How Students Have Been Securing Seats In Top Schools Without The PSLE

  • 12 May 2021

Many parents think that doing well in the PSLE is the only way for your child to gain entry into a top secondary school - but did you know there is a small group of parents who have already secured seats for their children even before the PSLE exam? In fact, many of these students are scoring Cs and Ds for English, Science and Chinese.

Just last year, 3000 students received offers from top schools for Direct School Admission (DSA), as compared to 2500 in 2017. This number will only get higher based on recent trends as the MOE is working towards to making DSA more accessible to students. Now you might think this is not possible and might be wondering they did it.
Ministry of Education (Singapore)

Direct School Admission for secondary schools (DSA-Sec) allows students to apply to some schools before taking the PSLE.

That's right, these students have been securing their seats ahead of time through the use of Maths Olympiad (MO). Through the DSA (Maths Domain), you as well can help your child secure a seat in the most prestigious schools in Singapore... and in this article, we will show you how!

The Direct School Admission (DSA) program was introduced in 2004 for students who are in Primary 6 to be granted admission into a secondary school without having to rely on their PSLE results. So how does MO tie into this?

students sitting for maths competition in singapore

Any student who is good in maths may use the DSA program to their advantage:

  • Take part in one or more recognised MO competitions
  • Win a medal (or two) at these competitions
  • Submit an application for DSA
  • Get shortlisted for the DSA test and interview
  • Receive an offer letter from the school
  • Accept the offer and be guaranteed placement

If you have a child who is scoring at least 75-80 marks in Mathematics and you are serious about helping him or her gain entry into a top school, follow the 3 steps and we will show you how you can successfully apply for DSA by using MO to your advantage. But before we begin, keep in mind that starting young and taking the right approach makes all the difference in maximising your child's chances of a successful application.
Coach Leo addresses students on math olympiad training in Singapore

In Jan 2019, Coach Leo addressed the cohort of the Southeast Asian Mathematical Olympiad during his opening speech at Suntec City Convention Centre, expressing his amazement at the young age of the competitors and the standard of maths education across Southeast Asian countries in this day and age. He spoke to a crowd of more than 1,500 students and parents, acknowledging that education has become so competitive in the 21st Century. Parents have to take the initiative to help their children gain extra-curricular experience and achievements in order to for them to stand a chance at entering top schools in Singapore, the Asia Pacific region, America and Europe.

Step 1: Determine If Your Child Is Suitable For MO

"Does my child need to be a genius?"   "Is it too late to start?"   "Is my child too young?"

These are the most common questions parents ask when deciding whether or not to take part in the Olympiad. Statiscally speaking, the definitive answer is 'NO'.

Geniuses are few and far between. In fact, Math Olympiad Training has little correlation to a student's IQ but more so with conceptual understanding and problem-solving strategies. Less than 10% of Math Olympiad students are geniuses. And even if a student was found to be a genius, proper training and the right approach is needed to turn him or her into a Gold or Silver medalist. That being said, the majority of those who have won medals are not geniuses but are instead well trained and widely exposed to a great variety of non-routine, out-of-the-box questions.

IQ does not play a substantial role in the outcome of MO competition performance.

When it comes to training duration, students who have started maths olympiad training from a young age tend to be more consistent and have overall more reliable results, but those who had started out at a later age do still stand a good chance. For instance, out of over 50,000 students who have taken part in the Southeast Asian Mathematical Olympiad (SEAMO) International Maths Olympiad Competition, a survey of 8,912 GOLD and SILVER medal winners across 10 countries in 2020 found that 61.2% of them had taken up Maths Olympiad training in Singapore 6 months to a year before.

Furthermore, age is not a factor. Approximately 33% of the 752 students who made it into the final round of SEAMO were between the ages of 7-9 years. They are the creme de la creme of young mathematicians who found themselves representing their countries in Singapore on 19 Jan 2019.

