How to prepare for your UK university interview

Do interviews make you nervous? You feel under the spotlight. Every answer is important – and it’s even scarier when something big is at stake, like a place at your dream university.

But college interviews really don’t have to be nerve-wracking!

First, remember that not every UK university or subject will ask you to do an admissions interview. Only some universities, like the University of Oxford, Imperial College London and University College London always interview their applicants.

For others, it will depend on the course you are taking. Dentistry, teaching, social work and medicine, tend to feature admissions interviews, for example.

In this guide, we’ll share some interview tips for freshers, so you’ll feel fully prepared by the day of your university interview. You’ll soon be able to leave your nerves behind and walk into the interview room with confidence.

1. Take care of the practical preparation

If you’re attending an in-person interview, research how to travel there and make sure you have your ticket organised. It might even be worth doing a trial run a few days before. This will  just to make sure you know exactly where you’re going.

University campuses can be confusing, and departments can be spread out over different buildings. So, make sure you know the exact street address, floor and office number where your university interview is being held.

What if you are doing an online university interview? Well, the standard Zoom interview tips apply! Make sure that your laptop is connected to charge, that your microphone is working properly, that you have a good Wi-Fi signal and a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. You might also want to set up a neutral virtual background, if you think your surroundings look unprofessional. That way, you won’t get distracted during the interview and you’ll be able to do your best to answer the student interview questions you’ll be asked.

It’s also a good idea to do a bit of research into the academics who will be interviewing you. You don’t have to read all their published works, but showing that you are at least familiar with their research will create a good impression. It will tell them that you have a genuine interest in the subject and in their work.

On that note, it’s important to dress smartly. You don’t need to wear a suit, but wearing something smart like a shirt or a blouse shows that you are taking the interview seriously and that you want to give the interview panel a good impression.

2. Prepare some relevant student interview questions and answers

Preparation is key when it comes to how to impress in an interview. That being said, it’s not a good idea to learn answers off by heart. Even if the exact question you have prepared for comes up, you’ll be so focused on trying to remember your answer that your answer will seem stilted. It’s better to make notes about the things you’d like to talk about, and then your answers will flow more naturally, and you’ll be able to convey your enthusiasm and excitement.

So, what are some common student interview questions that you might be asked? Let’s take a look:

  • Tell us about yourself.
  • Why do you want to study at this university?
  • Why have you applied to study this particular course?
  • What are your academic strengths and weaknesses?
  • Tell us about someone you admire.
  • What would you like to be doing ten years from now?
  • What are you reading at the moment?
  • What do you like doing in your free time?
  • What will you contribute to our institution?

When you’re preparing, it’s important to remember there are no right or wrong answers. The interviewers want to get to know you, so try to give full, detailed answers to the questions. The final question you are likely to be asked is:

  • Do you have any questions for us?

It’s really important to prepare some thoughtful questions for your student interview panel in response. This is where your research can come in handy! You can ask the panel about their work and how it informs the course, or any questions you have about the university.

A well-informed question shows the panel that you are well-prepared and you’ve done your research. Again, this will create a good impression.

And if there is a question you don’t understand, don’t panic! Just ask the interviewer to repeat the question, or ask for clarification. Likewise, if you make a mistake when you’re speaking, try not to worry or get embarrassed. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes - even native English speakers!

3. Read over your personal statement just before the interview

Your personal statement is what got you the interview, and it’s likely to set the agenda for the conversation. So, it’s a good idea to read it over before your interview as part of your interview preparation, and remind yourself of the talking points.

Your interviewers will refer to the things that you said in your personal statement when they are asking you questions, so it’s worth refreshing your memory - after all, you probably wrote it a few months ago.

Rereading your personal statement will also help you feel more confident. It will remind you of everything you’ve achieved so far. Seeing your qualifications, talents and attributes written down in black and white can have a powerful effect. It will help you to shake off any lingering imposter syndrome and you’ll go into the interview feeling that you deserve to be there.

Get tips on how to write a great personal statement for your UCAS application.

4. Do a power pose

Research has found that power posing - standing in an open, expansive stance for two minutes - can change your body chemistry and make you feel more confident. In a job interview experiment, researchers found that people who did a two minute power pose before the interview projected more confidence, seemed less flustered, and were more dynamic and enthusiastic when speaking. As a result, the interviewers scored their performance higher than people who didn’t do the power pose.

So even if you’re doing an interview over Zoom, it’s worth doing a power pose beforehand. Just stand with your legs wide apart and your arms held up and out in a wide, expansive pose. The idea is to take up as much space as possible. Hold this pose for two minutes - and you’ll be ready to impress!

Learn more

If you need to prove your level of English as part of the UCAS application process, PTE Academic can help you. You’ll typically receive your score in typically just 48 hours, and PTE Academic is accepted by the UK Home Office for student visas, as well as by 99% of universities in the UK.

Learn more about how PTE Academic can help you achieve your dream of living and studying in the United Kingdom.

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