Some universities are going to send out offers without interviews, some universities are just going to expect you to turn up for an open day, but some universities are going to want to interview you, and there are two different types of interview.
Some universities are going to do soft interviews, where they're 99% percent decided to accept you. They just want to interview you just to make sure that you're right for them. And some universities are going to do full-on interviews, where they're properly going to be assessing you, and properly going to be taking what you say into account when they decide to give you an offer if they decide to give you an offer. The problem is, you've got no way of telling you which type of interview this is. There's going to be nothing beforehand, nothing on the day, that's going to lead you to work out whether they've already decided to give you an offer and that are just checking, or whether they're using the interview to decide whether to give you an offer. I'm afraid you can't tell which one's which. You have to be the best prepared that you can for any interview you get asked for. You have to expect to be asked questions about your personal statement. So it is a really, really good idea to print this off and to re-read it, because I know for some of you it was a really long time ago that you submitted the application form, and you might have forgotten a few of the things on there. And the interviewer can pick up on anything you've said on your personal statement and ask you to expand on it. So make sure you haven't forgotten anything. Make sure that you remembered what you've said, what this is, what that is. Think about things you've said. Can you reflect on anything? Can you draw anything out? Maybe make a few rough little notes. This is a reason, why it's really important not to lie on your personal statement because you might get found out at interview.
There are loads of common questions that they can ask you about your personal statement, about your subjects, about your work experience, about anything you've done. I've listed some of those later in this section. For the common questions, like with your personal statement, it's a really good idea to go through and make a few key points on each topic, just so that you have it fresh in your mind, so that you're not stumbling too much during the interview. Don't try and write long answers and try and learn them beforehand because it's going to seem false and you might trip over yourself if they ask the question a slightly different way to how you're expecting.
You may not have ever had an interview before, so you can ask your teacher at school whether your teacher will give you a mock interview, or whether they can get someone from outside to give you a mock interview to help you get used to it, because some of these can be quite intimidating. You could be facing a panel of interviewers where one person will ask the questions, one person will stay silent, staring at you the entire time, trying to psych you out, trying to work out what's going on, one person being really bubbly and happily and enthusiastic about everything you say. You may get feedback, you may not get any feedback.
Or it might be a one-on-one interview, you might have a series of short interviews, where you go around talking to lots of different people. These all can be quite intimidating. You might be asked to be some, solve some problems in the interview, you might be asked your opinion on current affairs in the interview. They might give you some situations, some scenarios, and ask how you'd react.
A really common question is “tell us something you're interested in…”. Now, hopefully you've found a passion, hopefully you've found something you're interested in, that you got this across in your personal statement and you can talk confidently for a few minutes about something you're interested in. Something over and above what you you've learnt at A-Levels, something that you've gone out and researched yourself, something that's going to differentiate you from everyone else who's having their interview on that day. If you haven't done that already, please try and do that. This book contains a separate section on how to show passion in your personal statement. It's going to be exactly the same advice for how to show passion for your subject in your interview.
It is essential that you do research into the university, that you do research into the course, that you do research into the lecturers, and into the modules and the units, and the assessment style at the university, so that when you go for your interview it's clear that you know what you're talking about. They might ask you which part of the course you're looking forward to most, or what you think about the coursework element, and if you can't answer these questions, it's going to show that you've not researched, that you haven't done the background, that you're not prepared for the interview. Spend some time looking into that, and from all of this, try and work out some questions that you can ask at interview, because remember, this is a two-way thing. You are interviewing them as well as they are interviewing you. They may give you an offer but you have to decide whether accept that offer or not. Be prepared as you can for this interview.
You might want to consider going staying overnight the night before your interviews so that you're not rushing around in the morning, so you don't have a long drive or a long train journey. There are loads and loads of cheap student accommodation that you can find. Get up early, remember to eat breakfast. I know you're going to be nervous, and maybe you won't feel like doing this, but it is going to be really important. Your interview time may tell you to turn up at a certain time but then there might be a tour or a talk before you actually get around to the interview, so may be a long day before you get a chance to eat any actual food, so please have breakfast. Do everything you can to avoid rushing around and avoid stress on the morning of the exam. Have your outfit picked out and ready. Have how you're going to get to the university sorted. Buy your tickets in advance. Have your timetables ready, so you know exactly what to do. Know where you're going to need to turn up. Have a look at a map of the university so you know exactly where you're going to be going. Have contact numbers of people in case you get stuck, if you're going to be late you can call them and tell them that you're going to be late. Prepare as much as you can so that you're not stressing on the day of the interview.
Be yourself in the interview. Remember, they want to admit you, not the person that you think they are looking for, the person that you're pretending to be in order to impress them. They want to admit you. You are a unique, brilliant, amazing individual and they want you at their university. You've got this far, you've impressed them with your personal statement, and your references, and your predicted grades. You have impressed them, remember that when you get there. You can't think, "Oh, I'm not sure about this, I'm not sure that I'm good enough." You are good enough, you just need to let that shine through because remember, you are worth a lot of money to the university. They are trying to attract you as much as you are trying to impress them. So this interview is much more of a two-way process than it might seem from the start. They want you to come there as well as making sure that you are going to be the right person for this offer. So ask the questions, ask as much as you want to know about how things work, about what support you'll be getting, about what lectures I'd be getting, about how much contact time there is, about how many tutorials or how much time you will actually be expected to devote to individual study, lectures, or potential labs.
Although some courses might offer you places straight away after reading your personal statement, my chosen course had an intensive interview process. My application was the first point of contact with admissions boards, but the interview was my first direct contact with my future tutors and the university campus.
One thing that I learned from experience was that interviews aren’t the time for humility – you want to prove that you're the best candidate for the position and with some universities receiving 35 applications for every available place, you need to do what you can to set yourself apart from the rest.
