education, interview, personal

Difficult Times: The NUS Faculty of Science Discretionary Interview

Getting a BCC/DBA need not necessarily be a bad thing if you have a relatively good CCA record. So far, I’ve been called back for three out of four local universities that I applied for to have an interview. To begin this post, let me warn you that the NUS Discretionary Interview (for me) was the worst out of all the interviews I have had. I’ll try to help you… but no guarantees, yeah?

To start off, I have to admit that I had been relatively lucky to be called back for a Discretionary Interview for the Faculty of Science. During the registration for the interview on a specific portal, I had to declare my intended major and my second intended major within the Faculty of Science in NUS. After glancing through, I had put Mathematics as my first choice and Chemistry as my second choice.

Upon reaching NUS S16, I registered my attendance on level 5, where the Dean’s office was at. It was pretty… relaxing, because there were only a few people before me. I realised that there were only guys. Apparently, I was the first girl to be interviewed on that Saturday. Guess what? My interview was at 4.30pm. Apparently, I was competing against these guys who are probably way smarter than I am.

As it was raining, I slept against the window sill. Nothing fancy; the rain just lulled me to sleep.

When the interviewers were ready, the person at the desk called me to enter the room. It was just a normal discussion room. Apparently I was being interviewed by a different set of interviewers as opposed to the rest of the males. *weird, if you ask me*

– From here, the questions that come are not in chronological order –

Briefly put, the interview lasted for 12 minutes long. It was the shortest interview, yes, but it was the most mentally challenging interview ever. The interviewer to interviewee ratio was 2:1. One of them was definitely a professor in the Faculty of Science (he was a China Chinese man) and the other was an Indian. Interviewers’ demographics aside… Let’s begin the most stressful 12 minutes of my entire life just for an interview. (I’ll talk more about my actual experiences later on. You’ll get the feel)

Mind you, these questions don’t come in chronological order.

When I sat down, greeted them and stuff, they told me to introduce myself. To which I replied: My name is Nazira. I’m turning 19 in a few days and I am currently working at Gek Poh Ville CC. I also mentioned something else, but nothing too fluffy. Just a normal introductory statement.

None of my interviewers talked about my actual grades or asked any question related to Math or Chemistry. Instead, they asked standard things like these below, which I will further elaborate.

  • What I wanted to do in the future?
  • What do I want to do with an NUS Maths degree?
  • What offers have I gotten?*
  • Why did you apply for NUS Maths?**
  • Why Maths and not Accountancy?
  • If you were given all As… what would you want to study and why?
  • Why an NUS Maths degree to get to where you want to be? ***

*One Asterisk*

Imagine this, a person has put NUS FASS as her first choice, but being interviewed for NUS FoScience. And suddenly, that person make the mistake of telling the interviewers the offers she has received. Why did I say that it was a mistake?

One of the interviewers definitely has Psychology background.

Imagine that, being scrutinised for every single word, phrase and posture. It was one of the most intense moments, because I made the mistake of telling them my offers that I had received (namely SUTD and NTU Sociology). It was fine if I only mentioned SUTD, but the interviewers became much more unconvinced when I mentioned NTU Sociology. They immediately replied with, “You seem like a Soci kind of person; wouldn’t it be better to accept that?”

Things pretty much went downhill and I don’t know if I managed to save that interview at all. My honest verdict? I didn’t.

I am not asking you to lie that you have not received any offers. But you might need to strategise in phrasing your words so that the interviewers feel less of the impact. After I realised the impact of my answer, I became much more careful because of the interviewer with the Psychology background. How did I know that he could very well read me? You’ll just know because the tension is much higher and you try to evade his eye contact. I did that and I knew he could see right through me. So I braced myself and shared equal eye contact with both interviewers. (MAJOR TIP because NUS Interviews are not so easy!)

*Two Asterisks*

This was very difficult to give an answer to. It wasn’t just an NUS degree nor a Mathematics degree. It was an NUS Mathematics Degree. Thus, the answer was somewhat tailored and crafted to make it much more sophisticated. Plus, do remember that the Psychologist is still right beside me…

*Three Asterisks*

In the middle, they asked me what I wanted to do in the future. Of which I said, start up an org. HOWEVER, this further convinces them that I was better off in NTU Soci than NUS Faculty of Science. Then this was the start of me sharing the love for Mathematics. I brought in how poor the quality of education in Indonesia was since I travelled there a couple of times. I also mentioned something about how this Math degree was useful to help in reaching my goal of building an org for quality Education. HOWEVER…

They said, teaching Math did not require the standard of NUS Maths. And that shook me like a leaf. Then I brought in my love that ignited from secondary school and how Pythagoras Theorem puzzled me.

There were MANY more things going on in the interview, but I am getting rather tired. This is essentially a very poor guide written because I realised that their questions were very very tailored to what I had experienced as a student in school and as a junior college graduate. I will update this post in time to come (when I am less tired) and hopefully, this becomes a better guide for NUS Faculty of Science hopefuls. If I were to give you one major tip if you find this post really utterly useless, it would be: Be confident.

The interviewer with the Psychology background gave me a HUGE scare and trust me, the interview was very difficult. I realised that NUS FoS wasn’t my cup of tea, and not getting an acceptance to FoS didn’t really seem to matter. But I learned a lot through this short 12-minute interview.

I hope you gained some insight to what I felt/went through and learned something that is applicable to your own interview.

All the best, my dears!


3 thoughts on “Difficult Times: The NUS Faculty of Science Discretionary Interview”

  1. I truly appreciate this post cos I’ve always wanted to study life science is NUS… Thank you v much 🙂 I think my GPA in poly is good enough but my CCA records aren’t that spectacular. 😦 all the best in your Uni life~


    1. Hi Hanna! Firstly, I think it’s good that you know where your weaknesses lie. Do you still have time in school to invest in CCA, even just for an hour a week? That will definitely help you be a more aware citizen, on top of having a more holistic portfolio.

      Competition into entering NUS is really tough, and I really hope you get a direct entry, if not, a discretionary interview. It seems so long ago, but almost two years have passed since then!

      If you are (almost) done with school, do take part in full-time work, dabbling in a few community service work during your free time. At least you can prove to the interviewers that you spend your time well. 🙂 It’s a good habit to inculcate!

      Thank you Hanna! I wish you well in your future endeavours. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I just started volunteering for JurongHealth and aiming for 6 hours of community service a week since I don’t have school on Tuesdays and Fridays 😀 I was initially afraid of getting out of my comfort zone and socializing (cos of my poor skills + awkwardness) but decided to just go for it for the experience. thank you for the heads up! I appreciate it loads ❤


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