Somaliland:Brilliance Knows No Borders The Successes and Adventures of the 2018 Abaarso Entrance Exam


James Greisler, Head of Lower School and Faculty of English, has led the administration of the Abaarso Entrance Exam for the past three years. Over the years, the exam has become more rigorous, more geographically inclusive, and is now reaching more potential students than ever before. Below James answers our questions about the exam.

Where has the entrance exam been offered?
The 2018 entrance exam was offered at Abaarso School twice, Hargeisa once, Burco twice, and one time each at El Afweyn, Cerigavo, Berbera, Borama, and Gebiley. We also offered the exam for our tutoring program students at the Hargeisa Orphanage, Gebiley Orphanage, and at Abaarso School for our Primary Tutoring Program. We are also still working on giving the exam in Mogadishu, as we have for the past three years.

How many students participated?
1,379 students participated this year.

Did we administer the exam in any new places this year?
Yes, this is the first time we offered the exam to students in Berbera or at the Gebiley Orphanage.

How have we scaled the administration of the exam over time?
I think in years past, about 200 students participated. In 2015, we reached 500 participants, then 1,100, and last year we got to nearly 1,500 students.

How has the exam evolved since it was first administered?
It’s gotten longer with more sections added. Each section is designed to test a certain quality that we look for in an Abaarso student in order to find the best students in Somaliland. In addition, we have added “Prospective Students Days”, where we interview select groups of students and watch how they interact with others in a group setting.

Who is involved to make sure the exam is delivered successfully?
Everyone is involved. Teachers, staff, PGs, students and families of students. The teachers help with registering and proctoring the exam, as do the staff, PGs, and some of the students. The staff, PGs, and students are really helpful in advertising the exam. They call all their old friends from their previous schools and tell them when and where the exam is happening. Families of Abaarso students also help out with this, and many have been so generous to lend us their cars for transport and let us stay at their homes as guests.The teachers, staff, and PGs are very enthusiastic about helping out. Not only are they helping build our new 7th grade class, but it is also an opportunity for many of them to see and learn about different parts of Somaliland. It gives them a better perspective on the country and helps them understand the environments that our students come from.

What are some of the challenges of administering the exam?
It’s an enormous amount of people to coordinate, so every detail is planned out weeks or months in advance. At the same time, we need to have a certain amount of flexibility and build in ways to work around unexpected problems. Administering the exam takes funding, and we need to be conscious of what we are spending. We need to coordinate transport, food, and accommodation for all exam proctors. We hold training and pre-departure sessions for anyone involved in giving the exam.

Do you have a favorite story/memory from administering the exam?
Cakes in Berbera. We gave the exam in Berbera for the first time this past year. We stayed with the family of one of our 8th graders, and they laid out this huge feast of food for us the day before we gave the exam, including a giant red cake with the Abaarso seal made out of frosting. It was beautiful. The cake is in the photo on this page.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about the exam?
For me it’s been the most challenging and rewarding experience I’ve had at Abaarso. I’m thankful for everything that I have learned in the process about admissions and about Somaliland. It’s an amazing experience to put in five months of work and out of it comes these 50 special people who will join the school next year.



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