I’ll explain what Poly EAE is in simpler terms, but let’s take a look at the official information first.
Polytechnic Early Admissions Exercise (Poly EAE) is an aptitude-based admissions exercise that allows students to apply for and receive conditional offers for admission to polytechnics prior to receiving their O-Level examination results or final Higher Nitec Grade Point Average (GPA).– Ministry of Education
Poly EAE is open to:
- Singapore Citizens (SC) and Permanent Residents (PR) who are sitting for the O-Level examinations in the year of the application.
- International students in government, government-aided and independent schools who are sitting for the O-Level examinations in the year of the application.
- ITE students who are in the final year of their Nitec or Higher Nitec courses. For the AY2021 polytechnic intake, this would be Nitec students completing their course in June or December, or Higher Nitec students completing their course in September 2020 or March 2021.
Note: At the time of updating this article, the official dates provided were still based on 2021. Just use it as a rough guide until they update it to 2022.
To put it simply…
Poly EAE is a way for you to reserve a slot in the course of your choice, through the relevant skills and talents that you have.
Now here’s a hard truth that you need to know.
No one cares if you just say you are interested in the course.
You can scream at the top of your voice that you love Filmmaking or Pharmaceutical Science, but if you can’t prove it then your words mean nothing. Because everyone applying for the course is going to say the same thing.
“But my senior say he just go for interview, never show anything, but still got into the course leh.”
Your senior is either:
- Downplaying his own capabilities
- Very lucky that a large number of variables outside of his control were in his favour.
There are many factors that affect the outcomes of your application – many of which are beyond your control. For example, the amount of people applying for the course and the quality of their applications. Your senior could have applied for a course that had more vacancies than applicants.
What we are going to focus on in this main article are the factors that you can control. Namely speaking, your Portfolio and your Interview. Your write-up plays a part but it is quite difficult to go wrong with it if you just follow the instructions. But since I get questions about it so often, I wrote this other article on how to do your EAE Write-up.
PORTFOLIO & INTERVIEW
Interviews are conducted in order to get to know you better.
It serves as a platform for the interviewers to interact with you, ask you some questions, and observe how you respond. In most cases, your job is to convince them that you are the right person for the job.
The ‘job’ in this case would be a slot in their course.
Your portfolio is what you will use to help you convince the interviewers. Think of it as a collection of evidence that will support you in doing that.
It can be a physical folder that you slot documents into. It can be an album of photographs. It can even be a digital folder with video clips and pictures. It really depends on what course you are applying for and how you choose to present what you have.
Which is more important?
In most cases, it is more likely that a strong portfolio will make up for a weak interview, rather than the other way around.
So let’s talk about your portfolio first.
When my student (she was the President of our leadership group) went for her EAE interview, she brought the two portfolios that I prepped with her. A School Portfolio and a Relevant Work Portfolio.
The interviewer straight up told her not to waste his time with the school stuff and just show him what was relevant.
You can imagine how relieved she was when she could just drop the School Portfolio and show him the Relevant Work one. (And yes, her application was successful.)
When I prep my students for their EAE interviews, I always get them to prepare those two portfolios.
- School Portfolio
- Relevant Work Portfolio
- School Awards
- CCA Transcript
- Teachers’ Testimonials
When the interviewer said not to waste his time with the ‘school stuff’, he’s not saying that these things are useless. They are still important but the issue here is that almost every student would have those items, and they all look more or less the same. Yes, including the testimonial written by your teacher.
Most of the time, all the School Portfolio is able to tell them is that you are a good student who took part in school activities. It doesn’t answer another important question on their mind, which is, are you really interested in our course?
That’s where the other portfolio comes in.
Relevant Work Portfolio
When students say that they are interested in a course, what they actually mean is that they are interested in what they THINK the course is like.
Without trying activities that are related to the course (and its respective industry), you can’t really say that you know a course and like it. Especially when all you know about the course is what you read on the polytechnic’s website.
Interviewers are looking for students who are passionate or REALLY interested. And how they can tell is by looking at your portfolio and what you’ve done. Hence we are preparing a Relevant Work Portfolio.
Take for example a Filmmaking course.
Many students will say that they enjoy filmmaking and want to direct their own movie in the future. But how many of these students would have actually directed a movie before? How many of them have even shot a video before or written a script?
One of the biggest worries interviewers have is this: “Is this student going to quit or give up once he realizes how much work it is to direct a movie?”
