Bank Negara Malaysia Kijang Academy 2018

Greetings, readers! I am Faisal, a Bank Negara Malaysia’s Kijang Scholarship recipient for the year 2018/2019 and I am delighted to share my experience with you. First of all, I would like to clarify that the assessments are carried out differently every year. This article will only then give a glimpse of the style of the assessment. I will not be able to describe the whole process to avoid revealing some confidential parts.

First Day

Contrary to previous years, there were only about 60 candidates that made it through the online application stage in 2018. On the first night, we were sorted into our respective groups and were briefed on the central bank’s organisational structure and the scholarship programme itself. There were no assessments held. Previous Kijang scholars (who are currently serving their bond) were assigned to each group as mentors. At first, when no one had the guts to start a conversation, it was rather awkward. However, our mentors were nothing but friendly and I found myself enlightened by the situation. They were the ones who started the conversation and we had quite a fruitful discussion throughout the night.

One of my mentors is an Economics undergraduate. She was definitely my point of reference as I myself applied to read Economics. If the same activity is carried out in 2019, my best advice for you is to ask as many questions as possible to understand what you will be facing in the future as a central bank scholar.

Second Day

The group assessment was split into four stages.

The first stage was ice-breaking with the assessing panel in our respective groups. One by one, we were given the opportunity to introduce ourselves to let the panel get to know us better. Towards the end of the session, each of us were given a blank A4 paper and coloured pens and was told to produce a simple magazine cover that summarizes our personality and interests precisely and concisely. Indeed, the first stage made us knew each other better and we became more comfortable around each other.

The second stage was a grouped task (balancing water bottles on a bridge made of straws and newspapers). Each group were given materials such as straws, newspapers, scissors and cellophane tape. It was more challenging as we were only allowed to use the materials to produce a bridge (of our own design) that is able to hold as many water bottles as possible. It was quite an intense activity as each group were divided into two and one subgroup was not allowed to communicate with the other. Hence, we had to make half of the bridge, hoping that we were able to connect them together and produce a strong bridge. Surprisingly, our bridge managed to hold 3 bottles compared to others in our room which could only hold 2 bottles on average.

The third stage was a role-playing task. Each group were instructed to come up with a solution to a business problem (our goal was to develop a project with the objective of complying with CSR). I was assigned to the administration team. My responsibility was to assure that our proposals would not backfire and self-contradict. Perhaps, that was the task other candidates found the hardest. There was definitely pressure as we were allocated very little time and were required to complete a rather detailed proposal.

I am not able to recall the fourth stage accurately. From what I remember, each group had to present a daily life situation that requires us to apply knowledge from the respective fields we applied for. For instance, since some of the members of my group applied for Economics, we re-enacted a situation that portrayed how corporations use supply and demand theories to target consumers.

Third Day

Reality hurts but that’s just how life works. Only about half of us made it to the interview stage and we were sorted into groups according to the courses we applied for. Prior to the interview, we had to create a presentation based on a given topic using a mah-jong paper and marker pens. We were instructed to present our ideas before the interview.

The interview process was similar to the interviews that we have heard from other people. The interviewers could ask what you know regarding the structure of the central bank, your reasons for applying for the scholarship (why Bank Negara out of all?) and what made you choose to study the intended course. Most importantly, to get to know you and understand who you truly are.

What I think I did well and what should you do?

I think I should reiterate what was said by other previous (and current) scholars. The idea is to be as natural as possible. It is undeniable that your knowledge of current issues (particularly those pertaining to the course that you applied for) is a valuable indicator of your potential. However, I believe that some candidates might try to show their potential by plainly using economic jargon throughout the assessment. Some candidates can also come off as very weak team players especially when they are quick to dismiss other people’s ideas. Besides intellect, I believe that the central bank is looking for candidates that cooperate well in teams, an aspect that is vital for functionality in an organisation. It is advisable to stay true to your personality when you are being assessed. This way, not only are you able to express yourself truly, it will also help you go through the assessment calmly.

Faisal is currently a Bank Negara Malaysia Kijang Scholar who’s completing his A-level at Epsom College in Malaysia. Having full faith in his passion, he aims to study in Economics in the United Kingdom (particularly UCL). His A-level subjects are Economics, Chemistry and Further Mathematics. As an active member of the Epsom Debating Society, Faisal believes that discourses in a community are essential for positive outcomes. Even though you may see Faisal with his emo hair and grumpy face, Faisal is actually a highly friendly and sociable person so feel free to talk to him whenever you see him. If you intend to contact the author, feel free to contact the CollegeLAH Team at

Bank Negara Malaysia Kijang Scholarship Application

“Ancora Imparo : I am still learning” – Italian philosopher.

First of all, I would like to praise the Almighty because I had the chance to be shortlisted by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) for the Kijang Scholarship. Here is a short timeline of the subsequent process, and may this be an eye-opener and an inspiration to anyone reading this. May it help you in your future interviews insyaAllah.