It helps to know a little bit about what you're applying for – I didn’t have any related work experience so I had to prepare myself to answer questions in a specific way that relates my experience back to the subject. During my interview I was asked about previous experience, my hobbies, and a little bit of background knowledge about what I already knew about the course. Interviewers don’t expect you to have a wealth of knowledge already, but they like seeing that you’ve done a little bit of background reading beforehand. During my interviews I was asked questions such as ‘what are 5 different methods of administering drugs’, and ‘can you name five non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs?’. If I had gotten these questions wrong, I don’t think I would have been turned down, but having researched the topic and being able to give an answer I felt much more confident about the rest of the interview and it definitely showed.
There are lots of different styles of interview for university applicants. For art students however, all of these include a portfolio review which is done either whilst the interview is happening, or without you present before the interview takes place. The main topics of discussion were what I think the course was; what I was hoping to get out of it; what my practice is and what I hope to end up doing with it/ in general after my studies are finished. Out of the 4 interviews I did, the one for the illustration course at Falmouth was the most stressful. It was completely different to any of the others I had done in that it had a sort of speed dating feel to it and was a lot more commercial. There were six potential students (including me) and five interviewers sat at tables. We had to go to each of them in turn as they all looked through our portfolios and interviewed us. I personally found the more informal, conversational interviews to be much easier and enjoyable. Having the personal conversations (ie; where I come from, what I enjoy doing in my free time) just put me more at ease and helped me learn about the interviewer just as much as they were learning about me. I think the interview I felt the most nervous for was my first one, purely for the fact that I had never actually done anything like it before. To any students getting ready to go through this now, remember there is no use in stressing about the interviews, just believe in yourself and what you know you can do. The university needs you as much as you need it. But that being said, don't try and blag your way through it. Do your research on the courses and universities you are interested in. True passion and drive cannot be faked.
Art and Design Questions
· What is the most important piece you have created?
· Which piece in your portfolio are you most proud of?
· Which exhibition have you seen that has had an impact on you?
English Interview Questions
· What text did you study at A-Level?
· Which was the best book you studied for your A-Levels?
· What have you read outside the text you needed to read for your A-Levels?
· What makes a book ‘good’?
· Should older books that offend modern ideals still be studied in schools?
· What is literature?
· Are film adaptations of books ever any good?
· What is the ideal length of a book?
· Why are so many series written in trilogies?
· How long is a story?
Engineering Interview Questions
· What has been engineering most important contribution to society?
· How dangerous are mistakes?
· How would you explain force?
· What is the difference between engineering and physics?
Teaching Interview Questions
· Which of your teachers influenced you most and why?
· How important is classroom environment to students learning?
· How disruptive is low-level misbehaviour?
· What is your opinion on OFSTED?
· What have you chosen this year group?
Think about each of the following questions, write a few short bullet points for each. Don’t write out long answers and try to remember them exactly, that will seem false and you may get flustered if they ask the questions slightly differently.
General Interview Questions
· Why did you decide to study…..?
· Why have you chosen to apply to this university?
· Which module on this course are you looking forward to most?
· Why should you get a place here?
· Why did you take …… for A-Level?
· What have you enjoyed most about your A-Levels?
· What have you enjoyed least about your A-Levels?
· What would you change about your A-Levels?
· What have you enjoyed most about school?
· What have you enjoyed least about school?
· What would you change about your school?
· Do you think your grade are a good reflection of you as a student?
· What have you read about …. (the subject you’ve applied for)?
· What are the current trends in… (the subject you’ve applied for)?
· Why is (the subject you’ve applied for) important?
· How is (the subject you’ve applied for) relevant to everyday life?
· What are you interested in?
· What have you done outside of your A-Level studies to develop your subject knowledge?
· What are your strengths?
· What are your weaknesses?
· What are you proud of?
· What mistakes have you made?
· How do you deal with stressful situations?
· How do you react under pressure?
· What makes a good student?
· What work experience / volunteering / part-time work have you done?
· What skills did you gain from your work experience / volunteering / part-time work?
· What are your long-term career plans?
· How did you decide on this career path?
· What are you long term goals?
· What are your short-term goals?
· How are you going to achieve your goals?
· Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
· Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
· How much do you expect to be earning in five years’ time?
· How does this degree help you achieve your gaols?
· What motivates you?
· What makes you happy?
· What does success in life mean to you?
· What are the most important rewards in life?
· What advantage has doing … extracurricular given you?
· Can you give an example of where you have worked well in a team?
· Do you work best on your own or as part of a team?
· Can you give an example of when have helped another person?
· When have you should leadership skills?
· What five words describe you best?
· How would your teachers describe you?
· Why did / didn’t you take a gap year?
· Tell me about your EPQ / extended project?
· What was the last book you read?
· What was the last film you saw?
· What is your favourite book?
· What is your favourite film?
· How do you choose the books you read?
· Who inspires you most?
· Who has influenced you most?
· Which historical figure would you most like to meet?
· What is the most interesting place you’ve visited?
· Where would you like to visit?
· What has been your most interesting experience to date?
· What are your opinions on tuition fees?
· What advantage has the DoE given you?
· How you got any questions?
Thinking ‘outside the box’ questions
These are not ‘trick’ questions, most of the time there are no right answers and no wrong answers, the interviewers just want to see how you approach answering the question, and how you solve the problem.
Gap Year Questions
· Why did you decide to take a gap year?
· What did you do on your gap year?
· How was your gap year arranged?
· How did you decide what to do on your gap year?
· What impact has your gap year had on you?
· How have you grown as a person during your gap year?
· Does your gap year help with your future career plans?
· Does taking a gap year put you at a disadvantage?
· What was the best part of your gap year?
· What was the worst part of your gap year?