Entering into Singapore’s Gifted Education Programme

I remember in Primary 3, back in 2003, when an announcement came over the school PA system, asking for Jae Lee, Lee Waye and Benjamin Lee to go down to the general office. All three of us — the three ‘Lee’s, had successfully made it into the Gifted Education Programme (GEP). We ran back to class, smiling and jumping. That evening I also remember how happy my Mum looked when I passed her the envelope containing details of my acceptance. The GEP is interesting — the unique selling proposition was not in preparing us better for the PSLE, but rather in cultivating interest in things beyond the exam syllabus. We studied literature, went deeper into project work on Roman numerals, and so on.

From Primary 1–3, I’ve never been top in class. Waye and Benjamin were constantly vying for the top spot, I was hovering somewhere around 8th in a class of about 40. When you consider GEP is supposed to take the top 1% of the cohort, well, I fell quite short by traditional examination metrics. If I were to think back and identify the key strength of mine, it would be Math, and the step-wise logical reasoning that comes with being strong in Math. By P1, I was working on P3 assessment books.

The GEP Entrance Test round 1 was a math paper if I recall correctly, or some sort of logical puzzles. Either way, it was straightforward for me because of my stronger inclination towards mathematical logic. Many make it through this round.

The round 2 is the key selection round — with multiple papers including Math and English if i recall correctly. This one was hard. After each paper, I came out feeling that I probably wouldn’t make it. Until today, I don’t know how I got in, except it was God’s will.

Perhaps because my parents didn’t think I would make it into GEP, or because they weren’t too caught up about it, they didn’t put in much effort for me to prepare for it. I loved logical puzzles — They just bought me a Mensa book, A4 in size, a few hundred puzzles inside, and each day I went through a few puzzles. I enjoyed it. Until today, I still do Mensa puzzles, except I now buy those books that are much smaller in size so they can be easily carried around.

Today there are GEP exam preparations and so on. To me, the irony is that the trusted sources seem to be those tuned towards preparing students for the traditional PSLE exams, when the GEP is supposed to mean something different from the traditional standardized learning. I was never the top, and I never went through extensive preparation — I hope that gives some belief in the non-necessity of going all out for such classes.

I recommend cultivating a “can-do” attitude with Math in preparation for the GEP test if you are pursuing such, and such an attitude does not come in a month, or even a year. My mum made me practice Math since young, such that in school, most of the time, I can solve the questions. And it’s that feeling of “I can do it” that also makes me enjoy logical puzzles and the like. In fact, that “I can do it” attitude carries on into all other areas of my life. Rarely do I think something is beyond my ability — I hold an attitude that with sufficient focus and time, I can do anything.

Giving your child the confidence to not know what he/she is facing, but yet have the frame of mind to be present and solve the problems in the moment, could be key to their success in the GEP selection process.

If you have thoughts or questions, please feel free to comment or drop me an email at jae@huuve.com and I will respond ASAP:)