So, a week before the Kijang Academy, I received a phone call from my sister who said that a representative from BNM wanted to talk to me. I promptly returned the call and spoke to a Ms. Rafidah of the Scholarship Department. She told me I wasn’t shortlisted for the Actuarial Science I had applied for, but they were willing to offer me Economics. I immediately gave them my answer: a flat-out YES!

6th April 2018

I arrived early at Lanai Kijang (the Bank’s purpose-built residence), perhaps around 2.30pm. My parents drove me there and they were admittedly more excited than me.

I registered at the reception and got my room number. While waiting for my keys, I leafed through the namelist and discovered only 61 candidates were given the invitation to join the Kijang Academy (a selection camp for the Kijang scholarships), including 12 candidates for Kijang Emas.

That night, all candidates sat in a full group for the first time and there, we met our mentors: Mr. Haziq, Ms. Sharlene and another whom I didn’t get to know. We had the chance to introduce ourselves and asked questions about the scholarship.

7th April 2018

Activity 1 – Magazine Covers

We stayed in Lanai Kijang but the group activities were held in Sasana Kijang (a nearby BNM complex housing conference venues). For the first activity, we had to draw a magazine cover of ourselves and present it to the panel one by one. Then, we had to exchange stories with partners. The session ended with us voting on the best magazine cover.

Activity 2 – Kijang Bridge

In the next activity, we were tasked to build a 60cm bridge using straws, old newspaper and tape. Challenging? Indeed!

The panel asked how many bottles we thought our bridge could withstand. I, representing my group (K2), confidently told them 13. Other groups (K1 and K3) put lower targets. At the end, our bridge was hideous. So when it was judgement time, the panel asked if we wanted to lower our initial target. K2 was firm in maintaining ours, while other groups relented. I justified why I wanted to stay with 13 despite the horrible structure, amid the panelists’ doubt over our bridge. The outcome was unexpected. K2’s bridge didn’t topple and managed to withstand 1 bottle. The K1 Bridge toppled before even putting any bottles. K3 withstood 1 bottle.

Activity 3 – Case Study

This was a failure. I’m definitely blaming myself because I didn’t understand the concept of CSR. Sorry team. But what was the case study about? No spoilers.

Activity 4 – Role Playing

Our group had to compete against another in planning a 7-minute drama. The topic of our choice was ‘’, an online shopping website. Both teams were amazing and hilarious: in either team there were such talented actors.

At the end of the day, we had a session with the panel. They gave us feedback and motivation going on our future paths.

Thank you panel, if you’re reading this. Mrs Fauziah, Mr Chai and Mr KI, lots of love.

That night, we were assembled in the hall. Names were called out one by one and we were instructed to exit the hall. My name was one of the earliest to be called; I was scared but stayed calm.

29 names in total were called out and we were brought to a room. We were then told that we managed to proceed to the next stage. Alhamdulillah!

Personally, I wanted the whole team to proceed but the panel had to make the cut. So moving to next stage from K2, were Kah Hou, Faisal, Husin and me.

8th April 2018

The final assessment day, where I managed to proceed to the last stage.

For the final stage, we had to prepare an individual presentation. I’m not a creative person so I wrote words: just words, and not even sentences. We were then ushered to separate rooms. One by one, we wished our friends good luck and I was second to present. Alhamdulillah it went well. Again, not spoiling any content on the nature of the presentation.

Before we went home, we stopped by the Bank Museum. After the tour, we packed our bags from Lanai Kijang and went home. It was a sad moment for me, immersed in an environment with amazing people with unique personalities. I really wished it would have lasted longer.

A big thanks to Bank Negara for giving me the chance to experience Kijang Academy. Will I get the scholarship? InsyaAllah, I don’t know really. Do pray for me. The results will be out at the end of April.

Muhammad Alif Iman is currently a Bank Negara Malaysia Kijang Scholar. He completed his SPM in Sekolah Sultan Alam Shah Putrajaya and is currently pursuing his A-Levels in Epsom College in Malaysia (ECiM). As he is planning on pursuing an Economics degree, his A-Level subjects are Economics , Politics , Mathematics , Further Maths and EPQ. If you intend to contact the author, feel free to contact the CollegeLAH Team at

BNM Kijang Scholarship (January Intake)

Sasana Kijang

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Ever thought of acquiring a scholarship from the Central Bank of Malaysia, Bank Negara Malaysia (henceforth referred to as BNM), that not only covers pre-university education but extends to degree level as well?

Traditionally, BNM’s application only opens after the announcement of SPM results in the beginning of March. So it was as unexpected to me as to everyone else when we were informed that Bank Negara was offering the scholarship before SPM had even commenced. The selection process involved going through an interview process in December after our SPM ended in November with only our trial results.

As far as I know, this application could only be done through the school, and students who applied were mostly nominated by their teachers. Together with my other three peers, I applied for the scholarship using trial results and a compilation of certificates.

