My SMU School of Information Systems Interview 2017


Hey there! I figured if you are reading this, you would have probably searched for “SMU admissions interview” which led you here. I did the same thing when I was preparing for the interview.

Just some background, it was my 3rd attempt applying for SMU. I applied in 2014, 2016 and the year I got in, 2017. (I didn't apply in 2015 because I thought I couldn't get in). During each round of application, I applied a different course as the previous’. Finally, for in 2017, I figured out the only opportunity for me to get in was to choose IS (My poly GPA was around the 10th percentile of the IGP).

I guess nobody cares about my background, so let’s get to business.

I received a few missed calls while I was in Korea during March 2017 for holiday, the 25th to be exact. So, I went to googled in, as it doesn't seem like phishing scam calls, as they called a few times. The search results obviously, led me to believe that is SMU who called, and I was guessing, it might be for an interview arrangement.

I troubled my friend to help me return the call to the unknown number and I was right about my gut feelings, it was a call from SMU. Then, they told me about my interview, scheduled one week later, on the 4th of April.

What to prepare for the admission interview?

The email from the SMU admissions came like a red packet. I was blessed. Within, it contained information about the interview and the preparations I had to make. I was given the option to answer a Karel question (something like a pseudo-CSS/Java coding puzzle) or compare 2 websites based on the 10 User Heuristics, which both had study materials provided via links to prepare amply beforehand.

Needless to say, if you are going for an interview, you should be preparing questions that you might foresee being asked, if you haven't already known the answers. I prepared 4 pages of questions along with my answers to them, including the questions for the interviewer(s). Please do prepare questions to ask, because its an INTERVIEW not an INTERROGATION, asking questions shows your keen interest towards the major you applied for.

For me, I decided to do the KAREL question which was also a pre-requirement of the interview last year, in 2016. Interviews conducted before 2016 did not include this format. In addition, in 2017, they added WEBSITE COMPARISON (heuristic evaluation) as an alternative option to the pre-interview assessment.

For my research and preparation, I went to read others’ posts about the interview as well, and many past candidates said they were asked an estimation question. Something that goes like "How many people one MRT can fit?".

But NO, it wasn't asked.

The Interview Day

What to bring?

Bring your stuff - if you have a portfolio to show, bring it. Otherwise, the rest of your academic documents are important as well.

What to wear?

The email stated, "dress in Smart Casual". Smart casual can be ambiguous and confusing to many. In my opinion, for a formal occasion like an interview, smart casual simply means 'no blazer'. Hence, you might want to wear formal, but leave the blazer out. I noticed some candidates really wore casual - polo tees, covered shoes. Honestly, it’s your choice. I wouldn’t say it’s wrong, but it is better to be safe than sorry yeah? Moreover, it’s a business school! So uhh.. no excuse!

I reached the campus, signed in at the security. I saw around 15 other names on the name list and I went up to the waiting room after that. The waiting room was where the pre-interview assessment was conducted. By succession, I waited for my turn to complete the Karel question.

The requirement was to replicate the result on the paper. I was dumbfounded when I saw the question, but I decided to do the long and complicated method without using any shortcuts, basically the stupid way. I recalled I was extremely anxious because I thought this very first stage was just going to kill me, already. After I attempt to solve it by the lengthy method, I managed to use the remaining time to shorten my solution using other functions.

Thankfully, I solved it in the end.

After waiting, it was finally my turn for the real interview, conducted at the Dean's Office. There were 2 interviewers and I am the only interviewee. I was really relived. (Imagine competing on a spurt of verbal rattle with other candidates...)

The interviewer asked whether I knew that my solution didn't work on a “even sized world” (programming environment). I gave it a thought and realised why. I couldn't think a solution to rectify it, as I would require the computer to write the codes and test whether it would work or not… I was stunned for a couple moments before they brought my spirit back to the body.

Anyhow, they said that it’s alright, at least I could identify the problem, and we went on to the ‘get-to-know you’ interview.

They asked the standard interview questions like, 'why did I want to join IS?', 'Name one project you are proud of'. They would probably pick one project on your resume and ask you about it. Even more so if you studied a related course previously in polytechnic.

They will vouch for more information along the way as you share more about yourself, so just anticipate for that and answer accordingly. At the end of it, it will be your turn to ask the questions!

** Please ask diligent questions, questions that make you stand out, and not those that answers can be found on the website. For my year, a new major was launched, a good question could have been regarding about the new major, e.g. industry partnerships.

With that, I ended my interview.

TLDR, your takeaway:

  • Prepare what to say and what to ask

  • Practice the pre-interview assessment thoroughly

  • Dress proper, work wear

  • Anticipate surprises, and don't panic

  • Give a firm handshake

  • Ask intelligent questions if not questions that reflect your good traits

  • No estimation question, nor weird questions

  • 2 interviewers to 1

Good luck to the ones going for interview!

And if are wondering... YES I GOT IN! Got me on cloud-nine to hear that. After 35 days after the interview I received the offer.

Update 02/2019:

Time flies and it has been two years, for the upcoming intake, AY2020, there will be a new degree programme introduced.

This broadens your choices from the School of Information Systems to the following programmes:

1. BSc Information Systems: IS Major (This is the one I’m enrolled in)

2. BSc Information Systems: Smart-City Major and Technology Major

3. BSc (Computer Science)

4. BSc (Computing & Law)

More information, visit

Thanks for reading,