Interview Tips from a STEM Student (Part 2)

By Nirali Jain

Now that you know some of the logistics of your interviews, here are some handy tips on how to study for them:

The interviews are not designed towards students who already know everything about their subject. BUT, you should know the answer to one basic question “Why do you want to read this subject?”.

The interviewers want to see evidence of your sincere and sustainable interest in the subject. You can mention a specific topic or application that excites you, or even any related research or projects you have conducted. However, keep in mind that the interviewers might ask you to expand on anything you mention so it’s better to talk about what you enjoy rather than what you think the interviewers will expect.

Regardless of how well you answer the academic questions, your response to this question will set the most important first impression.

What should I study?

As I mentioned earlier, the interviewers do not expect you to know everything just yet. They do, however, expect you to have some understanding of the basic principles.

The interviewers will guide you through the questions and provide you any necessary information or equations you need. However, it is always good to brush up on any formulae for your subject. Although Materials Science isn't taught at school, it is a combination of Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry, so I made sure to look over the syllabi and formulae for these IB/A Level subjects beforehand.

You can also be asked to expand on ANYTHING you wrote in your Personal Statement so make sure to read over it and review any books, articles, research topics or projects that you mentioned. If you mentioned an EPQ or an Extended Essay (or any other research project related to your subject), be prepared to discuss your method and results.

Look over the syllabus for the entrance exams you took in December (i.e. the PAT, MAT etc.). For context, over the course of my two Materials Science interviews, I was asked one Physics, one Chemistry, two Math and one basic Materials Science question.

How should I practise?

The key qualities the interviewers are looking for are passion and teachability. What does teachability mean? Well, the tutors want students who will work well in the small tutorial groups (often 1 professor and 1-3 students) by actively engaging in discussion and responding to guidance and feedback.

Grab a stuffed toy or family member and practice answering a question and thinking out loud:

  • Explain your thinking process step-by-step.

  • Start by reiterating what you understand from the question.

  • Discuss the possible approaches you could take to answer the question – are there any equations or theories you think could be applied? Have you done a similar problem or experiment before? By explaining your thinking out loud, the interviewers can guide you on the right track or confirm your process.

  • Ask questions! You can easily clarify any information or equations you are unsure of instead of wasting precious interview time silently panicking in your head (trust me, I learned that the hard way).

  • Draw out any diagrams or graphs that help answer the question.

Best of luck on your interviews and make sure to get a good night’s sleep the day before!