If you are aiming for the scholarships after SPM or other relevant qualifications, a piece of advice is to be actively involved in co-curricular activities that you enjoy and would potentially benefit you, alongside a good academic performance throughout your secondary education. Taking part in competitions, events, and sport tournaments, especially in your final years of secondary school, can set you apart from other applicants with your own unique talents and ‘flavour’.                                      

The notice that I was shortlisted for the interview came in early December, not long after SPM ended. Before the interview, we were required to do an online IQ assessment which consisted of these few sections:

1) Dimensions (Personality)

This assessment measures your behavioural preferences at work. It explores how you prefer to manage your relationships with others, your approach to tasks, and your sources of energy and motivation.

2) Elements (Verbal)

This assessment measures your analytical reasoning skills in relation to interpreting written information and reports.

3) Elements (Numerical)

This assessment measures your analytical reasoning skills in relation to using figures, data and statistics.

4) Elements (Logical)

This assessment measures your reasoning skills in relation to understanding and manipulating abstract or logical symbols.

In mid-December, I attended the interview along with two peers who were shortlisted. The interview process was largely similar to the usual interview process that commences every year in April-June after SPM results are released. We were provided accommodation in Lanai Kijang, BNM’s effectively private 5-star hotel, for three days and two nights (the duration of the interviews).

1st Day:

My first task was a half-hour essay which asked me about my thoughts and passion towards the course I chose, Law, and essentially, how I would contribute to the bank through my expertise in it. From my inference, this stage evaluates your thought process in structuring your essay and giving reasons that support your claim about your passion towards the course. Your aims in contributing to the bank should illustrate how you plan to apply and practise what you have gained from your degree in fulfilling the bank’s policies and aims when you serve your bond in the bank. My suggestion is to be realistic but optimistic when stating your views/ideas; don’t worry about using bombastic language that might sound overly flowery which you might use incorrectly in the end.

2nd Day:

The second stage was carried out in Sasana Kijang, BNM’s learning/research centre. We were divided into groups of 7 in which we worked throughout the day. The first few rounds were judged by three ‘facilitators’ who were also the assessors. The first round was an ice-breaking session that allowed me to know my teammates better, including their origin, course of choice etc. Speaking from experience, do grab the chance of this session to establish good rapport among yourselves and leave the assessors with a good first impression of yourself, especially when you work your way through dismantling the barriers among peers.

The following few rounds involved working as a team. One of them was a role play session when each of us was assigned a role in a company, whereby we were supposed to perform our respective expertise by drafting policies that were aimed to gain high profits for the company, and at the same time, increase welfare of the citizens. After completing the task within the stipulated time, I was bombarded with questions from the assessors who role-played as the board of directors about the drawbacks of the policies we had just drafted as a team. In the midst of convincing the BOD of your policies and defending your ideas, it is imperative that you are able to think critically while remaining calm and composed. Do bear in mind to show humility and respect to your teammates and assessors when expressing your views as the attitude you adopt in problem-solving and teamwork could be a deciding factor. Also make sure that you give adequate speaking opportunities to your teammates and always understand that your efforts should be collective and invariably for the greater good of the team as a whole. Remember that dominance does not equate to leadership.

The subsequent rounds comprised of competitions with other groups, judged by a larger number of assessors. Our first project was to design a theme park that could generate the highest revenue possible. If memory serves, one of the other winning criteria was best design. Like all the other rounds, it is important to choose a leader among yourselves who can lead the team to ensure efficiency and unity. As a leader, it is important that you embrace the opinions of your teammates before coming to a decision quickly. Go ahead and assume this responsibility if you are elected by your teammates who think that you possess these qualities. And if you are not the leader, fret not because it would not affect your chances of showcasing your abilities by contributing to the group as part of the team.

The next challenge was to build a boat that could support the most number of marbles without sinking into the water. The challenge in this project was not just deciding on the design of the body of the boat but also carefully planning our expenditure on the materials that could be optimally utilised to keep the boat afloat as we had to build the boat with minimal cost. We then made a presentation of our model by explaining the features of our boat and analysing on how well it worked.

3rd Day:

We had to do an individual presentation of a topic assigned to us. My topic was regarding how we can encourage children in Malaysia to think about personal finance and managing their money wisely. Firstly, we were given some time to illustrate and write the content of our presentation on a few pieces of mahjong paper. We then had to present it to a new set of assessors individually. Likewise, the assessors questioned us thoroughly about the content we were presenting about and expected to see a positive and spontaneous response. STAY CALM because candidates usually panic when they face the assessors alone. Ideally, by the third day you should be rather “experienced” in performing under pressure without being hindered by anxiety. Give it your best shot!

Through this stage, the interviewers generally want to know about what you have gained from previous stages, the reason of you choosing the course, and how suited are you for the scholarship and working in the bank. They expect honest and well-explained answers from you, so just be yourself when doing that.

The entire interview experience was enriching and definitely something worth a try. This exposure to an intensive interview process enabled me to pick up essential interview skills and know what qualities are expected of me in interviews. Making preparations before the interview is advisable, in the sense that you read up on the philosophy of their function as the Central Bank and also think of the reasons why you have chosen the course. This does not mean that you memorise scripts before the interview because this tactic would not work most of the time. It may cause you to be too rigid in making spontaneous response when you are being interviewed.   

