Yayasan Khazanah Global Scholarship Application Experience


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.

Concluding Remarks

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.

Yayasan Khazanah Global Scholarship Programme


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First stage

It was like any other scholarship application process. You are required to fill in personal details and also write an essay about how will you contribute back to Malaysia in the future.

Second Stage

You will be informed to log on into a system and answer the questions given within the limited time frame as stated. It is very likely that you will not have enough time to recheck your answers as the time given to answer them is very short. In my opinion, these questions are similar to the questions of reading comprehension where you need to have critical thinking in analyzing the data provided in these questions.

Third Stage

I received an email from Khazanah at approximately 11.40pm (yes, Khazanah workers do work late) In the email, I was informed to attend the third stage interview at Corus hotel, Jalan Ampang. The traffic at Kuala Lumpur is very unpredictable at times so I decided to travel early! I like the view of the skyscrapers in Kuala Lumpur as we do not really have such tall buildings with many storeys back in Seremban. I was a bit shocked because there were only 5 people including me when I reached Corus Hotel. After enquiring from the interviewers, they explained to us that they had separated many sessions for those that were selected where each session only consist a maximum of 6 people.

The interview consists of 3 parts, and it started with group discussion. Everyone was given 2 resumes and were required to discuss which person would be more suitable take up the position considering that the company has who to put in what position with company’s limited budget. It was less stressful as there were guidance such as data and instructions. The group discussion went on for 30 minutes with the Khazanah interviewers observing the progress of the discussion.

The next part was the case study personal presentation. We were given a case and were required to present individual presentation about launching a new phone. We need to analyse and decide the venue, time, types of advertisement and many more.  At this stage of the interview, everyone was guided as data and instructions were provided. After 30 minutes of preparation, we begun our 15 minutes presentation and ended with a question and answer session.

The last part was regarding a personal interview which I would personally advise those who will be interviewed to stay calm and be yourself. You need to be honest with everything you say or provide as it will not be surprised that these experienced interviewers will know whether or not you were lying. I would also advise to do simple preparation before coming for the interview. I prepared files containing my resume and certificates although it may not be used during the interview.

Fourth stage

I received another email a few days later, informing me to attend stage 4 interview at KLCC level 33. The relaxing room for the Khazanah workers was really very nice with yellowish lighting. Stage 4 was a personal interview with Yayasan Khazanah director Mr Kamarul Bahrein which lasted for 30 minutes. He asked me to introduce myself and some questions regarding my personal background, personal interest and also my curricular activities.

Fifth stage

After two weeks of waiting, I finally received an email from Khazanah. There are 14 of us that were fortunately selected into the final stage. I had fun chatting and getting to know them. The interview session was with the director of Khazanah and it only lasted for 5 to 10 minutes. It was considered a short and brief session.

This is the picture of me with YK director and managers during my pre-departure briefing 🙂

**All above are just my personal experience and it may be different for other candidates**


Belinda Lee

Belinda Lee Theng Lui had completed her matriculation at Kolej Matrikulasi Pulau Pinang(KMPP) last April. She is currently doing her bachelor of commerce at Australian National University under the Yayasan Khazanah Global Scholarship Programme. She loves travelling whenever she can and enjoys cooking in the kitchen. ‘Do not confuse your path with your destination, just because it’s stormy now doesn’t mean you aren’t headed to sunshine’ is a quote she believes for a lifetime.



4 Stages of the Yayasan Khazanah Global Scholarship Selection Process


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Yayasan Khazanah has several scholarships up for application: the Global, Watan, Asia, Cambridge and Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies Merdeka Scholarships. I am a Yayasan Khazanah (YK) Global Scholar, sponsored for both my Pre-U and Undergraduate studies. The process has not changed much since I went through the 4 stages (2 years ago). In the following I shall run you through how my interviews & tests went and make notes of how they have changed. Here goes:

Online Application:

The online application is pretty straightforward with the usual submission of information like name, DOB, interested field of study, extra-curriculars, etc. Applicants were also required to write an essay, “Why the Khazanah Scholarship is for you and how would you contribute to the good governance practices and leadership development of Malaysia”. From what I gather, the essay question has not changed. It is also in my opinion the most difficult part of the application. Also, I applied for the scholarship right after my SPM results came out. Take note of the deadlines. I submitted mine just before it closed. (That wasn’t a particularly good move)

