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Private School Academic Scholarship Case Study


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#1 Passing By

Posted 07 August 2019 - 11:45 AM

Our child DX was fortunate enough to gain a partial (half) academic scholarship to a top private school in Sydney. Given the dearth of first-hand information available on scholarships, I thought that I would share our experience for those looking to explore this opportunity.

DX’s test results: OC test (246); ACER scholarship test (Top 1% of 2500 students: Humanities 1%; Writing 1%; Maths 10%); Selective school test (223); ICAS 2018 English (HD) Writing (HD) Maths (D)

OC test: DX completed the NSW OC test and achieved entry into all OC schools. The OC test is conducted in year 4 before mass tutoring kicks in and is probably an opportunity worth considering for gifted students (including those at private schools) to gain early exam experience and better understand relative strengths.

Opportunity Class: DX attended Opportunity Class in years 5 and 6 and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It is of note that at times there was a strong focus on the Selective School test (including dedicated periods assigned each week to doing practice tests) but this approach was driven by parents not teachers. Anecdotally “all” the kids in DX’s OC class made it into Selective schools, but attending OC in itself did not seem to give any leg-up for students seeking entry into the higher demand Fully Selective Schools. It is also difficult to say whether OC assisted DX in achieving a scholarship

Selective School Test & Tutoring: DX completed the Selective School test and was one of the few students in the OC class who was not being externally tutored. Our observation is that tutoring primarily influences student maths test outcomes, with DX’s overall progress in maths (although still very good) appearing to drop back a little relative to tutored students over the two years. DX also achieved a relatively weaker result in the Selective school test than the ACER scholarship test which was no doubt impacted by not having been tutored - but may also have been influenced by DX having already been awarded a scholarship before the Selective test was held. Although DX was always going to attend a private school, we did briefly consider bringing in a tutor so that DX could keep up with other students. Conversely, at a different time, we also considered pulling DX out of the Selective school test altogether to avoid any exposure to peer comparisons.

Scholarship test: The ACER scholarship test includes three parts (Humanities; Writing; Maths) and is much more geared towards English than Maths in comparison to the NSW Selective test. Interestingly many tutored OC kids who achieved entry into top Fully Selective schools, did not achieve a sufficient ACER score to be offered any private school scholarship interviews. Our experience suggests that tutoring may not offer much benefit for students attempting the ACER test – thereby indicating a much more level playing field than for the selective school test. That said, exam technique is still important and sitting down and completing multiple sample tests under time pressure is essential.

Scholarship Interview: The school offered an interview within a few days of the release of the ACER results and requested that a parent attend - as apparently some of the kids freeze up. As the child has already proven their academic worth, the interview is focused on their non-academic side - so it is worthwhile coming armed with lots of extra-curricular things to talk about. The interview was very relaxed and questions asked directly or indirectly included: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”; “Why did you choose our school?” and “Were you tutored?” (but in different words). In addition, as a parent I was asked about “the thing that made me most proud about my child” – with something non-academic recommended that perhaps also demonstrates resilience

We were advised on the day that only the top 1% of ACER students were invited to interview at this school, but different schools will have widely different entry requirements. A tricky challenge with scholarship applications is that schools typically want you to have applied only to their school, which potentially makes the selection of the first choice school a key decision.

Scholarship Offer: DX was offered a partial scholarship within a few days of the interview. Some people have commented that scholarship holders are under additional pressure to perform, but the school has made clear assurances to the contrary. I also won a partial private school scholarship many years ago and cannot remember it being mentioned at all throughout secondary school

#2 Ivy Ivy

Posted 07 August 2019 - 12:36 PM

Thanks that is useful info.  I am not even aware of what half those acronyms stand for!  But I agree with you Passing By on maths tutoring changing outcomes.

Re tutoring:

I was at my daughter's parent-teacher interviews recently (year 4, v. expensive Sydney private school) and I asked her maths teacher why she'd slipped so much, within the cohort, in maths results as per school reports, between year 2-4.

Teacher bluntly replied: "most of the other girls in the class (it's the top extension maths class) get tutored.  A lot.".  She said the tutored girls can all do the times tables and addition etc weekly rapid exams faster than she can!, they've rote learnt the basics so automatically.

She explained those girls then have lots of time to tackle the hard q's at the end of every test, and get more marks.  She said, my daughter excels at the complex abstract maths q's at the end of the test and in class, but rarely has time to get to them, because all her time is taken up working out times tables she doesn't know.

She said, do not get her tutored.  Just have her learn the basics better so those are faster under timed test conditions.

But not getting her tutored sees her go slower than the rest of her cohort, so...  ???

I have the view, it's a long game.  Does it really matter if you can do basic maths really fast at the age of 9?  IDK, but I doubt it.  I did 4U maths back in the day (1990's) and it wasn't about basic addition speed, it was about thinking abstractly mathematically.

#3 Sincerely

Posted 07 August 2019 - 02:11 PM

View PostIvy Ivy, on 07 August 2019 - 12:36 PM, said:

Thanks that is useful info.  I am not even aware of what half those acronyms stand for!  But I agree with you Passing By on maths tutoring changing outcomes.

Re tutoring:

I was at my daughter's parent-teacher interviews recently (year 4, v. expensive Sydney private school) and I asked her maths teacher why she'd slipped so much, within the cohort, in maths results as per school reports, between year 2-4.

Teacher bluntly replied: "most of the other girls in the class (it's the top extension maths class) get tutored.  A lot.".  She said the tutored girls can all do the times tables and addition etc weekly rapid exams faster than she can!, they've rote learnt the basics so automatically.

She explained those girls then have lots of time to tackle the hard q's at the end of every test, and get more marks.  She said, my daughter excels at the complex abstract maths q's at the end of the test and in class, but rarely has time to get to them, because all her time is taken up working out times tables she doesn't know.

She said, do not get her tutored.  Just have her learn the basics better so those are faster under timed test conditions.

But not getting her tutored sees her go slower than the rest of her cohort, so...  ???

I have the view, it's a long game.  Does it really matter if you can do basic maths really fast at the age of 9?  IDK, but I doubt it.  I did 4U maths back in the day (1990's) and it wasn't about basic addition speed, it was about thinking abstractly mathematically.

It's true that a student's speed at addition isn't likely to affect their performance on an Extn 2 paper, but from what you've described, in order to progress, the student has to get past the basics to get to new material. Many programs such as mathletics are designed to encourage the student to perform basic maths operations faster through practice in a 'fun' environment.


#4 Babetty

Posted 07 August 2019 - 03:00 PM

Thanks for this info Passing By - my DS will probably sit the ACER test next year, and I knew very little about it. We've chosen his school anyway - but if we can save some money on fees via a scholarship that would be nice!

#5 Hooray Henry

Posted 20 August 2019 - 03:23 PM

As you mention, there is a lack of real life information available to refer to so thank you!

Your child's results are extraordinary, it's good to know what is actually required to be in the running for a scholarship.




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