After being awarded the scholarship, I joined the January intake at Kolej Tuanku Jaafar, doing an 18-month A-levels course. It is a great college to be in and I am extremely grateful to the bank for granting me this opportunity. Although being a January intake student for A-levels is a challenging task, it is a fun experience and I am enjoying the time I am having now. As there are expectations to be met as a Bank scholar, my advice is to appreciate your time when doing your A-levels and this effort will definitely pay off and bear fruits of success. As a matter of fact, Bank scholars are required to gain entry into the top-notch universities Bank Negara lists out. Hence, be wise when selecting your priorities and do not waver in your determination of achieving what you have set out for. Make the journey worth it at the end of the day as you have attained what could be a dream every student would have – a free education in a prestigious university abroad.

I hope this article is useful in giving you inspirations and insights into attending a scholarship interview be it in Bank Negara or other scholarship avenues. “STUDY SMART and PLAY HARD”- a meaningful catch phrase from high school.




Si Qi Chung is currently doing A-Levels in Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar as a January intake and will hopefully read Law in the United Kingdom. She is a curious and eager learner and will pursue what she finds interesting. This aspiring lawyer is also a great watercolour painter who has won numerous awards.


Actuarial Science/ Maths & Stats/ MORSE Personal Statement

Cedric Teoh is currently a first year undergraduate reading BSc in Actuarial Science at The London School of Economics and Political Science. This personal statement was part of his successful application to The LSE (Actuarial Science), City University London (Actuarial Science), Imperial College London (Maths & Stats) and the University of Warwick (MORSE).

I enjoy analytical subjects that require me to think creatively. I like how Mathematics involves logical chains of thought and I find it exciting to use fundamental skills to solve complex questions. Applying mathematical rules, while pushing for a creative outcome, is a challenge I relish.  I enjoy finding alternative routes to a solution and solving more challenging questions, such as those in the STEP papers. My enthusiasm for the subject stems from its wide range of applications, giving me the option to apply my knowledge in a myriad of fields. Statistics is the field of mathematics for which I have the greatest affinity.

My early encounters with statistics came from watching football. Sports analysts use statistics to reduce the occurrence of injuries and to transforms players’ traits into data, allowing comparisons to be made. Bookmakers also rely on statistical methods to set their odds. After reading Goldman Sachs’ paper on the recent FIFA World Cup, I found it interesting that through regression analysis they could convert many variables, such as home advantage, into statistical parameters. These were then used to carry out Monte-Carlo simulations to predict the outcome of matches. Their model predicting Brazil would win the trophy turned out to be wrong. I think they overplayed the advantage of being the hosts, as statistically host nations had more than a 50% win rate in the past, provided they were a top football nation. However, we can observe that host nations have not won the World Cup since 1998 and 3 of the last 4 winners were not even from the home continent.The applicability of confidence intervals appeals to me as they are widely used in various industries, accounting for natural variations in research. Actuarial science, a field I wish to explore further, uses it extensively in risk analysis. As actuarial scientists estimate the potential losses of company investments, confidence intervals are used to render the value at risk with greater certainty. This helps prevent crises, such as banks failing during the Great Depression, from happening. I am amused by how simple topics we learnt can greatly impact the financial sector.

‘The Great Mathematical Problems’ by I. Stewart introduced me to many theorems and conjectures.  When reading about Goldbach’s Conjectures and Euclid’s propositions on prime numbers it seemed that this was a very theoretical area which lacked applications. So I was amazed when I discovered their significance in public-key cryptography, which is widely used in internet security. Mathematicians essentially exploited the lack of an effective algorithm in finding the prime factors of composite numbers to create a trapdoor function for cryptography. Discovering applications of theoretical mathematics makes it practical and interesting.

Mathematics competitions help stimulate my creative thinking. I won a Gold certificate in the UKMT Mathematics Challenge, ranking 2nd amongst my peers. At a local university’s Engineering Competition, the team that I was leading finished 2nd. Despite early disappointments we persisted in making a model car of the desired quality. I honed my problem solving skills as we managed to develop a way to improve the explosiveness of the nozzle which allowed our model car to move much further.

As Vice President of the Mathematics Club, I help to prepare my juniors for competitions and to develop more interesting quizzes. I have volunteered to be a personal tutor, developing my ability to communicate and to simplify technical problems. As a prefect I built my leadership skills and learnt to be dedicated, spending time mentoring my juniors. Working as a sales assistant at Apple’s premium retailer had improved my interpersonal skills greatly.  I also represented my boarding house in basketball competitions.

I am excited about seizing the opportunities the Central Bank of Malaysia scholarship has given me and about learning in a stimulating environment in the UK.

DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KINDUCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.

Bank Negara Kijang Emas Scholarship

Alicia Kijang Emas

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Hello everyone! I’m Alicia, currently reading Law in the University of Cambridge. I was the first undergraduate student to receive the Kijang Emas scholarship from Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), and I’ll be sharing my experiences with you today.