Stage 1: Aptitude/IQ Test

A few weeks after the application, I was notified via email that I made it to Stage 1. When I arrived at the test venue, there were hundreds of others in attendance as well. This was a series of 4 timed tests, which tested us on skills ranging from math to spatial. This took an hour or two for completion. Tip: The test looks to assess your skills. Do not feel bad if you failed to complete every question from each section. I did not complete 2 sections too. When we were talking to our scholarship manager, she mentioned that each one of the scholars was better at some sections than others. Personally, it isn’t something you can fully prepare for. Being calm and confident is key. Since then, YK has changed this to an online test where all successful applicants would be given a link to follow and a deadline to complete the test.

Stage 2: More Written Tests, Group Interviews and Individual Interviews

The wait from Stage 1 to Stage 2 was an agonizing one. I remember hearing of people making it to Stage 2 and thinking I had failed. Lo behold, at 4 am one morning, I received the email telling me I made it. (YK people do work LATE into the night) During my time, it was a full jam-packed one-day Assessment. Now, it has been made into a 3-day Assessment Camp. 1. Group Presentation/Case Study: The Stage 2 attendees were split into 2 groups. Each group were asked to prepare a presentation ‘Should formal or informal language on social media be used by corporate companies to communicate with their customers’. One team was pro formal language and the other vice versa. During the presentation, actively answer and ask questions. Tip: Note that the assessors will be watching you during the discussion sessions too. Do not be afraid to voice your opinions and hear out the others. Take charge. After the group presentation the 2 teams were led to separate rooms. Essentially, both teams did the same thing albeit in a different order. 2. Group Discussion: In my team, we were broken down into smaller teams of 5. With a panel of 2, each of us in the team was given a different topic to think about. We did not know others’ topics. Tip: While the others are being asked on their topic, you’re given a chance to think about yours. However, do take note of what the others are talking about because the panel might choose to ask you what you think of what another person said instead of asking you about your topic. The aim is to catch you when you least expect it. Multitasking is important. 3. Written Test/Questionnaire: We were required to answer a few questions based on a questionnaire (A-G). Some were straightforward whilst some required thinking and writing short paragraphs. Tip: Read through the questionnaire (A-G) and the questions given. Think before you write but also be aware of the time. There is no right or wrong, just your opinion. Remember to justify your answers. 4. Individual Interview: This was done with one interviewee to 2 interviewers. They’ll ask basic questions like: what do you want to do, how do you see yourself in 10 years, explain one of your extra-curricular activities, etc. Tip: Carry yourself well (don’t be over-confident or too nervous), answer the questions honestly, do not be afraid to tell them you are unsure. If you NEED TIME TO THINK tell them to give you a minute and THINK BEFORE YOU SAY ANYTHING. Also, talking to the other people did help ease the nervousness. Be social, talking to others is good practice before an interview.  Once you’ve made it past the Assessment – be it in one day or 3 – give yourself a pat on the back and treat yourself. Kudos!

Stage 3: Interview

Stage 3 is a one-to-one interview with the Director of YK. In this stage, someone will give you a question to prepare. Once in the interview room, you will talk about yourself (based on the given question) within a time frame. The interviewer will not ask you any questions. You are permitted to ask a few questions about the scholarship. Tip: This session is largely about first impression and how you carry yourself. Since all the Director has heard and seen of you up to this point is based on your assessments (in a file), it is NOW time to convince him YES I AM THE ONE! Again be confident and remember first impressions DO MATTER.

Stage 4: One Last Interview

Rejoice! You’re almost there. This brief session is a casual conversation with the Board of Directors. Here, there is no fixed set of questions. The BOD will already have seen your previous assessment results. Now, they would like to know more about you. My conversation with them diverted to talking about Astro. Tip: Again, first impressions DO MATTER. Don’t be too put off by unexpected questions. Take your time to think. After Stage 4, you may breathe a sigh of relief and pray for the last email. An approximate break down of the number of people that made it past each stage in my year goes a bit like this: 1000+ applicants -> 1000 -> 400 -> 50-100 -> 8 -> 4 pre-u + 3 undergrad GOOD LUCK!

