This year, my daughter sat for her GEP screening test so below are my experiences in preparing her for it. I was from the second batch of GEP students more than 30 years ago so I have some idea how GEP was like. Although a lot has changed over the years, I am still hopeful that my kids can join the program because I have always thought the lessons in GEP were far more interesting. I have learnt as much, if not more, from my peers than my teachers.
This year the first screening test was on 23rd August and the 2nd selection test was on 19th and 20th of Oct. Results were announced on the 2nd of November and the first parents briefing was on the 11th Nov.
My daughter attends the maths olympiad enrichment class in her Primary school every Saturday. On top of that, we send her to two external classes, the British Council for English on Saturday and Berries for Chinese on Sunday.
I would like to have said that I did not prep my kid specifically for the GEP test but realistically, I knew I had to do something, else it will be extremely hard for her to get in. Although I topped my GEP class in Maths, I knew it is impossible to score higher than the next person if you have never done similar questions before. There is no such thing as “naturally gifted will get in no matter what”. Maybe it is possible 30 years ago during my time when everyone did not prep for the selection test. I was also concerned about excessive prepping because if she tried her 100% for the test and gets in as a borderline case, she will have difficulty keeping up with her peers.
In the end, I did not prepare her at all for the 1st round screening test. Zero, nothing. The rationale is if you can’t pass the first round without special preparation, you really should not be in GEP. After the 1st round results was announced, there was like 2 weeks or so before the selection test and that was when the preparation started.
What I did was to ask her to do some of the maths olympiad questions that she had difficulty with previously for a few evenings. On the two days before the tests, I gave her one OLSAT (grade 4-6) practice paper each evening just to get used to IQ questions. She found the OLSAT paper too easy though… I did not have any other source of IQ questions so that was it.
After the tests, her feedback was she had problems with 8 questions from the general paper and maybe 2 each from english and maths. She guessed everything though so maybe she was good at guessing as she was selected along with 3 other kids in her class for GEP. I remembered I did not have any issues with the general paper or maths and I could do everything. I was literally the only kid from my Primary school (Heng Ah Khe Bong Primary) who went for the selection test so the memory was pretty vivid. I remembered like 80% of the class during the test was from another school, probably some elite primary school. I could not do like half the questions for the English paper though. My English GEP teacher once remarked that my English was so bad that he wondered how I got into GEP in the first place. So my time in GEP was mostly topping maths and consistently failing English. I suspect the selection is based on how high your score is at ONE particular field. If you are really good at one test, they might waive the result from the other test.
I talked to my Colleague from China yesterday and she told me she knew five friends including me who had kids in the 2nd round. The amazing news is all five of her friends’ kids got through to GEP. Although she said her friends do send their kids to GEP prep school so it definitely helps.
I always believed that intelligence is nurture and a lot depends on how much time you spend thinking. If the kid is naturally inquisitive and competitive, she will spend lots of time solving the challenging problems and develop his intelligence. It is not really about teaching your child but rather getting her to spend time thinking and solving the questions on her own. Spending hours on one question is normal if that question is hard. If you spend 10 minutes to explain it to her, it is useless as she will forget it the next day.