First, a little bit about BNM and the scholarship itself! It’s the Malaysian central bank, and is dedicated to promoting sustainable growth in Malaysia. They strongly believe in developing human capital, and BNM’s Scholarship Programme aims at nurturing young talent. I was blessed enough to receive the Kijang Emas scholarship, which is a full scholarship. Students who are awarded this particular scholarship are not bonded to BNM, and are called to contribute back to Malaysia instead. Post-SPM students who receive this also have the option to select any course in any top university. BNM also offers their scholars the opportunity to participate in internships, usually during the summer. The details of the internships depend on the particular department, but all offer great opportunities to learn.

Securing the scholarship

My application experience was a little different, as I originally applied for the normal undergraduate scholarship, but was subsequently awarded the Kijang Emas scholarship. So, I will focus instead on the general content rather than the format of my assessment. If you would like to read about the usual procedures, you can read some of the other articles on CollegeLAH by BNM scholars.

During my interview, I was generally asked about my interest in my course (Law), and how I plan to cope with studying in the United Kingdom. At this stage, it is crucial to demonstrate a keep interest in your subject, as they want students who are passionate and who really love their subject.

Among the interesting questions I was asked was whether I think it is true that some people are simply born smarter than others. My response was that we can’t control the circumstances that we are born into. Some may come into families that are better suited to expose them to the world at an early age, thus making them “smarter,” but it is up to us to make the best of what we are given.

I was also asked questions like how I handle criticism. To this, I responded that I view it objectively, and absolutely welcome it if it comes with good reason. I related this to my homework (my A Level subjects were very essay-based) to say how I use criticism to improve the quality of my work.

Intellectually, if you are still studying when you apply, you should definitely pay extra attention to your revision, and think not just about how to score in the exam, but the additional skills they provide you with as a whole (Literature, for example, hones in on analytical skills). They may very well ask what your favorite subject in college (or secondary school) is, and you should be prepared to answer this question. Read through any essays you may have submitted with your application, and reflect on some of your major extra-curricular activities, determining what qualities you have gained from them. For example, how has participating in debate helped you grow? Is it relevant to your chosen course? Has it made your more eloquent and confident? Try to put a value to everything (relevant!) that you have done, and don’t just state the obvious.

In terms of your state of mind, try not to think too much. Whilst you definitely should prepare as much as you can, don’t stress yourself out. There is only so much that you can do, and they won’t expect you to know everything anyway. Remember that there is such a thing as over-preparing! Whilst you should have the general gist of your points, don’t memorise and reproduce your answers – be as natural as you can, and show your sincerity. Once your application process is over, put it aside, and focus on what you have at hand. Don’t agonise over any mistakes you may have made (unless you know how you can improve and still have upcoming assessments). Last but certainly not least, pray very hard, and leave the rest to God!

Applying for this scholarship and receiving it has definitely affected me greatly. The application process itself taught me a lot, and I value what I learned from my interview panel during the time I spent with them too. I also got to make friends with my fellow applicants, who are all brilliant in their own right, and I hope we get to meet again in the future.

Receiving the Kijang Emas scholarship has opened my eyes to see that it is possible, and that working hard really does pay off. It has been an invaluable experience, and I am truly grateful for this opportunity.

Alicia Loh

Alicia Loh is a Bank Negara Kijang Emas scholar who will be reading Law in the University of Cambridge. She gives all glory to God. She can usually be found with a book and lots of pink, and blogs at, where she writes important things about life (such as her furry baby’s first time walking on grass). She also has an online shop called Openquote Designs selling printables.

Bank Negara Kijang Scholarship


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What is the Kijang Scholarship?

The Kijang Scholarship is one of the two overseas scholarships offered by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) (also known as the Central Bank of Malaysia) aimed towards SPM graduates, making it one of the many generous institutions that offer scholarships at this level. Applicants are able to request to be sponsored to study at the UK, USA or Australia at university level to read one of a certain few disciplines – Economics, Actuarial Science, Law, Accounting & Finance and Mathematics. These specific subjects are chosen because BNM is a Central Bank, thereby requiring its human capital to be proficient in these fields in order to regulate the economy effectively.

What is the difference between Kijang and Kijang Emas?

While this article will be on the Kijang Scholarship predominantly, some obvious differences between Kijang Emas and Kijang will be made clear here. In terms of grade requirements, Kijang Emas is exclusively for straight A+ students while 8A/A+ is the requirement for Kijang. The difference in criterion stems from the terms of the scholarships themselves. While the Kijang Scholarship limits itself to the 3 countries and 5 disciplines mentioned earlier, Kijang Emas permits its holders to pursue any discipline in any country. However, applying to Kijang Emas doesn’t guarantee you assessment for the Kijang Emas; if BNM thinks that your application is more suitable for Kijang, you may be shifted. In contrast, I have never heard of the opposite happening thus far.