Valerie Ngow Valerie Ngow has just completed her A-Levels at KYUEM last July. She’s headed to University College London this  September to pursue Mechanical Engineering under the Yayasan Khazanah Global Scholarship Programme. She may be small but do not be fooled for she’s a little cili-padi. 🙂

Yayasan Khazanah Global Scholarship Programme

Veno, 2nd row and 4th from the right, during the Khaznah Scholarship on boarding session

Veno, 2nd row and 4th from the right, during the Khaznah Scholarship on boarding session

It was that time of the year again when everybody is scouring through the internet searching for some sort of help or some sort of salvation. In my case, I was looking for a MIRACLE. Honestly speaking, I wanted somebody, anybody really, to document his/her Yayasan Khazanah Global Scholarship Programme (YKGSP) journey to the dot.  Although there were many blogs describing their experiences, I felt as though there was something missing. So in order to fill the void that you might be feeling, I hope I’d be able to vividly describe my experience and share as much as I can so that your “insatiable” thirst for information would be quenched (to a certain extent, I hope).

The general rule of thumb for any scholarship application: BE YOURSELF! These people interviewing you might be your future employer and you always want to sell yourself in the best way possible. Now, let’s get down to business. YKGSP consisted of 5 stages in total.

1st stage (Online Application)

You have to fill up the online form and together with it you have to attach an essay. The title given to me in 2014 was “Why Khazanah Scholarship is for you and how you can contribute to the good governance practice and leadership development of Malaysia.”

I personally feel that YK is searching for an individual who comes across as confident (not to be mistaken with headstrong). Write a splendid essay that portrays your beliefs, and stand in life. It requires conviction and I assure you that you’re on the right path.

2nd stage (Online IQ Test)

The dreaded IQ test. During this test, time will be your worst enemy and you will have to come to terms with your shortcomings. The test is divided into 5 different components.

  1. Abstract reasoning test which tests our ability to relate statements e.g. mammal, dog, animal. Here you should be able to deduce that all dogs are mammals and all mammals except humans are animals. Then, you will have to pick a Venn diagram that perfectly suits this statement.
  2. Understanding logical process tests on your ability to reason the statements given e.g.

“The Jones live three floors below the Smiths.
The Smiths are not living at the topmost floor.
The Youngs are right above the Smiths.
There are only four floors in the flat.
Which floor are the Summers staying in?”

  1. Spatial reasoning test is where you’re tested on your ability to detect simple figures in a very complex diagram.
  2. Social context on the other hand, tests your creativity. You will be given sets of four pictures and you have to rearrange them to form sensible comic strips. Beware! There are no dialogues and everything depends on how you decipher the pictures.
  3. Numerical reasoning is where you put your (I bet by this time) super rusty maths skills to test. Personally, I found this to be the easiest as it was only a number sequence test, but there’s a caveat! You only have 11 minutes (I think, if my memory serves me right) to complete 40+ number sequences.

Remember, for all these tests, you will be given a certain amount of time to complete as many questions CORRECTLY. And these examples are just testers. The real questions were slightly tougher. I do hope that Yayasan Khazanah does not change the format of the IQ test. But, always bear in mind that practice makes perfect so DO SEARCH FOR FREE IQ TESTS ONLINE AND TRY THEM OUT!

3rd stage (Assessment Camp)

The 3rd stage was definitely nerve-wracking to say the least but it definitely was more of a learning experience for me. It was held at Corus Hotel, KL and it was divided into 2 sessions (the case study/presentation and personal interview).

Always remember, that in any scholarship interview, may it be a stress interview or a formal interview, the interviewers will always want to bring out the best in you (at least, that’s what I believe). In this case, the personal interview had a more laidback feel to it and the room was filled with a palpable lightness that I enjoyed.

