Study abroad – INTERVIEW


It’s that time of year when people are opening their mail and looking at Track to find out if they have had any responses from the universities they have applied to in the UK. Some of you will be rejoicing at the words “unconditional offer “, others will be looking at their “conditional offer” and trying to calculate whether they will get the grades. And still others are looking at one word – INTERVIEW.

The word can send shivers down people’s spines. It sounds like an interrogation, an impossible and very personal test, and something to worry about.

It isn’t!

Here are a few tips which will help you sail through your university interview and walk out of the room, or replace the phone, feeling happy, satisfied and sure that you did really well.

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Let’s start with the practical things you need to consider. Is it a phone interview or are you being asked to come to the university and meet with members of the faculty? If it’s a phone interview, you need to check the proposed date and time (are you on holiday or at the dentist’s?) and think about your broadband connection. If it’s going to be a Skype call, will you be able to guarantee that your internet doesn’t go down, or would you be better off going to a friend or relative’s house or somewhere quiet with public Wi-Fi? You can’t just hope for the best, so decide where you will take the call well in advance, and check your mic and camera are working. You can accept the interview time suggested by the university in Track  or click on the option which offers you a new time. Think before you click! And remember you can be seen on a Skype call, so don’t drift down to take it in pyjamas, with unbrushed hair.

If it’s a personal interview, then make sure you arrive at the interview on time – and this means checking travel arrangements, maybe booking a B&B for one night, looking at the route and setting out in good time, so you are ready 15 minutes before the interview is about to begin. Being late is unacceptable, stressful and leaves a poor impression.

Dress sensibly. You are not going to a party, a tennis club or hanging out with friends. Streetwear is out, but you could team jeans with a tailored jacket and crisp t-shirt, and if it is likely to rain or be cold, there is nothing wrong with wearing a jumper and trench coat. Avoid eye-catching, garish  hairstyles, jewellery and look-at-me accessories – particularly slogan or so-called funny t-shirts . Interviewers are not interested in your views on Trump, Stormzy, Venezuela or legalising cannabis They want to meet you, not your persona.

Be aware of your body language and try to relax. There is no point sitting on the edge of your chair, squeezing your hands tightly as if you are about to be executed. Neither should you slump back and yawn. Be attentive, smile, use eye contact. The interview could last up to an hour, so make sure you are sitting comfortably and don’t have to constantly change your position.

Ensure that you have gone through your portfolio if you have been asked to bring it with you – this is commonly the case for art, design and architecture interviews. Organise your work and ask a friend to be your audience as you go through each piece and explain what it means to you, why you chose this approach and what it conveys. The more often you repeat this exercise –  and remember to encourage your friend to ask questions – the more comfortable and word-perfect you will be in a real interview situation. Don’t forget , your views are your own – they cannot be wrong, just badly explained.

Universities tend to ask the same range of general questions from year to year. You will probably be asked to explain why you have chosen this particular course and university, invited to reflect on your school and academic achievements, prodded to talk about your strengths and weaknesses and invited to describe yourself. You may also be taken through your Personal Statement and questioned about work experiences, hobbies and anything else you have written about.

It is therefore essential to prepare yourself for this part of the interview:

  • do some background reading about the university, its history, alumni etc

  • make sure you have gone through all the modules included in the course, and draft a few comments and questions on the course content.

  • read through your Personal Statement once again and refresh yourself about what you have said. Consider what questions your PS throws up. For example, if you mention entering a series of competitions, or volunteering at an animal shelter, think of one or two points you could make about these experiences.

  • read around your subject, so you are up to date on the most recent events/controversies/discoveries or debates.

Which courses are most likely to ask applicants to take part in an interview?




Art and Design



All Oxbridge colleges expect applicants to come for interview, since this is part of their application process.

UCL and Imperial tend to interview their applicants, particularly if you are applying for a popular course.

What is an MMI? And who normally has to do this type of interview?

MMI stands for Multi-Mini Interviews, an interviewing technique which is increasingly being used by medical schools to choose between their applicants. The MMI format was originally designed to give people an equal chance of doing well, since you cannot get an advantage in this type of exercise by paying for additional tutoring or intensive cramming.

MMIs consist of a number of stations, normally between six and twelve, and you need to work your way from the first to the last, by finishing different tasks. There are time limits for each station and sometimes you will have a partner for the exercise. For example, you may be asked to role play and be a GP  who has to advise a hysterical patient who has just discovered that they have a life-threatening disease. Alternatively, you could be required to give clear and precise instructions on how to unwrap and open a box to the person facing you across a table, who will take your instructions literally. The first scenario is testing for empathy , the second for communication skills.  Alternatively, you could be asked to watch a scene on a screen and explain how you interpret what you have watched; be handed a list of data to analyse; or presented with an ethical dilemma – a doctor who is drinking before going in to the operating theatre, a colleague you suspect of stealing from the drugs cabinet. Overall, the aim of this approach is to discover how well applicants communicate, what they think and believe. and their ability to show empathy and understanding of others.

There is no pass rate as such in these interviews, since every applicant is measured against their peers’ scores.

MMIs are fun. Be yourself. Enjoy the experience and act honestly without trying to second-guess what others might expect you to do or say…



And finally…

As you can see, interviews come in many shapes and forms, but they have one thing in common – they provide you with an opportunity to ask and answer questions.

Practise interviews with anyone you can lay your hands on and, when the day comes, make sure you are calm and ready to shine!