Is there a bond that comes with the scholarship?

There is a service bond for holders of the Kijang Scholarship – 2 years of work with BNM for every year of sponsorship. This means that getting sponsored for 2 years of A-level plus 3 years in the UK means 10 years of bond. The plus point is that you get job security in a Central Bank. This is, I believe, explicitly stated in the BNM scholarship webpage. In comparison to other scholarship bodies in the financial or governance sector e.g. Maybank, Sime Darby and JPA which all have bonds of between 4-5 years, Kijang Holders have to serve a far longer bond period. Kijang Emas scholarship recipients, however, are not bonded to BNM, though they are called to contribute to Malaysia, also for double the period of the sponsorship.

How is the assessment process?

There are two major stages in which your suitability for the scholarship is assessed.

The first, of course, is the online application. Right when SPM results are released i.e. early March, the BNM website will commence its scholarship applications, of which links can be found on their website. It is imperative that you do not apply to the wrong scholarship given that there are scholarships for undergraduate level and beyond as well, in which you may have proven your lack of competence if you do so. The online application is relatively simple: just key in whichever details they ask for e.g. personal details, SPM grades, co-curricular achievements etc. I have heard that applicants have to write short timed essay at this stage (I did not have to in 2013, but heard that 2014 applicants had to). Whether it is true or not, if you truly know what you want to apply for and why, plus if you are a competent student, you will fare well.

Your co-curricular achievements will definitely help in making you stand out from the myriad of applicants, all of whom have stellar grades. Perhaps by coincidence, but a significant portion of people that make the cut all the way until the end and eventually attain the scholarship itself, are debaters. A more intuitive observation was that people who get shortlisted have at least national-level achievements. I, for one, had an international-level achievement, about two national-level achievements, amidst several state and district-level achievements plus 8A+, 1A in SPM. It is imperative that you excel in co-curricular activities while in secondary school rather than going full bookworm. If you haven’t, you are probably not going to make it, unless your application seems strong even without it.

If you are one of the lucky ones amidst a huge pool of competent applicants all across Malaysia, your second stage would be the 3 day 2 night Kijang Academy which will be held at Lanai Kijang and Sasana Kijang. I have no way of assuring that this will be the length of the Academy at the time this article is read. It is usually at this stage where people realise how sophisticated the Central Bank can be. You will be staying at Lanai Kijang, their residential building while a majority of your assessment will be in Sasana Kijang, the futurist glass building equipped with cutting edge technological gadgets and a huge library. There will be good food for the famished.

So what is this Kijang Academy?

If you have hundreds of equally competent applicants on paper, how do you choose a handful of scholars? The solution would be the usual – interviews, group tasks etc. This is where Kijang Academy occurs. However, the Kijang Academy is designed in such a way that it is impossible to fake it through. Who and what qualities they are looking for are never known explicitly. So my advice at this stage for you prospective applicants would be to be yourself at your best and be a humble person.

Stage 1

The first stage during my year was an essay on the first night of our stay. Questions were generally personal i.e. your qualities, studying attitudes etc. My inference was that this task aims at showcasing your thought process, reasoning, structure and effective communication. It is imperative that one writes concisely; verbosity hinders communication. They want to know more about you rather than to see you show off your flowery, bombastic and glorious language mastery.

For my case, it was done in a relatively short period of time (not exactly short if you reflect on it after a year of A level) in a ballroom sort of hall.

Stage 2

The second stage begins on the following day in Sasana Kijang. Do note that this may be drastically different by the time you are reading this article as scholarship assessment methods change over time at their discretion. This stage consists of several group-based assessments – interviews and tasks. You will be put into groups of approximately 10.

The first portion of the group stage was intuitively an ice-breaking session. I was required to introduce another member of the group while she did the same for me. The setting was designed to make everyone less stressful or tense and know each other more for the remaining of the group stages. So for strategic purposes, get to know everyone in your group well; perhaps knowing their strengths will do.

The second portion of the group stage, if my memory doesn’t fail me or if nothing changes, was an interview done under the disguise of a series of role-play tasks. We were supposed to give talk shows presuming that we are experts of our desired fields of studies. By desired, I mean the disciplines you applied through the system. Essentially, it means that they want to know even more about why you applied for your desired subject of choice under a less pressured situation.

The third portion of the group stage was a obligatory group task as per what other scholarship bodies also do – a group presentation based on a business problem i.e. to come up with a solution for a situation portrayed within 30 minutes of discussion/preparation within your group. The presentation would last approximately 10-15 minutes in extension to Q&A by the assessors. Fret not about your knowledge in business jargons as the questions are designed to be fair to everyone regardless of pre-existing knowledge on business. It aims at exposing how you function as part of a team. Keep in mind that this is not a game for dominance by anyone; your purpose is to contribute towards a working solution as a team. If you, in any way, decide that being “shiok sendiri”, shutting out others or being a dictatorial leader is a good way of working as a team, all the best!