Remember, interviewers will definitely ask generic questions like “Tell me about yourself,” “Why this course?”, “What have you learnt from your mistakes?”, etc, but it’s really up to you to make the conversation interesting. Give them something to ponder upon; tell them your point of view on life and motivations to give your interviewers the impetus to ask you more questions. That gives the whole conversation a purpose and there wouldn’t be silent awkward moments.

Besides that, don’t be afraid to ask the interviewers’ opinions. One last tip for interviews, it really doesn’t hurt to read up on current issues so that you can initiate discussions regarding them as the interview progresses.

Next up, case study. Our case study heavily revolved around the usage of facebook in the workplace. I forgot how the questions went but the gist of it was that we (you’ll be divided into teams) were to give a presentation on whether to ban or allow Facebook in the workplace. Don’t fret if you have no idea where to begin because you’ll be given palm cards that contain vital points that should be taken into consideration.

You’ll be given a time limit to come up with a power point presentation and you’ll have 5 minutes to pitch your idea. It is important for you to speak out during the discussion and don’t forget to be an opportunist.

After the presentation, there was a short Q & A session. They won’t bite but they will surely make you ruminate on whatever you’ve said earlier so the best advice here is to THINK BEFORE YOU TALK.

After the group Q & A, we were asked to do two fun activities that put our critical thinking skills to test. For the first part, we were given a questionnaire with a few sections from A-G, all regarding the day’s assessments. Then, we were given a card containing 5 questions which we had to answer within the time limit of 20 minutes.

e.g “Based on section A (of the questionnaire), question number 14, 15, 18 and 20, do you think that the questions have achieved their aim of gauging the students’ performance for the day?”

For the second activity, we were given a piece of paper containing 12 pairs of answers, with the questions spread all over a table within each group’s vicinity according to numerical order. We had to move from table to table in search for the questions and full descriptions of the answers (both were placed together), then tick our choices onthe piece of paper. We were given 20 minutes for this too.

e.g. In the midst of making a decision, a senior director gives his decision. What would you do?
o   Adhere to his idea due to seniority but if it doesn’t work, propose another idea to the board.
o   Resign as a sign of protest against his idea.

We also had a group interview regarding the topic of Facebook. For this session, each of the members in the group was given a card. On one side of the card, a myth regarding Facebook was printed on it. On the other side was a fact. For my card, under the category of socializing, I was to choose between “connects” or “disengages”. The other four members got different categories (which I can’t recall). The panel consisted of 2 members (they were not the friendliest) who asked me to explain me choice. I personally believe that for this section in particular, there is no wrong or right answer. It’s really how you convince them and sell your idea. BE INFECTIOUS!

4th stage (individual interview)

Well, if you’ve come this far you can definitely breathe a huge sigh of relief and take a breather. This stage will be more of an individual discussion with the YK Board, mainly Mr. Kamarul Bahrein (Director of YK), Mdm Intan Zalila or Mdm Emilia Maizura. They were really genuine and friendly. So my advice for this stage is don’t be too pretentious. Just be yourself. And be prepared to answer the typical interview questions;most of them will be based on your ECA and your experiences.

Don’t feel stressed if they put you out there and ask you something out of the blue. Just stay calm and composed. Don’t ever be fazed by questions that are thrown at you. My interview lasted for 30 minutes and the questions ranged from personal questions regarding my family to the degree I planned to pursue. Show them that you’ve done your homework and read up about the foundation, its core values and try to relate them with what you’re passionate about.

5th stage (Final Interview)

This is more of a confirmation stage where you’ll get to meet the cream of the crop (all the scholars that survived the gruelling process YK selection).  As I have mentioned earlier, this interview was really laid back. It’s more of a conversation with your future employer. Don’t be shocked if it only lasts for 5 minutes and they ask questions regarding your favourite football team. But always be prepared to answer questions that may or may not be of the norm. This session was held at the Mercu Uem building at KL sentral. We were interviewed by the Board of Director of Khazanah Nasional and it was a brief session.

Venoshini  copy

Venoshini Sevalimgam is an optimistic person who believes that education is a right, not a privilege. She is heading to the University of Manchester to pursue a degree in chemical engineering sponsored by Yayasan Khazanah. Definitely a pop culture aficionado!