PRACTICE INTERVIEW FOR POSTGRADUATE STUDY
Try a practice interview of the type that you might get when applying for postgraduate study, answering typical questions and also getting tips on how you should answer. See here for teacher training interviews
A POSTGRADUATE research student needs good powers of ANALYSIS to distinguish the relevant from the irrelevant, COMPUTING skills to be able to use word-processing packages for writing up, the Internet for research and statistical packages to process results. They need to be AUTONOMOUS to work without supervision for much of the time, to have COMMITMENT to keep going when problems arise and PROBLEM-SOLVING ABILITY to resolve these problems. They need WRITTEN COMMUNICATION skills to write up their results. Below is the sort of the evidence you could give at interview to demonstrate that you had these skills:
- WRITING a report on a course placement
- COMPUTING Using the Internet to find information for an extended essay.
- COMMITMENT Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award
- AUTONOMY Planning a student tutoring project.
- SOLVING PROBLEMS Customer service work in a call centre.
- ANALYSING Playing chess - or poker!
Academic interviews are usually less formal than job interviews. They may be casual and more like a relaxed chat, but occasionally you might get a grilling on your subject knowledge.
Interviews for vocational courses are likely to be more formal than interviews for research. There are many similarities to job interviews such as the need to prepare well, to show enthusiasm and to ask appropriate questions. You may just be asked questions as you are shown round the department. Remember that academics may not be trained interviewers, so be aware that you may occasionally have to take the initiative.
Sometimes you won't even be interviewed; just given an offer on the basis of your application and references. If so, do make sure that you visit the department to make certain that you would be happy there.
Academic references are likely to be even more important than for job interviews, so choose your referees carefully. It is both wise and polite to brief your referee on your application and to notify them of any particular aspects of your background you think they should know about.
Smart casual dress is usually acceptable for academic interviews, but business studies departments might expect more formality than art and design departments. For vocational courses such as teaching, you will probably be expected to dress in exactly the same way as for a job interview. Interviews for research are likely to require less formal dress, but dress smartly if in doubt - you will never prejudice your chances by doing this.
Before you arrive ...
- Research the department carefully before you go for interview, and delineate questions you want to ask. Similarly, read the draft of your application again to pinpoint questions they may ask you.
- Check out the research interests of academic staff in the department.
- Budget for interview - remember that unlike interviews with employers, you probably won't be reimbursed.
- Research both the institution and town - make sure that you look round both the campus and town before you go home. Try to speak to current students in the department and have a look at notice boards to see what type of institution you are applying to join.
- Occasionally - especially in the Humanities or Social Sciences, you may get a group interview. Make sure that you speak up and make some points, and don't let others drown you out.
- They are likely to want to find out about you as an individual - will you fit in? Are you a good team member? This is especially important in smaller departments.
- Remember that they will be looking at your ability to think for yourself - your capacity for independent and original thought, your ability to communicate and reason. Be prepared to argue and to state your opinions rather than giving the answer that you think they want. They will be looking more at your ideas, attitudes and opinions than at getting the "right answer".
- They will also be looking for evidence of strong interest in the subject, as well as enthusiasm for your subject? Do your keep up to date with recent developments etc. do you genuinely seem to enjoy talking about it?
There follow some of the questions that might be specifically asked of students at interviews for postgraduate courses. You might also like to try the general or multiple choice interviews as well for standard interview questions that can be thrown at any candidate. Click on "First Question" to begin. Think carefully about how you would answer, then click on "Show Answer Tips" to get an idea of how you should be answering.
- Applications for academic study
- Questions on Application forms
- Questions you might be asked at interview.
- Questions you can ask at an academic interview.
Personal qualities such as the ability to work independently and to have creative ideas may be looked for much more on the research side. In science, good practical laboratory skills may be important.
For all PhD's, resilience is an important quality as one's patience may be sorely tested when experiments or research does not work out as planned and has to be done again.
Make sure that you check departments carefully. Try to talk to students and ex - students. A University should be happy to allow you to do this - if not, then you may have cause for concern. Check especially carefully on small or new departments where facilities may sometimes be rather basic.
Try to find out about your supervisor and whether you get on with them on a personal level - if there is a personality clash it can make it very difficult, if not impossible to do your research effectively
What makes you special?
Explain your motivation and goals. Write about any projects dissertations or extended essays you have done if they are relevant or demonstrate relevant skills. Mention any prizes you have won, also travel or study abroad and relevant employment. Describe anything that shows creativity, dependability or independence.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Explain any chronological gaps in your study and give reasons for any poor performance in academic study if you have them. Honesty will make you seem more human.
Why do you want to do this course/research at this university?
- Is the programme noted for a particular emphasis, speciality or orientation? Are there specific academic staff you want to do research or study with?
- Demonstrate that you've done your homework about the course/research and that you've seriously considered your strengths and weaknesses for postgraduate study or research.
- You should try to convey your enthusiasm and motivation for study/research. Don't try to write what you think they want to hear, write your real reasons.
Avoid simple "yes" or "no" answers - if you are asked a closed question, such as "Have you enjoyed your course?", open it up. Don't confine yourself to very brief answers - the interviewer will expect you to be able to talk fluently, but watch for signs of encouragement or impatience.
Be polite, but don't be afraid to enter into discussion and to stand your ground. Some interviewers will deliberately challenge your replies to see if you can stand up for yourself and argue your point effectively.
Work out work out in advance rough answers to the following questions:
- Why do you want to do the course/research?
- Why this subject?
- Why this university?
- What academic skills have you got to offer?
- What personal skills can you offer? e.g. ability to work in a team, with little supervision.
- What is the relevance of your first degree (A levels) to this study.
- Have you considered potential areas of research.
- Tell me about your project/dissertation. How did you choose it? What have you learnt?
- How do you intend to fund your study?
- Current postgraduates. Have you led seminars/taught undergraduates/invigilated in exams?
- Technical questions - see www.kent.ac.uk/careers/interviews/ivscience.htm#TECHNICAL
Try to ask at least one and preferably more than one question in the interview as this will indicate enthusiasm and interest. Prospectuses are frequently lacking in detail and there may be questions that you must ask in order to have the information necessary to reach a decision.
- What is special about this particular course/department?
- What are your requirements for this course/research?
- What are the tutorial/supervisory arrangements?
- What is the likelihood of financial support? What are the sources?
- Are you a suitable candidate for nomination for a grant or award?
- Who has sponsored previous students?
- What are the destinations/employment prospects of previous students?
- Research Interviews. Can I expect to earn extra money by taking seminars, invigilating etc.? and how much?
For more help on this see our postgraduate study page
|"I was asked what types of techniques I was familiar with and about my research - how I went about it and how I organised myself".
Kent student applying for biomedical science post