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Waiting for Interviews: What to Expect

By Sapphira McBride

I remember it so clearly - the anxious wait after pre interview tests, which seemed to go on forever, to see if I would even get to go to interview. And then when I finally did find out, I only had just over a week to prepare and I was so full of questions with no idea where to even start! Here are some answers to questions I was dying to know the answer to a year ago!

Will they test me on my personal statement?

Honestly, probably less than you think. You certainly need to know your PS inside and out, because if you do get asked a question about something you said you read, you really need to be able to talk about it. However, don’t be surprised if they don’t mention your PS at all in your interview (it didn’t come up in either of mine).

What are they testing?

Firs and foremost, tutors want to know how well you can learn and interact in a tutorial environment. As far as I can discern, they want people who are prepared to hold a conversation with them and be engaged with the material - i.e. someone they want to spend two hours a week teaching for three years! So try not to be shy or afraid to say what you’re thinking - tutors like that.

Interviews are also fundamentally academic - they are going to give you an academic problem for you to solve. I’d always been told/under the impression that the interviewers would want to get to know me and why I’m passionate about my subject, and, realistically, this isn’t the case. While they do want students who love the course, I think this comes off in how you approach the problems more than them actually giving you ‘what inspired you’ type questions. They want to see how you think and whether you’d be suited to the tutorial learning environment.

What will it be like?

You very likely might be given some pre-reading, and have to go to a room 20 mins or so before your interview to read some material (in my case, for experimental psychology, it was descriptions of experiments) and then have to discuss what you thought of it/critique it in the interview. My advice - try and keep a cool head and think through it logically, stopping at each small part of the reading to try and pull as much out as possible (clearly this will vary between subjects), and to bring a pen and highlighter! (Although the reading room should also provide pens and maybe highlighters!)

Then you’ll go to the room, probably with two interviewers, who might ask you questions and get you to discuss the reading. You might spend the whole interview based off pre-reading, or they might introduce some new questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if something they’re asking you isn’t clear! You might struggle (in fact you certainly will), but don’t take this as a bad sign - they’re challenging you and that’s what the purpose of the interview is. Just take a deep breath and think as clearly as you can - you can do it!

Oh no, it went terribly!

You can never be certain. In both my interviews, my interviewer made comments that led me to think that I’d never get in - most notably in my first - ‘well that’s not right, is it?!’. That really threw me, and you should be prepared for things like that to happen, and not to let it intimidate you. These things happen to everyone, and very few people actually think their interview went well, because they will push and push you until you can’t answer anymore, and what you can’t know is how far they pushed you. So try not to overthink it and just wait to find out!

It’s going to be okay!

*This is all based off my personal experiences, things will vary subject to subject and by college.

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