Imagine now if a student were to present a portfolio containing skits that he shot. No, these are not movies, but at least the interviewers now know that this student understands what it is like to shoot a video – as compared to the students who just say they like it without having even tried it before.
So if you want to show and prove that you are really interested in a course, then you need to find evidence to support yourself.
“So, how can I show my interest in this course?”
It really depends on the course. What works for the Apparel Design course may not work for the Nursing course, so I don’t have a simple standardized answer for you. But let me help you out by giving you two categories to work with.
Most portfolios are made up of Products and Experiences.
This refers to the product that you created from your interest. For example, you are interested in Apparel Design and because of your interest, you sketched a design for a shirt or a dress.
The sketch is your product.
Your product is proof of your interest. It shows that you are willing to spend time and effort learning how to do something that’s related to this interest/course. Even if your product is really low quality and bad, it still says a lot about your interest. Because while you are sketching a dress that is perhaps proportionally impossible to be worn, there are a whole lot more students out there who are making excuses about how they are too busy to do it.
You on the other hand actually found time to do it and action speaks louder than words.
The interviewers are not expecting professional quality from a teenager. What they expect is the willingness to learn. What they want is a student who can be taught.
The other type of Relevant Work would be experiences.
Let’s say you want to be an Early Childhood Educator. A relevant experience could be you volunteering at a preschool to help out. It doesn’t matter if you’re not teaching. Just being there in that environment / industry / field of work, shows your interest already.
Because volunteering at a preschool is not something normal that most students will do. It is something that, in most cases, only students who are interested in the work will do.
On top of that, the experience will teach you all sorts of things that you will never learn in a classroom or find out from reading the course summary on the school’s website. And during your interview, you will be able to share your experiences with the interviewers.
Also, at the end of your time there, you may ask the Principal or whoever is in charge if they would be willing to write you a letter of recommendation. Even if they are not able to write you one, it is fine because you are already walking away with the experience.
When it comes time during the interview to talk about, ‘why do you want to join this course’, you’re going to have an advantage over the other applicants who don’t have this experience.
How to Present Your Portfolio
Your School Portfolio can be presented in a folder/folio with individual plastic sheets inside. Just slot your certificates and testimonials in and call it a day. Arrange the most important/relevant/outstanding item to be at the front.
Your Relevant Work Portfolio is where you get to be creative.
Each polytechnic and their respective courses with their respective interviewers will have different expectations for this. There is no model answer here like the answer sheet at the back of your Ten Year Series.
Just keep in mind your goal here, which is to show the interviewers your portfolio.
Generally, a powerpoint presentation with pictures of your relevant work will achieve that. If you have a video or audio clip, you can play it for them. Bear in mind however that you don’t have that much time during the interview. How much time do you have? Again, it depends on the interviewer.
You may also opt for a physical folder like your School Portfolio and slot your relevant work inside the individual plastic sheets. It really depends on what your work is.
Your goal is to present your portfolio in a clear and effective manner. Clear, in the sense that the interviewers can see your work clearly and not get confused. Effective, in the sense that you are properly communicating the essence of your work.
- You are only showing one low resolution screenshot of your 3-minute short film (instead of playing the video itself), then you are not presenting it effectively.
- You conducted a science experiment at home and you are only talking about it verbally (instead of showing pictures), then you are not presenting it effectively.
Now here’s the thing, the interviewers may not ask you to show your portfolio.
Chances are, if you have something to show, you’re going to have to create the opportunity for yourself during the interview.
I have a student who had a really outstanding portfolio. Multiple EXCO leadership positions with perfect academic performance in the relevant subjects.
But she was one super awkward turtle during interviews.
During our first mock interview, she was so tense I thought she was going to cry – and this here was a student who could comfortably roast me when we were in school.
At this age, most of you would not have experienced that many interviews before. That’s normal so try to find a teacher or trusted adult who has experience with job interviews to help you practice. My student was able to loosen up by our fourth or fifth interview, and that allowed her to communicate her abilities a lot better.
I’ve written an article detailing step by step how you can go about practicing interviews with a friend. And while I can’t personally help you with the practicing, I can share with you the interview Fundamentals and some specific Interview Skills.
- Attire (School uniform with tie)
- Language (be formal)
Fundamentals are super basic stuff. Four things.
Don’t be late. Figure out how to get to the school in advance. Literally travel the route once before the day itself if you have to.
