What To Expect From A Private Or Independent School Interview

    Depending on the UK private school, the interview can last anywhere between 15-40 minutes. School interview questions will usually fall into one of the following categories:

    1. General/personal interview questions
    2. Logic/puzzles/mental arithmetic
    3. Poetry analysis
    4. Current affairs

    Before the school interview begins, the interviewer will have access to the candidate’s ISEB pre-test score (if the senior school requires it), the reference letter from the candidate’s current Head as well as the latest grade cards and internal school exam results.

    Keep remembering that a good school interview feels like a conversation rather than a test, and enjoy playing your part in it, but don’t be overconfident: pause and consider the question before answering, rather than jumping in with something hasty. An interviewer is thinking: “Would I enjoy having this student in my class?" and "Is he/she both responsive and thoughtful, a good talker and a good listener?”.

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    Purpose Of A Secondary School Interview

    As the number of applications to UK private schools has increased and the number of students with excellent academic grades continues to grow, the school interview has become an increasingly important part of the UK private secondary school application process.

    The purpose of the school interview is for the interviewer to assess a candidate’s interests, natural curiosity, ability to engage with an unfamiliar adult across a wide range of topics and to assess whether the candidate will be the right ‘fit’ for the senior school environment.

    The interviewer wants to understand what fundamentally drives and motivates the candidate, what attributes they can contribute to the school community and what potential is there for development and growth. A successful interview will very often morph into a conversation between interviewer and the candidate rather than the interviewer simply asking questions and then receiving short monosyllabic replies in return. The best candidates will use the secondary school interview as opportunity to communicate what is unique and special about them. They will have created their own unique profile where they focus on 3-5 core points that they want to communicate to the interviewer.

    This approach is more focused and effective than saying everything and anything and hoping something ‘sticks.’ This latter approach won’t leave a lasting impression. The holy grail, and what every candidate should be aiming for, is after a full day of interviewing, the interviewers are talking about your candidacy and performance between themselves over dinner that evening.

    Typical Private School Interview Questions And What You Should Talk About

    What are you missing in school in order to be here today?

    This is a very common opening question. Be open and honest about the subjects you are missing, ensuring to speak positively about them.

    Why do you want to come to this school?

    Think about what makes the school different versus other schools. Is it particularly strong in sport, art, drama or music for example? Is it due to the curriculum structure, its geographic location, its history or prestige or perhaps the chemistry you felt when you visited.

    What was the last book you read or the current book you are reading?

    The key here is not to summarise and describe what the book is about but rather to discuss and analyse what you liked (or disliked) about the book and why. Be prepared to be asked whether you would recommend the book to someone else and why (or why not).

    What is your favourite subject and why?

    Be honest (don't say Maths if it is not your favourite subject). Think about what activities you do outside of school to enhance your interest in the subject (for example, if your favourite subject is science, you might want to talk about a coding club you attend or a science project you undertook out of school off your own initiative).

    What extracurricular activities do you do?

    The key here is not so much what the activity is but rather to demonstrate a passion for your interest and to be able to explain what you have done to develop your understanding or ability in the activity. Important areas to think about is sport (especially one done independently outside of school), drama, music, community work, Scouts or coding.

    How do you feel about coming to a boarding school? (For boarding school interviews)

    A common question that requires thought. Your answer should be consistent with your profile and your answers to other questions.

    Remember the only way to stand out from the crowd is by being true to yourself and clearly communicating and explaining what is unique and different about you. By definition, no one can replicate you, so the key is in finding what makes you special and different, and then focusing on communicating those points.

    Additional Common School Interview Questions

    In addition to these core questions, there are a range of other common questions that are likely to be asked in a school interview. Here are a range of example questions to prepare for:

    • What is your favourite/least favourite subject and why
    • Why do you want to apply to school X? What is it about school X that attracts you
    • What sport do you play? What is your favourite sport?
    • What extracurricular activities do you do?
    • Do you play any musical instruments / have you been in any plays?
    • If you had unlimited money, what would you do with it and why?
    • What book(s) are you currently reading?
    • Who is your favourite/least favourite character in the book you are reading?
    • What book would you recommend I read and why?
    • If you could solve one problem in the world, what would it be and why?
    • What story in the news in the past few months has really caught your attention and why?
    • Tell me about a real interest you have; either in or out of school
    • What do you want to be when you are older and why?
    • If you could meet any person in the world, either dead or alive, who would it be and why?
    • Do you think it is important to study history?
    • If an alien came to your school and he could only study one subject, which subject would you recommend and why?
    • What is the point of going to school?
    • If there is one thing that you would really love to learn more about, what would it be and why?
    • Tell me about your happiest/saddest moment
    • Tell me about a time when you were disappointed or embarrassed

    Questions To Ask At A School Interview

    At the end of the secondary school interview, the interviewer will almost certainly ask the candidate whether there is anything that he/she would like to discuss that has not be covered yet or whether he/she has any questions that (s)he would like to ask. Make a mental note as the interview goes on of anything that gets cut short or left out, and say it at the end if you are asked whether there’s anything you’d like to add or anything else you would have liked to discuss. Don’t answer “no” too quickly – think back over the conversation and don’t miss any such opportunity.

    Research The School In Preparation

    Before going to any school for interview and even if you have already visited, take a really good journey around its website. Needless to say, a candidate needs to thoroughly research the private secondary school beforehand and think about what makes it different and why (s)he wants to attend.

    From the website, note something which catches your interest, and something which you don’t quite understand and would like the school to explain. Be ready for: “Why do you want to come here?', 'What activities would you like to develop here that you haven’t had much chance to do so far ?' and 'Is there anything you want to ask me about this school?'.

    Additional School Interview Tips

    What To Wear

    For dress code, your school uniform is very often the most appropriate attire. Arrive with plenty of time to spare. Walk around the school, get some fresh air and clear your head.

    A good technique just before going in to interview is to close your eyes and remember (in your mind’s eye and ear) parts of your practice sessions when you talked particularly well and felt confident; imagine yourself doing so again.

    Body Language

    Giving a good handshake if it is offered (not too firm but not too limp) and looking into the interviewer’s eyes in a natural manner forms a good first impression. Make sure you don’t mumble and have your hand in front of your mouth when you speak.

    A good way to think about this is to imagine your voice is being projected ‘through’ your interviewer and your voice is hitting the wall behind your interviewer. Remember to sit up straight and look at the interviewer while speaking and listening (it’s fine to look away while considering your answer). The best advice is to act formally but in a natural way.

    Support With Preparing For An Interview For A Private Or Independent School

    Practice interview technique, improve your confidence, boost your performance and brush away any nerves with My Tutor Club's school interview practice sessions. Improve your child’s school interview performance with one-to-one interview practice with the former Head of Admissions at Eton College.

    Contact us to find out more about how we can support you with one-to-one tailored interview practice.

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