Preparing an English Writing portfolio for DSA

Written by Claudine Fernandez, Founder of Artistic Leadership Academy

As a writing coach and an English and Literature teacher for over 15 years, I’ve been guiding students in preparing writing portfolios for both Direct School Admissions and the Creative Arts Programme (CAP).

Parents have also been asking me about the steps they have to take to ensure that their children have a solid portfolio.

Here are some frequently asked questions and my answers to them:

1. How many pieces are required for the portfolio?
The answer really depends on the school’s requirements. On the safe side, it is good to have at least 8 pieces.

2. What kind of written pieces should be in the portfolio?
I always ensure that my students’ portfolios include written work from the different genres: poetry, prose (short stories) and drama scripts.

Children may be stronger in one genre than the others so it is perfectly fine to have more pieces from that particular genre.

If your child has published their own books or participated in writing competitions, these could also be part of their portfolios.

3. Can my child’s compositions be part of the portfolio?

Do check the requirements of the school that your child is applying to. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it as compositions tend to demonstrate structured and restrictive writing with the use of many stock phrases. Often, it is hard to stand out when you submit compositions because there are hundreds of children writing in similar ways.

4. What is expected of a writing portfolio?

Other than the usual flair for writing, competent use of the English language and engaging storytelling, here are three qualities that could make a portfolio outstanding:

The ability to showcase ideas or themes that are out of the ordinary and to experiment with different writing techniques like personification, symbolism or points of view.

The ability to write well in different forms. For example, a versatile writer will be able to write about a variety of topics ranging from realistic to fantasy fiction.

-A strong personal voice
Ever hear a song and know instantly who the singer is? Well, having a personal voice in writing is similar to that. A writer with a strong personal voice has a very unique and distinct style of writing.

I’ve also enjoyed reading pieces with personal reflections at the end where the writer writes about the inspiration behind the work and what it means to them.

5. How early should my child start writing his/her portfolio?

It depends on the child’s readiness. We’ve seen children as young as 8 begin working on their portfolios. Pieces written when children are younger could also be revisited when they are older.

6. Where’s a good place to start?

Keeping a journal or compilation of all of your children’s written work (both complete and incomplete) is advisable. The more pieces there are, the easier it would be to select suitable ones.

Need prompts for writing? Check out our writing workbooks here. These workbooks provide a range of different writing activities to stimulate a child’s creativity and imaginative powers!

Artistic Strategies Academy also has both group and individual coaching classes to prepare students for DSA. Drop us an email ( to find out more.