The Yayasan Khazanah Scholarship tests a range of abilities including essay writing, mathematical reasoning, as well as data analysis – and that is before being called in for interviews.
I’m a YK Global scholar from the 2018 Early Harvest intake, currently on my final semester of A-Levels in Kolej Yayasan UEM and planning to read Economics for my degree. The purpose of this article is to share my experience as well as some general tips to give you an idea of what to expect, which skills are needed at each stage, and what preparations to make.
Preliminary Round: The Application Essay
Like any other personal statement, the most crucial aspect of the essay is specificity. Try to vividly define your academic interest and goals. It’s not enough to say you want to do Economics to eradicate inequality, it’d be better to talk about, say, how you came to the realisation that economic inequality is a major issue in Malaysia and how you hope to contribute it through your degree (stress on Malaysia: remember that this scholarship is also an employment contract for you to contribute to the country!).
While this core part of the essay is crucial, the rest will be entirely up to you. It may be beneficial for you to include relevant skills you’ve acquired through different leadership positions or academic subjects, mention specific goals in a corporation under Khazanah Nasional you’d want to be involved in, or reflect on any volunteering opportunities that you might have.
Stages 1 and 2: The Online Tests
During my batch, the online test consisted of Numerical and Verbal Reasoning, as well as an additional E-tray Assessment. Numerical reasoning consists of standard mathematical problems as well as some questions regarding shapes. As a rusty-in-math SPM leaver at the time, I could only prepare for it by going through some Additional Mathematics problem-solving questions and refreshing my mathematical skills. The verbal reasoning questions were, as the name suggests, language-oriented, with a focus on comprehension of texts.
Should you make it through these two standard IQ tests, the Stage 2 test will be the most unique aspect which is the E-tray assessment. This will be a simulation where you are a manager of a company and you have to make managerial decisions based on presented data as well as answer emails. I don’t think I can delve into the details much as it’s likely that the same model will still be used.
Overall, I found these two stages to be the most challenging – you never really know if some of your answers are correct, especially in the numerical reasoning part concerning shapes. The best you can do is to simply be in a calm environment, read all instructions carefully, and take your time answering them.
Stages 3 and 4: The Interviews
If you’ve made it to this point, congratulations! The online quizzes are where most candidates are sieved out, which means you’ve got one foot in already. My first interview was held online via Skype, as I was part of a small Early Harvest intake. It was a casual one-on-one conversation with the Scholarship Manager on my academic and career goals. I talked about which subjects I planned to take at A-Levels, what I hoped to do with my degree, and my plans to pursue a Masters in the future. Of course, these plans are not static as our interests evolve over time, but having a general idea of what to do with your degree would be much better than simply saying you hope to go wherever life takes you.
At Stage 4, I was finally called to the YK Office in Mercu UEM (near KL Sentral). This was the most intimidating stage as I was interviewed by two members of the Board of Directors. They held a copy of my personal essay and asked me questions based on them, such as to clarify my leadership roles, volunteering involvement, and academic interests. I also remember having a discussion on brain drain of YK Scholars: they mentioned that it was a rare occurrence among our scholars, but it happens nonetheless. I remember assuring them that I had a strong commitment to this country, and I hope to improve it through my education.
Overall, YK’s interviews are not as technical as corporations where you have to memorise their Vision and Mission and have an idea of which department you want to work in, etc. Again, it goes back to the same principles as the personal essay – you’d need to clearly define your academic and personal goals and figure out how you will contribute to this country through your education. Do not be complacent: there’s this misconception that if you’re at Stage 4, you’re pretty much going to get the scholarship. While this has an element of truth to it, I’ve had peers getting rejected at Stage 5, which means you should not feel comfortable just yet. Above all, be genuine and honest in the way you present yourself.
Stage 5: The Chat
My Stage 5 was a casual chat with a member of the Board of Trustees along with one member of the Board of Directors. And when I say ‘casual’, I mean we talked about my shirt collar being too small and how I should get a tailored-fit shirt or at least know my measurements, how my then-girlfriend also wanted to apply for the scholarship, and how KYUEM is smack in the middle of the jungle with limited access to facilities.
You can prepare a little by knowing about current affairs in case they pop up in a discussion, but the casual and flexible nature of it means there are a myriad of ways it could go. Again, just remember to be genuine and honest in the way you present yourself.
That is all I have to share about my entire application process! As I was part of the 2017 intake, certain features for the 2019 batch and beyond are bound to differ, but I hope that this article has given you the gist of what to expect throughout each stage.
The Yayasan Khazanah scholarship has granted me access to tons of opportunities and privileges I could never afford on my own, including a private college and university education, personalised help for SATs and US applications, and numerous volunteering programs, and I owe so much to the organisation. While it is often associated with its difficulty and prestige, the YK community is also a welcoming and accommodating family that is very supportive of your changing needs. The only price associated with this opportunity is your contribution as part of this nation’s human capital and contribute through your education. I sincerely welcome you to be a part of this community, and I wish you all the best in this long application process.
My name is Ahmad Faris Bin Ahmad Rizal. I graduated from SM Sains Alam Shah, Cheras in 2016 and am currently on my final semester of A Levels in KYUEM. I’m planning to read Economics for my degree in the United States, with a specific focus on economic development and policymaking. Outside of my studies, I enjoy lifting, hiking, boxing, and reading classical fiction.