common online portal. All schools will have the same application timeline and applicants only need to fill in one online form for multiple schools. The details provided will be sent electronically to the schools selected. Certificates, transcripts or testimonial will no longer be required and only Primary 5 and Primary 6 academic results, CCA, and school-based achievements/awards will be entered into the online application. Application will be free-of-charge and can be made by logging in with a parent’s SingPass. Parents without SingPass can approach their child’s primary school for help. (SOTA and Sports School will not be participating in the online portal and applications will have to be made directly to the schools.)

  • How many schools can I apply to?

Each applicant can choose up to three schools and three talent areas in their DSA-Sec application. For students with multiple talents, there is flexibility for them to use up to two choices to apply for two different talent areas from the same school.

  • Please provide examples of DSA-SEC choice combination.

Example 1

The applicant can apply to three different schools, with no restrictions on the talent areas.

Choice (unranked) DSA school choice DSA talent area
1. School A Art
2. School B Art
3. School C Art

Example 2

The applicant can apply to only two talent areas from the same school. He will still be able to apply to another school and talent area if he wishes to.

Choice (unranked) DSA school choice DSA talent area
1. School A Art
2. School A Tennis
3. School B Art

Example 3

If the applicant only wishes to apply to one school, he can apply to two talent areas from that school and leave choice (3) blank.

Choice (unranked) DSA school choice DSA talent area
1. School A Art
2. School A Tennis
3. Blank Blank
  • What are the changes to DSA in 2019?

All secondary schools can now admit up to 20% of their non-Integrated Programme (non-IP) Secondary 1 intake via DSA-Sec. IP schools are advised to take in 30-35% via DSA. SIS schools will take in 100% of their cohorts via DSA. (SIS schools are NUSH, SST, SOTA, and Sports School).

MOE will now work with schools to refine the selection process and even co-develop a set of selection principles to support schools in selecting the students’ with potential. This means MOE is now controlling the DSA selection and not leaving it solely to the schools. However, this does not apply to SIS schools who will retain full control of the selection process.

All schools have discontinued the General Ability Test (GAT) and High Ability Selection Test (HAST), but this does not mean that the schools are not allowed to administer their own academic tests to replace these National Tests.

  • Whose eligible to apply through DSA?

It varies for every school as each school will choose their own DSA domains. However, the domains will fall into one of these criteria and students need to show a strong ability in one or two of the criteria:

Sports and games,
Visual, literary and performing arts,
Debate and public speaking,
Science, mathematics & engineering,
Languages and humanities,
Uniformed groups,
Leadership (e.g. prefects).

  • How long does the whole process take?

Preparation, application and the actual selection will take place from January to July and sometimes even to August of Primary 6 year when the results will be released.

  • Can I reject a DSA offer?

Yes, you can. Just do not submit the Preference form in October of Primary 6 year. If you have already done so, just log into the online portal and edit your submission before November dateline. Your child will then return to Secondary 1 Posting Exercise.

  • Why should my child attempt DSA?

DSA selection process is a good experience if your child prepares well for it and has a positive mind-set going through the process. This will not be the only selection process your child will undergo during their long academic career and every opportunity to participate in such a process will allow your child to gain the experience needed to do better in the future. If your child does not get a “Confirm Offer”, it is also a good opportunity to reflect on what could have been done differently and to not repeat the same mistakes in future selection processes. Such experiences are life skills that our children need to learn. It also includes handling disappointments and failures positively.

On the other hand, if your child chooses an SIS school, this is the only route available so there’s no choice in the matter. As for IP schools, the requirement for an extremely high T-score means that attempting DSA may be the only option to get into the schools unless your child is an extremely High Achiever academically and will certainly attain the high T-scores required.

Finally, students who managed to gain a place via DSA tend to be more relax during PSLE and end up achieving better than expected T-scores. The knowledge of having secured a place in a secondary school puts your child in a better frame of mind during PSLE which in turn allows them to perform better.

