CIMB Asean Scholarship Application Experience

Hi everyone! My name’s Debra and I’m currently reading Law at the LSE under the CIMB ASEAN scholarship. Through this article, I hope to outline what the scholarship entails, the application stages and my experience going through the process. 

What does the CIMB scholarship consist of?

The scholarship covers all of your university tuition fees, a laptop allowance, living expenses and one round flight home annually. Health insurance and other miscellaneous fees are covered as well. Internships and employment with CIMB Group upon graduation are also included and a mentor and buddy system will give you additional guidance through your time at university. 

Who can apply?

This scholarship is open to a number of countries: Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines. Anyone from any academic discipline can apply, and students studying at local universities are eligible as well as students who have a minimum of 2 years of undergraduate study left. Even if you haven’t received a university offer, you can still apply for the scholarship as long as you’ve stated where you intend to apply (and the corresponding course).

Stages of the scholarship

There are 5 main stages in the selection process: an application form, online assessments, an interview panel, bootcamp and a final interview with CIMB’s senior management team. 

Application form
During my application cycle (2018), the form was made up of several parts. You had to put down your academic records, extracurriculars, achievement records and answer a number of structured mini essay questions. 

The essay questions are a great way for your application to stand out. It’s important that you demonstrate who you are as a person, as what you’ve written is likely to come up during future interviews. Note that if you reach the first interview stage, you will be required to bring proof of your grades as well as all the achievements you’ve detailed in the form. 

Online assessment 
CIMB’s online assessment is unlike the psychometric testing that you get on other scholarship assessments as they are all game based. There were a number of puzzle and analysis centered games which assessed problem solving skills. One instance of this was a game where you were given an outline of a shape and Tetris-like pieces to fill it in. You had to choose which pieces would fit and arrange them accordingly to win. The more shapes you solved, the more stars you were given. Even the numerical and verbal reasoning tests had a few unexpected twists based on speed and accuracy.

A tip I suggest for preparing for these kinds of tests would be to download any puzzle or strategy games or applications that aim to enhance problem solving skills. One app that I used was ‘Brain Wars’. However, you certainly don’t have to overstress and relentlessly prepare at this stage. These assessments are largely meant for CIMB to assess your aptitude in a number of skills that you should already be equipped with.  Note that you will not receive the results of the test; it is only for CIMB’s use. 

First interview
During my first interview, I was interviewed by 2 CIMB employees. This interview was quite relaxed, covering my responsibilities at school, personal interests and current affairs amongst others. There were a few substantive questions on my degree choice and how I envisioned contributing my skills in the workplace. On the whole, they were both very friendly and definitely did their best to make sure I felt comfortable. 

Boot camp 
The boot camp was the most memorable stage for me. For 2 days and 2 nights, the 55 of us, hailing from 7 ASEAN countries, lived at CIMB’s training site and went through a series of challenges together; we definitely bonded well as a result of this!

On the first day, we were given a presentation about the scholarship, CIMB’s history, ethos and vision. There was also an opportunity to meet some of the senior management. To begin with, there were a number of indoor teamwork and strategy games. The highlight of the day was a marketplace simulation, where we were tasked with creating an electric car model. Throughout the simulation, we could buy and sell resources with other teams and we were also given problem cards. For instance, my team was given a card which stated that our engineer was ‘sick’ and hence could not work for a certain amount of time. We then had to find ways to work around these scenarios. At the end of the session, each team had to pitch their car to potential investors. 

While all these activities were going on, we had assessors following us around who were writing down notes on how we were doing in each activity. This would continue for the whole bootcamp. The second day was more intense, with the first half of the day taken up by a scavenger hunt and station games situated all across the training centre. The second half of the day was dedicated to a boardroom proposal based on problems within a fictional company. We had been given a case brief the night before and had time to plan the presentation. We acted as consultants who were pitching potential solutions to the company’s board of directors (i.e. our assessors) and had to answer questions about the viability of our plans. 

Final interview
During my last interview, I was interviewed by CIMB’s senior management, including CIMB’s Group Chief People Officer Dato’ Hamidah Naziadin. This interview was fairly more rigorous compared to the first interview I had gone through. Amongst the range of subjects we talked about, I was asked to describe potential challenges to the banking industry and had to engage in a few hypothetical workplace scenarios. 

If this seems daunting, don’t worry! The interviewers certainly did not expect us to be experts in banking or finance and even when I went off track, they were very clear in giving me hints to put me back on a more relevant train of thought. It is, however, important to stay calm and articulate your thoughts clearly. What’s critical is that you demonstrate to them the way you think and that you actively engage in conversation with your interviewers. 

Final Words 

While cliche, I have to say that being yourself truly is the most important part of the whole process. Knowledge of politics or business affairs will not score you brownie points unless you are able to use this to demonstrate critical thinking and your personal characteristics. Ultimately, the bank is looking for people who will thrive academically as well as in a rigorous working environment, so do your best to display these aspects of yourself to them. 

If you’re thinking of applying I would definitely encourage you to do so; not only will you make new friends along the way but you will also learn a lot about yourself and your abilities. The journey is an incredibly rewarding one and I hope you will decide to take on the challenge. Good luck and all the best!

Debra Lim is a CIMB ASEAN scholar currently reading Law at the LSE. She almost got kidnapped off an island in Langkawi while on a boat with her family. Hope this enlightening piece offsets the darkness of this bio.
If you intend to contact the author, feel free to contact the CollegeLAH Team at


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