Unless it’s stated otherwise in the instructions, just wear your school uniform with your tie. Make sure it’s clean and neatly pressed. And something I always nag at my students is that to look smart with a tie, the tip of your tie must end at the very top of your pants’ or skirt’s waistband.
If it’s longer, you’ll look sloppy. If it’s shorter, it’ll look disproportionate.
Be formal. Be polite. The thing about being Singaporean is that most of us have two modes that we can switch between. First is our comfortable, day-to-day Singlish mode and the second is our presentation mode where we speak without Singlish.
Go into your presentation mode during your interview.
You can consider the fundamentals I just shared as the Basic interview skills. What I’m about to share now is more of the Advanced interview skills.
You are going to be nervous and you’re going to feel jittery. It is normal. Accept that. Tell yourself, I feel nervous now, and it’s okay, because this is normal.
Doing that will help you feel a little bit better. Then, the trick that I teach my students is that when you feel anxious or jittery, slow down. Slow down your movement. Deliberately move slower and speak slower.
Because when you’re feeling jittery, you will have the tendency to move and speak faster. Doing things slower will help to counteract it and it will help yourself calm down.
Have the courage to answer questions
When I conduct group interviews in the past and I ask questions, the student who answers first is usually also one of the shortlisted candidates in the end. I’m not saying that because the student answered first, therefore I shortlist him. What I am saying is that students who answer first, without sitting awkwardly and waiting for someone else to go first, are usually students who are confident in themselves. And that’s a trait that interviewers want to see.
So if you’re in a group interview, and a question is posed to the group, don’t hesitate to just raise your hand and answer it, even if it means going first.
Elaborate your answers
Now if you’re going to answer a question, make sure you don’t just give a single word answer. Elaborate without the interviewer asking you to. Give more details and share more. But take care not to go out of point and start rambling.
You can sound excited
It’s completely fine to sound excited about what you’re talking about. It’s very normal especially when you’re talking about something that you’re passionate about. And that’s something that the interviewers will definitely take note of.
Don’t be cocky or desperate
What would be bad is if you sound cocky or desperate. Even if you know that you’re good or that you have a very strong portfolio, just be confident and stop there. There is no need to be cocky about it. And on the flip side, if you have nothing, don’t start begging and be desperate as well. It is not going to help even if you roll on the floor and start crying.
Sit up straight, hands on your lap in a relaxed manner. Look at whoever is speaking, because it’s usually a group interview. When it’s your turn to speak, look at the interviewers, and don’t be afraid to look at the other students as well because essentially, you are answering and presenting to a group.
Do NOT take out your phone to check your social media.
Also, do NOT roll your eyes at anyone. You can frown, you can disagree politely, but NEVER roll your eyes at anyone during an interview.
Avoid crossing your arms or legs. I say avoid because sometimes during a discussion, we will naturally cross our arms or legs when we disagree with something, and that’s all right. But if you’re just nervous or when you’re speaking with the interviewer, do not cross your arms and legs.
Crossing your arms and legs is what we call closed body language. It gives off an unwelcoming vibe. During an interview, you want to come across as friendly and welcoming.
GET TO WORK
You may have realised something by this point.
If you are applying for your EAE this year, then you don’t have much time to prepare your portfolio anymore. And your portfolio is arguably more important than your interview.
The good news is that most students are in a similar situation and in my opinion, I think that is actually why EAE works.
I remember my student telling me (the awkward turtle I mentioned in the Interview section) that her friends were complaining and saying that she shouldn’t be applying for EAE. They said that with her grades she should just apply for the course normally. She doesn’t need EAE.
That’s… that’s not how it works.
EAE is not a shortcut for any students to get into any course without putting in any effort.
A portfolio can include your academic performance. The interviewers in the Biomedical Technology course are not going to take someone who failed all of his/her science subjects. The same reason why the interviewers in the Accountancy and Finance course are not going to take someone who failed every Mathematics subject.
EAE is an aptitude-based admissions exercise– Ministry of Education
Being good at Maths or Science is an aptitude. And being good at something usually requires that you put in effort to practice and get better at it. Similarly, being good at Interior Design or Hosting/Emceeing is a skill that takes effort and practice to get better at.
So here is what you can do:
If you have a Relevant Work Portfolio now, good. Get it ready to be presented. Add to it if you can. Practice your interview skills.
If you have nothing, alright, then let’s get something. You have between now until the application deadline. Get to work. Because having something is still better than nothing.
All the best, everyone!