  • Where can I get more information about DSA?

You can check out this MOE website by clicking here or drop me a “Comment” and I will try to answer your questions.

  • I think I want my child to attempt DSA. Is there any preparation course I can send my child to?

I am glad you asked this question. I have been preparing students for DSA since 2010 and I have a very good and effective DSA Preparation Course which you can sign your child up for. Click here for more information about my course.  The 8-STEPS system I have developed to help your child excel during the DSA selection process will allow your child to master the strategies needed to get a Confirm Offer.  He or she will be able to display an incredible performance by being able to think, say and do what is necessary in front of the interviewers.

I hope that this extremely long blog entry has answered most of your questions about DSA. Whether you decide to attempt DSA or not, don’t wait till the last minute to make your decision. Every day that passes is one day less you’ll have to get your child ready for DSA.

To your success in DSA,
Jackeline Carter

Communication Skills and DSA Success Expert
Founder of J Carter Centre for Public Speaking PL
10 years in the business of inspiring students

Our DSA Successes

New Talent Development Communication Programme – starting January

Dear Parents,

DSA selection process will be focusing on talent and not academics from 2018. Many children who will be going through DSA selection in 2018 are caught in a bind especially if they have not focused on developing a talent.

Moving forward, I will be introducing a Talent Development Communications Programme that will help students who will be attempting the DSA route in 2020 and 2021. Soothsayers may say it is a little too early to prepare for DSA however I beg to differ especially if you intend to develop a talent in your children. Talent development takes a few years especially if it is in the area of Public Speaking and Debates.

As the commitment on the part of your children will be 2 to 3 years, it is recommended that you only enroll your children in Talent Development if they have a love for public speaking, debates and creative writing or it will be extremely stressful for your children.

In order to ensure the success of every child who signs up for Talent Development, I will personally be coaching these classes. As my schedule is limited, I may only be able to offer one class per grade. Children in the regular Trinity College Communications classes will still be taught by the other highly qualified trainers at our centre. I will  return to teaching primary students full-time from January 2018 while the teen classes will be taught by Ms Joyce Carter. However, I will still be teaching the Advance classes of Grade 6,7,8 for the time being.

Here’s a suggested timeline for Talent Development Programme starting in January 2018

Year 1 – (Primary 4)

Semester 1 (January to May 2019) – Trinity College Grade 2 (with focus on competition training in the areas of Story-telling and public speaking)

June Holidays Workshop – Preparation for SPAF 2019 competition (Creative Writing, Public Speaking Categories)

Semester 2 (July to Nov 2019) – Trinity College Grade 3 (with focus on Impromptu speaking and Current Affairs )

Year 2- (Primary 5)

Semester 1 (January to May 2020) – Trinity College Grade 4 (with focus on Debating)

June Holidays Workshop – Preparation for SPAF 2020 competition (Creative Writing, Public Speaking and Impromptu Categories)

Semester 2 (July to Nov 2020) – Trinity College Grade 5 (with focus on Success principles and Debating)

Year 3 – (Primary 6)

Semester 1 (January to May 2021) –  DSA Preparation for the following Domains:

  • English
  • Communications
  • Creative Expressions
  • Public Speaking and Debate
  • Bi-lingual
  • Creative Writing/Literary Arts

Students in the Talent Development Programme are encouraged to participate in communications/writing competitions through their schools and public competitions. All students are also strongly encouraged to take the Trinity College Graded examinations for each grade in order to aim for the High Achiever Award from Trinity College London. For those who show a strong creative writing ability, they will be encouraged to participate in The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition.

This programme focuses on developing communication talent and confidence in primary students to prepare them for the rigors of IP and Specialist secondary schools.

If you have any questions about the Talent Development Programme, you may email me at carter@jcartercentre.com


Jackeline Carter (Founder of J Carter Centre for Public Speaking)

p Our talented students