The fourth and final portion of the group stage was a creative group work, in which most will find this part the most memorable, enjoyable and stress-free. You will be using limited resources e.g. limited amount of papers, tapes and sticks to build something within an hour. We were tasked with building a tower. Creativity counts here as well; hence, artistic members of the group will be of great use here. With the creativity cap removed, my group produced a futurist twin tower ultrapolis. My advice for this part is the same as the previous paragraph: you are part of a team striving for a creative solution, so do your part and contribute effectively.

The Break Announcement

At the beginning of the Kijang Academy up until now, there will be about a hundred of applicants per batch. Intuitively, they are not going to interview everyone personally if they can cut down some by this stage, which is exactly what happens. The assessors will be able to identify who may secure the scholarship and who definitely won’t by the end of the group assessments. Only those who may secure the scholarship by the judgment of the second stage stay onto the next stage – the individual interview and presentation. The announcement is done differently in my year than in the following year. However, the main characteristics stay – a list of students will be announced and be told elsewhere that they have been dropped out of the selection process. Either that or those who make the break will be told elsewhere.

Stage 3

The final stage of assessment consists of two parts – the individual presentation and the interview. By this stage, approximately half of the applicants would have been dropped out, leaving every group with on average 4-6 members. There doesn’t seem to be any quotas of participants making it to this stage as some teams have significantly more or less members at this stage.

The first portion of the final stage begins such that you are given 15 minutes to prepare a presentation based on one of the questions from a list. There are general questions similar to SPM-level questions and more external knowledge-based questions. Most interviewees went for the general questions. Do note that while all of the applicants prepare together, not everyone gets interviewed immediately after. This does not mean that you are allowed to make edits after 15 minutes of preparation to your flipchart. When it is your turn, you will be asked to present whatever you have for about 10 minutes plus 5 minutes of Q&A session by the assessors. Effective communication, reasoning and making sense is still the key here.

The second and ultimate portion is of course the interview itself, which may be rather lengthy. Mine, for one, lasted almost about an hour. In practice, your interviewers want to know more about what they have learned about you in the previous stages e.g. why your chosen course, why Bank Negara and of course, showcasing through your ECAs/school life why you are suitable for the scholarship or even working in Bank Negara as a whole. Essentially, they want to be sure that you are suitable for the scholarship. There is no point awarding a scholarship to a student who won’t fit into working at Bank Negara. The criteria of assessment remain difficult to decipher, my advice remains the same – be yourself at your best.

What happens after Kijang Academy?

This is arguably even more stressful than the assessment itself if you make it thus far. You have to wait for almost 3-4 weeks before you get the decision from BNM. There is only so much you can do at this stage, go on with interviews from other scholarship bodies, continue college education or get on with life as usual. If you are awarded the scholarship, you will receive a phone call from BNM telling you the discipline you are sponsored to pursue; you will also be told of the country in which your undergraduate studies will take place, hopefully. There are people who do not attain their first choice, presumably that the assessors think that their second choice suits them more. By words, you can decide to either accept or reject the scholarship through phone.

There will be a day dedicated to briefing you and your parents about the scholarship terms and preparatory colleges (KTJ, KYUEM or Taylor’s), probably about a week after you get the call from BNM. On this day, you will be briefed on the scholarship contract just like how legal firms and banks normally would.   Make sure that you get as much clarifications as you can on the terms; your following 1 or 2 years in the prep colleges will be directly affected by them. After which KTJ, KYUEM and Taylor’s will brief you on their schools/colleges.

What to do after being awarded the scholarship?

If you are awarded the scholarship, it means you have attained a privilege to have free overseas education, arguably a dream everyone would have. Don’t let it go to waste. Keep in mind that attaining the scholarship is just a stage but retaining the scholarship is another. The universities which you are allowed to apply to are extremely competitive ones, which is rather intuitive because who would want to sponsor stellar students to average overseas universities on par with local universities. This means that you will have to study even harder to get your places in the overseas universities. In your preparatory colleges/schools, life will be even more hectic than in secondary school with more academic content and co-curricular activities. My ultimate advice would be to prioritise smartly; the Bank sent you to whichever place you end up in to study, not to flunk your grades because of anything.

imageedit_4_4122498761Suah Jing Lian is currently a Bank Negara Malaysia Kijang Scholar who’s pursuing his A-level at Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar and hopefully Economics in the UK. He has a penchant for Baroque music, particularly Bach’s partitas, and debating, which he claims provides sparks to his life. People claim that he looks and speaks in an intimidating way but not really, he’s one of the most eccentric people you will ever meet.

Securing the Bank Negara Undergraduate Scholarship

Shyue Jer was one of the Bank Negara Scholarship recipients in 2014 after defeating 2000 other applicants Shyue Jer was one of the Bank Negara Scholarship recipients in 2014 after defeating 2000 other applicants

Shyue Jer is one of the 4 Bank Negara Undergraduate Scholarship recipients in 2014

I have applied to Bank Negara twice, once for the Pre-university Scholarship (2013) and once for the Undergraduate Scholarship (2014). After being rejected in the first interview – not even making the individual stage – fortunately I secured the scholarship at my second attempt. Since very little has been written about the application process of Bank Negara Undergraduate Scholarship Program, I think I might just share my experience of my second visit to the Bank’s assessment.

