Some applicants are invited to interviews to help universities with their selection process. This may be because there are more suitable applicants than there are places available, or to confirm appropriateness for the course, particularly those relating to the care of animals or elderly, vulnerable or young people.
It may also be an opportunity for the institution to test the applicant's skills and abilities with an audition (music, theatre, etc) or in a short test (literacy and numeracy, etc). As such interviews can prove to be a confusing and potentially daunting experience. Take a look at our advice for preparing for and performing in an interview.
What are interviews for?
To establish your appropriateness for the course:
– your knowledge and understanding of the subject
– your character and personality traits
– your commitment and your organisational skills
– your interest and enthusiasm for the subject
To test your skills (in some cases you’ll be asked to complete a test):
– performance (music, drama etc)
What to expect at a university interview
A relaxed atmosphere:
– universities want the most suitable candidates, so they want you to feel at ease and be yourself
– they're on your side. You have got this far because they’re interested in you and would like to offer you a place if possible
You won’t necessarily know all the answers:
– they do this on purpose to test your ability to apply the skills and knowledge you already have
– be honest! Say “well I don’t know the answer to this...”
– but be clever, adding “...but I have recently learned about XXX, which I think might be related, and so I think the answer might be something like XXX”
They will probably ask you what attracts you to this specific course:
– focus on the features of the course that interest you
– use your preparatory research and reading
– don’t talk too much about the general aspects of the institution (accommodation, sports, architecture etc) unless they ask
– mention that you can see yourself being happy in the surroundings
Group discussions and tasks:
– be brave and have your say
– don’t dominate, participate!
– explain why you disagree or agree with something or someone
– show strong teamwork skills: organisation, participation, delegation, collaboration, negotiation, nomination... all with a smile!
– the way you work is often more important than what you produce
Carry out preparatory research:
– read as much about the course as you can: prospectus and course information online; lecturers' interests and expertise; course modules
– prove to the interviewer that you know what you're getting in to: make short notes about specific elements of the course that really appeal to you
Do some preparatory reading:
– read around your subject area
– choose one or two specific topics to be ready to discuss
– prepare notes on key books or influential researchers or authors
– read current news coverage around your subject
– make sure your knowledge is up to date!
Think about the questions you want to ask during the interview. You might want to find out about:
– placement opportunities
– other opportunities to get involved
– postgraduate courses after your degree
Plan your journey in advance:
– decide on the best mode of transport to get to the interview
– purchase tickets in advance if necessary
– if you're getting a lift, make sure the arrangement is set in stone!
– work out the time you need to leave to arrive at the interview slightly early
– if you're travelling a long distance you may want to travel the night before and book local accommodation
– give yourself enough time to get lost, park, get stuck in traffic etc
The night before:
– get an early night with plenty of rest
– read over your notes
– read over the letter they sent you and check you know what you'll be doing
– set your alarm and give yourself plenty of time
– choose your outfit and make sure it's washed and ironed; you don't have to wear a suit, but you should look like you've made an effort to look smart
– pack your bag, including: examples of your work (if required), notes, tissues, bottle of water, snack, small amount of money
For anyone who has been invited for an interview for the PGCE Primary, we have a specific information: Primary PGCE interview guide