Coach Leo (2019)

I am heartened to see so many Davids among the Golliaths. Most of you here are so young and dedicated. You children have the luxury of an advanced education and I am glad you have taken full advantage of it.

Step 2: Registering For Competitions

The dynamic table below contains basic information about maths olympiad competitions that Singaporean students can partcipate in. It acts a competition roadmap for students from Primary 1 to Secondary 3.


  • Kindly proceed to the respective competition websites for registration.
  • Registration for RIPMWC, SMOPS, NMOS and Mathlympics are via your school only.
  • Tutify Education is unable to register for competitions on your behalf.

Step 3: Maths Olympiad Competition Preparation

Winning a medal is by no means easy - even for students with a high aptitude for Maths.

Difference between Maths Olympiad and School Maths
Firstly, even though topics taught in school (like Ratio, Percentage, Average, Speed and Geometry) are also tested in MO competitions, the concepts and skills required in MO are vastly different. Not to mention, the difficulty level of MO competition questions considerably higher. For an untrained student (or even adult) the greater complexity of MO problems means that it may very well be impossible to solve. Or even if it was possible, it may take a very long time to do so given the wrong approach. On top of that, Olympiad candidates are also tested on concepts that are outside the school curriculum, which they have never been exposed to.

How are students ranked?
Secondly, there are no grade bands in MO. Candidates are not awarded medals based on their score. Rather, they are ranked against other candidates on a bell curve. Medals are allocated according to their percentiles (e.g. The top 5% wins the Gold Award). Thus, whether or not one wins an award depends not only on one's own performance, but also on the performance of his peers. In order to win, one must outperform the rest.

bell curve of math enrichment results in singapore
This brings us to the final, yet most important point. What kind of math enrichement is required to do well in such competitions?

How effective is the training provided by the school?
Although most students who are selected by their teachers are offered the chance to undergo training in school, many are seeking professional assistance. Because MO is not part of the school syllabus, most students find themselves at the bottom of a steep learning curve. Having math olympiad lessons once weekly in school, usually for 12 to 20 weeks, and in large groups of 30 to 40 students is inefficient and insufficient. Parents are also unable to help their children and find themselves at a loss of what to do.

How effective is the Math Olympiad Training provided by most tuition centres?
The typical maths enrichment centre in Singapore that teach maths heuristics for faster problem solving are specialised in PSLE maths but may not specialise in MO. Most tuition centres in Singapore are largely catered towards the mainstream maths. Since MO is such a niche subject, only a few qualified learning centres whose teachers are well-trained in the competition maths preparation will be able to deliver effective guidance for MO competitions.

At this point, you may be wondering How To Find The Best Math Tuition Centre In Singapore to prepare your child for the competition?

Be sure to select a tuition centre that has a structured curriculum and teaching methodology developed by a specialist in the field. At Tutify Education, we use a strong and proven teaching methodology that has helped hundreds of students win medals in prestigious maths competitions around the world. This makes us one of the most highly sought after Singapore maths enrichment centres in the region. The math olympiad training curriculum is prepared by Coach Leo and is constantly updated every month to keep up with the latest competition question trends as well as problem-solving techniques.

Knowing your way around the competition and DSA process, equipping your child with the knowledge and tools required to win achievements in Maths Olympiad and finding the right training approach makes a big difference in whether or not your child manages to secure a seat in the top school of their dreams.
Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah

Students today need to have critical and inventive thinking skills to thrive in a complex world, where jobs now require non-routine analytical and interactive tasks.

Be it for the purposes of DSA or simply to increase your child's interest in the subject, there are only benefits to taking up Maths Olympaid. At Tutify Education, at least 70% of our students have won GOLD or SILVER medals but 100% of them who have gone through our MO course have easily attained an A* in PSLE Mathematics. Deep conceptual understand and problem-solving tools helps students make connections and think outside the box - something that MOE demands of them as part of the 21st Century Core Competencies.

So to all of you parents who are exploring this opportunity, we say, "Unleash the Maths Olympian in Your Child!"

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