Only sixteen out of two thousands applicants were selected and only 10 of us made the trip to the Bank. I did not expect this few to be present but  I am definitely not complaining about the six absentees. Did I also mention that there will be a further short-listing after the group assessment which further reduces the number? Now, allow me to walk you through the process, which is quite lengthy.

The entire day consisted of two parts, one being the group assessment and the other a 3-on-1 individual interview (referred as interview later). The former lasted for about an hour and the latter about 45 minutes.

There were 6 guys and 4 girls, and most of us applied with offers to read economics from UK universities like LSE, Warwick and Bath. Additionally, 2 girls would be heading to UiTM and one guy would be going to Cornell University.

Our day went as something like this:

  • 8.00-8.15 : Registration
  • 8.30-9.00 : Briefing on the programs
  • 9.00-10.30 : Group Assessment
  • 11.00-12.00 : Announcement of shortlisted candidates who will proceed to the interview
  • 12.00- 1.00 : Lunch
  • 1.00 – 4.00 : Interview (which ended earlier than estimated)

In the group assessment, we were made into two groups of five before we entered separate rooms. There were 3 panels in each room who assessed our performances in a role play simulation. Each of us assumed a role (business development, manager, etc) in a fashion company which was facing falling profits and our task was to try to extend its product line. We were given 30 minutes to discuss and a data table as our reference. The task required us to identify the problems, risks and solutions for the company and later present the ideas to the panels who acted as the board members of the company.

Since I like statistics, and had learned to quickly digest them during my A-level economics classes, I volunteered to be the number guy. I noticed some trends in the table which were discussion-worthy and  – knowing that I had to make my presence known – brought them up to my teammates. Of course there were disagreements and rebuttal of ideas, but the key here was to stand behind the group’s final decision and not let disagreements turn into fallacious arguments.

The presentation went okay and I thought my group did a good job in defending our strategy even when the panels doubted its practicability. There wasn’t a lot of flare, but then the critical moment came when one of my teammates, Syahmi, was called and asked which of the two of us would he choose to fire!

(It’s The Apprentice all over again! I looked up to the ceiling hoping to find a camera directing at us.)

Aaaaand the results were announced before lunch! 3 of us were eliminated. I really felt bad for those who crashed out because they were going through what I had gone through last year. At the same time I couldn’t help but felt relieved too.

During lunch, I had the opportunity to speak to my panels who would later interview me. Surprisingly, one of them recognised me from last year’s interview and I think that sort of changed their perspectives about me? The conversation went really well and we spoke about why we change to plastic money, what’s life in BNM and other economic issues.

Back to the lounge where we waited for our turns to be interviewed, I felt really sleepy and had to kill my time with some quiz apps. Eventually my turn came and I spoke to the panels for about 25 minutes. I actually timed myself so that I would know how long the interview had been.

The interview consisted of common questions like ‘Tell me more about yourself’, ‘Why do you want to do economics’, ‘What is your weakness’, ‘How do you see yourself 10 years from now’, ‘Tell me a challenge you face before and how you overcome it’ and a few others. Overall I elaborated a lot on behavioral finance which is my favorite among all the economics topics and how I developed my passion in this field, thanks to my amazing economics lecturer.

And since I had so much more to speak about economics, I felt that the interview ended quite abruptly before even the half-hour mark. But apparently the panels were not aware of the duration and told me not to worry about it.

I am sure that many who are going through this process will be extremely anxious at this stage as there are just so many uncertainties about our futures. Still, if the results are already finalized, it is useless to over-think about it. Someone mentioned to me that a scholarship ‘is a privilege, not a right’ so fret not if you do not get one, because ‘better things are going to you if you don’t get this one’. Life is a journey too short for us to stay in our past!

Shyue Jer will be working in Bank Negara Malaysia as an economist upon graduation from London School of Economics

Shyue Jer will be working in Bank Negara Malaysia as an economist upon graduation from London School of Economics

Final tips for the individual interview:

  • In hindsight, a short interview doesn’t necessarily translate to a lower chance to win a scholarship. Very often, it indicates that you bore them but it could also mean that they are very sure of you and just need little bit more time to confirm your place.
  • Almost all interviews I go to have quite casual settings. The interviewers won’t bite (they certainly don’t want to) you and just wanna know you better.
  • Be prepared. Make sure you google up common interview questions and prepare your own answer. A home-cook preparation always work during a chess game, and it’s the same in an interview!
  • Ask intelligent questions! A the end of the interview, I always try to ask something related to the institution. It can be a great conversation filler and a chance to display your genuine interest in the company that you are gonna work for the next 5 years.

Ng Shyue Jer

Ng Shyue Jer is a Bank Negara scholar who will be reading Economics in London School of Economics. He dislikes eating tomato but finds it a nice addition in ABC soup.